Reading list

10 of the best and worst journeys

It’s often said that books can take you places, and in these books the journey is the thing. From murderous cruises to cross-Canadian walks via iconic road trips, here are some of the best, the worst and the most infamous fictional journeys.
 

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

The follow-up to Ware’s bestselling debut, In a Dark, Dark Wood, is just as much of a page-turner. Lo is on a luxury cruise around the Norwegian fjords, enjoying the chance to get away from her real life and a horrible break-up. But when she sees a body being thrown overboard, everything quickly goes awry, especially when it turns out that no passengers are missing. Tense and twisty, this is a brilliant update of the locked room mystery. 

The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak

When lonely housewife Ella reads about a 13th century Sufi poet Rumi and his forty rules of life and love, she leaves behind her husband and children to find out more. Ella’s story is woven with the story of Rumi and his relationship with Shams of Tabriz, as Turkish bestseller and recent Baileys Prize judge Shafak explores ideas of love, faith and spiritualism. If Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist made you think, then this is for you. 

The Last One by Alexandra Oliva

The Hunger Games meets Station Eleven in this fast-paced but thought-provoking story of one woman trying to find her way home. Zoo has signed up for a new reality TV show where a group of contestants from all walks of life compete in Survivor-esque tasks in a remote forest. But when things start to go wrong in the outside world, and Zoo encounters gruesome props and ravaged houses, she struggles to know what is staged and what is real. 

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Harold Fry’s odyssey to visit an old colleague has become one of the most iconic literary journeys of recent years. Sixty-five-year old Harold only means to go and post Queenie Hennessy a letter but once he reaches the postbox he just keeps going in this moving, heartwarming novel of love, family and forgiveness. 

Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper

And if you loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, try this for your next read. A sweeping love story that spans fifty years, it follows retired teacher Etta, who sets off to see the sea, leaving her husband Otto a note explaining she was going by foot. Along the way she remembers growing up during the Second World War and her friendship with Otto’s best friend Russell. This is a beautiful, bittersweet story of a journey to find peace. 

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Rachel gets the same train every morning and thinks she knows the journey inside out, even beginning to invent stories for the families she sees day after day - until she sees something shocking. Rachel is a complicated heroine and nothing in the story is quite as it seems as Hawkins plays with the timeline and perspective to build up to a brilliant twist. Make sure you read it before the film, starring Emily Blunt as Rachel, comes out in September.

Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne

A classic science-fiction journey; professor Otto Lidenbrock and his nephew Axel set off through an Icelandic volcano to try and find the volcanic tubes they believe lead to the centre of the earth. On the way they meet prehistoric animals, chambers filled with gas and all sort of otherworldly dangers. Verne’s other famous novel, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, featured another epic journey, this time to find and destroy a sea monster. 

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

First published in 1957, this iconic road-trip story consistently crops up on best books lists everywhere. It’s the story of Sal and his free-spirited friend and travel companion Dean as they drive across America, and the book is loosely autobiographical with Sal representing Kerouac and Dean his friend Neal Cassady. The 2012 film featuring Kristen Stewart found the book a new audience and the story has come to represent the beat generation of the 1950s and early 60s. 

Watership Down by Richard Adams

This beloved story, which won the Carnegie Medal in 1972, follows the rabbits of Sandleford Warren when a small group of them, convinced danger is on its way, set off to try and find a new home. Adams’ rabbits have their own language, stories and culture and their dangerous journey is a hugely moving and at times tense story of freedom, bravery and home. 

 

The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard 

Cherry-Garrard was one of the youngest members of Scott’s second and fatal expedition to Antarctica, and this is his account of that journey. He was one of the rescue party that found the bodies of Scott and his team who had tried to reach the Pole and his account is seen as a masterpiece of travel writing as it balances the emotional impact of such an extreme and dangerous journey with the scientific discoveries they made along the way. This new Vintage Classics edition also features accounts from other explorers as well as diary entries. 

 

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