AtoZ, Blog Challenge, Books

Xenophilia – 5 books that have scratched my travel itch


Xenophilia means an attraction to or love of foreign people, manners, or culture. I have chosen to interpret it as a tale woven in a location that makes me yearn to travel there for the food/culture/language/customs/landmark, or something particular to that place.  A location I am attracted to by a book/books I have read. 

I am a self-declared travel buff and love to explore a city slowly rather than make complicated itineraries and run all over the place. There have been plenty of books that have fueled my travel lust with the gorgeous descriptions of the cities, cuisine, and culture portrayed in them. These are the books and places I am detailing today’s post and hope it makes for an interesting read.

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Paris / France

Paris the capital of France is steeped in European history, art and culture. I deem it one of the most beautiful (if  a little snobby) cities with some terrific monuments and walkways. In all the three books listed below, various parts of Paris and France have been detailed out exquisitely in the writing. I almost wanted to ditch the book and make travel plans. So lucid and evocative is the city in the text. The quaint architecture, their history and the cuisine – all have been painted with rich imagery. Have you read any of these books?

  • The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
  • Chocolat by Joanne Harris
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Istanbul / Turkey

Elif Shafak writes eloquent tales with women heroes in multi-generational family dramas. In almost all of her books, Istanbul features boldly and beautifully. She talks about the city as a living thing and brings about the evolution of it over time in sharp focus. Then there is the cuisine and the recipes of the dishes that she profiles in her stories that have me drooling all over the pages. This is one city that is high on my bucket list and I just cannot wait to settle my xenophilia over it.

  • The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak
  • The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak


Amor Towles has integrated the city of Moscow in this tale with such deftness that it’s tough to separate it from the storyline. The main protagonist traverses the city landmarks to maintain his daily routine and the reader gets a sneak peek into the character of Moscow. I couldn’t resist imagining living there myself and seeing the daily sights mentioned in the book.

  • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Marshes of North Carolina / USA

A haunting coming of age tale of the “marsh girl” Kya, who grows up fending for herself in the marshland of North Carolina. It is essentially a murder mystery narrated over two timelines. But its the descriptions of the marshes, flora and fauna and the way young Kya navigates it, that is the heart and core of this book. I fell in love with the ethereal surroundings of the marshes and its cyclic patterns and they way they are incorporated in the story. Being a nature lover, I yearned to be sitting in a green nook of these marshes while reading the book. Maybe someday I would be able to travel and see them for myself.

  • Where the Crawdads sing by Delia Owens

Cavel, Mumbai

In the early 19th century, Bombay saw a flux of immigrants from Goa and Mangalore, in search of livelihood and a place to call home. Migrants bought their culture, traditions and food to the new city and formed an indigenous community of their own. Market places, Churches and residential buildings resound with the noises and flavors of its new owners. While the four and a half centuries of Portuguese history expanded to make room for all of this. Set in a predominantly East Indian Catholic colony, Cavel seemed to be set apart from the regular hustle bustle of Mumbai. Its characters portray the eccentricities of their ethnicity, tempering the flavor of each story with subtle and intangible elements. I fell in love with the city described in this book and would love to visit Mumbai again with the idea to explore this corner from the book.

  • Bombay Balchao by Jane Borges

So that is my list of books for this topic and I am keen to hear about yours. Do you have a bookish endorsement that tickles your xenophilia? Please drop in your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section.

Coming up next is Y for Yellowback!!

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For the uninitiated, AtoZ challenge is a blogging challenge wherein one has to write on every alphabet from A to Z and post on all days of April, except Sundays. Usually its better to devise a theme as it makes it easy to write the posts. Plus readers have a reason to stay hooked too.

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6 thoughts on “Xenophilia – 5 books that have scratched my travel itch

  1. Love the word xenophilia – adding it to my lexicon, thanks

    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society sent me to the Channel Islands.
    A couple of books on Bletchley Park sent me there.

    Not fiction but
    1,000 Places to See Before You Die: A Traveler’s Life List added several sites to my bucket list

    1. Yeah its quite a smart word. Its so much fun to travel through books, especially when the city is portrayed as a character itself.

  2. Where the crawdads sing and All the light we can not see are made into films, right? I saw half of the first one, and just today I saw the second one will be aired on Netflix soon.
    My friend too suggested I read Where the crawdads sing; read it first and then watch the movie. I want to watch the movie now.
    Anyway, about, I haven’t experienced it, I think, but each time I read a book, or watch a film, I fantasize about being in that place, enjoying its culture, its food and people. 🙂 Just go away to the faraway place in the story to rejuvenate and refresh.

    1. I am excited about All the Light We Cannot See and hope it comes out soon. I was disappointed by Where the Crawdad Sings as a movie though the book was fabulous for me.

      I love traveling through books and it is great to experience the culture, food and places in my imagination.

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