6 Great Books for Getting Lost in Wonderful Foreign Worlds

shelved under Fiction and Travel & Places

Lost: to no longer exist; unable to be found; no longer in one's control or possession; deeply absorbed.

The variation in the meaning of lost perfectly encapsulates the books on this list. From historical fiction to works published long ago in need of some new light - take your flashlight out and discover these Wonderful Worlds.



by Emile Zola

Lost: To be deeply absorbed I remember discovering this world of a time long past while on my journey to China. Originally published in French, the English translation I brought along with me was my own private paradox: the comfort of communication in a foreign place where I felt, at times, quite cut off from my own language. The ease of language, lost. Then enter the harsh struggles and grueling lives of the characters in Germinal's making me feel connected at a time where I was often feeling alone. The impressionist beauty of Zola's words had me feeling free even as I was crammed into the upper-tier tiny sleeping bunk of a train with a flickering side light half hidden so as not to disturb my co-passengers while I indulged in a secret world that felt it was only opening up to me. Truly Flashlight Worthy.


Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

by Dai Sijie, translated by Ina Rilke

Lost: No longer in your control When my book club decided to read this novel I couldn't help but remember Zola's Germinal for that personal connection to "China." The stories have nothing in common except for intriguing characters facing extreme hardship in a world long past who manage to breath on the pages while the book is open and to live in my head while the book was waiting for me on the shelf. The pleasure of Sijie's story displays the ability of two young boys to endure the most suffocating hardships with creativity and the power of stories. Their world is lost to them as control shifts to the re-education era of the Maoist regime.


Black Like Me

by John Howard Griffin

Lost: no longer in your control This story is nothing less than exceptional. It's an intimate look at life from an unbelievable perspective. The author, a white man, surveys the southern US in the 60s — as a black man. Part journal, part journalism and completely amazing. The only reason you'll find to put in down will be shake your head in amazement and to let it all sink in.


Portrait Of A Turkish Family

by Irfan Orga

Lost: to no longer exist While there are most certainly still many Turkish families and their portraits, this story is a lost world of wonder from the days of the Ottoman Empire. This was a well-timed read that I devoured before my own excursion to Istanbul. This autobiography hung in my mind while on a rainy ferry ride across the Bosporus. A unique experience that felt terribly familiar coloured with the gorgeous scenes of this story. I felt deeply connected to Turkey with the rich history, moving personal memories and gorgeous scenes I gleaned from my reading. A completely human account of courage and the extraordinary sacrifices a family must endure when war crashes in to all but destroy their wonderful world.


The Last Empress

by Anchee Min

Lost: no longer in your control Dowager Empress Orchid struggles to retain control of China in the rapidly expanding world of the mid 1900s. Political conflicts, suspected scandal, endless blame from all directions the Orchid's (based on China's real Empress Cixi) story framed with compassion in harsh transitional times. To be able to peek into an ancient culture finding a place in the 'modern world' was an armchair adventure I'll never forget.



by Frank Delaney

Lost: to be deeply absorbed Part history of a country, part history of storytelling and wholly captivating. So captivating that on the day I borrowed it from the library I became an irresponsible adult. With the poetry of the story, mystery of the characters and beauty of the Irish landscapes being painted in my mind I completely neglected the real painting going on in front of me as a dozen five-year olds supervised their own craft-time. From the moment I realized the class was half over I vowed only to read the book at home — and loved every page of it!