Friday, April 17, 2020

16+ Contemporary Books to Satisfy Your Wanderlust When You Can't Leave Home

We may all be unable to travel right now because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but part of the beauty of books is being able to travel vicariously anywhere in the world without having to leave the comfort (and, currently, the safety) of your home. Books have always been an escape for many, but they provide a much-needed respite now more than ever. I've been self-isolating for five weeks now and, like many other readers, I've been gravitating toward lighter books. Bonus points if they're funny, and extra bonus points if they have a setting that allows me to indulge in a little armchair travel.

My original list for this post had approximately 40 books on it, but I kept culling to keep it manageable. I decided to go with the books that really immerse you in the setting; I love stories where the setting is so vivid and vibrant you feel like you're right there. Each book has a link to Goodreads, Amazon (please note, it is an affiliate link - all earnings go into the upkeep of this blog, and I truly appreciate your support), and Indigo, but if you have a local indie bookshop you can support, please be sure to do so!

Now, grab your literary passport and escape to beautiful, far-flung destinations with these 16+ contemporary books.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins Setting: Paris Genre: Contemporary Young Adult Romance Published: December 2nd, 2010 by Dutton Juvenile Why you should read it: Anna is your average American teenager who gets sent to Paris for school and has her horizons broadened in more ways than she ever imagined. This is one of my top five all-time favourite books, and Anna and Etienne are one of my top OTPs. This book has everything I love in Young Adult (or any book for that matter): humour, romance, character growth, travel. Read this book for all the swoons, giggles, and squees.
Add to Goodreads || Buy: Amazon || Indigo

Wish You Were Italian by Kristin Rae Setting: Italy Genre: Contemporary Young Adult Romance Published: May 6th, 2014 by Bloomsbury Why you should read it: Pippa travels to Italy for the summer to be part of an art program, but quickly realizes one of the benefits of solo traveling is she can do whatever she wants...which happens to be seeing more of Italy instead of sitting in classes all day. I went back to my review of this book from 2014 while writing this post and remembered just how fun and funny this book was and how I truly felt like I was right there in Italy with Pippa. The next year when I visited Rome myself, I thought of Pippa and was excited to see the same things she had seen for the first time. Add to Goodreads || Buy: Amazon || Indigo

Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch Setting: Ireland Genre: Contemporary Young Adult Romance Published: May 8th, 2018 by Simon Pulse Why you should read it: I adore books set in Ireland. So many of the books set there seem to feature characters finding themselves, whether that’s their actual goal or not. I’ve always felt like there’s something magical about the Emerald Isle, and that special something is reflected in many stories, including Love & Luck. This book is funny and sweet, has one of my favourite sibling relationships ever, and it packs an unexpected emotional punch. Bonus: Love & Luck is part of a standalone series. The first book is Love & Gelato, which is set in Italy (and which you should definitely read; it was originally on this list before I started cutting books), and Jenna’s next book, Love & Olives (coming July 7th) is set in Greece. Is it just me or are there not nearly enough books set in Greece? Add to Goodreads || Buy: Amazon || Indigo
The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall
Setting: Paris, Istanbul Genre: Contemporary Young Adult Mystery/Thriller Published: January 13th, 2015 by Putnam Juvenile Why you should read it: When this series came out, it was advertised as ‘The DaVinci Code for teens’ which is what initially drew me in. This book grabs you and pulls you into a thrilling, action-packed world of intrigue, secret societies, and romance, all wrapped up in amazing, vivid European settings. Bonus: The Conspiracy of Us is the first in a trilogy; Map of Fates and The Ends of the World are the second and third books respectively, and the series gets even better as it goes on, plus you get even more incredible settings (like Greece and Egypt) with each new book. Add to Goodreads || Buy: Amazon || Indigo

 A Brit Complicated by Brenda St John Brown
Setting: London
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Published: October 8th, 2017, self-published
Why you should read it: This book was written shortly after the 2017 terror attack in Borough Market in London, and it feels like a love letter to London and the resilience of the beautiful, diverse city. I loved that the city played such an important role in the story, plus this book has Brenda’s trademark wit, humour, and scorching-hot sexytimes.
Bonus: This is the third book in Brenda’s Castle Calder series of standalone books. The first two - A Brit on the Side and A Brit Unexpected - are set mostly in the English countryside at the fictional Castle Calder. Brenda’s debut novel, Swimming to Tokyo, is set in Japan and is a fascinating look at a place I knew very little about.
Add to Goodreads || Buy: Amazon

London Belongs to Me by Jacquelyn Middleton
Setting: London
Genre: Contemporary coming-of-age/women’s fiction
Published: October 14th, 2016 by Kirkwall Books
Why you should read it: This book takes the reader on an emotional journey with Alex Sinclair as she moves to London with dreams of becoming a playwright. Besides the great characters and setting, two big things that drew me into this book were the nerdy pop culture references and the mental health representation.
Bonus: This book has a follow-up called London, Can You Wait? which is set in London and New York City, and Jacquelyn’s other book, Until the Last Star Fades is set (mostly) in NYC. Jacquelyn has spent a lot of time in both London and NYC, so the locations in her books are real places with a lot of thought and care put into them, and that really shows.
Add to Goodreads || Buy: Amazon || Indigo

One Week 'Til Christmas by Belinda Missen
Setting: London
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Published: November 1st, 2019 by HQ Digital
Why you should read it: Visiting London at Christmastime has always been a dream of mine, and reading this book gave me that experience vicariously. The wintery streets of London really come alive on the pages, and I was completely enchanted. Plus the romance is super swoony! This is a quick, sweet read, and even though it's set at Christmastime, I'd say it's a fun one to read year-round.
Add to Goodreads || Buy: Amazon || Indigo

Getting Hot With the Scot by Melonie Johnson
Setting: Edinburgh, London, Chicago
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Published: April 30th, 2019 by St. Martin’s Press
Why you should read it: This book starts in Edinburgh, Scotland, where we join a group of friends who have been traveling through Europe. Our heroine, Cassie (a fellow book lover!), has been on the hunt for a foreign fling with no success...until she meets hot Scot Logan Reid. We get a whirlwind trip through Edinburgh and London before heading to the US and Cassie’s hometown of Chicago. It’s so fun watching these two characters balance their careers, get over their commitment-phobia, and figure out how to build a life together.
Add to Goodreads || Buy: Amazon || Indigo

Upside Down by Lia Riley
Setting: Australia
Genre: Contemporary New Adult
Published: August 5th, 2014 by Forever
Why you should read it: Needing an escape from her current reality, Talia takes off for six months in Australia as an exchange student. Her plan is to leave her worries behind, but she quickly realizes she can't run away from her problems or her past. This book is an emotional rollercoaster ride; Talia and Bran remain one of my OTPs because they worked hard for their relationship and they overcame so many obstacles together. This book is really emotional, unbelievably sexy, and it gets major bonus points for realistic and compassionate grief and OCD representation.
Add to Goodreads || Buy: Amazon || Indigo
Bonus: This is the first book in the Off the Map series - Sideswiped and Inside Out are next - and all the books are amazing.

London Belongs to Us by Sarra Manning
Setting: London
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult Romance
Published: June 2nd, 2016 by Hot Key Books
Why you should read it: This book is a highly entertaining whirlwind ride through the streets of London. Taking place in the span of 12 hours, Sunny makes her way through the city on a mission, meeting a whole host of quirky characters along the way.
Add to Goodreads || Buy: Amazon || Indigo

Wanderlost by Jen Malone
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult Romance
Published: May 31st, 2016 by HarperTeen
Setting: All over Europe
Why you should read it: You know how in most travel-related novels the main character has a strong desire to travel and usually at least some sort of plan? That’s not the case with this book; Aubree would be happy never leaving home, but she gets roped into pretending to be her sister and taking her place as a tour guide for a group of seniors through Europe. Aubree’s one of those characters you’re not quite sure about in the beginning, but you can’t help rooting for her as she grows and learns a lot about herself and the world. This book is fun, funny, and sweet with great characters and beautiful settings.
Add to Goodreads || Buy: Amazon || Indigo

Without Borders by Amanda Heger
Setting: Nicaragua
Genre: Contemporary New Adult
Published: April 19th, 2016 by Diversion Publishing
Why you should read it: Annie needs something that will make her med school resume stand out, so she travels to Central America to join some old friends on a month-long medical brigade. Annie is pushed outside her comfort zone at every turn as she traverses the jungle and encounters extreme poverty and life-threatening situations alongside a group of volunteers and a hot Nicaraguan doctor who also happens to be her best friend’s brother. This book is funny, touching, and completely different from anything I’ve ever read.
Add to Goodreads || Buy: Amazon || Indigo

A Place in the Sun by RS Grey
Setting: Vernazza, Italy
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Published: October 24th, 2016, self-published
Why you should read it: Needing to escape the relentless matchmaking of her mother, Georgie flees from London to Italy, where she meets gorgeous, brooding Gianluca. The romance in this book is an intense roller coaster ride, and the stunning, vivid setting made me long to see more of Italy. I don't think I'd ever even heard of Vernazza, but it went on my bucket list as soon as I finished reading this book.
Add to Goodreads || Buy: Amazon

The Forbidden Man by Karina Halle
Setting: Madrid, Spain
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Published: December 8th, 2019, self-published
Why you should read it: This is a super angsty, sexy, forbidden, age-gap, sports romance featuring a young football (soccer) player on the Real Madrid team and his much older physical therapist. I loved Thalia and Alejo, and it was interesting learning more about Spanish football and getting to see Madrid through Thalia’s eyes.
Bonus: Many of Karina’s books have gorgeous settings. Two of my other favourites are My Life in Shambles (set in Ireland) and Racing the Sun (set in Italy).
Add to Goodreads || Buy: Amazon

Christmas at Frozen Falls by Kiley Dunbar
Setting: Lapland, Finland
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Published: September 4th, 2019 by Hera
Why you should read it: When Sylvie's fiance dumps her a week before their wedding, her best friend plans a spur of the moment trip to Finland to take her mind off her heartache. Sylvie is reunited with her gorgeous Finnish ex, who shows her the sights and also stirs up a whole lot of old feelings. I honestly knew next to nothing about Lapland, and I found it fascinating to learn about life there, discover some of their traditions and customs, and learn about the Sami people.
Bonus: Kiley’s new book, Summer at the Highland Coral Beach, is set in a gorgeous fictional village in Scotland called Port Willow Bay.
Add to Goodreads || Buy: Amazon || Indigo

Just One Day by Gayle Forman
Setting: Paris, the Netherlands, London
Genre: Contemporary New Adult
Published: January 8th, 2013 by Dutton Juvenile
Why you should read it: After one magical day with a stranger in Paris, Alysson returns to the confines of her real life back home in America. Depressed and lost, Alysson spends the next year breaking out of the shelter of her small, safe life and learning to live for herself instead of living to please others. I read this book seven years ago when it was one of the hottest books around; I clearly remember disliking Alysson in the beginning and not understanding the hype around this book. My feelings changed suddenly and drastically about halfway through, and this book ended up touching me deeply and becoming a favourite. The character growth was some of the best I’ve ever read, and while the romance is beautiful, the journey of self-love was truly a thing to behold.
Bonus: The follow-up to this book, Just One Year, takes place in Europe, Mexico, and India, and I love it even more than the first book.
Add to Goodreads || Buy: Amazon || Indigo

More Bonuses:
Maddy Hunter's Passport to Peril series. If cozy mysteries are your thing, I can't recommend Maddy's books enough. Each of these fun, hilarious books is set in a different country (or US State, as in the case of two books), and Maddy has the ability to make you feel like you’re really there touring the places with Emily and her quirky gang of seniors. The series consists of twelve books and, in order, the settings are: Switzerland, Ireland, Italy, Hawaii, Australia, Norway, the Netherlands, Scotland, France, Germany, England, and Alaska.
Find the books on Goodreads || Amazon || Indigo
And since it was so hard to whittle this list down, I thought I'd share my Goodreads lists featuring various settings. Feel free to peruse them and see if any other books take your fancy.
Australia   England   France   Ireland   London   New York City   Scotland   General Wanderlust  

What is your favourite setting to read about? Do you have a favourite book that inspires wanderlust? Have you added any of the books from my list to your TBR?

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