It’s no secret that during the last few months, managing quarantine learning and social distancing, we’re all itching to stretch our legs and get out to see the world. Since that’s not an option right now, I’ve collected a short list of books that take us on literary adventures. Pick up one, and come join me on a trip!
The Odyssey by Homer, Translated by Robert Fagles
Our first pick starts with the very work that spawned our modern word “odyssey.” Our protagonist, Odysseus, braves the dangers of the sea, monsters, and other men on his voyage home from the battle of Troy. He’s a master of words, using subterfuge and underhanded trickery to navigate the islands and coasts of the Mediterranean at any cost (While causing a lot of trouble for himself and others). In future adventure reads, keep an eye out for allusions to The Odyssey. It’s a common trick authors will use to evoke the classical age of heroes.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
This enchantingly vibrant novel takes us traveling from Spain to Egypt. The descriptions of each location are somehow both as bright and shifting as a dream while the minutiae of the protagonist’s interactions with people feel real and grounding. When reading, one can almost taste the dusty sand and cold Moroccan mint tea. However, The Alchemist is not only a physical adventure, but also a quest to find one’s self and one’s goals. Travel can reveal so much more to you than locations. You might just learn a lot about who you are.
The Hobbit By J.R.R. Tolkien
“Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.” —Tolkien (The Hobbit)
Did you know that on top of being a brilliant writer, Tolkien was also a professor and philologist? The word “philologist” comes from Latin and Ancient Greek, translating to “Lover of Words.” Tolkien’s training in philology is what allowed him to create the grammar, syntax, and vocabulary of the elvish languages from scratch. There are actually books and programs to help you learn them!
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
High seas, wild animals, a tale of survival, and an unexpected working relationship with a tiger. Much like The Alchemist, Life of Pi is the kind of book you can smell, feel, and taste, transporting you into its pages. The book is so enchanting that time flies by and before you know it you’re done.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
These beloved stories don’t just take you on a journey to a fantastical landscape filled with mad and marvelous characters. They take you on a literal exploration of the English language. Carroll made a point to turn language on its head whenever he could. Portmanteau words are often used in whimsical poetry like “The Jabberwocky.” Common words are mashed together to make slightly sensible slightly insane new words. Here, in the first stanza “slithy” is a combination of slimy and lithe; “Mimsy” comes from the mix of flimsy and miserable.
This is just a small selection of “adventure reads.” Not only are there thousands more in the world that are about traditional adventures, but isn’t every book an adventure in a way? We go to new places, experience new things, and meet new people all within the pages of a book. Hundreds of thousands of books are at your fingertips, just waiting to be explored.