Rarely have we needed safe, healthy ways to escape more than we do right now. The opportunity to travel is off the table for the vast majority of us. And some of us are still in lockdown, struggling to remember what freedom used to feel like.

But rather than reaching for that remote control to binge-watch another series – there is a time and a place for that – now is the time to pick up a book and let the time pass in a more stimulating manner. 

And if you’re to turn the pages on something, you may as well feast your eyes on something that will inspire you to reach greener pastures when things return to normal.

We have selected five rousing escapes from one life to another, published in the past 12 months to help get the wheels in motion amid the doom and gloom.


By Jeanine Cummins

If you have heard of this global bestseller, then you have heard about the controversy it has created in America and Mexico. 

American Dirt follows the journey of a mother and son who are forced to flee from Acapulco and pursued by a cartel across the country as they attempt to escape from a life that is left in tatters. 

Lydia runs a charming little bookstore and lives a relatively comfortable life amid a city controlled by the cartels. Unbeknownst to her, she befriends Javier, the kingpin of a cartel, who falls in love with her after frequenting her store.

When Lydia’s journalist husband exposes Javier in an exposé in a major newspaper, life will never, ever be the same. And a life on the run begins after the most traumatic experience.

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By David Walsh

When it comes to holding athletes and sporting organisations accountable for cheating, no one has done more for fairness in global sport than veteran Irish sports journalist David Walsh. 

The long-time scribe at The Times is a big reason why Lance Armstrong was eventually stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, following more than a decade of pursuing the truth, which was eventually made into a movie called The Program.

Now, Walsh is back with another book. This time it documents two Russians whistle-blowers who exposed the institutional cheating regime used by the nation to help its athletes win medals, leading to the country being banned from sports. 

The Russian Affair is a story that centres around the unlikely marriage between middle-distance star Yuliya Rusanova and Russian anti-doping official Vitaly Stepanov. 

With the whole system stacked against them, the couple decides to expose Russia’s dirty tactics to the world while they flee for their lives. 

Walsh, who is one of the most highly regarded sports journalists on the planet, pieces together a gripping dark story that could be considered a spy novel and a romance novel woven into one. 

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By Jeff Gordinier 

They don’t get much bigger in the world of gastronomy than Rene Redzepi. In fact, they don’t get any more influential than the man behind Copenhagen wonderland Noma. So, when he comes calling, you answer, even when your life is crumbling around you.

That’s what then New York Times food writer – and now Esquire Food and Drinks Editor – Jeff Gordinier did in 2014. And it turned into the that decade’s version of Kitchen Confidential, the brilliant book penned by the late great Anthony Bourdain. 

With his impending divorce and his credit cards on the brink of exhaustion, Gordinier followed Redzepi around the globe, flying from New York to a jungle in Tulum to Copenhagen to Sydney to the Arctic Circle and in between, refusing to miss out on an opportunity of a lifetime.

For anyone remotely interested in global gastronomy – and leaders of industry, for that matter – and peering behind the curtains, this is an all-access exploration of Redzepi’s manic pursuit of what’s next – and the renaissance of Gordinier. It is a book about risk and reinvention, and it won’t take you more than a day or two to devour. Expect to turn back to it down the track, potentially before the world returns to normal.

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By Ronan Farrow

The pursuit of Harvey Weinstein is one of the biggest stories this millennium, one you only appreciate more after reading Ronan Farrow’s spellbinding Pulitzer Prize-winning book.

Farrow wasn’t the journalist who broke the Weinstein story. That accolade belongs to brilliant New York Times investigative reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. But that’s all part of this must-read book. 

Want to know how the Hollywood mogul was able to get away with his repugnant behaviour for decades? Farrow lifts the veil on a world where media outlets fought to protect Weinstein 

What makes this book more remarkable is the forensic level of detail Farrow shares about how he pitched it long and hard to his employer NBC who prevented him from reporting on Weinstein, repeatedly arguing that it wasn’t a story. 

That led a desperate Farrow – who was determined not to let his vulnerable sources down – to The New Yorker, who took the story off life support and led to dozens of pieces that have uncovered more high profile sexual harassment cases, including one that led to the firing of high profile NBC presenter Matt Lauer. 

Farrow, the son of famous movie director Woody Allen, who has been accused by his daughter of abuse as a child, grew up in the world he is now taking down and he doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon.

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By Andre Leon Talley

It doesn’t get much juicer than the inside details of Conde Nast, the world of Anna Wintour, Karl Lagerfeld, Naomi Campbell and co. Although, this is much, much more than a gossipy tell-all.

The memoir tracks the remarkable journey of an African-American boy from an underprivileged town down south to the major leagues of the fashion journalism inside the corridors of Vogue and Vanity Fair. 

While most people will seek this book out to consume all the nasty details about Talley’s volatile relationship with long-time Vogue editor Wintour, there are as many pages dedicated to his friendship with Lagerfeld. 

When British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful became the first non-white male in the role at a major publication, he said he wouldn’t have made it that far without Talley. And that – the battle with racism – is another significant part of this fascinating memoir. 

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For all your book needs, be sure to check out Booktopia for great deals on new books, classics and your favourites.