Bookshops recommend the best novels to transport you to their hometowns

Sitting in a bar by this swimming pool. Sipping espresso. Looking into the far distance. There is loud music playing. This is heaven for all the ones who only like music when played loud. The sky is of a bright big blue, the day is almost too hot. Right next to me sits what seems to be a large family. An elderly woman, most likely in her eighties, she is tiny and wrinkly. There are a few who could be her children, and these also brought their children along to the gathering. One of the younger couples has a baby, wearing a onesie with round ears. They take family photos. Making memories. They do it in every line-up and arrangement possible. The young dad wears a t-shirt and cap that tells everybody how much he loves Miami. I never meet the grandpa and I probably never will. (Vinales, Cuba). 

Armchair travel the world. Bookshops recommend the best novels to transport you to their hometowns

People like a good story. You can read novels to learn about places and to prepare for a trip. Some of us visit places and read stories about them while on location. Some of us love reading stories about places before a visit. Some of us read to travel. There are so many stories out there, so many stories that explain places and people. Towns and cities have forever been changing fast. And what is better than understanding the why? We probably know about all the stereotypes of a place. In most cases, it turns out that stereotypes hardly ever mirror reality. 

Every time I step into a bookshop, I imagine that there are thousands of stories floating through space. We as readers can travel the world with novels that transport us to faraway places. With books, one week we can be in Athens and the next we can go to Cape Town. All these ideas and dreams were put to paper by authors who want to transport readers to different places.

The lovely thing with novels is that they are often only the beginning of a love affair with a place.

At a bookshop, I would always ask for book recommendations and try to engage staff in talks about books. They are true experts. I quickly made my way to Cape Town in South Africa, Athens in Greece, and London in England. I asked bookshops what novels would transport readers directly to their town. Check out the reading recommendations straight from the experts.

Book collection. Dorothee Lefering. South Africa. The Touristin   

Bookshop The Book Lounge in Cape Town recommends

Luami from The Book Lounge, an independent bookshop in the heart of Cape Town in South Africa, recommends several books that will transport you to Cape Town.

-Let It Fall Where It Will by Lester Walbrugh. Collection of short stories set between Cape Town and Japan, it captures contemporary Cape town and it's past, identity and sexuality, magical realism.

-The Eternal Audience of One by Remy Ngamije, an exciting coming-of-age debut, set between Namibia and Cape Town.

-Mermaid Fillet by Mia Arderne. A dark, magical realist Crime Noir set in the Northern suburbs of Cape Town, and probably one of the most exciting books I've read in the last year.

-The Blacks of Cape Town by C.A. Davids. Part historical, part contemporary fiction dealing with the history of Race and Identity, set between in South Africa and America.

-The Yearning by Mohale Mashigo. The story is set around a young woman who seems to have an idyllic life, but her dark past is threatening to catch up with her.

-Being Kari by Qarnita Loxton. A light-hearted romantic comedy/family drama set in Cape Town

-Moxyland by Lauren Beukes. A cyberpunk science-fiction set in a near-future version of the city.

-Called to Song by Kharnita Mohamed. A beautifully written story about family, faith, and music.

-Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee. Nobel prize-winner for literature, this is probably his most famous book, dealing with the aftermath of Apartheid.

The Book Lounge 71 Roeland Street, Cnr Buitenkant & Roeland Street, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa.

More Cape Town? Travel South Africa. Cape Town Travel Guide for First Time Visitors.

Bookshop Lexikopoleio in Athens in Greece recommends

You find the Lexikopoleio bookshop only a skip and a jump from Proskopon Square in the Pangrati neighbourhood of Athens. Diamantis Diamantidis from Lexikopoleio recommends the crime fiction novel Deadline in Athens - An Inspector Costas Haritos Mystery by renowned Greek author Petros Márkaris.

Deadline in Athens book cover

Set in Athens, this is one of the many crime fiction stories that Márkaris has written, but also, one of the most powerful ones. With Inspector Markaris as its main character leading a plot that is full of constant twists and turns, the author explores and elaborates on how power, politics and corruption are always intertwined in contemporary western cities, especially in modern day Athens. It is most valuable, for the portrait it paints of today's Athenian socio-political landscape, while it remains “vivid, rough and abrasive with a dry humour” (Le Monde). A must-read!

Lexikopoleio Stasinou 13, Athina 116 35, Greece.

More Athens? Travel Greece. Day Trips to UNESCO World Heritage Sites near Athens.

Bookshop Word on the Water - The London Bookbarge recommends

As the name suggests this bookshop floats. The barge is moored on London's Regent's Canal near Granary Square in the heart of King's Cross. Oliver Cable from Word on the Water - The London Bookbarge recommends reading 

-Brick Lane by Monica Ali 

-The Last London by Ian Sinclair. 

Brick Lane. Monica Ali. London. Book cover

Brick Lane is fab because we arrive in the East End having been thrust there from a tiny village in Bangladesh after a forced marriage. We see modern London with an outsider's eyes, and we see it in all its diversity and complexity.

Sinclair is a psychogeographer who shows us the layers of the city, and the stories that inhabit its corners, The vestiges of secret tunnels, the ghosts of saints and lost poets lie buried by developments, the cycling revolution and Brexit. This book was called his 'final odyssey'.

Word on the Water - The London Bookbarge, Regent's Canal Towpath, Kings Cross, London N1C 4LW, United Kingdom.

More London? Travel Great Britain. Wapping walking tour: Poverty, sailors, slaves, pirates, and pubs. 

Bookshop Puänt in Tallinn in Estonia recommends

Elisa-Johanna from the bookshop Puänt in Tallinn recommends the following three books. 

Vargamäe by A.H. Tammsaare

-The Man Who Spoke Snakish by Andrus Kivirähk. Estonians like to call themselves forest people (which is also ironic since a lot of the old forests are taken down for fast money) and this a wonderful story based mostly in the forest.

-Vargamäe by A.H. Tammsaare. This one is a classic and takes the reader to rural Estonia. It tells the story of how Tsarist Estonia developed into the First Republic.

-Apothecary Melchior and the Ghost of Rataskaevu Street by Indrek Hargla – This is a very popular crime series which takes the reader to medieval Tallinn.

Raamatupood Puänt, Telliskivi 60a/1, Tallinn, Estonia. 

More Tallinn? Travel Estonia. Fotografiska - The Power of Photography.

Make sure you are not responsible for the death of your local bookshop

Please buy all books from local bookshops. No one wants to live in a town centre without independent shops. It is in our hands; we can vote with our purse. There is no need to support online giants when every one of us can support their own community. You will not find any links in this article to online shops. This article is purely written out of love for reading and travelling and understanding different cultures. Make sure you are not responsible for the death of your local bookshop. It sounds drastic, but let us face it, it is true.

If you like talking about books, please join the #VerbatimJourney Twitter chat on Mondays from 2pm (CET). Every other time, please share your book recommendations together with the same hashtag #VerbatimJourney, so readers who love to read to travel, will find it.

More about books and reading to travel – Go on a Verbatim Journey 

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