Five books to sooth your wanderlust

“A Room with a View,” by E.M. Forster
(Read it here!)

It’s 1908 and free-spirited Lucy Honeychurch is touring Italy with her considerably more conservative chaperone. In Florence she explores the mysterious backroads and seeks out the perfect view of the lovely River Arno. On a solo jaunt around the city she witnesses a murder and is aided by a future suitor. When the vacation ends she returns home to dreary England and another suitor comes her way and her life becomes even more confusing. Lucy is forced to compare her possibilities with different men to her own need for independence in a time when that was in short supply for upper class women. In an ending fit for optimists, she gains freedom and a life with the man she loves in the beautiful city where she met him.

“Everything is Illuminated,” by Jonathan Safran Foer
(Read it here!)

Jonathan Safran Foer’s first novel follows a man and his grandfather traveling to Ukraine in search of the woman who may have saved his grandfather in the Holocaust—a dark theme carried out in a hilariously touching way. Foer’s sarcastic chain-smoking protagonist is accompanied by Alex, a translator obsessed with outdated American culture. The main character is forced to contend with his blind grandfather and his translator’s broken English as they ramble around a post-Soviet country rife with culture shocks. While exploring his Jewish roots and searching for meaning in a place that may no longer exist, Foer explores love and family in his uniquely funny voice.

“Big Sur,” by Jack Kerouac

“On The Road” tends to get the most attention from Kerouac fans, but “Big Sur” is worthy of almost just as much praise. Kerouac writes from the point of view of his alter-ego Jack Dulouz about Dulouz’s struggle through alcoholism. He cannot handle the pressures of being a famous author and in order to escape the fame, Delouz retreats to a cabin in picturesque Big Sur, California. After a few peaceful weeks in one of the most scenic places in America, he returns to San Francisco no more cured of his alcoholism than he was when he left. Kerouac’s prose and poetry are nearly as breathtaking as the land, and if the West Coast calls to you, this is the novel to pick up.

“To the Lighthouse,” by Virginia Woolf
(Read it here!)

Virginia Woolf’s stream-of-consciousness writing style is not for everyone, but “To the Lighthouse” is probably her most accessible piece. The Ramsey family is staying in Scotland for the summer and the promise of rowing out to the nearby lighthouse is the only thing keeping the children entertained. Woolf follows the Ramseys’ and their neighbors in the aftermath of Mrs. Ramsey’s sudden death. The writing is stark and sad—the perfect complement to the brisk Scottish setting. “To the Lighthouse” is the perfect book to escape into for a few hours as the weather outside becomes increasingly gray.

“Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain
(Read it here!)

Most of us have probably already read Mark Twain’s epic riverboat tale in high school, but as the semester and autumn drags on, it won’t hurt to revisit the classic. Huckleberry Finn is determined to help his friend Jim escape slavery. They travel up the Mississippi River in search of freedom and throughout the journey Huck describes his antics in his iconic way. Let the vernacular of the ill-behaved Huck Finn spirit you away to a new life floating down a river.