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Best Books to Read Whilst Travelling

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Unplug your iPod and stop staring out the window. The great British commute is the perfect chance to catch up on your reading. Forget the books you’ve always meant to get around to, though, and ignore the opportunity to make yourself look all intellectual and stuff. We’ve picked some proper reads to transport you to a better place…

His Dark Materials (The Northern Lights trilogy) – Philip Pullman

Perfect commuter food, Pullman’s epic fantasy trilogy is a must-read for anyone who’s fed up of translating train tickets into long journeys stuffed with too many people and not enough sun. Ignore the Underground and block out the ‘burbs with the three books that tell of Lyra’s journey into adulthood and understanding. You’ll be imagining your own daemon by the end of Chapter 1, and breathless with wonder by the time you’ve reached the end of The Amber Spyglass. Armoured bears, flying gondolas and mysterious explorers aren’t even the half of it. Forget Potter – Pullman’s where it’s at.


Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain

The ultimate travel story is way more than just a kid’s book. Follow Huck and Jim as they break free from “sivilisation” on a raft and journey through the political and social craziness of pre-Abolition America. Huckleberry Finn has everything: satire, social commentary, laugh out loud humour and faultlessly rendered dialogue. Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald loved it – and who are we to argue with the biggest brains in America? Perfect for flights, and the definitive book to read on a car hire journey across the States (when you’re in the passenger seat, obvs!). “There was nothing before,” Hemingway wrote of Huck, “there has been nothing as good since.” We’ll buy that for a dollar.


A Man Called Intrepid – William Stevenson

Think you know how the Second World War was won? Think again. This jaw-dropping account of the Secret Army – Churchill and Roosevelt’s network of spies and guerrillas – makes the average history lesson look like Jackanory. Find out how the British really got hold of an Enigma machine, what Noel Coward was doing on a cruise liner, and why Ian Fleming (who was a member of the Secret Army) got ticked off by the top brass when he published his first Bond novel. Fleming, incidentally, said of A Man Called Intrepid “James Bond is a … romanticised version of a true spy. The real thing is William Stephenson.”


Kon Tiki – Thor Heyerdahl

Thor Heyerdahl was a real life Indiana Jones: an academic adventurer whose most famous expedition saw him build an ancient South American raft and sail it halfway around the world to Polynesia. Heyerdahl said the Polynesian Islands had been colonised by South Americans, other scholars said no – so the Norwegian nutcase decided to prove his point by making the journey himself, using only the materials that would have been available to the original travellers. Kon Tiki is the story of his exploits (and the name of the raft he built, and successfully sailed to Polynesia). Expect tales of fights with sharks and harrowing storms. And remember – this stuff really happened!


The Hobbit – or There and Back Again – J.R.R. Tolkien

Forget overlong films and big budget special effects. Tolkien’s original is an acknowledged classic, beloved of children and adults alike. You’ll find it on bedside tables in hotels all over the world; in backpacks on the Eurostar; in the hands of commuters on their way to and from the office. There are hobbits, dwarves, elves, dragons and wizards – and plenty of fun along the way. The ultimate fantasy journey, and slim enough to actually fit in a suitcase!


Wherever you’re going – to work, on holiday, or off on your adventures – can help. We book hotels, car hire, flights and train tickets, both for UK trains and for the Eurostar. And we do great reading advice too!

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