We all read books at some point during our busy lives. I won’t start explaining how important reading books are for the development of our minds, creativity, and personality. We all know that, right? So instead, me and other travel blogger compiled a list of best travel books to spark your love for travel or to enjoy a good book during your summer or winter vacations.
Best Travel Books to Encourage You to Travel More
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I have heard about Shantaram from my ex-colleague Ruska, who also got a recommendation to read it by a friend. I managed to get an audiobook and listened to it basically everywhere I could, even when I was taking a shower, it’s that addictive!
Set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay in India, this epic novel is narrated by an escaped male convict man called Lin, who flees Australia with a false passport and begins a new life. Soon he befriends a local called Prabaker, who also guides him whenever Lin needs a local’s assistance. The storyline continues with the stories how this two end up in Bombay’s hidden society of gangsters, holy men, prostitutes, beggars, and soldiers to name a few.
Lin, who has no identity, home, or family, continuously searches for love and meaning of life, while running a small clinic in one of the poorest slums of the city, while also working for the Bombay mafia in secret. This leads him to war, murder, prison, and a series of heartbreaking betrayals.
Even though listening to the audiobook was, and in general is, quite convenient in my opinion, I realized that Shantaram is a book to be read, full on interesting quotes and explanations that worth noting down.
Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal
My friend, Mariam, showed me this book when we were traveling through Nepal and told me she wanted to read it. The title of the book is pretty much self-explanatory and is about Conor Grennan’s, (the author) battle to save and bring back home the lost children of Nepal. Definitely one of the best travel books I have read.
The heartwarming memoir is an inspirational story of how one man can make a difference and drives the reader into an exotic world that most of us know little about. Even though it’s not among the typical travel books that will inspire you to pack the bags and explore Nepal, but it will give you a perspective on Nepalese culture, traditions, customs, and socio-economic situation. The book is so well written that it can be read in one evening.
Don’t Go There: From Chernobyl to North Korea—one man’s quest to lose himself and find everyone else in the world’s strangest places.
One country fascinates me more than any other: North Korea. So when I stumbled upon a book on Amazon called “Don’t Go There: From Chernobyl to North Korea—one man’s quest to lose himself and find everyone else in the world’s strangest places” I just had to read it.
To my surprise, it not only included a fascinating and fun story about a long trip to North Korea, but it was entertaining from start to finish. I fell in love with the writing style of Adam Fletcher, the author, an Englishman living in Germany. He writes very descriptive and uses so many witty comparisons that resonate with me.
All the strange experiences he has in this book are described in such a way that you are on the one hand happy you didn’t have to experience such things yourself, but you nonetheless become very curious about the destinations and want to visit for yourself.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Wild is a memoir of self-discovery after her mother passes away and her ridiculously poorly planned hike along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Cheryl starts in the Mojave Desert and continues up through California and Oregon, ending at the Bridge of the Gods in Washington. Cheryl’s boots don’t fit right and her pack is way too heavy, but her descriptions of PCT scenery are incredible. She camps in the desert, climbs mountains, encounters wildlife, and sees a side of nature that so many of us miss in our daily lives. The second I put this book down I actually searched for flights to the West Coast. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to take the kind of trip Cheryl did, but I do hope to someday hike the Sierra Nevada mountains and get a glimpse of that night sky!
When Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed first came out I heard so many great things, so naturally, I resisted reading it. When a book gets that much hype, I often find that it doesn’t live up. Then the movie came out and I decided to give it a try before seeing Reese act it out on the big screen. I’m SO glad I did.
Backpacked: A Reluctant Trip Across Central America
One of my favorite travel books and the one that inspired me to go on my first longish solo trip is Backpacked: A Reluctant Trip Across Central America.
Catherine Ryan Howard was working at Disney World for a year and decided to join her friend Sheelagh (pronounced Shelia) on a three month trip across Central America before returning home to Ireland. Having totally different travel styles, the trip isn’t quite what is expected. This is a fun and hilarious book regaling us with their misadventures on volcanoes, minibusses, and even at McDonald’s.
Not too long after reading this, I decided to go to Central America myself. This was the first place I had traveled that I had read about before, so it was interesting seeing what these places actually looked like versus what I had in my head while I was reading the book. If you want a hilarious story in Latin America, this is the one for you.
CCCP – Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed
I’ve always been interested in architecture (although my brief foray into Architecture 101 as an undergrad proved that my interest didn’t translate into an actual talent!). So, when I first traveled to Eastern Europe I was totally blown away by all of the unique Soviet architecture that I was seeing for the first time.
As soon as I got home I bought Frédéric Chaubin’s CCCP – Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed and started planning my next trip. CCCP is a huge, hardcover coffee table book featuring Chaubin’s stunning photographs of the most iconic Soviet buildings from Chisinau to Almaty, along with descriptions in English, German and French.
This book has literally led me all across the former USSR, from the colorful Russian-Georgian Friendship Monument on the Georgian Military Highway to the terrifying Ninth Fort outside Kaunas, Lithuania to the futuristic Academy of Science complex in Moscow, Russia. Searching for the best in Soviet architecture has proven to be a surprisingly affordable travel addiction, as the most fascinating buildings are often found in inexpensive countries and it costs nothing to spend an hour or two wandering around, adding to my own photography collection.
Love With a Chance of Drowning
Picking up this book is like picking up a new friend. A story of a sailing trip around the world, the themes revolve as much around travel and adventure as they do around the author, Torre DeRoche, and her funny, relatable, and touching storytelling.
With an intense fear of the ocean and a wicked case of seasickness, DeRoche does not seem like the most likely candidate for an around the world sailing trip. Until, of course, she meets the love of her life. Riddled with anxiety but chasing her heart, she sets sail, committing to him and this crazy adventure. As much a surprise to her as to anyone, DeRoche tells the story of what happens when you not only face your fears head on but decide to bring them along for the ride.
Writing with a genuine honesty that can be so hard to find these days, there is no need to have an interest in sailing, anxiety, or relationships to feel an instant connection with DeRoche. Love With a Chance of Drowning will have you laughing, crying, and at times, simply stirred and longing for the feeling of adventure that only travel can bring.
Return To Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy
One of my favorite travel books is Return To Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy I simply couldn’t put this book down. It is a true story by Chandi Wyant. Chandi finds her life not going to plan. She is going through a divorce and traumatic illness, this leads her to rock bottom. This is when she decides to take her life into her own hands. With a passion for Italy, Chandi decides to walk Italy’s historic pilgrimage route, the Via Francigena, a forty-day walk to Rome.
The style of writing is what led me to not be able to put this book down. I felt like I was reading a friend’s story. There were times I wanted to ask her so many questions about this journey and luckily I did. I managed to get Chandi to answer my questions on a two-part interview.
What I loved about the book is how real it all felt. How I could put myself in her shoes and how I could feel when she was struggling when she was happy. I could feel the spiritual change she was going through. I also loved the message it spelled out about independence and doing things for yourself. About loving yourself and about “never losing your glow”
The Alchemist may not be your usual travel book. It’s not someone’s story of their travels or a guidebook to help you along the way. Instead, it’s a simple tale about a young Andalusian shepherd, who follows a dream to find treasure. In the process, he travels across the desert and to the pyramids of Egypt. Along the way, he learns a lot about himself, destiny, and life.
I picked this book up in a second-hand shop in Cambodia, and I have kept it with me ever since, with so many passages highlighted that have helped me along the way. This is a book that will inspire you to take a leap of faith, to follow your dreams, and trust your heart and intuition.
If you dream of travel, then this will help you realize that only you can make it happen. The Alchemist wasn’t an instant hit when it was first published in 1988, but has since become an international bestseller and been translated into around 70 different languages. If you’re looking for some inspiration to get out and live your best life, this is it!
Outlander is two parts romance, one part adventure, one part historical fiction, plus a healthy dose of time travel.
When Claire Randall visits Scotland with her historian husband Frank in 1945, she has no idea she’s about to be transported back in time to 1743 through the standing stones of Craigh Na Dun, prior to the Jacobite Rebellion. Along the way she meets Scottish clans, travels to France, is accused of being a witch, and falls in love with two men from very different times.
While many parts of this historical fiction novel are obviously fabricated (time travel for starters) the series does also use real battles and historical figures from the Jacobite Rebellion. Clearly extremely well-researched for a fiction book, Gabaldon’s descriptions of the castles, landscapes, dialects, and customs of the Scottish clans make you feel as if you’ve been transported back yourself.
Fans of the Starz series based on the book will know that most of the shooting locations are in Scotland. After reading this engrossing novel, I’d love to see the Scottish Highlands for myself.
The Hidden Europe
California-born author Francis Tapon is a travel fiend. As I write this, he’s penning a new tome about his five years of nonstop travel through all 54 African countries! My favorite of Tapon’s books is The Hidden Europe, which takes a similarly comprehensive look at Eastern Europe.
Published in 2011, The Hidden Europe is divided into 25 chapters—one for each state. Tapon starts in Finland and concludes in Russia, but you can easily dip in at whatever point interests you. Part history book, part travelogue and part guide, it’s an ideal accompaniment to your own journey in Eastern Europe.
The book blends commanding and often hilarious anecdotes (Tapon has a knack for misadventure) with historical narrative. He’s not afraid to broach politics, nationalism and identity, and draws heavily on interviews with locals to inform his writing. Subtitled ‘What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us’, each chapter concludes with a laundry list of life lessons from that country. Some are tongue-in-cheek, but many are hard-hitting words of wisdom.
If you like Bill Bryson, you’ll enjoy Tapon’s writing. But be warned: He’s nothing if not candid and rarely holds back. Make sure you read the prologue first to get an idea of Tapon’s style and his intentions for the book.
Yoga For People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Do It
When I read Yoga For People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Do It, I’d never read a travel book before and I didn’t know this was until I started reading it.
I chose it because, and I think you’ll agree, it has a rather interesting title. It had sat on my to-be-read shelf for a couple of months before I got round to reading it and when I realized it was a travel book I was a little wary. I didn’t really know what to expect; I was under the impression that travel books were boring, albeit useful, books that would tell me where to eat and local tips and such things.
What I got, however, was an incredibly funny and brilliant read about one man’s tales and fails on his various travels. A simple, and hilarious, tale about a coke can inspire me to have capers of my own. The other adventures in the book gave me so much more confidence on my own travels, especially as a solo traveler. Definitely worth the read, possibly one of the best books ever written that’s bright pink! Although I never really understood the significance of the title, it was enough to ensnare me from the start.
The Great American Bus Ride
Written by a novelist and former Cosmopolitan agony aunt, The Great American Bus Ride deals, as you would expect, with vignettes of life on the road by Greyhound bus. At a time in life when many people are curtailing their sense of adventure, Kurtz packed a small bag and a lot of observational skills and set out to explore the vastness that is America, crossing the country three times.
I read this first as a wanderlusting 30-year-old, but two and a half decades later, I hear what she has to say with a new resonance. Here you’ll find all the beautiful small details of her keen eye for human nature and human interaction. You’ll grasp her understanding of the rhythms of the road.
From Kurtz’s words, I learned to let the world wash over and around me sometimes, rather than chasing avidly for some understanding that might arrive unbidden at a later date. This is a reminder that travel doesn’t have to be exotic, or over-analyzed, or indeed full of novel experiences. Because every day and every journey teaches us something about ourselves and others.
”The truth is, I am a hussy of low appetites who yearns shamelessly for rough travel…Greyhound and I were made for each other.” Irma Kurtz
If embarking on a road trip through the United States is one of the items on your travel to-do list, you will find no better preparation nor inspiration than American Gods by Neil Gaiman.
First published in 2001, this fictional novel is still as relevant as ever. We follow Shadow who is about to be released from prison just as he finds out that his wife has died in a car accident. By a very suspicious circumstance, he is recruited to be a bodyguard for a mysterious Mr. Wednesday. Together they embark on a road trip that will be as unforgettable as it is unusual.
What I liked about this book is how Neil mixed in the fiction with reality, drawing out a sense of wonder that is elicited by only the best kind of writing. As Shadow and Mr. Wednesday make their way through lost cities, they end up seeing the most bizarre places that ought to go on your American Gods road trip map immediately: the geographic center of the U.S., the world’s largest carousel, and Cairo, IL.
The book grabs you by the heartstrings and never let’s go. But what’s more important, after reading this one, a road trip through the United States will jump to the top of your list.
And if you’d like to know the exact points mentioned in the book. Give this post a read!