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Over the course of the past year, we have absolutely loved reading around the world with all of you – our fellow armchair travelers. The Book Voyage reading challenge has taken us to every corner of the globe. Now, for our final month of the challenge, we’ll be reading books that span multiple continents. This is a great way to compare and contrast the scenery and lifestyles of different countries around the world from the comfort of one book!
As always, you are welcome to choose any book you’d like. To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best books set across multiple continents, including a variety of titles to suit any reading mood. From harrowing non-fiction memoirs and family sagas to travelogues and even a light and enjoyable holiday novel, we hope you’ll find several books worthy of your TBR list.
Books Set in Multiple Countries
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by Charmain Wilkerson
Setting: US, Caribbean Islands, London
This novel opens in present-day California shortly after Eleanor’s death. She has left behind a voice recording for her two adult children - Byron (in his 40s) and Benny (in her 30s). She’s also left them a traditional Caribbean black cake that she tells them to share “when the time is right.”
Her children, it turns out, only know a small part of their mom’s life story. Posthumously, Eleanor is finally ready to share her truth so that Byron and Benny can truly know and understand their family history.
As the story unfolds, everything that her children thought they knew about their lineage and themselves will be rocked to the core, and by the time they finally share the black cake, there will be another person joining them at the table.
The Book Girls Say… Although Eleanor has already died when this novel begins, through her voice recordings, this novel traces the story of her life and shows how the choices she made over the years impacted not only her future, but also those of everyone in her family.
Angela rated this book 5 stars and highly recommends the audiobook version because the accents really bring the story to life.
Of Marriageable Age
by Sharon Maas
Setting: India, UK, Guyana
Spanning three continents and three decades from WW2 to the 1970s, this story follows three different characters in three locations.
Savitri is a servant girl in British-ruled India, Nat is the son of a small-town doctor in South India, and Saroj is growing up in the South American, British-ruled Guyana. Although the stories are far apart in both time and place, eventually, you'll discover how their lives are intertwined.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo
by Christy Lefteri
Setting: Syria, Turkey, Greece, England
Nuri and his wife, Afra, live in the beautiful city of Aleppo, Syria. They have a great life as a beekeeper and an artist, until war comes to their doorstep. Like so many others, Nuri and Afra are forced onto the Syrian refugee trail. They travel through Turkey and Greece, even though Afra has been blinded, making their journey even more harrowing. The couple slowly works their way toward a cousin in Britain who has already started a beekeeping course for fellow refugees.
The author's volunteer work with refugees gave her the background to write the realistic tale. While the book is often heartbreaking, it also includes messages of hope of love.
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐⭐
100% Would Recommend to a Friend
Three Weeks with My Brother
By Nicolas Sparks & Micah Sparks
Setting: India, Australia, Machu Picchu, Easter Island
When a colorful mailer arrived from the Notre Dame alumni association advertising a tour of some of the earth’s most exotic locations, Nicolas Sparks was busy with a book deadline on top of hectic family life with five children. However, he kept thinking about the trip and had an idea.
In January 2003, Nicholas set off on the trip with his brother. Only one year apart, the brothers were the only surviving members of their family. As they visited the wonders of the world, daredevil Micah and introspective Nicholas had a rare chance to escape daily life and focus on new adventures and childhood tragedies as they discovered truths about loss, love, and hope.
The Book Girls Say…While Nicolas Sparks is most known for his fictional storytelling, this non-fiction book tells the true story of a once-in-a-lifetime trip around the world with his brother.
The Christmas Swap
by Sandy Barker
Setting: Melbourne, Australia; England; Colorado, USA
Since the final month of the Book Voyage Challenge coincides with the Christmas season, we couldn't help but add this festive, funny, and heartwarming Christmas novel to the list. It's the perfect Hallmark-style armchair travel read that balances friendship and romance!
Chloe, Jules, and Lucy met on vacation as kids. They've been best friends ever since, despite living on three different continents.
Twenty-two years later, they decide to swap homes for Christmas... Lucy travels to snowy Breckenridge, Colorado; Jules escapes down under for a summery Christmas in Melbourne, Australia; and Chloe travels halfway around the world for a quiet holiday in a quaint English village.
The Book Girls Say... If you've seen the movie The Holiday, then the concept will sound familiar, but this book has even more to offer!
All three of the locations in this book were already very near and dear to Angela's heart, but the author captures each locale so perfectly that you'll feel like you've been there, too!
Also Consider... If you love traveling via rom-coms, also check out the Holiday Romance series by Sandy Barker. The titles include One Summer in Santorini (set throughout the Greek Isles); The Night in Paris (set throughout some of Western Europe's most romantic cities); and A Sunset in Sydney (set in London, Hawaii, New Zealand, and Australia).
A House in the Sky
by Amanda Lindhout
Setting: Canada, Latin America, Laos, Bangladesh, India, Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, & Somalia
As a child in an abusive houshold, author Amanda Lindhout used National Geographic magazine as her way to mentally escape to other parts of the world. At 19, she worked as a cocktail waitress, aggressively saving to visit the locations she had been dreaming of her entire life. But, unlike other teens who dream of backpacking through Europe, she had more dangerous sites in mind, even working as a TV reporter during her time in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In 2008, she took her journey to Somalia, where she was kidnapped on her 4th day in the country. For the next 460 days, she was held hostage. Her tale is harrowing and intense, and you may find yourself confused as to how she survived to write her story of compassion and perseverance.
The Books Girls Say...Critics understandably chide the author for getting herself into such a dangerous situation, but there’s still value in the story beyond the poor choice.
My Travels with Mrs. Kennedy
By Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin Hill
Setting: Locations across Europe, Asia, and South America
As Presidental Secret Service Agent turned author Clint Hill turned 90, he prepared to sell his home. As part of the process, he found an old steamer trunk in the garage. Once it was pried open, Hill uncovered mementos that hadn’t been seen in over 50 years. From handwritten notes and photographs to personal gifts from trips with Mrs. Kennedy, the truck contained a treasure trove of memories.
This newly released non-fiction title gathers those memories into a heartwarming recounting of their travels around the world together. From humor and adventure to sorrow in the months following President Kennedy’s assassination, this book is even more candid and personal than his earlier books about his time with Mrs. Kennedy.
The Book Girls Say…This memoir includes more than 200 rare photographs, so pick up a paper copy or view the Kindle version on a tablet or computer for the full experience.
The Signature of All Things
by Elizabeth Gilbert
Setting: Peru, US, London, Amsterdam, Tahiti
Spanning much of the 18th & 19th centuries, this book tells the story of the fictional Whittaker family. The patriarch, Henry, begins life as a poor Englishman before making his fortune in South America. He rises to be the wealthiest man in Philadelphia.
His daughter, Alma, gets his money and his great mind. She becomes a botanist who studies the mysteries of evolution while falling in love with a man obsessed with the spiritual realm. She is scientific while he’s an artist. Follow this unlikely couple as their story soars around the globe.
Wherever the Road Leads
by Kathryn Lang-Slattery
Setting: Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, Spain, North Africa, Iran, Turkey, India
Have you ever dreamed of hopping in a VW van and traveling around the world? One of our group members, Katie, did just that and wrote a highly rated memoir about her experiences. As newlyweds, Katie and her husband Tom put 39,000 miles on their van in a journey that spanned continents and oceans. And they did it all in a time before cell phones could guide your path. Travel with them through multiple continents as they try to keep their van going no matter the terrain.
The Book Girls Say...The author of this well-rated book is in our Facebook group and participating in the reading challenge this year!
Cutting for Stone
by Abraham Verghese
Setting: Addis Abba, Ethiopia; Madras, India; Boston & New York City, USA; Italy; Sudan; Kenya
Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Ethiopia. Unfortunately, their mother dies in childbirth and their father disappears, leaving the brothers orphaned.
The twins are adopted by two other surgeons from the hospital and come of age in an Ethiopia on the brink of revolution, but it's love rather than politics that comes between them.
After finishing med school, Marion flees to America to intern at an overcrowded and underfunded hospital in NYC. Eventually, the past catches up with Marion. He must turn to the two men he trusts least - his father and his brother.
The Book Girls Say... This is an epic saga (nearly 600 pages of small font) and can feel slow at the start, but it's one worth investing time in! It received 5-star ratings across the board from Angela's in-person book club. A tip, though - keep your dictionary handy if you're a little rusty on your Latin or anatomy.
The author, Abraham Verghese, was born and raised in Ethiopia, where he attended medical school before completing his residency and fellowships in America. He is now a professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine. His medical expertise is apparent throughout the book. This makes this the perfect read for those who love hospital stories, but some readers may find the lengthy descriptions of surgical procedures a bit too drawn out.
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
90% Would Recommend to a Friend
by Maggie Shipstead
Setting: Montana, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, New Zealand, wartime London, and modern-day Los Angeles
Marian Graves was only an infant when she was rescued from a sinking ocean liner in 1914. She was raised along with her brother, James, in Montana, where they first encounter the miracle of flight when bi-planes pass through town.
By age 14, she has dropped out of school to pursue her love and entered into a dangerous partnership with a bootlegger. He subsidizes her planes and lessons, but at a great price. However, with his assistance, she's able to pursue her ultimate dream in the 1950s - circling the globe, including flying over the north and south poles.
In addition to Marian's story, you'll follow actress Hadley 100 years in the future as she plays the role of Marian in a movie. As Hadley digs deep into Marian's life, you'll see similarities in their self-determination despite their daily lives being so different.
The Books Girls Say...This is a long book at 600+ pages, and reviews are split on whether all those pages are necessary. We haven’t read it ourselves but noticed some mentions of child abuse, abortion, and explicit scenes, so keep that in mind if you prefer cleaner reads.
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
100% Would Recommend to a Friend
Braver Than You Think
by Maggie Downs
Setting: 17 countries, including Peru, Bolivia, India, Egypt, and more
Maggie Downs was an award-winning newspaper journalist, but she didn't have a long bucket list of travel destinations. Traveling was her mom's dream. As a child, Maggie doubted she'd ever have the courage to travel to the destinations her mom hoped to one day see, but her mom would always insist: "You're braver than you think you are."
When Maggie's mom was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's, Maggie quit her job and set out to fulfill her mother's bucket list. Along the way, she learned to make every moment count. Over the course of one year, she lost a parent while discovering the world.
The World We Found
by Thrity Umrigar
Setting: India and the USA
This is the story of a group of female friends who met at university in Bombay in the late 1970s. As students, all four of them challenged authority and fought for a better world. However, over the next 30 years, they drifted apart, and their lives took very different directions.
When Armaiti, who has since moved to America, becomes gravely ill, she requests to see her old friends together one last time. For Laleh, the reunion is a bittersweet reminder of unfulfilled dreams and unspoken guilt. For Kavita, it is an admission of forbidden passion. For Nishta, it is the promise of freedom from her fundamentalist husband.
The Book Girls Say... This book is told from six different perspectives and paints a vivid portrait of both past and modern-day India, contrasted against life in America.
by Yaa Gyasi
Setting: Ghana and US
This multi-generation epic follows the divergent paths of two half-sisters born in 18th century Ghana, and their descendants over 300 years. Effia marries a wealthy Englishman and lives in a castle, but she doesn’t know Esi is imprisoned in the dungeon below. Esi is sold in the slave trade and shipped to America, where she, her children, and her grandchildren are raised in slavery.
The book continues to follow each generation of both Effia and Esi all the way to the present day and includes a range of historical time periods, including the American Civil War and Jazz Age.
The Book Girls Say… Despite this long history, the book is only 305 pages, so not a traditional epic with extensive storylines for each generation. Instead, each chapter introduces a new character, and the book reads more like a short story. Some readers are disappointed that not every chapter/chapter has a full arc and conclusion.
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐⭐
86% Would Recommend to a Friend
A Long Petal of the Sea
by Isabelle Allende
Setting: Spain and Chile
This novel begins during the Spanish Civil War. When Franco succeeds in overthrowing the government, thousands flee to the French border, including Roser, a pregnant young widow, and Victor, an army doctor and the brother of Roser's deceased love. To improve their chances of survival, Roser and Victor must marry despite neither wishing to do so.
Together with thousands of other refugees, they board the SS Winnipeg bound for Chile, leaving behind a Europe erupting into WWII. While starting over on another continent, both hold onto hope that they'll be able to return to Spain one day. But as they witness the battle between freedom and repression across the globe, Roser and Victor discover that home is closer than they thought.
In the Weeds
by Tom Vitale
Setting: Borneo, Vietnam, Iran, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Libya
Written by the long-time director and producer of Anthony Bourdain’s travel food show, In the Weeds takes you on an adventure around the world. They filmed in dangerous locations, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, and Iran. The book covers what it was like to be on this journey around the world and how they managed to film in areas so hard for westerners to visit. There’s a focus on what it was like doing the traveling with Bourdain, on and off-camera.
The Book Girls Say...Skip this one if you’re sensitive to the topic of suicide. Vitale shares some morbid comments Bourdain made over the years on the subject of death, prior to taking his own life. If you enjoyed Bourdain’s style and cynical worldview, there’s another travelogue titled The Great Railway Bazaar that you may enjoy.
The Moon is Missing
by Jenni Ogden
Setting: London; New Orleans; Cape Cod; New Zealand
Georgia has it all from the outside. She’s a wife, mother, and successful neurosurgeon in London and has been named the first female Director of her department. However, when her daughter Lara starts insisting on more information about her biological father, Georgia’s mostly under-control anxiety attacks return in full force.
Because Georgia’s memories of that portion of life are so repressed, she doesn’t know the answers to Lara’s questions. When therapy fails, she heads to across the sea to New Orleans where she met Lara’s father, and then to the small island in New Zealand where he died. Will she be able to piece together her own history and hold her family together?
The Book Girls Say...If you read and enjoyed A Drop in the Ocean from our Australia list, this is the same author.
The Paris Library
Setting: France & Montana
Based on a true story, this novel will transport you to two vastly different time periods and locations. In 1939 Paris, Odile works for the American Library. When Nazis arrive in Paris and threaten the library, Odile and her fellow brave librarians join the resistance.
Forty-three years later in Montana, teenager Lily becomes interested in her widowed neighbor. As they begin to form a bond, Lily tries to learn more about how her French neighbor ended up in Montana. They have no idea that a dark secret connects them.
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐⭐
94% Would Recommend to a Friend
Christmas at Tiffany's
by Karen Swan
Setting: New York, Paris, and London
Despite the title, this book spans a full year and will whisk you through three of the world's most glamorous cities: New York, London, and Paris. Christmas only plays a very small role in the overall story.
Cassie married young and now, ten years later, with a failed marriage and no career, she needs to find herself again. She leaves her quiet life in Scotland to travel for a year, staying with her best friends as she tries on each of their cities for size.
Left to her own devices, Cassie is a jeans and sweaters kind of woman, but as she explores life in each of these glamorous cities, she puts herself in her friends’ hands. From hair and makeup to wardrobes and diets, they try to mold Cassie in their images. But before her globetrotting ends, she’ll have to find what makes her happy outside of anyone else’s expectations.
The Book Girls Say... The first thing you need to know is that this book is long (582 pages), but Angela read it last year and the story kept her engaged throughout. All of the characters in this book are flawed, and at times too judgmental, but it creates a realistic and layered view of friendship that develops and changes throughout the story. While this novel may sound fluffy chic-lit, it actually delivers quite a bit more depth and emotion.
Note that there is another book by this same title, but written by Marianne Evans. While it sounds like a very fun Christmas novella, it won’t transport you around the world. So be sure to pick up the version written by Karen Swan.
Fall of Giants
by Ken Follett
Setting: Russia, England, Wales, and Germany
This is book one of Ken Follett's The Century Trilogy. This epic story of love, hatred, war, and revolution begins in 1911 on the Coronation Day of King George V.
The complex plot of this nearly 1,000 page book includes many intertwined characters, including a Welsh coal-mining family, the aristocratic coal-mine owners, a spy at the German Embassy in London, an ambitious young aide to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, and two orphaned Russian brothers.
The Lost Love Song
by Minnie Darke
Setting: Australia and Scotland
They say that behind every great love song is a great love story, but this is the story of song that winds its way around the world, telling more than one love story.
Concert pianist Diana has long been engaged to Arie. The two are finally ready to marry, but not until Diana returns home to Australia from her world tour. While on tour, she composes a love song for Arie.
Late one night, her love song is overheard. Tragedy strikes before Diana can play it for Arie, but the song is already on its own journey across the world.
In Scotland, Evie has been drifting for years since leaving Australia with a dream of becoming a poet. Now she spends her days making coffee, her nights serving beer, and she questions her relationship with her boyfriend.
Then one day, through a twist of fate, she hears an exquisite love song... Diana's love song that has been passed from musician to musician. Will this song ultimately bring two lost souls together?
The Book Girls Say... This book is recommended for fans of Jojo Moyes and Josie Silver. Reviewers say it has a Love Actually quality.
The Geography of Bliss
by Eric Weiner
Setting: Iceland, Bhutan, India, Qatar, Singapore, Moldova, and more
Author Eric Weiner spent a decade working as a foreign correspondent reporting largely about unhappy people living in unstable states. Despite being a self-proclaimed grump, Weiner is also a self-help book aficionado and found that while his experiences made for good copy, they didn't make for good karma.
That's what motivated him to set out on a year-long journey around the globe in search of the "unheralded happy places." The book is equal parts laugh-out-loud funny and philosophical, and the results are quite unexpected.
The Book Girls Say... Reader's compare the writing style of this book to that of Bill Bryson, but with even more snark and a bit of melancholy. The audio version of this book is highly recommended, and the audio is available with no wait times via library systems that are connected with Hoopla.
THANK YOU again for reading with us this year. We’ve learned so many new things and seen so many people and places from fresh points of view. We hope you’ve had the same positive experience!
Don’t worry, if you’re not done armchair traveling yet, you aren’t alone. We’ll also be circling the globe again next year as well! We made some changes to the challenge for 2023, and you can read all about them here > 2023 Read Around the World Challenge.
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Wednesday 23rd of November 2022
I always look forward to the new list each month, thank you for the great suggestions! I have been searching all over the internet for more suggestions on Christmas books that span multiple continents.....if anybody could please provide some additional suggestions, I would appreciate it!
Monday 3rd of January 2022
Heyyy .. please add THE BOOK OF LOST NAMES BY KRISTIN HARMEL in your list ..this book is so so so good ...
Gerry G Durisin
Wednesday 22nd of December 2021
You've put together a terrific list for every month in this Book Voyage Challenge. I'd like to recommend one more book that spans multiple continents: All Ships Follow Me, by Mieke Eerkens. It's a nonfiction account of the author's research and travel to learn about and come to terms with her family history, specifically during WWII. Her maternal grandparents were imprisoned for treason, accused of collaborating with the Nazi occupiers of The Netherlands. Across the world, her paternal grandparents and her father, Dutch citizens living in what was then the Dutch East Indies, were imprisoned in a Japanese internment camp. The book is set in Indonesia, The Netherlands, and The United States. It's extremely well written, and has held my interest throughout.
Wednesday 1st of December 2021
Thank you to the Book Girls for selecting my book as part of the December challenge. I am quite honored to be included on a list that includes top authors such as Maggie Shipstead, Abraham Verghese, Thrity Umrigar, Isabelle Allende!
For ease in finding Wherever the Road Leads and reviews of my memoir, note that the published author name is K. Lang-Slattery.
Jennifer L Price
Saturday 20th of November 2021
I have really enjoyed this challenge even though I haven't always kept up with posting. You really put together some great lists; thank you!