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Books To Read For a (Fictional) Summer Holiday

Molly McLaughlin


Even though a round-the-world trip may be out of reach this summer, it is still possible to travel between the pages of a great book.

From Africa to Europe to Asia, these stories will give you an overseas experience from the comfort of your living room in Canberra but be warned, they may also create the urge to quit your job and book the next flight to New York City. In the meantime, a fictional holiday will have to do.

NW by Zadie Smith (2012)


NW is a novel that follows a group of acquaintances involved in the daily life of North West London. It is a London of contradictions, with council estates side by side with posh townhouses, as the four main characters try to figure out the messiness of adulthood, friendships and relationships.

The dialogue reads as if you were overhearing conversations on a Willesden street and the intricacies of the plot will immerse you in the city like a local.

Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux (2002)

Paul Theroux makes a case for the adventure of overland travel as he attempts to get from Cairo to Cape Town by car, train, bus and even armed convoy.

This account reveals the little things that make each country he passes through unique and for those of us who would like to avoid getting attacked by a local militia but also see an unknown part of Africa, Dark Star Safari is the perfect compromise.

Catfish and Mandala: A Vietnamese Odyssey by Andrew Pham (2000)


Andrew Pham is a Vietnamese American who arrived in the United States with his family as boat people when he was ten years old.

In a search for his own identity as a young adult, Pham quit his job and started a year long bicycle journey over 3000 kilometres around the Pacific Rim to Saigon via the Mexican desert and Japan, and through his memories of Vietnam. Catfish and Mandala is an unconventional road trip that offers a contemporary view of both America and Vietnam.

Café Europa: Life After Communism by Slavenka Drakulic (1999)


As collection of essays, Café Europa offers a varied and intriguing perspective on post-Communist Eastern Europe as the people and their new countries adjusted to democracy and the possibilities of a globalised world.

After living in America, Drakulic catalogues the changes that have happened and need to happen, in her opinion, when she returns to Croatia with blunt style and dry humour that will make you laugh but also learn.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie (2013)


Travelling between Lagos, London and America’s East Coast, Americanah is a novel about a Nigerian woman who immigrates to the United States to go to university and the life she leaves behind.

The novel explores issues of race and individuality in contemporary society and perceptively evokes the feeling of being an outsider in a new city. Americanah is a funny, clever and perceptive take on the art of reconciling different cultures in the modern world.


Molly McLaughlin

Molly McLaughlin was less than thrilled to move to Canberra a couple of years ago to study Arts and Economics at ANU, but she can confirm the city has grown on her since then. Along with writing for HerCanberra, she spends her time reading, eating noodles and planning her next adventure. More about the Author

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