Photo credit: Gregory Colbert.

Whether you’re looking to pass time on your red eye that is living up to its name, or simply wanting to escape to another world from your own couch, we have a few recommendations for the ultimate literary getaways.

The staff and friends of RSJ have nominated these books as our favorite mental vacations– stories of distant places, exploration, and history’s most scandalous characters.

1.  The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan
Step into the heart of India’s Mughal Empire with Mehrunissa- a remarkable (and true!) historical figure whose fate went from abandonment at the side of the road to daughter of a powerful Mughal Court advisor.  Follow the passionate, adventurous, and nail-biting love story between Emperor Jahanghir and the woman he felt destined only to admire from afar.  The sumptuous descriptions, exciting historical lessons, and fascinating characters are sure to transport you to the harems and menageries of seventeenth century India. Buy on Amazon.

2.  1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Are you ready for a fast and furious 1,000 pages set in modern Tokyo?  When a cab driver makes a strange proposition to the lovely but dangerous Aomame, the young heroine jumps into a parallel existence that cannot be explained.  Meanwhile, aspiring novelist Tengo takes on a morally questionable assignment that turns his life upside-down.  Watch how these two characters’ lives are weaved together over the course of a year in a Japanese thriller that is sure to leave you speechless.  Buy on Amazon.

3.  The Jewel of St. Petersburg by Kate Furnivall
The decadent, tumultuous, pre-revolutionary world of St. Petersburg, Russia is only a few pages away.  Escape into the life of Valentina Ivanova, a gorgeous, talented pianist, and daughter of a wealthy imperial subject.  When the Bolsheviks bomb her father’s estate leaving her sister crippled, Valentina is forced to pay for sister’s misfortune in the eyes of her father.  It is only when the czar’s dashing Danish engineer, Jens Friis, enters the picture that her life takes an adventurous turn.  Buy on Amazon.


4.  Around The World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
You know you’ve heard of this age-old classic before, but have you ever stepped into the wild journey of the eccentric Phineas Fogg? When several friends place an enormous bet that Fogg could not complete a trip around the world in 80 days, the normally reserved Englishman decides to take his skeptical butler, Passepartout, on a whirlwind tour that includes rescuing an Indian princess, and escaping the suspicious eye of Fix – a British detective who links Fogg’s behavior with a recent robbery.  Buy on Amazon.


5.  From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming
Despite its deceiving title, step into Cold War-era Istanbul with James Bond on his latest mission.  When a beautiful Russian agent pretends to be so obsessed with Bond that she is willing to hand over her country’s powerful decoder, readers are transported to Istanbul where the exchange is set to go down.  Amidst gypsy fights, dangerous Soviet villains, and loyal friends, the playful Bond must unravel the trap that has been set for him, and of course, win the girl.  Thought to be one of Fleming’s greatest masterpieces, FRWL is sure to excite the inner secret agent in you.  Buy on Amazon.


Do you have any favorite escapes? Be sure to leave us a comment below so we can crack into them!