Let’s face it, It’s been a strange year. Stay-at-home orders have us all feeling slightly, shall we say, reclusive. And while physical travel may be restricted, many of us are finding escape not in the white sand of faraway beaches, but in the pages of our favorite books. And hey, this is not a new thing. People have been using books as an escape for as long as magic in the pages have been printed. And it makes perfect sense! Few among us have lived as swashbuckling pirates or daring detectives or backstabbing Russian nobles.
Books don’t just allow us to imagine these scenes, they insert us inside them. Good books transmit the feelings and experiences of the characters into ourselves. It’s why we feel good when they succeed and sad when they fail. Books allow us to enter lives that are a lot more far-flung than the ones we live every day.
For today’s post, we’re going to compile some of our favorite books that encapsulate some form of magic in their pages. Magic that takes the form of a faraway location, another time period, or in some cases, ACTUAL magic.
When You Need to Get Away
Feeling cooped up inside your own four walls? Yeah. A lot of us are feeling that these days. Why not try a book that transports you to another country or heck, even another planet? Watching someone battle the odds in a heroic struggle to find a way back to Earth might offer a bit of perspective on our current situation, and remind us that having to order Chipotle delivery isn’t actually so bad.
Books set in far-flung locales can be great ways to experience the good, the bad, and the ugly about a certain region of the world. In many of these books, the location can be seen as a kind of character itself. In the list below, the book will be listed first, and the destination(s) set in parentheses after.
The Martian (Mars) – Andy Weir
A Fraction of the Whole (Australia, Europe, Thailand) – Steve Toltz
Shantaram (India) – Gregory David Roberts
Life of Pi (India, The middle of the ocean) – Yann Martel
The Motorcycle Diaries (South America) – Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara
When The Modern World Becomes a Bit Too Much
There are a lot of advantages to being born in the modern world. Modern medicine is a marvel. Transportation is pretty stinkin’ convenient. Air conditioning, clean swimming pools, grocery stores, and the Internet. Look, we could extend that list forever.
We’re certainly not knocking the times in which we live. But sometimes, we can all crave something a bit simpler. Times when we broke bread over long, hand-hewn tables and rode horses and… You get the idea. Now when we say simple, let’s remember, folks lived hard lives back in the day. And reading a bit about their struggles might make you a bit more thankful for a few of our conveniences, and maybe a bit wistful over all that we’ve lost to get them.
Outlander (Scotland, 1743) – Diana Gabaldon
Things Fall Apart (Nigeria, late 19th century) – Chinua Achebe
Les Miserables (France, early 19th century) – Victor Hugo
The Pillars of the Earth (England, 12th century) – Ken Follett
Memoirs of a Geisha (Japan, 1929) – Arthur Golden
Sometimes it isn’t the location we’re looking to spice up, sometimes it’s our lives. Look, we’re busy. We’ve got bills to pay, jobs to do. We can’t go around cashing in our chips and running off on wild adventures. So what do we do? We experience them in magic in the pages of book, of course!
No matter what you’re after when it comes to adventure, chances are you can find it in a book. Some of our choices for this genre are fiction, some are stranger than fiction. All are extraordinary adventures that stretch the human spirit to its absolute limit.
Candide – Voltaire
The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson
The Road – Cormac McCarthy
The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet – Becky Chambers
Hey, It Could be Worse. Dystopia!
One way we can look favorably on this difficult year is by comparing it to the worlds imagined by some of our favorite authors. Sure, it’s bad. But it isn’t children being forced to kill each other for sport, bad. Though we must admit, some of the similarities are uncanny.
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
1984 – George Orwell
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
Sometimes, searching for the magic in life can get a little figurative. The sound of children’s laughter. The way our cat rolls on the bed. These are wonderful moments, sure, but do they cause objects in the room to suddenly levitate? No. Sometimes what we’re looking for is actual magic in the pages. Magical people doing magical things. Here are some of our favorite books featuring magic systems (and yes, we’re including the boy who lived. Obviously.)
The Harry Potter Series – JK Rowling
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis
Blackbirds – Chuck Wendig
Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman
Mistborn – Brandon Sanderson
We Know, We Know
We’re missing literally millions of books from this short list. The adventures, be they people or places, on which a book can take you is unlimited. No matter what kind of magic you need, another place or a glimpse into another life, you’ll find it reading.
What’s your favorite far-away land or adventure you’ve experienced in a book?