10 Books That Transport You Through Space and Time
Fiction and nonfiction page-turners for exploring the world from the comfort of your couch.
Many of us creators lack the funds to travel to new places and absorb the inspiration that local histories, cultures, and ecosystems have to offer. With these ten written works, we don't have to break the bank. This collection of novels, short stories, memoirs, and historical nonfiction envelops readers in webs of communities across the globe. Through complicated characters, political plots, and powerful storytelling, the wonders of realms unknown are unlocked. Happy reading!
Beauty is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan (2002, English translation 2015)
Eka Kurniawan's epic novel enmeshes readers in the throes of Indonesian history. Multigenerational perspectives and magical realist storylines add intrigue and suspense. Set in the fictional town of Halimunda, the novel follows the lives of characters navigating the legacies of colonialism, independence, communism, and globalization.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967)
García Márquez's classic magical realist coup tells the story of one family in the town of Macondo through love, marriage, divorce, births, deaths, and everything in between. Widely regarded as one of the best historical fiction novels of all time, One Hundred Years of Solitude showcases the effects of modernization, economic turmoil, and war in Latin America by telling the stories of compelling main characters.
The Complete Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino (1965)
In this collection of short stories, Calvino reimagines our solar system and natural landscapes as marvelous playgrounds. The collection stands out for its mythical tone and creative style. Each story plays with the laws of science, superbly recasting facts as fibrous inspiration. From the moon to the ocean, these stories will leave readers feeling amazed to be alive in this galaxy.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (2017)
A National Book Award Finalist, this multigenerational novel follows its characters through Japanese colonialism in Korea and the trials of a Korean families in Japan. Marked by violent conflict and enduring love, Pachinko is an excellent example of historical fiction that sheds light on minoritized narratives with engaging characters and a suspenseful plot.
The Yellow House by Sarah Broom (2019)
Sarah Broom's National Book Award winning memoir of her childhood in New Orleans traces the roots of her family's past and present through smart, insightful personal writing. Based around the tale of a family home lost to Hurricane Katrina, The Yellow House simultaneously tells the story of government neglect of Black Americans and of one family's survival, joy, and love for each other and their home.
Out of Egypt by André Aciman (1994)
This stunning memoir by the author of Call Me By Your Name tells the tale of Jews in Egypt in the twentieth century. The family's colorful lives unfold amidst imperialist power, revolution, economic transformation and centuries-old religion. The writing is at once scrupulously detailed and loosely flowing, never missing a chance to show the intertwined history of political forces and personal narratives.
The Future is History by Masha Gessen (2017)
This thoroughly researched book about the aftermath of Soviet communism in Russia weaves together sociological theory and political commentary with powerful reporting on a handful of people's hopes, dreams, and struggles. With this brilliant nonfiction work, the New Yorker columnist questions historical legacies and exposes the dangers to human rights in Russia through intensely personal storylines.
Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (2014)
This triumph of a novel bounces back and forth between centuries, from the Buganda Kingdom to modern Uganda. Alongside the rise and fall of great nations, Nansubuga Makumbi traces the rise and fall of great loves and great losses. The novel's overlapping storylines transcend the bounds of historical time and space. Readers are left with a sense of human connection and tradition that withstand the tests of time.
Disoriental by Négar Djavadi (2016, English translation 2018)
French-Iranian author Négar Djavadi catapults readers from modern day Paris to the Persian Empire and the Iranian Revolution. Split between the anguish of a 21st-century woman and the diasporic forces that shape her life, this novel pushes the envelope on collective trauma and memory. Without essentializing history and its actors, Djavadi tells a complicated story with relatable characters and a twisting plot.
Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina García (1993)
Cristina García's novel delves into the complex effects of the Cuban Revolution with characters living both on the island and in the Cuban American diaspora. García's storytelling unflinchingly examines power and revolution with emotionally complicated characters who remind readers how hard it is to love and to lose.