Best Books for Travelling Alone
I’m halfway through a six-week writing retreat on the west coast of Scotland to work on a new book. In the past few years, I’ve spend a lot of time alone – whether on writing retreats, working alone at home, or travelling the UK and Europe for book events and festivals. Books have been my best company in these times, and if you’re also going to be doing some solo travel then books can keep you company too.
Whether you love the loneliness or want to make some word-based friends, here are my best books for travelling alone:
Love the Loneliness: These books are perfect if you want to indulge your alone-time by reading about people in similarly isolated circumstances.
Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident, Donnie Eichar – Snowy, remote landscapes go hand-in-hand with lonely reading. Add in some unexplained deaths, and what could be more appropriate?
Nyctophobia, Christopher Fowler – Getting sick of travel? Of awkward conversations with strangers, of unfamiliar food, of not being quite sure whether you’re constantly committing cultural faux pas? You’ve got nothing on Callie and her ill-fated adventures in a huge spooky house in southern Spain.
The Likeness, Tana French – I’m wild for all of Tana French’s books, and this is my favourite. As protagonist Cassie is undercover, she’s feels alone even when in a crowd of supposed friends.
Our Endless Numbered Days, Claire Fuller – You might be alone, but at least you’re not a child abandoned in a cabin in the middle of nowhere believing the world has ended and everyone has died.
The Lonely City, Olivia Laing – Laing makes being alone an art. I read this on a (rather lonely) trip to Germany. It’s beautifully written, revealing, and great company for a solo traveller.
Daughters Unto Devils, Amy Lukavics – This book will make you glad you’re alone, where it’s safer…
I Am Legend, Richard Matheson – Forget the terrible film, this book is a masterpiece and still haunts me years after I read it. It’s hard to imagine a lonelier position than being the last human alive.
How to be Alone, Sara Maitland – This book will help you make the most of your solitary time. Maitland points out that while we may initially fear time alone, it certainly won’t do us any harm – and will probably do us good.
Remainder, Tom McCarthy – A genuinely chilling story about the oddest and loneliest man I’ve ever read about.
Ramshackle, Elizabeth Reeder – Roe’s solo journey to find her missing father is beautiful, lonely and heartbreaking.
Make New Friends: These are for when you’re tired of being alone and want something sweet and absorbing; to hear a friendly voice in your head.
Geek Actually #1: WTF, Cathy Yardley – This series of novellas about a group of geeky friends is ludicrously cute. I love all of the characters and wish they were real so we could hang out.
Nimona, Noelle Stevenson – Super-fun, super-weird, super-adorable.
Saga, Brian K. Vaughan – Look, maybe Alana and Marko would be insufferable in real life, but I don’t care because their doomed and glorious love is just so beautiful, and all of their friends and family (and even the people plotting to kill them) are wonderfully created and real.
What Makes This Book So Great, Jo Walton – I get such a cosy, friendly feeling from clever, book-loving people talking about the books they’re reading (see also Samantha Ellis’s How To Be a Heroine, Susan Hill’s Howards End is on the Landing, and Nick Hornby’s Polysyllabic Spree). It feels like a conversation with a bookish new friend.
You’re Never Weird on the Internet, Felicia Day – Are you a weirdo? So is Felicia Day. And that is okay.
The Actual One: How I Tried, and Failed, to Avoid Adulthood Forever, Isy Suttie – I read this while travelling and it felt like I’d started by meeting a stranger over drinks, which had then become more and more drinks, which then turned into a dawn hangover where we were still talking, still confessing. It’s rare that a writer can make you feel like you’re friends, and Isy Suttie is a genius at it.
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