Best Novels With Travel As A Theme

The 1885 frontispiece
for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Travel is a common theme in classic and modern novels; there are countless books in which the characters take a journey. These novels are popular for many reasons, but most of all because they are exciting. Many people daydream about going on adventures or trips to far off places, but can’t in their everyday lives. Travel novels make this fantasy possible for readers, even if it is only in their minds. Here are some the most fantastic and adventurous novels with a travel theme ever written.

*Spoilers . . . maybe

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

Around the World in Eighty Days is the story Phileas Fogg–a man who bets his peers at a gentleman’s club that he can make it (you guessed it) around the world in eighty days. This was in the time before making it around the world in two or three days was feasible, so try your best to imagine how exciting this would have been for a reader who couldn't hop on a passenger jet on a whim.

Phileas Fogg collects his new servant, Passepartout, and sets off on a whirlwind adventure around the globe. Along the way, he encounters the law, elephants, damsels in distress and even bloodthirsty American Indians. After retrieving his damsel and bringing her with him, picking up the messes that his servant makes, avoiding a lawman and fighting a tribe of American Indians, Fogg makes it back to London just in time to win his bet with a few more snafus to make the ending a Jules Verne classic.

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

The Time Machine is an interesting tale that is not your conventional travel novel. It is the story of a man, referred to only as the “time traveler,” who is telling a story to a group of men. The story is that of his inventing a time machine and traveling back and forth in time. The novel is narrated by one of the men who listened as the time traveler told his unbelievable tale.

The time traveler used his machine and found himself in the year 802,701 AD. He finds that man has evolved into two subspecies, the Eloi, who are a childlike and peaceful race, and the Morlocks, who are pale, apelike creatures who live underground and hunt the Eloi for food. He tells the men about his time there and how he managed to escape the Morlocks and travel 30 million years into the future before returning home. After he finishes his tale, he leaves again in his time machine and never returns.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Sure, The Lord of the Rings takes place in a completely fictional place, but who cares? It's the ultimate hiking novel. A bunch of guys (well, a wizard, some humans, a few hobbits, an elf and a dwarf) band together to hike across a continent to climb the most treacherous volcano in the land. Yeah, there's more to it than that, but there is no doubt that there is a lot of travel going on in this classic fantasy novel.

The Lord of the Rings
centers on Frodo, a hobbit who has inherited a ring of power that possesses some serious dark powers. Gandalf, a wizard who likes to hang out and smoke with the hobbits, tells Frodo the ring is bad, and that he must bring it to the elves. Frodo takes his gardener Sam and the two leave home on foot. They bump into Merry and Pippin, two more hobbits, and they are all on their way. Soon, they are set upon by evil ring wraiths. They meet a man who knows of their plight and helps them deliver the ring to the elves. The elves are having none of that, so a fellowship is formed. It consists of the Gimli, Gandalf, Boromir, Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, Legolas and Aragorn. They all go on a hike together. Only two make it to the volcano.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the tale of the eponymous boy and a runaway slave named Jim. The two find each other after Huck runs away from his abusive father and Jim runs away from a woman who mentions selling him to an abusive owner. At the time, it was illegal to help a fugitive slave, but Huck likes Jim and isn't much for rules, so the two set off on an adventure together that leads them to con men, elaborate schemes and ultimately a reunion with Huck's best friend Tom Sawyer. This is a must-read for kids.

There are so many travel books out there. I know these are really tailored toward my tastes, but if you're into "woman finds herself on trip across Europe" kind of books, there are plenty of those at the library. No matter what your tastes, pick up a book and go on an adventure whenever you want.

Book Review: "11/22/63" by Stephen King

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The cover of 11/22/63 is enough to draw in a huge readership. You have the name of the literal and figurative king of horror. History buffs will recognize the eponymous date that U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was shot and killed by an assassin, presumably Lee Harvey Oswald. I don't know about you, but I was easily sucked in.

On first glance, I was curious if this was another of Stephen King's forays into non-fiction. There is no denying that the man is fixated on an earlier, simpler America. Perhaps it was time for him to write facts about the times that inspired him. Was 11//22/6 something else like Richard Preston's The Hot Zone–a non-fiction book told like a novel? Was Stephen King combining fact and fiction? It turned out to be the latter.

King has obviously waded through a mountain of research to complete 11/22/63 and, as far as this history buff can tell, he never grievously deviates from the facts as we know them. In fact, he digs right into the gritty little details. One cannot help noticing that King seems to enjoy these details–the gritty story of the bad guy. He always has.

I will try to give away practically nothing about this book because I want you to read it. So, I will have to be cryptic. Yes, this book delves deeply into the assassination of President Kennedy, but more the events leading up to it. The central characters in the book are not historical figures. They are the usual fictitious small town, likeable, flawed characters you find in King's novels. They are in quite an unusual situation. The past and the present intertwine with love, loss and a struggle against the supernatural. There is also a brilliant nod to It in 11/22/63. If you are a fan, you cannot miss it.

When I first started reading, I thought that I was going to spend the whole time wanting to skip ahead to the moment King provoked us with. He certainly did not need this topic to sell books, so my only explanation is that he knew we would be itching to find out what happens in Dealey Plaza in Stephen King's imagination. However, to my surprise, I did not skip forward once. I wanted more to know how he got there than what happened once he did. I knew King was not going to do something crazy like change history . . . or was he? You will have to find out.

Update: The book was made into a very good miniseries. Check that out too, if you can.