Edited by: Kellie Jez
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Traveling is always exciting, no matter where you’re going. From a two week vacation to a year-long excursion, seeing the world offers you first-hand experiences you’ll never forget.
The books we’ve highlighted below could teach you something about every corner of the globe; they could make you laugh, cry, or just help you to connect with the spiritual and altruistic aspects of travel.
They might even inspire your next destination!
1. The Penguin Lessons, Tom Michell
Tom Mitchell’s true-story chronicles his life as a 23-year-old, free-spirited adventurer who takes up a teaching post in Argentina.
During his time away he rescues a penguin, Juan Salvador, from an oil slick in Uruguay and smuggles him back into school where he becomes the center of this witty and heartwarming story.
2. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
The classic tale of two American wanderers, Kerouac’s On the Road is one of the most important novels on travel.
A thinly fictionalized autobiography, the book is filled with a cast made of Kerouac’s real life friends, lovers, and fellow travelers as they enjoy their cross-country bohemian odyssey that serves as a reflection of American counterculture during the 1960s.
3. The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain
In 1867, Mark Twain joined a group of fellow-Americans to tour Europe and the Holy Land aboard Quaker City — a retired Civil War ship.
Twain keeps a record of his experiences throughout the journey, and the resulting travelogue is an entertaining and insightful work written by one of America’s greatest ever authors.
4. In a Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson
As one of the world’s most beloved travel writers, Bill Bryson once again impresses with his tales of adventure, far beyond the beaten path in Australia.
In a country that harbors more things that can kill you than anywhere else in the world, Bryson still manages to find the beauty in a country so big it doubles as a continent.
5. Marching Powder, Rusty Young
As the author joins English drug trafficker Thomas McFadden inside the notorious San Pedro prison in Bolivia for three months, he writes one of the most compelling and bizarre prison stories of all time.
The real-life friendship that’s formed between these two unlikely cellmates is the basis for this candid yet emotive look at the behavior inside a corrupt regime.
6. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
Set against the backdrop of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, War and Peace is considered a masterpiece and one of the greatest novels ever written. The characters portrayed in this novel are vivid, and the perfectly crafted storytelling takes you on a journey of humanity. This is fiction at its finest.
7. Inferno, Dan Brown
The fourth Robert Langdon book from writer Dan Brown, Inferno takes the reader on a relentless journey through classical Italian art, literature, and history.
There’s also a side order of cutting-edge science in this first-class thriller. Navigating such complex topics as human overpopulation and social responsibility, Inferno is another masterpiece from Brown.
8. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson
This rollicking tale of a long weekend road trip chronicles the adventures of two American men who embark on a drug-soaked, brain-addled adventure in Las Vegas.
Regarded as one of the strangest journeys ever undertaken, Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas is a wild torpedo ride through some of the weirdest scenes in both American fact and fiction.
9. The Beach, Alex Garland
Even if you did catch the 2000 blockbuster movie, you should still read the book.
With its dark undercurrents, The Beach is much more than just the tale of a backpacker finding the best beach in Thailand. Instead, it’s an engaging story of damaged characters, psychosis, disaffection, self-absorption, and ego.
10. A Year in Provence, Peter Mayle
Having finally realized his long-cherished dream of moving into a 2000-year-old farmhouse in rural France, Peter Mayle writes with warmth and humor as he describes how he, along with his wife and two large dogs, spent a year in a region that’s entirely governed by seasons and not by days.
11. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
This much-loved masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel the world. During his adventures, he discovers riches that money cannot buy. His story inspires the reader to seize opportunities and recognize the good omens of life that are strewn along the way.
12. The Cat Who Went to Paris, Peter Gethers
Peter Gethers is a confirmed cat-hater until he crosses paths with a Scottish Fold kitten called Norton, who quickly has him wrapped around his tiny fingers (ahem, paws).
In this charming account of a love that Gethers never saw coming, he and his four-pawed pal hot foot it from Paris to Fire Island and many places in between.
13. Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer
In 1992 Christopher Johnson McCandless gave his $25,000 savings to charity, abandoned his car and his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself.
4 months later, a party of moose hunters found his decomposed body in the American wilderness. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.
14. Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes, Robert Louis Stevenson
Hoping to raise finances at the start of his career, Stevenson embarked on a 120-mile, 12-day trek across the wild Cévennes region of France and recorded the experience in his journal.
This charming story about one man’s passion for writing and a stubborn donkey is a literary classic that’s a must-read for anyone looking to embark on their own adventure.
15. Dark Star Safari, Paul Theroux
The always observant Paul Theroux takes the reader on a journey across Africa using any mode of travel he can find, from a rattletrap bus to an armed convoy. He encounters danger, delay, and dismaying circumstances along the way.
Dark Star Safari is an insightful portrayal of the places he visits and the people he meets on his journey from Cairo to Cape Town.
16. Love with a Chance of Drowning, Torre DeRoche
A love story combined with an epic adventure comes to life with Torre DeRoche.
She meets a handsome Argentinian man called Ivan, who has a passion for the very thing she doesn’t — sailing. DeRoche summons up her courage and joins him on a watery adventure, set against the backdrop of some of the world’s most remote and beautiful destinations.
17. The Lost City of Z, David Grann
Having stumbled upon a hidden treasure trove of diaries, New Yorker writer David Grann sets out to solve “the greatest exploration mystery of the 20th century.”
Chronicled with mysteries that reach back centuries, a sensational disappearance and a dangerous quest for truth, The Lost City of Z is the compelling story of what lies beneath the jungle canopy of the Amazon.
18. The Geography of Bliss, by Eric Weiner
Self-confessed grump, Eric Weiner, takes himself off on a journey to find “unheralded happiness” and finds it in some of the most unexpected places on earth, including Iceland, Bhutan, and India. His journal is equal parts laugh-out-loud funny and philosophical, and a very honest portrayal of one man’s quest for true contentment.
19. Vagabonding, Rolf Potts
One of the most popular, influential, and well-thumbed guides to backpacking ever written, Vagabonding is not just a plan of action, but more a way of life. Rolf Potts is a veteran shoestring traveler who has inspired millions of fellow adventurers to follow their dreams in search of independent, overseas travel.
20. Turn Right at Machu Picchu, Mark Adams
When a very unadventurous travel expert tries to re-create the original expedition to Machu Picchu, he climbs outside of his comfort zone and experiences the perils of adventure travel outside the warmth of his office.
The resulting tale is Adams’ fascinating and funny account of his journey through some of the world’s most remote landscapes.
21. The Year of Living Danishly, Helen Russell
When an archetypal London journalist is given the opportunity to work in rural Jutland, she stumbles upon the remarkable truth that Denmark is indeed the happiest place to live on earth.
Looking at issues like childcare, education, food, and interior design, The Year Of Living Danishly is a funny and poignant record of how the Danes get it right and where the rest of the world gets it wrong.
22. The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca, Tahir Shah
Tahir Shah had always dreamed of escaping the gray skies of London and setting up home in the sun-drenched city of Morocco. At 36 years old, he packed up his growing family and his wife and took them to Dar Khalifa, a crumbling ruin of a mansion by the sea that once belonged to the city’s caliph.
The Caliph’s House charts a year in the life of this unusual family and their tremendous gamble.
23. Unlikely Destinations: The Lonely Planet Story, Tony and Maureen Wheeler
As the founders of Lonely Planet, Tony and Maureen Wheeler have produced travel guides for just about every corner of the globe.
Backpacker bibles such as Across Asia on the Cheap and South-East Asia on a Shoestring are just two of the seminal books that made the Lonely Planet series so successful. This book charts their rise (and occasional fall) to become a leading light in independent travel guides and reviews.
24. The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost, Rachel Friedman
Rachel had always been the kind of girl to play by the rules, so buying a one-way ticket to Ireland was more than a little out of character.
When she forms an unlikely bond with a free-spirited Australian girl, she sets out on a year-long adventure that takes her across three different continents and fills her life with newfound friends and a previously undiscovered passion for adventure.
25. A Tourist in the Arab Spring, Tom Chesshyre
Following the Arab Spring, Tom Chesshyre takes it upon himself to become one of the first journalists to return to the region as a tourist. His beautiful book is the result of his fascinating journey through lands fresh from revolution — Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt.
Touching and humorous, Chesshyre recounts tales of abduction in Libya and the new connections he makes with local friends.
26. A Week at the Airport, Alain de Botton
In the summer of 2009, Alain de Botton was appointed Writer-in-Residence at London’s Heathrow Airport. Installed on a raised platform in the middle of Terminal 5, passengers were given unique access to see what he was writing and to add their own anecdotes and stories. The finished work is an uplifting and honest reflection of everyday life at a busy airport.
27. Arabian Sands, Wilfred Thesiger
This classic travel tome is Wilfred Thesiger’s record of his extraordinary journey through the then mostly untraveled “Empty Quarter” of Arabia. Having become disillusioned with the “softness and rigidity” of Western life, he sought something more visceral on his travels — the deserts of Arabia.
Over time, Thesiger’s account has become an important guide to the modern Middle East.
28. Blue Highways: A Journey into America, William Least Heat-Moon
Blue Highways has long been considered a masterpiece of American travel writing.
Armed with little more than his sense of curiosity, author William Least Heat-Moon sets out to discover small-town America. Rekindle your own wanderlust as you join him on a 3-month, 13,000-mile journey in his van, with not a single interstate or big city in sight.
29. As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, Laurie Lee
Following on from the success of Cider With Rosie, Lee tells the story of his first sojourn away from his tiny Cotswold village home in this heartwarming memoir. He settles in London for a short time before making his way to Spain by boat where he gets trapped by the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.
Warm and endearing, his tales of endurance are a classic read for travelers.
30. A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, Eric Newby
A classic in adventure travel writing, A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush tells the tale of a Mayfair fashion executive who moonlights as a magazine travel editor before attempting to scale an unclimbed mountain in the Hindu Kush.
Newby trains for 4 days in Wales before heading out to take on the world. This book is a chronicle of the entertaining time he had up in the hills.
31. A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson
This heartwarming and funny autobiography tells the tale of Bill Bryson’s unsuccessful attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine.
Using the humorous and easy to understand vernacular that Bryson is so famous for, you can join him as he learns more about the ecology, sociology, and history of the trail, as well as some of the bizarre folks he meets along the way.
32. Cockpit Confidential, Patrick Smith
Smith’s guide to all things airline makes this the perfect book for both frequent flyers and nervous first-time travelers alike.
As an experienced airline pilot and author of the popular website askthepilot.com, he offers answers for the curious, reassurance for the anxious, and explanations on the theater of air travel for everyone to enjoy and make use of when the time is right.
33. Daughter of Fortune, Isabel Allende
A previous pick from Oprah’s Book Club, Daughter of Fortune tells the story of an English expat orphan living in Chile in the 1840s. With the help of a friend, she stows away in a ship to follow her lover to California during the Gold Rush of 1849, where she finds a life of independence on her quest for personal freedom.
34. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
This candid account of the author’s need for spiritual devotion starts when she hits an early-onset mid-life crisis at just thirty years old. She sets out to visit Rome, Bali, and India where she can examine her innermost wants and desires and embarks upon a journey of self-discovery that makes for great reading.
35. Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe, Bill Bryson
As one of the most prolific and well-respected travel writers of the 21st century, Bryson once again finds the humor in landing somewhere many miles from home, to be greeted with a uniquely different set of circumstances.
In this volume, he recounts his journey to Norway and several European destinations finding joy where you would least expect it.
36. Seven Years in Tibet, Heinrich Harrer
After his dramatic escape from an English internment camp in India in 1943, author Heinrich Harrer recounts how he spent the next 7 years in Tibet. While there he observed the country’s social practices, religion, and people, and befriended the 14th Dalai Lama as the Chinese prepared to invade his new-found homeland of Tibet.
Seven Years In Tibet is his story.
37. The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton
Any travel guide can tell you the best places to visit, but only this book can tell you how and why you should go.
Travel writer de Botton considers everything from the allure of the exotic and the anticipation of it all to the mundane charm of delays at Heathrow Airport. The Art Of Travel is a wise and utterly original must-have for anyone who wants to travel.
38. The Longest Way Home, Andrew McCarthy
Award-winning travel writer and actor Andrew McCarthy recounts his personal journey from the treacherous slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro to Costa Rica to the Amazon as he navigates his way through a difficult crossroads in his life.
The result of his extensive travels is this soul-searching story that’s an intimate memoir of self-discovery and an unforgettable love song to the woman who would later become his wife.
39. The Shadow of the Sun, Ryszard Kapuscinski
Author Ryszard Kapuscinski arrives in Africa in 1957 as the first African correspondent of Poland’s state newspaper.
His tales from the ground include wandering the Sahara with nomads, living in the slums of Nigeria, wrestling snakes, and surviving malaria. This book is a fine portrait of a remarkable country and its people.
40. Travels with Charley in Search of America, John Steinbeck
At the tender age of 58, John Steinbeck set out to rediscover the country he’d been writing about for so many years.
With his French poodle Charley by his side, he travels across the country and reflects on the real spirit of America, found in the people he meets, the hostility they show, and the unexpected kindness of strangers.
41. Under the Tuscan Sun, Frances Mayes
Over twenty years ago, Frances Mayes, a widely-published poet and travel writer, came across Bramasole — an abandoned 200-year-old Tuscan farmhouse. Under the Tuscan Sun is the story of how she tamed the more than 5 acres of overgrown farmland, transformed the house, and inspired generations to embark on their very own journeys of discovery and transformation.
Full of amusing anecdotes and delicious recipes, this is a great read for anyone looking to travel and dream about their own version of paradise.
42. Wild, Cheryl Strayed
Following her mothers death at the young age of 22, Cheryl Strayed made the most impulsive decision of her life when she decided to hike more than 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert to Washington State.
Wild is a powerful telling of a young woman pushing ahead against all odds on a journey of self-discovery.
43. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway’s masterpiece follows the story of American expats Jack Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley and their fellow English expat travelers as they head for the lure of 1920s Paris and the Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona.
The Sun Also Rises is based on the lives of real people and the way in which they cope with love and death.
44. The Road to Oxiana, Robert Byron
In 1933 Robert Byron set out on a journey through the Middle East via Beirut, Jerusalem, Baghdad, and Tehran to Oxiana. His arrival at the legendary Tower of Qabus is a feat in itself, but the record of his getting there is equally thrilling.
This book is like stumbling into a museum of the unknown, overseen and curated by a humorous eccentric. Byron makes his way on a journey that’s no longer accessible to modern day travelers.
45. The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom, Sławomir Rawicz
This is the true and harrowing tale of 7 escaped Soviet prisoners who desperately marched out of Siberia through China, the Gobi Desert, Tibet, and over the Himalayas to British India. The story of their trek recounts tales of bravery, enduring hunger, cold, injury, and illness, that has since been turned into a movie called The Way Back.
46. The Great Railway Bazaar, Paul Theroux
Paul Theroux’s unique yet hugely entertaining railway odyssey has become a modern classic of travel literature.
First published in 1975, Theroux’s recounting of his adventures on the Orient Express, the Khyber Pass Local, the Frontier Mail, the Golden Arrow to Kuala Lumpur, the Mandalay Express, and the Trans-Siberian Express, make this essential reading for both active adventurers and armchair travelers alike.
47. Tales of a Female Nomad, Rita Golden Gelman
This inspiring book demonstrates that it’s never too late to follow your dreams. At 48 years old, the writer divorces her husband and leaves her glamorous LA lifestyle to become a nomad in Israel, Mexico, and Bali as she reconnects with real life in this story of love, life, and people.
48. Seven Ages of Paris, Alistair Horne
Celebrated historian Alistair Horne provides a stunning account of the history, culture, disasters, and triumphs of one of the world’s greatest cities.
From the rise of Phillippe Auguste to the rise and fall of Napoleon to Haussmann’s rebuilding of Paris and the Nazi occupation, the Seven Ages of Paris is one historian’s tribute to the city he adores so much.
49. In Search of Captain Zero, Allan Weisbecker
In 1996, Allan Weisbecker sold his home and possessions, packed up his dog and his surfboards, and went to find his long-time surfing companion Patrick, who had previously disappeared into the depths of Central America.
Acting as a memoir of his trip from Mexico to Costa Rica, he tells a compelling tale of the people he meets, the bandits he evaded, and the waves he catches along the way.
50. In Patagonia, Bruce Chatwin
Bruce Chatwin’s account of his journey through Patagonia is an instant modern masterpiece. Fueled by his lust for life, he embarks on a trek through “the uttermost part of the earth,” a land inhabited by bandits of long-lost legends, in search of a log cabin built by Butch Cassidy.
51. How Not to Travel the World, Lauren Juliff
When author Lauren Juliff finds herself heartbroken and battling an eating disorder, she decides to take a leap of faith and set out to travel the world on her lonesome.
Her book chronicles not just the great places she visits, but also her instances of bad luck and near death experiences. The finished memoir is an inspiration for anyone who’s considering taking that leap and chasing their dreams.
52. Hector and the Search for Happiness, Francois Lelord
When an unfulfilled psychiatrist takes a round-the-world vacation, he goes in search of the cause and meaning of true happiness.
He keeps notes of his observations as he travels and connects with a Chinese prostitute, an African criminal, and an Afghani cancer patient. Written in an engaging and whimsical way, this book will make you believe that the key to happiness may be much closer than you think.
53. Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure, Sarah Macdonald
Having visited India at the tender age of 21 and hated the heat, pollution, and poverty, journalist Sarah Macdonald vowed never to return. 11 years later she finds herself following the love of her life back to New Delhi.
Her story is one of illness, despair, and fighting back against her scorn for a country that scares her, all the while teaching the reader about the beautiful and under-estimated charm of India.
54. Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell
George Orwell’s first full-length work chronicles the reality and the hardships of daily life in Paris and London in the 1930s. He writes freely about the dirty, behind-the-scenes details of hotels and restaurants and shares his perspective on the tramp lifestyle he’s living. His experiences back then still resonate well in modern society.
55. Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey
Abbey’s autobiographical account as a lone seasonal park ranger at the Arches National Monument in 1956 and 1957, challenges the power and profit mindset that’s destroying the National Parks of America.
His passion for the open plains and the great American wilderness act as a reminder to us all that sometimes it’s important to disconnect from the chaos of society and reconnect with nature.
56. Life of Pi, Yann Martel
Before the film, there was the book.
A fantasy novel that will transport the reader far away from reality, the story of Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, explores issues of spirituality while surviving 227 days at sea after being shipwrecked on the Pacific Ocean with a tiger called Richard Parker. Perfect for those traveling to the Indian continent or who just want some truly engaging escapism.
57. The Island, Victoria Hislop
In the small Greek seaside village of Plaka, the Petrakis family live their lives set against the backdrop of the Mediterranean during World War II. The Island is an enchanting account of a family coping with their own dreams, desires, dark secrets, and leprosy’s touch on an unforgettable family.
58. Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts
Shantaram is narrated by Lin, who has escaped a maximum security prison in Australia, is traveling on a false passport, and is headed for the busy streets of Bombay. Accompanied by his faithful friend, Prabaker, they must navigate the underworld of Bombay with its hidden society of beggars, gangsters, prostitutes, and holy men.
59. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce
This funny and poignant novel by Rachel Joyce introduces us to Harold Fry, a recently retired Englishman who’s inspired to walk six hundred miles from Kingsbridge to Berwick-upon-Tweed in the hopes of keeping his friend, Queenie Hennessey alive.
As he embarks upon his epic journey, his memories come to life, and his wife Maureen faces life on her own for the first time. An honest tale of reconciliation and regret, set in the English countryside.
60. Discovering Beautiful: On the Road to Somewhere, Rory Miller
When a young Yorkshireman embarks on a month-long vacation in America, he finds his journey metamorphoses into a 4-year journey of self-discovery and adventure in search of happiness.
Along the way, he lives in squats, visits several jails, is involved in numerous car crashes, and hitchhikes over 15,000 miles until a chance meeting with a shaman in Mexico hails the beginning of a different kind of journey entirely.
Whether you want to lie on the beach sipping cocktails with a novel in hand or travel the earth to recreate some of the most inspiring journeys ever recorded, every book you read on your travels will have an immeasurable effect on your next adventure.
Are there any books you would add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!
Featured Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels
Frequently Asked Questions
Our vote for the best travel book goes to The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell. Tom Mitchell’s true-story chronicles his life as a 23-year-old, free-spirited adventurer who takes up a teaching post in Argentina. During his time away he rescues a penguin, Juan Salvador, from an oil slick in Uruguay and smuggles him back into school where he becomes the center of this witty and heartwarming story.
The books we’ve highlighted in this article could teach you something about every corner of the globe; they could make you laugh, cry, or just help you to connect with the spiritual and altruistic aspects of travel. Some of our favorite books include:
- On the Road, Jack Kerouac
- The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain
- In a Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson
- Marching Powder, Rusty Young
- War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
Travel guides are useful for learning about a destination before you travel there. They usually cover the history of a destination, the local culture, attractions, and common words or phrases.
Books have the capability to change how you think about certain things. Travel books in particular can inspire you to visit a destination or embark on an exciting adventure.
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