You can travel near and far through the pages of a book, so it just makes sense that, if your wanderlust runs deep and you dream of upcoming journeys, you’ll find something to sate your appetite (or possibly just make it worse…) within the pages of books that are all about travel.
Whether you’re in the midst of planning your next trip or just looking for a spark of inspiration, check out these 20 books to read about travel and travelers. You won’t be sorry.
Picking a Book to Read About Traveling
But first, what are you looking for when reading a book on travel? Are you trying to find something that will inform your next trip and inspire you as to what to see and do? Or do you want to learn more about interesting destinations around the globe? Or, do you want to follow in the footsteps of others’ journeys and see where it leads you?
When picking a book to read about traveling, think about what you’re looking to get out of the reading experience, but also the types of books you already enjoy reading, as well as where you plan to travel in the future. That’s the best way to get the most out of picking a new travel book to read in your downtime.
Now, here are 20 favorites that fit a variety of reading, style and destination preferences.
This classic novel may be one you briefly read in a literature class in high school or college. If so, why not give it another read now that you’re older? If not, it’s one you need to add to your bookshelf.
The novel follows two friends along their cross-country road trips and, while its messages and themes have been highly debated as either good or bad for decades, one thing is for sure — it’s a reading experience about traveling across North America that you certainly won’t forget.
If you’re a fan of the classics, you’ll want to add this book to your list.
The Kite Runner came out while most of us were alive, but that hardly means it’s not already a classic. The novel has been called one of the best to read for travelers and you’ll find it on many a list of professional travel bloggers’ favorite books.
The novel takes readers through a crucial period in Afghanistan’s history, following two boys growing up in Kabul and their later adult lives.
If you enjoy modern literary fiction and have ever been interested in Middle Eastern culture, you’ll enjoy The Kite Runner.
The Alchemist certainly has a cult following. Just about anyone who’s read it will tell you they love it. The book follows the shepherd boy Santiago along his wanderings through Spain and into Egypt, all while he meets interesting side characters who add their own influence to his journey.
For any aspiring traveler who’s needed a little push to follow the call of their wanderlust, this book is one to read as soon as possible.
Okay, so Into the Wild is a little bit dark, but that just means it’s absolutely riveting and is going to keep you glued to the pages for hours at a time. The nonfiction bestseller is ranked No. 1 on Amazon in the Alaska Travel Guides section, but it’s not so much a travel guide as it is the story of one traveler who went about his Alaskan adventure in a very unusual way.
The book follows Christopher Johnson McCandless, who, in 1992, hitchhiked to Alaska after abandoning his car and burning all of his cash in the Mojave Desert. He would vanish and then his decomposing body would be found much later by a moose hunter.
This book is a must-read for anyone who enjoys adventure travel or just true crime.
Another thrilling true story, The Cloud Garden by Tom Hart Dyke and Paul Winder follows the two travelers — the former a botanist and the latter a freelancer and frequent adventure traveler — through their journeys across Central America.
They meet up in Mexico, become fast friends and decide to travel together to the infamous Darien Gap, a cloud forest between North and South America that breaks the Pan-American Highway and is known for being notoriously dangerous. The two are doing well — until they’re ambushed by FARC guerrillas and then spend the next nine months as hostages.
Again, The Cloud Garden is a great book for any adventure traveler or true crime fan.
If you’ve seen the movie The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio, then you know the basic premise of The Beach by Alex Garland. The novel focuses on young travelers across Southeast Asia, looking for a hidden oasis called “the Beach.” Unfortunately, their paradise isn’t everything they’ve dreamed of.
This travel book is a good pick for those who enjoy a page-turning, best selling popular fiction novel, or those interested in traveling to or backpacking around Southeast Asia.
If you’re looking for travel books that actually give travel advice, versus just telling you a great story, then you’ll want to pick up Vagabonding by Rolf Potts. This book is for anyone who’s ever wanted to leave it all behind and, well, be a vagabond.
Potts is a long-time, long-term traveler and he shows readers how to successfully leave behind their normal lives for a long period of time to travel around the world — whether that long period of time is six weeks or two years.
There’s a reason Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has become a cult favorite — it’s just that good. If you’ve yet to pick up this book, the first in a series, you’ll want to do so no matter what your current or future travel plans. Even non-travelers like this good-natured story about a man whose life takes an unexpected turn when Earth is demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass.
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Looking for a quick, easy read that you can enjoy in maybe two flights, or over a long weekend at the beach? Eat, Pray, Love is your answer.
This book became a hit when it came out and then became a movie starring Julia Roberts. While some readers have very strong opinions about the short true story — some hate it, some find inspiration to change their entire lives around its messages — if you don’t take it too seriously, you’ll simply find an enjoyable tale that immerses you in the travel cultures of Italy, India and Indonesia.
Another hit book-turned-movie, Life of Pi, is quite different from Eat, Pray, Love. The fictional story circles around a zookeeper’s son on his way to start a new life in North America, whose ship sinks during the journey from India. Through more than 200 days lost at sea, the boy coexists with an escaped zoo tiger, until reaching land in Mexico. The story is woven with cultural and religious elements, with touches of Hinduism, Christianity and Islam, and leaves readers questioning their own reality, as well as spirituality.
If you love stories of life-changing journeys (whether you’d want to replicate them in your own travels or not), you’ll want to read Life of Pi.
Another classic you may have read in a high school or college literature course, Innocents Abroad, or, The New Pilgrim’s Progress by Mark Twain tells Twain’s story about traveling through Europe and the Middle East in the 1800s.
The book is humorous, fun, naive and filled with exactly the type of travel writing that was popular in the time period. See some of the most famous destinations in the world — Paris, Milan, Venice, Jerusalem — through Twain’s eyes, just be sure to take it all with a grain of salt.
Anyone who enjoys the writing styles of some of the world’s most prolific 19th-century authors, as well as travelogues, will enjoy this book.
If you aim to learn a thing or two from the travel books you choose, you’ll find you learn much more than you might expect from The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner. This humorous, educational and reflective book follows Eric Weiner, journalist, as he seeks out not only the happiest spots in the world, but the reasons behind their happiness. His quest takes him to Switzerland, Qatar, Bhutan and North Carolina, among other places. As you follow along, you’ll find yourself learning not only some useful travel information, but plenty about world cultures and the psychology of happiness as well.
Love food almost as much as you love to travel? Then pick up this book by the late, great Anthony Bourdain. Bourdain infuses the pages of this short, easily digestible book with all of the wit, humor and sarcasm he was known for having in real life. Watch as he travels all across the world, sampling delicious and sometimes odd delicacies, attempting to find the perfect meal.
Another food-focused travel book, Untangling My Chopsticks by Victoria Abbott Riccardi is a memoir following the author from her comfortable life in New York City to a brand new life in Kyoto, where she plans to study kaiseki, a form of cooking that accompanies Japanese formal tea ceremonies. Throughout a year of living in the city, she not only learns the very specific art form, but she also picks up fluent Japanese and learns a lot about herself in the process.
This book is a perfect pick for readers looking for a food-centric travel story with an inspiring message.
A light, easy and humor-filled read, Cruising Altitude is a must-read for any avgeek or just those who have wondered about the seemingly glamorous lives of flight attendants. The career flight attendant author gives a real look at what this actually-not-so-glamorous life is about and what goes on, on an aircraft, that passengers never see from their seats.
Another author-moves-to-another-country story, The Year of Living Danishly, follows Helen Russell as she makes an unexpected move to Denmark. While there, she explores what makes Danes so happy and whether or not it’s something we can all learn from. If you have an interest in Denmark and Danish travel specifically, or if you’re just curious about the cultures of Scandinavia, you’ll want to pick up this book, which quickly became a bestseller and a favorite in the travel blogging community.
This national bestseller you probably already know, thanks to the movie starring Reese Witherspoon. Wild is a must-read for anyone looking to find themselves through travel, or those who love adventure travel or just those who have an interest in hiking the Pacific Coast Trail.
The author hikes from the Mojave Desert to Washington State, alone as a young, minus-30 woman, in the face of remarkable physical and emotional odds.
If you like epic novels with excellent storytelling, that just so happen to be set in an exotic locale that you’d like to visit some day, pick up Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. This book with a big personality is set in Bombay and gives readers a glimpse into the city’s underworld, where the Bombay mafia rules and characters down on their luck get wrapped up in drama they weren’t looking for.
For an exotic setting on the other side of the world, pick up The Lost City of Z. The historical true story revolves around British explorer Percy Fawcett and his quest for a hidden city supposedly located in the Amazon. When Fawcett disappeared, many more followed him, attempting to determine his whereabouts and fate via a trail of clues.
If Indonesia is on your travel bucket list, reading Indonesia, Etc., will certainly give you a thorough education on the country. The author traveled 26,000 miles around the Indonesia archipelago to discover its secrets, which are more than plentiful.
Conclusion: More Books to Read About Traveling
Of course, there are many more books to read about traveling.
To find new books to read about traveling after you’ve worked your way through this list, be sure to follow your favorite travel bloggers (as travel bloggers often promote travel-related books that they’ve enjoyed) and follow all the authors mentioned above on sites like GoodReads to find more of their similar works.
You might also be interested in: 15 Ways To Start Reading More Books Right Now