Have you ever read a book that you got lost in? A book that, when you closed the cover for the final time, you were genuinely sad that you and the characters had completed your journey together?
Reading books about travelling around the world is great for a bit of escapism and travel inspiration. But sometimes we need to go even further and escape our world too! I am always in awe of authors that have managed to create an entire world, distinct from our own. Being able to get lost in another world is the ultimate form of escapism through reading, and it’s even better when it’s a book series!
I asked Phil to help me list out some books that are centred around other worlds distinct to our own. Some you’ll likely be very familiar with and others will be new. Some have been made into movies or TV series but in my opinion, the original books are always worth a read because they go into so much more detail than the screen could ever convey.
Next time you find yourself with a little time on your hands you should revisit some old friends or discover some new ones in this list of books created by Phil and I that let you travel through another world! (P.S. See if you can pick which suggestions are mine and which are Phil’s!)
The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth is one of the most famous worlds to escape to, and one of the most epic adventure tales ever written. It follows Bilbo, Frodo, Gollum and Aragon, among many others, on their various journeys to essentially save their world from evil. Many people have seen the films but the books offer so much more, and with four main books this may be the perfect place to start your quest for pure escapism!
Guards! Guards! – The Discworld Series – Sir Terry Pratchett
Fans of Sir Terry Pratchett will tell you that the Discworld series are the only books you’ll need to escape the dramas of today’s world. Witty, bold, thoughtful, intelligent and laugh out loud funny, the characters you’ll meet in Discworld are instantly likeable and the stories, although firmly fantasy, always seem relevant.
Pratchett is an expert storyteller whose books and characters develop throughout the series. He often takes a subject, (for example music, the industrial revolution, women in the armed forces, racial tensions etc.) then spins a tale around it that will make you laugh without losing track of the underlying messages.
Any of the 41 books set in Discworld would be my go-to when I needed cheering up, but for new visitors, I would suggest starting with Guards, Guards, the first of the City Watch series, and join Sergeant Sam Vimes and Corporal Carrot fighting off a very large magical dragon brought to life to overthrow the ruler of the city.
Think Morse and Lewis crossed with Tolkien with a healthy touch of Blackadder.
The Assassin’s Apprentice – The Farseer Trilogy – Robin Hobb
Follow the story of FitzChivalry as he goes from an orphan to an assassin, safeguarding the throne while he does it. Be warned this trilogy is one of three, making nine books in total, and as escapism goes it is very easy to get lost in this exciting and intense world.
What starts as a Potteresque tale of growing up develops into a broad world full of life and death decisions, magic and power struggles, plus a wealth of characters that you will grow to love. I’m honestly amazed these have not been made into huge motion pictures with a huge following rather than just the cult status they currently hold.
These are the perfect books to read when you have the time to fully immerse yourself, one of my favs, fantastic.
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – The Chronicles of Narnia – C. S. Lewis
Like the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, these books should need no introduction, everyone is aware of the classic Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. But have you followed the story further and read the series?
They follow four siblings that are sent away from London during the WWII bombings and their discovery of a magical wardrobe that transports them to another world.
As with the first book, the rest of the Narnia series are equally magical and wonderfully written. If you read them as a child then Narnia is a fantastic place to revisit and a great way to escape the modern world.
J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S Lewis were actually old friends and were very competitive when it came to their individual works… so you be the judge!
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter is undeniably a huge part of modern culture and a thoroughly enjoyable read whatever age you are. Do I need to say anything more about this magical series really?
If you’ve only seen the films or want to revisit an old favourite then now is the time to delve into the world of Wizards, Muggles and He Who Shall Not Be Named! With 7 books to the series, and now an “eighth” story of the Cursed Child, they should keep you going for a little while at least.
Of all the worlds I’ve suggested here the one conjured up by J.K. Rowling is perhaps my favourite… well, at least top three! Did you know she actually wrote some of the books in Edinburgh and there are lots of locations that inspired Harry Potter here?
The only downside is, at some point, you have to realise you are perhaps not a wizard and may just be a muggle after all – sigh.
The Mermaid’s Singing – The Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series – Val McDermid
If you prefer to escape to somewhere less magical and perhaps a little grittier then this may be the series for you! Although not strictly another world, it does allow you to escape into a story that seems surreal to say the least.
Follow criminal psychologist, Tony Hill, and DCI Carol Jordan, as they attempt to solve a series of terrible murders and capture a truly warped serial killer. As Tony assists the police by profiling the killer he becomes locked in a battle of wits with the very person he’s trying to catch.
Dark as this sounds it’s easy to get lost in these gruesome but compelling thrillers. Author Val McDermid is at the very top of the crime writers game in my opinion. If you like Luther or Cracker then these are for you!
Roald Dahl – Any!
When I was drawing up this list I started thinking about the books I first became addicted too, and which I would happily revisit. Some may not quite have followed me into adulthood but any of Roald Dahl’s books are still just as good for me as the day I first read them.
Whether you’re following Matilda’s journey through school or joining Charlie on his visit to the Chocolate Factory, each book sweeps you away by telling an excellent story. Okay, so I may now be a little more cynical and world-weary but hearing Dahl describe George’s grandmother as having a “face like a dog’s bottom” makes me laugh as loud now as it did when I was 7.
Twilight – The Twilight Series – Stephenie Meyer
Now before you judge me too harshly this series was included for two reasons. Firstly, Sonja LOVED them back in their day and two, as much as I hate to say this, they deserve their spot on any list of books you can get lost in.
Targeted at young adults, they may not read as well once you’ve grown a little older and may fall into the “not be ones you can return to” category, but there is a reason they took the world by storm. The story certainly takes you from page to page and you can easily slip into this romantic tale of vampires and werewolves.
Don’t let the films put you off, the books, although in some instances not particularly well-written, do add a little depth to the story which will keep you involved, if not enthralled.
Personally, if I had to suggest a fantasy series it probably wouldn’t be this one, but for some light and not particularly complicated reading that will allow you to travel into another world it can do the trick.
Hunger Games – The Hunger Games Trilogy – Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games series has a little something for everyone who likes a classic good against evil struggle. Set in a dystopian universe, you follow Katniss Everdeen as she volunteers for the Hunger Games, a Battle Royale style reality show, where young people from each of the 12 districts fight to the death.
Dark yet enticing, you can’t help but want to turn the page to find out who will win each conflict and how Katniss might escape alive, plus there’s even a love triangle of sorts thrown in for good measure. Like Twilight, this series was aimed at young adults and reads as such, however, it’s an excellent story and perfect if broomsticks and Hogwarts isn’t quite your thing.
Game of Thrones – The Song of Ice and Fire Series – George R. R. Martin
Like Harry Potter, there’s a very high chance you already love or at the very least have heard of GoT, but is it the onscreen version or the books they were developed from?
The GoT books provide a much greater depth and insight into the world created by Martin. The characters are easy to become loyal to but do so at your peril! Plots have time to develop and are better constructed, giving a much deeper experience.
If you loved the TV show it’s time to delve back into Westeros, winter is coming and it may well throw up a few surprises that were missed out too!
Warning, the last of these books is yet to be written, delve slowly!
Tomorrow When the War Began – Tomorrow Series – John Marsden
Every teenager I knew had read these books when I was growing up in New Zealand, even the ones that hated reading! While it’s not strictly another world, it’s a world other than the one that we currently know. The 7 books follow a group of Australian friends who went camping in the bush one weekend, only to have their country invaded and their friends and families locked away by the enemy. They decide to take matters into their own hands and fight back.
While the first book has been made into a movie it didn’t do as well as hoped and the movie series wasn’t continued, so I’d suggest just sticking to the novels! There is also a follow-up series called The Ellie Chronicles if you want to stay immersed for even longer.
Outlander – The Outlander Series – Diana Gabaldon
If you need to add a touch of romance to your life but don’t fancy adding vampires then Outlander may well be for you. This time-hopping historical romance series sees nurse Claire pass through some ancient standing stones into 18th Century Scotland, and into the arms of Jamie Fraser during the tumultuous time of the Jacobite Rebellion. It’s not strictly a historical romance, so don’t worry if that’s not really your thing, as it has a heavy historical lean as well as elements of fantasy.
There’s a lot to take in with the time travel, battles, heated romance and love triangles but if you want to escape to Scotland and learn more about it’s past this may well be exactly what you’re looking for. It’s now a popular TV series, but it’s always worth reading the novels for the extra detail and to really escape into the world of Claire and Jamie.
Be warned each book of the series seems to get more and more lengthy as it goes on!
Northern Lights – His Dark Materials Series – Philip Pullman
It’s now a BBC series, but the original trilogy is well worth the read. Follow Lyra Belacqua and her animal familiar, known as a daemon, through a parallel universe. Lyra’s life is about to change as she discovers that she has a destiny she did not know about.
The series was originally written for children but there are many subtleties that are really for adults to pick up on and it is an enjoyable read for us as much as for them!
Foundation – The Foundation Series – Isaac Asimov
Foundation is a sci-fi series first published in the 1950s and is set in a future Galatic Empire that is slowly dying. Its hero Hari Seldon develops a revolutionary science that can predict the future of empires. He then puts plans in action to avoid a 30,000 year dark age, preserving knowledge and saving mankind. However, Seldon soon finds his solution is at the mercy of warlords and barbarians.
The character development is minimal but the story is fascinating and has key concepts that are still relevant today. Written in a style that seems like a series of short stories it can be hard to get to grips with, but if you do you’ll join Asimov in putting society back together one piece at a time.
We all have those classic books that we’ve always been meaning to read, and now’s the time to do it! Maybe it’s The Catcher in the Rye, or The Great Gatsby. Many are not an alternative universe but they do play on aspects of our own that deserve further exploration and they give us somewhere to escape to.
Here’s my list of “Classics” that I’ve got lost in and have gone back to over and over again, although of course there are far too many to list here:
- To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Kesey
- Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
- Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
- Lord of the Flies – William Goulding
- 1984 – George Orwell
- Tuesdays with Morrie – Mitch Albom (This may not be classed as a classic but it should be!)
Whichever book you’ve always wanted to read or even reread having glanced through it when at school, why not do it now? Many of the above books are some of the most well-loved and brilliant fiction ever written.
There are so many adventures to be had in different worlds, and so many characters to fall in love with between the pages of the above books. The idea of discovering Discworld, Nighteyes, Middle Earth, Scout, or Harry, Ron and Hermione for the first time makes me very jealous! So why not choose a series you haven’t read yet and get started.
Sonja and Phil x