Fly into 2014 in an armchair

The ideal vacation.
Image courtesy: Kilian

The holiday season is round the corner and you don’t have that booking in that hotel by the beach or that hill station boasting spectacular views. Or, you just don’t feel like moving out of your cosy home and would rather spend some quiet time by yourself. Let us help by suggesting some fantastic books that would take you on a journey of a different sort.

Get ready! Get into those comfortable pyjamas, sink into your favourite armchair and don’t forget to bring along that strong cup of coffee. We’re taking you on a ride through places brimming with stories of survival and loss, war and victory, love and culture. We begin with a set of books based on a grim subject: the holocaust. These are some beautiful books to take you through that journey of so much pain but laced with the optimism of the human spirit.

Begin with The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. This is a heart-wrenching story about a young girl’s experiences during the holocaust. The tiptoeing on the wooden staircase, whispered conversations and meagre meals will quietly nudge itself into your heart. You will be in awe of the maturity of this 14-year-old girl. Maybe you might add Amsterdam to your 2014 travel plans and visit Anne Frank’s well-preserved house that is now a museum.

A more serious book, The Pianist by Jerzy Waldorff, is a memoir of the Polish composer Władysław Szpilman that begins in a Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw. As you get drawn into the narration, the noose tightens slowly, as it must have on the Jews in Warsaw, figuratively speaking. There is a gradual movement from freedom to the oppressive concentration camp and once you reach there, you wonder how you didn’t see it coming!

An easier read is The Boy in Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. It doesn’t mean this story is any less sorrowful, it’s just shorter and simpler in narrative style. This is about a boy mischievous like any other. But his innocent world shares a fence with the stark reality of a concentration camp that his father manages. The two worlds collide; resulting in pain, loss and inextinguishable anguish.

These are not books with happy endings and they might leave you feeling emotionally drained. They paint a picture of a terrible time in human history, one that we sitting in India are rather protected from.

Let’s leave these emotionally turbulent times and dive into Rome with The Emperor Series by Conn Iggulden. It is fast-paced, action-packed but the caveat – this is historic fiction so it’s not entirely accurate – though the author assures you in his introduction that he has kept most of the facts intact! This is the story of the charismatic and powerful yet fragile Julius Caesar. There are four books to keep you hooked; Book 1 is the Gates of Rome.

Enough of gallivanting abroad let’s head home, you say. Then pick up The City of Djinns by William Dalrymple. This book jumps between historic narration and Dalrymple’s everyday experiences and interactions in the city; it’s a ride through time. This book made me, an otherwise anti-Delhi person, want to explore multi-layered capital of India. Delhi lives and breathes on these pages; it’s a lovely way to learn more about the capital of India.

These are the set of books we have to keep you travelling in your armchair through the holidays. And each of these books might even spark off a travel plan for 2014. Have a merry Christmas and a glorious New Year filled with stories and places.


AUTHOR'S BIO: Bhavani is a traveller by choice, a photographer by interest and a writer by desire. She blogs at and tweets @bhavan1. She is in a long term relationship with chocolate!!! (and loves exclamation marks).

  • http://- Kala Ramesh

    Lovely read as usual, Bhavani.
    Now apart from wanting to see the places you talk about, I want to read the books you’ve written about too :)
    Especially – The City of Djinns by William Dalrymple.

    I’ll do it one day!
    Wishing you and Ashwath a happy, warm and harmonious 2014!