Travel By Book: 12 Countries Solo Women Love

by | Jun 17, 2023

A woman sits and reads a book in a park
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Last updated on November 19th, 2023

Featured image: Discover 12 countries women love with these books | Photo by Hoverstock on Envato

Travel by book with these 12 novels

by Tina Hartas

In a recent survey, JourneyWoman readers shared some of the countries they’re planning to visit in 2023. From Africa to Peru, there are many wonderful cultures to explore. This month, we have chosen 12 top titles across several genres to help readers get a feel for each country and travel by book.

Hopefully, you will get to explore some of the countries in person but in the meantime enjoy your ‘trip’ by book.

12 Countries to Travel By Book

1. Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh

Africa

Stepping off the boat in Mombasa, eighteen-year-old Rachel Fullsmith stands on Kenyan soil for the first time in six years. She has come home.

But when Rachel reaches the family farm at the end of the dusty Rift Valley road, she finds so much has changed. Her beloved father has moved his new partner and her son into the family home. She hears menacing rumours of Mau Mau violence and witnesses cruel reprisals by British soldiers. Even Michael, the handsome Kikuyu boy from her childhood, has started to look at her differently.

Isolated and conflicted, Rachel fears for her future. But when home is no longer a place of safety and belonging, where do you go, and who do you turn to?

Thinking about a Safari? Visit our Women’s Travel Directory here.

Leopard at the Door Book Cover

2. Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior

Antarctica

Veronica McCreedy is about to have the journey of a lifetime . . .

Veronica McCreedy lives in a mansion by the sea. She loves a nice cup of Darjeeling tea whilst watching a good wildlife documentary. And she’s never seen without her ruby-red lipstick. Although these days Veronica is rarely seen by anyone because, at 85, her days are spent mostly at home, alone.

She can be found either collecting litter from the beach (‘people who litter the countryside should be shot’), trying to locate her glasses (‘someone must have moved them’) or shouting instructions to her assistant, Eileen (‘Eileen, door!’).

Veronica doesn’t have family or friends nearby. Not that she knows about, anyway . . . And she has no idea where she’s going to leave her considerable wealth when she dies. But today, today Veronica is going to make a decision that will change all of this.

Away With the Penguins Book Cover

3. The Office of Gardens and Ponds by Didier Decoin (TR: Euan Cameron)

Japan

The village of Shimae is thrown into turmoil when master carp catcher Katsuro suddenly drowns in the murky waters of the Kusagawa River. Who now will carry the precious cargo of carp to the Imperial Palace and preserve the crucial patronage that everyone in the village depends upon?

Step forward Miyuki, Katsuro’s grief-struck widow and the only remaining person in the village who knows anything about carp. She alone can undertake the long, perilous journey to the Imperial Palace, balancing the heavy baskets of fish on a pole across her shoulders, and ensure her village’s future.

So Miyuki sets off. Along her way, she will encounter a host of remarkable characters, from prostitutes and innkeepers, to warlords and priests with evil in mind. She will endure ambushes and disaster, for the villagers are not the only people fixated on the fate of the eight magnificent carp.

But when she reaches the Office of Gardens and Ponds, Miyuki discovers that the trials of her journey are far from over. For in the Imperial City, nothing is quite as it seems, and beneath a veneer of refinement and ritual, there is an impenetrable barrier of politics and snobbery that Miyuki must overcome if she is to return to Shimae.

Office of Gardens and Ponds Book Cover

4. Chasing the Sun by Katy Colins

Australia

Georgia Green is on the conveyor belt to happiness.

Live-in boyfriend, a perfect career and great friends, it seems like Georgia is only a Tiffany box away from her happily ever after. But when she arrives in Australia for her best friend’s wedding and is faced with the bridezilla from hell, she starts to realise that she might not want the cookie-cutter ending she thought.

What was meant to be a trip full of sunny days at the beach and wedding planning over cocktails, has turned into another problem for her to fix – just like the ones she’d left behind. With hardly any time for her boyfriend, let alone herself, it feels like there is just too much to juggle. It might be time for Georgia to step off the conveyor belt to find the balance in life and see if she really can have it all…

Chasing the Sun Book Cover

5. Overkill by Vanda Symon (No.1 in the Sam Shephard series) 

New Zealand

When the body of a young mother is found washed up on the banks of the Mataura River, a small rural community is rocked by her tragic suicide. But all is not what it seems.

Sam Shephard, a sole-charge police constable in Mataura, soon discovers the death was no suicide and has to face the realisation that there is a killer in town. To complicate the situation, the murdered woman was the wife of her former lover. When Sam finds herself on the list of suspects and is suspended from duty, she must cast aside her personal feelings and take matters into her own hands.

To find the murderer … and clear her name.

A taut, atmospheric and page-turning thriller, Overkill marks the start of an unputdownable and unforgettable series from one of New Zealand’s finest crime writers.

Overkill Book Cover

6. The Bell in the Lake by Lars Mytting

Scandinavia

Norway, 1880. Winter is hard in Butangen, a village secluded at the end of a valley. The lake has frozen, and for months the ground is too hard to bury the dead. Astrid Hekne dreams of a life beyond all this, beyond marriage, children, and working the land to the end of her days. Then Pastor Kai Schweigaard takes over the small parish, with its 700-year-old stave church carved with pagan deities. The two bells in the tower were forged by Astrid’s forefather in the sixteenth century, in memory of conjoined twins Halfrid and Gunhild Hekne. They are said to hold supernatural powers.

The villagers are wary of the pastor and his resolve to do away with their centuries-old traditions, though Astrid also finds herself drawn to him. And then a stranger arrives from Dresden, with grand plans for the church itself. For headstrong Astrid this may be a provocation too far.

Talented architecture student Gerhard Schönauer is an improbable figure in this rugged community. Astrid has never met anyone like him; he seems so different, so sensitive. She finds that she must make a choice: for her homeland and the pastor, or for an uncertain future in Germany. 

Then the bells begin to ring . . .

The Bell in the Lake Book Cover

7. From the Mouth of the Whale by Sjón

Iceland

In this magical evocation of a vanished age, a poet and self-taught healer is banished in 1635 to a barren island off Iceland – a place darkened by superstition, poverty and cruelty. 

With only a purple sandpiper for company, Jónas Pálmason retraces his path to exile, recalling his exorcism of a walking corpse, the massacre of innocent Basque whalers at the hands of local villagers and the deaths of three of his children. 

But amid the cacophony of Copenhagen he will find hope and, finally, recognition of his enlightened ideas.

From the Mouth of the Whale Book Cover

8. Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

The Galapagos Islands 

Diana O’Toole’s life is going perfectly to plan. At twenty-nine, she’s up for promotion to her dream job as an art specialist at Sotheby’s and she’s about to fly to the Galápagos where she’s convinced her surgeon boyfriend, Finn, is going to propose.

But then the virus hits New York City and Finn breaks the news: the hospital needs him, he has to stay. But you should still go, he insists. And reluctantly, she agrees. Once she’s in the Galápagos, the world shuts down around her, leaving Diana stranded – albeit in paradise.

Completely isolated, with only intermittent news from the outside world, Diana finds herself examining everything that has brought her to this point and wondering if there’s a better way to live.

But not everything is as it seems . . .

Wish You Were Here Book Cover

9. A Theatre for Dreamers by Polly Samson

Greece

Erica is 18 and ready for freedom. It’s the summer of 1960 when she lands on the sun-baked Greek island of Hydra where she is swept up in a circle of bohemian poets, painters, musicians, writers and artists, living tangled lives.

Life on their island paradise is heady, dream-like, a string of seemingly endless summer days. But nothing can last forever.

A Theatre For Dreamers Book Cover

10. Dogstar Rising by Parker Bilal

Egypt

It is the summer of 2001 and in Cairo’s crowded streets the heat is rising…

The unsolved murders of young homeless boys are fanning the embers of religious hatred. As tensions mount, Makana, who fled his native Sudan a decade ago, has been hired to investigate threats that have been made to a hapless travel agent. The case draws him close to Meera, a woman who knows what it is like to lose everything and who needs his help.

But Makana’s troubled past is trying to lay claim to him once again, this time in the form of a dubious businessman who possesses a powerful secret.

When Makana witnesses a brutal killing he uncovers a web of intrigue, violence and old secrets, and attracts the attention of some very dangerous people.

Dogstar Rising Book Cover

11. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Alaska 

A woman has to be tough as steel up here. You can’t count on anyone to save you and your children. You have to be willing to save yourselves.

Thirteen-year-old Leni is coming of age in a tumultuous time. Caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, she dares to hope that Alaska will lead to a better future for her family, and a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown.

As Leni grows up in the shadow of her parents’ increasingly volatile marriage, she meets Matthew. And Matthew – thoughtful, kind, brave – makes her believe in the possibility of a better life . . .

With her trademark combination of elegant prose and deeply drawn characters, Kristin Hannah celebrates the remarkable and enduring strength of women.

Great Alone Book Cover

12. Andina by Martin Morales

Peru

Andina is the cuisine of the Andes of Peru. Welcome to one of the most contemporary yet ancient cuisines in the world. Featuring over 110 delicious and unfussy recipes accompanied by fascinating stories, dazzling photography and beautiful paintings, Andina is the first ever book to capture the food and scenery of the Andes and the spirit of its people and traditions.

Andina also signifies a dish, an ingredient or a lady from the Andes. Martin Morales’s grandmother was an andina and here he pays homage to her and all the women chefs (picanteras) who have shaped this soulful and traditional cuisine, which is at the heart of Peruvian food.

For the last 15 years, Martin has travelled throughout the Peruvian Andes to collect simple, traditional recipes, magical stories and culinary inspiration. With dishes dating back thousands of years, alongside new creations by Martin Morales and his team of chefs who run the award-winning Andina restaurants, Andina’s recipes have big flavours, vibrant colour and are simple to cook at home. From light, raw dishes to hearty stews and soups; cheeky bites to exquisite roasts; and sweet, aromatic desserts to comforting hot drinks, Andina presents authentic, nutritious all-day and all-year-round food made with seasonal ingredients.

Andina Book Cover
book club insert

More Great Books to Inspire You

Tina Hartas studied History of Art and German at University and went on to do an MA in Conservation of Fine Art. She has always loved reading and travel and has delighted in reading novels set in any given location. On a trip to Vienna 15 years ago it proved virtually impossible to trawl the internet and find a book set in the city. Thus the concept of TripFiction was born.

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