Books are a great source of inspiration to fuel your wanderlust, and perhaps now more than ever, they’re also a reliable way to easily “experience” different places or relive favorite memories when we’re at home in between vacations. A good story can be the perfect travel supplement for a deep dive into a destination’s history, culture, legends and culinary specialties. They can open up many adventures—just like our cruises—from pirate-era Caribbean treasure hunting to traditional Mexican cooking.
While we’re all grounded for the time being, here’s a list of our favorite titles to help you “travel” and even inspire your next cruise vacation:
“Caribbean” by James A. Michener
When we think of the Caribbean, beautiful beaches come to mind—but there’s a tumultuous history behind those palm-lined coasts. From the Mayan empire to Captain Henry Morgan’s buccaneering, to revolution and revolt, Michener makes the stories of Caribbean islands come alive.
“An Embarrassment of Mangoes” by Ann Vanderhoof
Leaving behind a high-stress job, Ann Vanderhoof and her husband left Canada to move onto a 42-foot-long sail boat and head off to the Caribbean for a two-year tour. With plenty of sun, sea and delicious meals like curried lobster and conch with a papaya salsa and rum punch, you can experience her trip secondhand and even recreate her recipes with this Caribbean “interlude.”
“A Caribbean Mystery” by Agatha Christie
One of Agatha Christie’s most famous characters—Miss Marple—is kicking back in the Caribbean enjoying the sunshine but feeling a bit bored. In an interesting twist of events, an ex-military man shares the strange story of a murder; and just like that, a case opens before her, setting off this classic, Christie-whodunit.
“The Rum Diary” by Hunter S. Thompson
Adventure to the palm-lined shores of San Juan, Puerto Rico on this twisting, turning tale of corruption, shady deals, love and jealousy as seen through the eyes of Hunter S. Thompson’s semi-autobiographical character, journalist Paul Kemp. With romance, intrigue and a tropical setting, not to mention Thompson’s signature fast-paced style, it’s not surprising it was eventually adapted for the screen in 2011.
“Pirate Latitudes” by Michael Crichton
Travel back to 17th-century Jamaica as you follow privateer Captain Charles Hunter on a daring treasure raid filled with bootleggers and buccaneers. Interestingly, the story builds off of actual events from maritime records, so you’ll get a bit of history with this tale of plunder.
“Caribbean” by James A. Michener
“Bad Monkey” by Carl Hiaasen
This fast-paced thriller about an inspector on a strange case is great crime fiction. The beautiful Bahama Islands serve as the backdrop as the mystery travels there from the Florida Keys and Miami. With a Vodou practitioner, greedy real estate developer and quirky medical examiner (plus a severed arm in a freezer), this snarky, suspenseful tale gets rolling right away, so brace yourself.
“Tap-Tap” by Karen Lynn Williams
This children’s book takes you on a beautiful, colorful journey in the Haitian countryside with the protagonist, Sasifi, via the “tap-taps” (brightly painted cars and buses) that many Haitians use as public transportation. The vehicles earned their moniker because passengers would hit the side of it–tap-tap–to let the driver know where to stop.
“Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel
Become entranced with traditional Mexican cooking in this magical world that tells the story of a young woman and her relationships with her sisters and mothers, and their cultural traditions. Bring the book to life at home by trying to recreate one of the many delicious, intricate recipes generously sprinkled throughout the pages, such as cream fritters and oxtail soup.
“How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents” by Julia Alvarez
An exploration of both New York City and the Dominican Republic in the 1960s, this book will take you across borders, cultural barriers and languages seamlessly. Even though the Garcia sisters–Carla, Sandra, Yolanda and Sofia–are far from their homeland, their lives in their new home still bear the familiarity of their childhood in the Caribbean.
You’ll feel like you’re on an immersive journey, and may even add a few destinations to your future travel list.