The best novels about expat adventures

Who am I?

In a previous career, I traveled extensively to many parts of the world. I always found new cultures, old traditions, strange languages, and exotic environments fascinating. Perhaps even more fascinating, were the expats I found who had traded in their home country for an existence far from where they were born and different from how they were reared. In many instances, I’ve attempted to incorporate—in Heinlein’s words—this stranger in a strange land motif in my work. It always seems to heighten my interest. I hope the reader’s as well. 


I wrote...

Misfortune’s Wake

By Joe Kilgore,

Book cover of Misfortune’s Wake

What is my book about?

A young American seeking escape from a tragic event, takes a job with an international conservation organization in the foreign port of Retiro de Santos. There, he becomes romantically involved with a local artist, and platonically involved with a young girl pursuing a better life. Soon his environmental group is sabotaged, his coworker dies mysteriously, and his young friend is shanghaied. Finding himself on the wrong side of unjust laws, he must decide whether to act or abdicate responsibility. As he teeters precariously on the edge of a decision, a raging storm barrels ashore to threaten everyone and everything in its path.

The books I picked & why

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A Burnt-Out Case

By Graham Greene,

Book cover of A Burnt-Out Case

Why this book?

Graham Greene is considered by many to be the acknowledged master of expat tales. This is actually one of his lesser-known novels. It tells the story of Querry, an internationally famous architect suffering from terminal ennui. Life no longer holds meaning for him, or even pleasure. He takes a boat up river in Africa to its last stop, a leper village in the Congo. There, he attempts to lose himself by helping the indigenous afflicted, and in so doing begins to cure his own ills as well. But fate and the white community can’t let well enough alone. 

A Burnt-Out Case

By Graham Greene,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Burnt-Out Case as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY GILES FODEN

Querry, a world famous architect, is the victim of a terrible attack of indifference: he no longer finds meaning in art or pleasure in life. Arriving anonymously at a Congo leper village, he is diagnosed as the mental equivalent of a 'burnt-out case', a leper mutilated by disease and amputation. Querry slowly moves towards a cure, his mind getting clearer as he works for the colony. However, in the heat of the tropics, no relationship with a married woman, will ever be taken as innocent...


The Master of Rain

By Tom Bradby,

Book cover of The Master of Rain

Why this book?

The setting is Shanghai, China in 1926. A mysterious city full of expatriates. One of the most beautiful is Natasha Medvedev, a former aristocrat in Russia who fled the revolution and now finds herself in the circle of a notorious drug lord. Her neighbor is murdered and suddenly she’s dealing with expats in the local police force like Caprisi, a tough Chicago cop, and a young Englishman named Fields who will fall in love with her, putting both in peril. This is a mystery, a love story, and perhaps most of all, a fresco of words illuminating a place and time that will be forever engraved in the reader’s memory.

The Master of Rain

By Tom Bradby,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Master of Rain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shanghai, 1926: a sultry city lousy with opium, warlords, and corruption at the highest levels. Into this steamy morass walks Richard Field, an idealistic Brit haunted by his past and recently appointed to the international police. He’s not there long before called to the flat of a Russian prostitute, former daughter of privilege found sadistically murdered, handcuffed to her bed. When he discovers among her possessions a cryptic shipping log, he senses that this murder is more than a random crime of perverse passion. What unfolds is a searing story that propels Field into a confrontation with the city’s most…


Leaving Berlin

By Joseph Kanon,

Book cover of Leaving Berlin

Why this book?

It’s Berlin, 1949. The second world war has ended but the geopolitical intrigue hasn’t. Russia, the U. S., Great Britain, and France engage in cold war espionage as disparate citizens of the German city struggle to survive. A young Jewish writer who fled the Nazis for America is caught up in Joseph McCarthy’s communist witch hunt. For the sake of his family and to keep from being deported, he agrees to help the CIA by returning to Berlin for a secret assignment. Kidnapping, murder, and more ensue, as he’s forced to keep tabs on the woman he left behind. Then he himself becomes the hunted. After returning to a city trying to rise from the ashes, this expat may or may not wind up ever being able to leave Berlin. 

Leaving Berlin

By Joseph Kanon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Leaving Berlin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

* Don't miss THE ACCOMPLICE, the next heart-pounding and intelligent espionage novel from 'master of the genre' (The Washington Post), Joseph Kanon *

'Up there with the very best . . . Kanon writes beautifully, superbly . . . He is the master of the shadows of the era' The Times

From the author of The Good German (made into a film starring George Clooney), Leaving Berlin is a sweeping post-war story and an international bestseller.

Berlin is still in ruins almost four years after the war, caught between political idealism and the harsh realities of Soviet occupation. Alex Meier…


The Age of Water

By Sean Craft,

Book cover of The Age of Water

Why this book?

This novel brings readers up close and personal with Hong Kong. Clarke is a young Englishman doing a banking stint in the fabled city. He lives a relatively sedate existence in his corporately antiseptic neighborhood. But one day he decides to get off his beaten path and winds up having his life changed dramatically. He becomes enamored with a shantytown prostitute, embroiled in the geopolitical struggle with Mainland China, and involved in a potential swindle of international proportions. In addition to spinning an interesting tale, Craft is also able to weave in the ticking time bomb of environmental hazards that plague the area without pious preaching and totally within the confines of the story he’s telling. 

The Age of Water

By Sean Craft,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Age of Water as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Rivers had become toxic and the ocean shore is a sea of plastic: there's money to be made. But for Philip Clarke, handsome, clever, and decidedly available, that world seemed a distraction from an altogether different one, where the possibilities of pleasure overwrote the machinery of commerce.

Newly arrived in Hong Kong, his island world lay somewhere between the looming shadow of China, and its strange double downtown, where bankers and brokers breathed the same crowded air as a new breed of political activists. In his mind, he was thankfully immune from both.

But the tranquillity of his island home…


The Sun Also Rises

By Ernest Hemingway,

Book cover of The Sun Also Rises

Why this book?

What would any list of expat literature be without this classic? The plot, if it can be called that, is basically American and British expatriates traveling from Paris to Pamplona, Spain. The heart of the novel however, is the relationships between the travelers. While the running of the bulls and bullfighting provides most of the physical drama, the psychological drama is inherent throughout. Particularly in the doomed romance between the promiscuous Lady Brett Ashley and war-wounded newspaper correspondent Jake Barnes. This is the novel most associated with the term, the lost generation. It should never get lost however, among the myriad of tales that have copied but never equaled it.

The Sun Also Rises

By Ernest Hemingway,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Sun Also Rises as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jake Barnes is a man whose war wound has made him unable to have sex—and the promiscuous divorcée Lady Brett Ashley. Jake is an expatriate American journalist living in Paris, while Brett is a twice-divorced Englishwoman with bobbed hair and numerous love affairs, and embodies the new sexual freedom of the 1920s. The novel is a roman à clef: the characters are based on real people in Hemingway's circle, and the action is based on real events, particularly Hemingway's life in Paris in the 1920s and a trip to Spain in 1925 for the Pamplona festival and fishing in the…


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