An Asian setting

Braised Pork by An Yu (Beijing, China and Tibet)

This Stylist Best Book is a dreamlike journey from the haze of Beijing through to the snowy climes of Tibet, following a grief-stricken young woman as she digs into her past in order to pave her future.

A sensitive portrait that will strike a chord with Murakami fans.

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara (India)

Anaparra’s coming-of-age tale shines a light on societal inequalities in India and its bustling slums.

About three young boys investigating the disappearance of their friend, it’s a brilliant and evocative read for right now.

Untold Night and Day by Bae Suah (Seoul, Korea)

This short novel reads like a dream: shifting, surreal and enigmatic. It’s the story of parallel lives in the electric wonderland of Seoul, full of recurring motifs and lyrical prose.

A curious book, it will leave you pondering long afterwards in the best kind of way.

Himalaya by Ed Douglas (The Himalayas)

The world’s highest mountain ranges are covered in fascinating detail in this world-first history book.

From the Himalaya’s early inhabitants at the beginning of the millennium to modern-day Everest climbers, take the ascent up the peak and feel the howling winds in your ears.

Stranger in the Shogun’s City by Amy Stanley (Tokyo, Japan)

Vividly capturing Japan on the brink of momentous change, this is the story of a Buddhist priest’s daughter who runs away to start life anew in metropolitan Edo (nowadays known as Tokyo). Strong-willed and unconventional, through her eyes we learn about the life of women in early nineteeth-century Japan and the battles they had to fight.

An African setting

Petals of Blood by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o (Kenya)

This powerful satire exposes the corruption in Kenya, told through the eyes of four characters struggling to survive amidst drought, poor harvest and political exploitation.

Incidentally, the novel had Ngugi Wa Thiong’o arrested and imprisoned, but Petals of Blood has stood the test of time as a damning reflection of ’70s Kenyan politics.

Tail of the Blue Bird by Nii Ayikwei Parkes (Ghana)

A gripping whodunnit set in a tribal village in the Ghanaian hinterland.

When forensic scientist Kayo happens upon some remains – possibly human, definitely ‘evil’ –  he is forced to forego practical logic and embrace traditional storytelling to uncover all the important clues. 

The Old Drift by Namwali Serpel (Zambia)

A historical, fantastical and sci-fi book all at once, charting the lives of three warring families near the magnificent Victoria Falls.

Interwoven in each other’s lives for decades with unexpected retribution at the end, it all takes place against the backdrop of vibrant, sub-tropical Zambia where you can picture crashing water and a chorus of birdsong.


An Australian setting

The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin

The songlines are invisible paths all across Australia that have been walked for centuries by Indigenous Australians, sharing songs about the Dreamtime and secrets of the land.

This beautiful book recalls Chatwin’s travels through the red desert on his quest to learn these mysterious songs. You can almost smell the hot eucalyptus as you read it.

Everything is Teeth by Evie Wyld

Evie Wyld is obsessed with sharks, a fascination stemming from a childhood by the beach in New South Wales.

This graphic novel is a collection of her memories and a homage to the toothy (and often misunderstood) creatures themselves.

An Antarctic setting

The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick

Two travellers meet in Antarctica and, despite the freezing temperatures, sparks fly.

Brought together by a mutual admiration of the solar system, this romantic story reflects back on how Róisín and François’ lives have led up to this very moment on the great icy expanse.

Terra Incognita by Sara Wheller

What’s it like to live in the harshest climate on earth?

Wheeler’s modern classic sets the scene of our most uncharted continent and its mysterious beauty, and the realities of close confinement amidst miles and miles of endless white.

A European setting

The Parisian by Isabella Hammad (France and Palestine)

Set in France and Palestine in the first half of the twentieth Century, this award-winning story is told through the eyes of Midhat, a Palestinian studying medicine who is falling in love with his tutor’s daughter.

When tragedy strikes, we are reminded of the fragility of life against the backdrop of looming war.

Beautiful Animals by Lawrence Osborne (Greece)

It’s a blistering summer by the Aegean Sea. Young American Samantha meets rebellious Brit Naomi on the Greek island of Hydra, and they become fast friends.

However, their carefree days come to a halt when a man washes up on shore from a shipwreck and their plan to help him goes horribly wrong. Sun, sand, ouzo and murder… all the right ingredients for a summer thriller.

Young Skins by Colin Barrett (Ireland)

This widely-acclaimed collection transports you to a small rural town in Ireland and all its bristling tensions.

Glanbeigh is a desolate place: boredom is drowned with booze, the youths run wild and crime is high. But there is more than meets the eye, as we learn through seven powerful short stories.

Independent People by Halldor Laxness (Iceland)

Iceland may just have one of be the most intriguing landscapes on earth: barren, breathtaking panoramas of rising steam and crystal water.

In lieu of a flight there, take a trip with the ‘Tolstoy of the North’ in this wonderfully evocative story of sheep farmer Bjartus and his struggle for independence.


Middlemarch by George Eliot (England)

Surely there’s no better book to capture the idyllic English countryside than Middlemarch, widely considered the English novel of the 20th twentieth century.

Rolling hills, green pastures and meadows of wildflowers all feature, but of course, the main attraction is the intellectual landscape of all her characters...

Italian Life by Tim Parks (Italy)

Tim Parks spent years soaking up Italian culture and, writing countless books about his ‘second home’.

However, alongside the glamour, shaded palazzos and gorgeous kitchen aromas, there’s a dark underbelly of corruption, power and influence – all of which is revealed in this gripping account.

A North American setting

There, There by Tommy Orange (California, USA)

A powerful novel following 12 Native American characters journeying to the Big Oakland Powwow, each connected by invisible threads not yet known.

With its unique introspective into Native American culture and imagery of sweeping, dusted plains, it was one of Barack Obama’s favourite books of 2018.

Sea Monsters by Chloe Aridjis (Mexico)

On impulse, teenager Luisa runs away with a boy she barely knows.

Beautifully evocative of the author’s own heritage and love of the land, we follow their journey from sprawling Mexico City to a beachside community in Oaxaca where, amidst nudists, hippies and beach-combers, Luisa begins to distinguish expectation versus reality.



The Travelers by Regina Porter (USA)

Reeling from the wake of World War Two, The Travelers follows two American families: one black, one white, each with vastly different paths ahead.

Chronicling their lives over six decades, it’s a story of how chance encounters can mould us and what it means to be an American. A particularly relevant read for today as we continue our fight for equality.

The Cubans by Anthony DePalma (Cuba)

Beyond cigars, old cars and vibrant buildings, what do you really know about Cuba?

As one of the most misunderstood nations in the world, Anthony DePalma sets the record straight in this pioneering history of the Cuban people, covering their Castro years to their near-societal collapse today.

A South American setting

Magdalena by Wade Davis (Colombia)

For many of us, the first overseas country we go to is forever etched in our hearts.

For Wade Davis, that country was Colombia. In Magdalena, he revisits the magnificent river that made civilisation there possible and spares no detail of Colombia’s magnificent coastal deserts, thick jungles and towering Andean summits.

Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut (Galapagos Islands)

It has one of the most unique ecosystems on earth, so it’s no wonder masterful satirist Kurt Vonnegut dedicated an entire book to it.

Galapagos takes us back one million years to an imagined apocalypse, where a group of survivors starts the human race anew on the islands, all told in with Vonnegut’s signature wry wit.


A Russian setting

Mud and Stars by Sara Wheeler

A fascinating look at the Golden Age of Russia and its famous scribes, from Pushkin and Tolstoy to Lermontov and Chekhov.

Shooting along the lengths of the Trans-Siberian railway to brutalist Soviet apartment blocks, Mud and Stars looks at how Russia’s influential writers continue to shape the country and its people today.

Stalingrad by Vasily Grossman

Prior to 2006, nobody had heard of Grossman’s Stalingrad or its gripping depictions of Hitler’s defeat.

Now a bestseller and firm modern classic, it is a transportive experience to the front lines of Stalingrad and the beauty of rural Russia.

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