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5 great books set in Argentina
May 16, 2020
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7 great books set in Denmark
March 13, 2021
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The wonder of reading is how it transports you to different places.

Living in Melbourne, I’m pretty much confined to my own neighbourhood right now. But through his bestselling Bulibasha, master storyteller Witi Ihimaera takes me each day deep into the heart of rural 1950’s New Zealand and the lives of the Mahana whanau (tribe); their homes, their community, their history. Previously, through the pages of Vodka and Apple Juice, Western Australian Jay Martin invited me into her three-year adventure in Warsaw, Poland, with her Australian diplomat husband.

Whatever travel restrictions you currently face, you can still experience the world through someone else’s eyes. Here are some captivating reads that will take you to different parts of the globe.

Jeju Island, South Korea

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The Island of the Sea
by Lisa See

This beautiful, thoughtful novel illuminates a world turned upside down, one where the women are in charge, engaging in dangerous physical work, and the men take care of the children.

A classic Lisa See story, The Island of Sea Women introduces readers to the fierce and unforgettable female divers of Jeju Island and the dramatic history that shaped their lives.”

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Tokyo, Japan

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The Bells of Old Tokyo
by Anna Sherman

As a foreigner living in Tokyo, Sherman’s account takes pleasure and fascination in the history and culture of a country that can seem startlingly strange to an outsider. Following her search for the lost bells of the city – the bells by which its inhabitants kept time before the Jesuits introduced them to clocks – to her personal friendship with the owner of a small, exquisite cafe, who elevates the making and drinking of coffee to an art-form, here is Tokyo in its bewildering variety. This is a beautiful and original portrait of Tokyo told through time.

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Kolkata, India

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A Burning
by Megha Majumdar

If the police didn’t help ordinary people like you and me, if the police watched them die, doesn’t that mean that the government is also a terrorist?’

Set in contemporary India, A Burning is the story of three unforgettable characters, all dreaming of a better future, whose lives are changed forever when they become caught up in the devastating aftermath of a terrorist attack.

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Tehran, Iran

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The Stationery Shop of Tehran
by Marjan Kamali

1953, Tehran. Roya loves nothing better than to while away the hours in the local stationery shop run by Mr. Fakhri.

When Mr. Fakhri introduces her to Bahman, with his burning passion for justice and a shared love for Rumi’s poetry, Roya loses her heart at once.

But around them, life in Tehran is changing.

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Kamchatka, Russia

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Disappearing Earth
by Julia Phillips

One August afternoon, on the shoreline of the Kamchatka peninsula at the northeastern edge of Russia, two girls — sisters, eight and eleven — go missing. Echoes of the disappearance reverberate across a tightly woven community, with the fear and loss felt most deeply among its women.

Taking us through a year in Kamchatka, this powerful novel brings us to a new understanding of the intricate bonds of family and community, in a Russia unlike any we have seen before.

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Galway, Ireland

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The Scholar
by Dervla McTiernan

A gripping follow-up to Australian Dervla McTiernan’s debut crime novel The Ruin.

Research scientist Emma Sweeney is visiting her lab late one evening when she stumbles across the body of a young woman who has been the victim of a hit and run. Emma is distraught and calls her partner, Cormac Reilly, a detective sergeant in the Irish police force. Cormac takes the case and steps straight into a quagmire of corruption, politics and a pattern of evidence that brings the case full circle, and far too close to home.

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South Island, New Zealand

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The Denniston Rose
by Jenny Pattrick

The bleak coal-mining settlement of Denniston, isolated high on a plateau above New Zealand’s West Coast, is a place that makes or breaks those who live there. Into this chaotic community come five-year-old Rose and her mother, at night, during a storm. No one knows what has driven them there, but most agree the mother must be desperate to choose Denniston.

The Denniston Rose is about isolation and survival. It is the story of a spirited child, who, in appalling conditions, remains a survivor.

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Alaska, USA

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The Great Alone
by Kristin Hannah

Cora Allbright and her husband, Ernt, uproot their thirteen year old daughter Leni to start a new life in Alaska. Utterly unprepared for the weather and the isolation, but welcomed by the close-knit community, they fight to build a home in this harsh, beautiful wilderness.

At once an epic story of human survival and love, and an intimate portrait of a family tested beyond endurance, The Great Alone offers a glimpse into a vanishing way of life in America. Kristin Hannah has delivered an enormously powerful story that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the remarkable and enduring strength of women.

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Camino de Santiago, Spain

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Two Steps Forward
by Graeme Simsion & Anne Buist

Zoe, a sometime artist, is from California. Martin, an engineer, is from Yorkshire. Both are struggling to come to terms with their recent past—for Zoe, the death of her husband; for Martin, a messy divorce. Looking to make a new start, each sets out alone to walk two thousand kilometres in the footsteps of pilgrims who have walked the Camino for centuries. The Camino changes you, it’s said. But can these two very different people find each other?

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Main photo by Alin Andersen on Unsplash