Arts & culture

World of Words

Is there anything more imagination-rousing than reading a description of a time and place, completely bringing it to life on the page in front of you? Henry Russell’s Around the World in 80 Novels is a journey of selected reads that will inspire wanderlust across the globe. He picks out some of his favourites

Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits sent me up and down the enormous length of Chile, the only country in the world with fjords, deserts and active volcanoes.


I thought about keeping one of my favourite excursions – a route along the River Douro in Portugal – to myself, but eventually relented and put it in the travel notes to Eça de Queiroz’s The City and the Mountains.

Croatia no longer needs much promotion as a holiday destination, but Ann Bridge’s Illyrian Spring is more than an advert for that young country: it’s a fascinating account of the life of a 1930s’ proto-feminist.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith sent Botswana to the top of my to-visit list. It’s now easier and cheaper to reach than ever before.

There’s also plenty in the book to draw visitors to Scotland: the whole breadth of the nation, from Mull to Edinburgh, and for the fittest David Balfour’s overland route between the two.

Around the World in 80 Novels by Henry Russell, published by CICO Books (£9.99)