Expand Your Literary Chops With These 3 Journey Themed Novels

We all tend to pursue our own particular interests when it comes to choosing a movie to watch, or a book to read.  Indulging in our own preferences is an exercise in comfort and relaxation, but occasionally it is good to break out of our own comfort zone and try reading books we may not have given much thought or interest to.  In doing so, we often find that we have overlooked books which not only compel us to finish them, but can offer us new perspectives for understanding the world we live in.  

Here are three novels to help you dip your toes in new waters, all themed around characters embarking on physically challenging and personally rewarding journeys:

The Things They Carried, 1998 – Historical Fiction – By Tim Obrien

Tim Obrien’s The Things They Carried is one of the greatest war novels ever published.  It is, at times, Obrien’s personal memoir, and, at other times, a menagerie of rumors and urban legends used by the author to depict the horror and corruption of the human spirit that is brought on by war.  The book recounts the Vietnam War by constantly changing perspectives from character to character in order to tell the story.  It challenges the art of storytelling and asks the reader to question what they hope to gain from literature.

If you are a fan of Jon Krakauer’s (Into the Wild, Into Thin Air) style of journalistic storytelling, this book will definitely appeal to you.  It is personable, imaginative, and it will change how you approach your literary tastes all together.  The questions posed by the novel will stick with you, and you will come out a better reader for it.  The book, itself, is not a challenging read; it flows well and avoids complicated language, instead favoring a more conversational style of writing, but it is an excellent start if you are attempting to brush up on historical fiction, or simply want to experience a new and creative style of writing.

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, 1979 – Science Fiction – By Douglas Adams

“Time is an illusion. Lunch time, doubly so.”

Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series is a staple of modern comedy.  His wry humor often disguises itself as on the nose, hiding a whole universe of silliness beneath it.  If you are put off by the book’s more recent adaptation as more of a children’s series, know that Adams’ books are surprisingly intellectually stimulating.  Philosophy and logic are turned on their heads, and religion and science are pitted against each other against a backdrop of disco and hair-metal.

If you are prone to reading more down to Earth literature, this novel may seem a bit off setting.  However, I implore you to pick it up.  It will change how you view the English language and will have you feeling as if you could spin the universe in the palm of your hand.  Once again, the novel, itself, avoids complicated language, but it boasts an informal narrator that casually leads you through the story.  Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy will entertain you, and leave you with a view of the world that finds humor in the minutia of life.

Heart of Darkness, 1899 - Fiction – by Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness is a short, but dense read.  The story, itself, is simple.  The main character’s journey has been reproduced in creative works many times over in the last century, with the film “Apocalypse Now” acting as its most famous translation into more modern context.  Writers like Obrien took their cues from Conrad, who infused darker elements from their own life to create a variety of characters, each rich with complexity and motived by an instinctual need to discover their own tales and have them heard.

The language used is older, and carries some of the traits found in literature of the 19th century that can occasionally burry the storytelling.  However, the novel is intriguing and plays with style. It is a chance to listen to the tales of an old sailor from an era long ago, but it avoids nostalgia, instead giving you a fictionalized account of a man witnessing atrocities committed by himself and imperial powers that are all too familiar, even today.  This novel will inform your literary experience moving forward, shedding light on the many allusions to this work throughout all of literature.

These three books will help you take your first steps to becoming a well-rounded reader. They will help you realize just how interconnected creative media is, and will help you put together a complex and wonderful universe of literature to reside in as you continue to pick up more books!

In the comments below, I’d like to know if you’ve ever been surprised when exploring different genres than you are used to! (Become a member to comment)