June 17, 2024

Travel Back in Time and Around the World with these Summer Book and TV Recommendations!

I was always exhausted at the end of the school year. Not just from all the craziness of the last week or two with the students but because I always had to pack up my classroom (as did all the other teachers). That was so the custodians could do a deep cleaning, which I appreciated, but it took me a few days to get everything put away and I was just drained when I finally finished.

So I spent the first part of my summer vacation totally relaxing and not thinking about school. I took that time to rejuvenate because when mid-July came around, I was often on summer curriculum development teams or doing some other kind of professional development.

If this sounds familiar, I have some suggestions of books and TV series that will help you decompress. What they have in common is that they take place in another time period and/or location. If you don't have the time or money to travel, you can take a relaxing vacation vicariously this way.  :-)
They're mostly historical mysteries and the settings range from the Viking Age to medieval England to 17th century Japan to 19th century America to 21st century Botswana. I've read all the books on the list, some of them several times. You should also be able to find some of the books at your local library.
Title text in black at top on pale yellow background, with middle-aged Black woman sitting and reading a book in a garden.
For more book recommendations, click HERE; graphic created by The ESL Nexus

Below are my recommendations.  The first 3 are only available as books.  They are followed by 6 books that were also made into TV shows.  Those are followed by 4 stand-alone TV shows that are not based on books.   
(Please note that the book and DVD links are affiliate links. That means I make a small commission if you purchase the book but it's at no additional cost to you.  Thank you for your support!)
Click on the green links for more information about each book and TV series.  In the last section, for just TV shows, the links are for the DVDs but if you have subscriptions to the streaming services they're broadcast on, you can watch the shows there for free.  Also, fyi, the last recommendation in my list, for a TV show, is not a clickable link.

Book and TV Recommendations

Book Recommendations

* Tomb for an Eagle: The Orkneyinga Murders (5-book series by Lexie Conyngham)

This is a wonderful mystery series set in Orkney, Scotland, during the Viking Age. The 2 main protagonists are fictional but Earl Thorfinn, who is also a main character, is a historical person. I really enjoy the descriptions of Viking life and culture. Having visited Orkney, and the Brough of Birsay where many parts of the stories take place, it's really interesting to read about what it was like there 1,000 years ago.

* Cathedral of Bones: The Ela of Salisbury Medieval Mysteries (10-book series by J.G. Jones)

Murder mysteries set in early 13th century England that are solved by Ela Longespée, the historical Countess and Sheriff of Salisbury. I'm currently on Book 9 and really enjoying the series.

* The Skull Mantra: The Shan Tao Yun Mysteries (10-book series by Eliot Pattison)

A disgraced inspector from Beijing is in a Tibetan prison camp and is forced to investigate the murder of an unknown man. Lots of info and detail about Tibetan culture. I've read the first 2 in the series and look forward to reading the rest of them soon.

Book Recommendations That Were Also Made Into TV Series

* A Morbid Taste for Bones: The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael (20-book series by Ellis Cadfael and some stories available on DVD)

Arguably, the first mystery series set in a historical time period and what got me hooked on this genre; this is about a Welsh monk in an English monastery during the Anarchy of the 12th century who uses his knowledge of herbs and the outside world to solve mysteries.

* Whose Body? The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries (15-book series by Dorothy Sayers and some stories available on DVD)

Lord Peter, his butler Bunter, and his friend Inspector Parker solve the mystery of a dead body on a bathtub in this classic mystery set in 1920s England. One of my all-time favorite series.

* Shogun (book by James Clavell; TV show on Hulu)

I just finished watching the TV show and it is amazing! I have the book (and have read it a couple times) and watched the original show way back when. This version is wonderful – the production design and costumes are terrific and the extra features on the website that give background info really add to my understanding and appreciation of Japanese culture.

* Outlander (9-book series by Diana Gabaldon with 10th book forthcoming eventually; TV show on Starz and Seasons 1-6 of 7 on Netflix)

A World War II English nurse suddenly and unexpectedly finds herself in 18th century Scotland on the brink of the Jacobite Rebellion. What can I say: I randomly picked up this book soon after it was published and have been hooked ever since.

* The Last Kingdom (13-book series by Bernard Cornwell; TV show on Netflix)

The life of a Saxon boy kidnapped and raised by Danes whose adventures support King Alfred's dream of a united England. I'd been interested in early English history long before I first watched the TV series and then read the books, and they bring this time period to life.
* The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (24-book series by Alexander McCall Smith; TV series on DVD)
A woman opens the first and only detective agency in Botswana and solves mysteries in spite of the many obstacles she faces. A fascinating look at modern-day Botswana's society and culture.

TV Series Recommendations 

* Jamestown (TV show available on PBS with Passport, also on DVD)

Fictionalized account of the English settlement of Jamestown. Interesting to watch after teaching my students about Jamestown Colony and reading a young adult novel about Jamestown with them.

* Vienna Blood (TV show available on PBS with Passport, also on DVD)

About a Jewish doctor in early 20th century Vienna, Austria, who uses Freudian principles to solve mysteries in collaboration with a local police detective. I'm looking forward the the 4th season, which is supposed to be broadcast later thisyear.

* The Brokenwood Mysteries (TV show on Acorn)

Modern-day mysteries set in the fictionalized town of Brokenwood, New Zealand, that are solved by the local police. I've never been to New Zealand so this is interesting, especially the episodes that include aspects of Maori culture in them.

* Death in Paradise (TV show on BritBox; not available on DVD)

A fish out of water English detective works with the local police on the fictionalized island of Saint Marie in the Caribbean to solve murders. Formulaic but lots of fun.
I hope you have a very relaxing summer!