Ten great literary journeys
From India to Italy to the USA, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, we’ve all travelled the world at some point in time through the captivating words of our favourite novels. Some will take you into the depths of the African jungles, and others plonk you right in the middle of the wide, empty ocean. It’s often these words on paper that ignite our desire to see the world for real, so if you’re after some literary inspiration, here are twelve books with great journeys to read about and get lost in, and perhaps one day follow.
On The Road – Jack Kerouac
Miles: 3994 Walking: 1260 hours Flying: 9 hours Driving: 63 hours
“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life”. Inspiring generations to travel the USA, On The Road documents Kerouac’s journey through the USA, from New York to Mexico City, via Denver.
Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Miles: 8749 Walking: 2916 Flying: 18 hours Driving: 174 hours
Stranded on a raft after a devastating shipwreck, this work of fiction follows Piscine Molitor Patel on a raft across the Indian Ocean, from Manila to Mexico, while he battles with his onboard companion: a tiger name Richard Parker.
Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
Miles: 4056 Walking: 1352 Flying: 16 hours Driving: 81 hours
The novel’s strap line, “One woman’s search for for everything across Italy, India and Indonesia“, pretty accurately describes this feel-good memoir. Following 32-year-old Elizabeth Gilbert as she discovers pasta and pizza in Italy, finds spirituality in India and falls in love in Indonesia, it has no doubt inspired many to pack up and leave on similar adventures.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
Miles: 363 Walking: 209 hours Flying: 52 minutes Driving: 10 hours
With its rather self-explanatory title, it’s obvious that this novel will transport you into the life of Huckleberry Finn, who journeys along parts of the Mississippi River throughout his life.
Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
Miles: 3015 Walking: 984 hours Flying: 4 hours Driving: 58 hours
From Virginia, to South Dakota to Alaska, this piece of non-fiction follows the curious but tragic voyage of Christopher McCandless after he leaves his family and gives away his college fund to start travelling across the USA.
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
Miles: 7105 Walking: 2368 hours Flying: 12 hours Driving: 142 hours
“We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity.” This novel maps not just a spiritual journey for protagonist Santiago, but also his physical travels from Andalucía in Spain, to the sands of the Sahara in Egypt.
Flashman – George Macdonald Fraser
Miles: 3545 Walking: 1181 hours Flying: 7 hours Driving: 70 hours
The first in a series of books that follow protagonist Harry Flashman’s times in the British Army, this one takes you on a Victorian romp from England to Afghanistan overland.
Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Miles: 1502 Walking: 502 hours Flying: 3 hours Driving: 22 hours
Reading this novel takes you on a journey full of ups and downs with the Joads family, as they travel across America on Route 66, going west from Oklahoma to California in search of land, work, a future.
Journey to the Center of the Earth – Jules Verne
Miles: 3948 Walking: 1316 hours Flying: 8 hours Driving: 79 hours
While you can’t exactly replicate this journey – literally through the centre of the Earth – you can explore the Snæfellsjökull volcano in Iceland where it begins, and enjoy southern Italy’s Stromboli volcano where the three (Professor Otto Lidenbrock, his nephew and their guide) end up.
Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts
Miles: 9400 Walking: 3100 hours Flying: 35 hours Driving: 188 hours
A traveller’s favourite, on the run from Australia to India to Afghanistan, readers follow the main character as he traverses the Indian subcontinent, from living in Mumbai to fighting with the Mujahideen in the Hindu Kush.
This summer Penguin is travelling the world by matching famous literary journeys to how long it would take to listen to an audiobook. Follow the adventure on Pinterest and by using #penguinjourneys.