The best novels that take you on extraordinary journeys

John Dalton Author Of Heaven Lake
By John Dalton

The Books I Picked & Why

Tyll

By Daniel Kehlmann, Ross Benjamin

Book cover of Tyll

Why this book?

A true marvel of a novel. It follows the famous jester Tyll Ulenspiegel and the Winter Queen and several learned and lethal Jesuit priests (among others). Most novels that cut between storylines lose momentum and direction. Tyll takes bold leaps and keeps transforming into new adventures, new truths, a new vision of the seventieth century that subtly mixes historical fact and magical possibility.  


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Washington Black

By Esi Edugyan

Book cover of Washington Black

Why this book?

An eleven-year-old slave boy on a brutal Barbados sugar cane plantation is apprenticed to an 1800s man of science.  They embark on a globe-spanning adventure together. Esi Edugyan takes all that’s best about a Victorian adventure novel—characters that are kindly, eccentric, detestable, the rich mannered language, the sense of romantic wonder—and channels it into Washington Black with a modern efficiency and a layered awareness of race and privilege. 


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Flights

By Olga Tokarczuk, Jennifer Croft

Book cover of Flights

Why this book?

There are dozens of journeys contained within this unclassifiable work of fiction. With each episode or story or exploration, the reader begins to perceive how travel transforms and erases us, even as it shows us the true strangeness of the world. If that sounds vague, then I’d say that you don’t read Flights for its many stories, as you do for Tokarczuk’s quiet, steely, attuned prose and exhilarating ideas.  


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Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York

By Francis Spufford

Book cover of Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York

Why this book?

It’s 1764 on Manhattan Island, and a stranger from London arrives at a small town called New York. He expects to receive a thousand pounds. A cast of dynamic characters appear. There are intrigues and adventures. All writers try to be vibrant on the page—to write smart, vivid, witty descriptions and dialogue. And then you come upon a writer like Francis Spufford, who is able, somehow, do it a degree or two better than everyone else.   


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The Narrow Road to the Deep North

By Richard Flanagan

Book cover of The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Why this book?

Australian doctor and soldier Dorrigo Evans has to find a way to survive the last months of World War II in a Japanese POW camp, where he labors, with other dying men, building an impossible railway to Burma. Normally it wouldn’t be worth exploring such intense and prolonged suffering—but the suffering in this novel feels true and terrifying and somehow sacred. It gets balanced out with the light that graces other parts of Dorrigo’s life, and the overall result is a profound reading experience. 


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