As COVID-19 vaccination spreads and a light at the end of the tunnel appears to be in sight, we’re so excited that the world will soon be at our fingertips again. But we’re still mostly homebound for a bit longer, so in the meantime, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite books that sweep us away to far-flung reaches of the world—which of these international reads will you dive into first?

Italy — Leading Men by Christopher Castellani

Set along the glimmering shores of Italy’s Amalfi Coast, Leading Men explores the relationship between playwright Tennessee Williams and actor Frank Merlo, and the fateful night they meet mysterious (and fictional) actress Anja Blomgren at one of Truman Capote’s parties—a dreamy midcentury cast. The novel navigates the canyon of difference between celebrities’ public and private lives as it traces the trio from that hazy Italian summer up to the present day, where Merlo waits for a visit from Williams on his deathbed.

South Korea — The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

On the Korean island of Jeju, it’s ancient tradition that a small group of women, called haenyo,  free dives for seaweed, mollusks, and more, selling their catch and providing for their families. This novel by Lisa See follows two of those women, best friends Yung-sook and Mi-ja, deftly exploring the dramas of their lives and the bond that they share throughout the Japanese occupation of the 1930s up until the early 2000s.

Puerto Rico — Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson

The drunken escapades of protagonist and journalist Paul Kemp come to life in this classic Hunter S. Thompson novel, technically his first and begun when he was only 22. Boarding a plane to San Juan, Puerto Rico, Kemp instantly falls in love with an attractive young woman—who turns out to be the fiancée of a shady businessman, throwing Kemp right into the midst of the island’s corrupt, get-rich-quick crowd.

England — White Teeth by Zadie Smith

A sprawling character study written when Zadie Smith was just 24, the lives of WWII veterans Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal—an Englishman and a Bengali Muslim, respectively—and their families, Smith paints a sharp-witted and multicultural portrait of London. Her characters live within the Willesden and Killburn neighborhoods, offering a realistic look at the city that pushes beyond the posh stereotypes of pop culture.

Australia — In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

Best-selling travel writer Bill Bryson explores the land down under in this all-encompassing overview of Australia. Peppered with Bryson’s signature self-deprecating humor, the book spans everything from the sprawling metropolis of Sydney to the remote expanse of the Outback. Bryson balances anecdotes from friendly Australians with glimpses into the peculiar and deadly wildlife the country is known for, taking readers off the beaten tourist path.

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