This coming year, both my partner Tom and I are committed to reading at least two books every month. Slightly ambitious, yes. Doable? Definitely.
This year, I will be alternating between business and start-up books but naturally, travel books are on the top of my list. Every time I put down a travel book, I am left inspired, in awe, and often just itching to pack my bags and go.
Whether you’re just looking for some travel inspiration or want to scratch a few books off the list this year, here are a few of my personal recommendations on the best travel books to inspire your inner wanderlust.
Lastly, for those vagabonds like me who sadly don’t have room to store and lug hard copies of books, I am also attaching the links to download them for your kindle/ iPad. Happy reading and I hope you enjoy them!
- 1 Quick Answer: Best Travel Books
- 2 The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost | Rachel Friedman
- 3 On the Road | Jack Kerouac
- 4 Shantaram | Gregory David Roberts
- 5 The Beach | Alex Garland
- 6 Southeast Asia Adventure Guides | Anna Faustino (me!)
- 7 Atlas Obscura | Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, Ella Morton
- 8 The Lost Girls | Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, Amanda Pressner
- 9 In a Sunburned Country | Bill Bryson
- 10 Into the Wild | Jon Krakauer
- 11 Wild | Cheryl Strayed
- 12 Wanderlust | Elizabeth Eaves
- 13 Backpacker Business | Nikki Scott
- 14 Marching Powder |Rusty Young
- 15 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas | Hunter S. Thompson
- 16 Turn Right at Machu Picchu | Mark Adams
- 17 Long Way Down | Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman
- 18 The Alchemist | Paolo Coelho
- 19 Eat, Pray, Love | Elizabeth Gilbert
- 20 Into Thin Air | Jon Krakauer
- 21 Vagabonding | Rolf Potts
- 22 The Great Railway Bazaar | Paul Theroux
- 23 Under the Tuscan Sun | Frances Mayes
- 24 Seven Years in Tibet | Heinrich Harrer
- 25 How Not to Travel the World | Lauren Juliff
- 26 Other Travel Books Worth Mentioning
Quick Answer: Best Travel Books
Here are our recommendations on the best travel books to inspire wanderlust. Read on to get a glimpse of what each book is about!
- The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost | Rachel Friedman
- On the Road| Jack Kerouac
- Shantaram | Gregory David Roberts
- The Beach | Alex Garland
- Southeast Asia Adventure Guides | Anna Faustino (me!)
- Atlas Obscura | Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, Ella Morton
- The Lost Girls | Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, Amanda Pressner
- In a Sunburned Country | Bill Bryson
- Into the Wild | Jon Krakauer
- Wild | Cheryl Strayed
- Wanderlust | Elizabeth Eaves
- Backpacker Business | Nikki Scott
- Marching Powder |Rusty Young
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas | Hunter S. Thompson
- Turn Right at Machu Picchu | Mark Adams
- Long Way Down | Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman
- The Alchemist | Paolo Coelho
- Eat, Pray, Love | Elizabeth Gilbert
- Into Thin Air | Jon Krakauer
- Vagabonding| Rolf Potts
- The Great Railway Bazaar | Paul Theroux
- Under the Tuscan Sun | Frances Mayes
- Seven Years in Tibet | Heinrich Harrer
- How Not to Travel the World | Lauren Juliff
The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost | Rachel Friedman
I love this book mostly because it’s so relatable!
Rachel Friedman is the typical goody two shoes who has lived all her life by the books. On a whim, she decides to buy a ticket to Ireland where she met a free-spirited Australian girl who inspires her to travel to Australia and South America.
It is a funny and honest memoir of how she breaks free from her shell as she travels across three continents, learning how to live in the moment.
On the Road | Jack Kerouac
“The best teacher is experience and not through someone’s distorted point of view”
Naturally, no best travel books list would be complete without Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. The book’s whimsical storytelling will transport you through America post-World War, bringing you back to the golden age of exploration.
It is a mix of poetry, jazz, travel and drugs, taking you through a rollercoaster of emotions.
Shantaram | Gregory David Roberts
Although this was a pretty hefty read (it took me a while to plow through it), it was definitely a fascinating read.
Based on an Australian bank robber and heroin addict who escapes prison and flees to the slums of Bombay India, Shantaram is a mix of both fact and fiction. In India, he recovers from his addiction, ends up opening a local clinic, working for the Bombay Maffia, then becomes a guerrilla in the war against Russia in Afghanistan.
While parts of it are true, the story takes you to a world of wonder, fear, and contempt.
The Beach | Alex Garland
First things first, the book is so much better than the movie!
Alex Garland has nailed the feeling of why travelers go off the beaten path, in search of a place they can call paradise. This book can evoke a serious case of wanderlust as he transports you to a time before mass tourism has taken over Thailand.
Southeast Asia Adventure Guides | Anna Faustino (me!)
No best travel books list would be complete without mentioning a few of our OWN books. So excuse the shameless plug but if you’re heading to Southeast Asia, check out our Adventure Guides.
Our guides will give you the inside scoop on the best things to see and do based from our years of experience traveling around Southeast Asia. From the best beaches and islands to visit, all the way down to the best mountains and scuba diving spots. If I say so myself, they are pretty epic!
Atlas Obscura | Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, Ella Morton
Atlas Obscura features some of the lesser-known places in the world that range from weird to obscure. It’s a bucket list for hardcore adventurers and travelers who are sick of the usual “I want to see the Eiffel tower while in Paris”.
It features the Gates of Hell in Turkmenistan, a bone museum in Italy, and other off the beaten path destinations. It’s inspiring, badass, and everything we love about obscure travel. Really, check this one out, guys!
This memoir is a light and easy read, written by three friends in their mid-twenties who leave their corporate jobs in New York to pursue their dream of traveling the world. It takes them to ashrams, hostel hookups, and everything else that falls in between long-term travel.
While it won’t win the Pulitzer and is not one of the most well-written things I’ve read, it’s lighthearted and entertaining.
In a Sunburned Country | Bill Bryson
Known for his hilarious humor and knack for shedding light on traveling to a new place, this award-winning author has perfectly captured the essence of Australia. Bill Bryson tells it all — from dangerous critters, stunning beaches, to the strife and history of the aboriginals.
I enjoyed this book as it really puts a twist and brings a humorous perspective to traveling Australia. His approach is factual, interesting, and really really funny, without resorting to the usual stereotypes of “I’m-from-Australia-and-I-love-beer”.
Into the Wild | Jon Krakauer
Unlike most books turned into movies, I actually loved the film. But the book is as inspiring and gripping.
Krauker walks you through the life of Christopher Johnson McCandless, otherwise known as Alexander Supertramp, who gives away his life savings, burns all form of identification, and travels to the Alaskan wilderness. The book was dark, full of idealism, and moving to a point that it will keep you up at night.
Wild | Cheryl Strayed
Gaining popularity after being recognized in Oprah’s book club, and becoming a New York Times Bestseller, Wild is an honest memoir about how travel can spark change, closure, and a new beginning.
After hitting rock bottom, the author takes on the Pacific Crest Trail, from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon and all the way to Washington State, on a quest to find herself.
Wanderlust | Elizabeth Eaves
Recounting her tales which spans over 15 years of travel across 5 continents, the author speaks honestly about her love of exploration as she finds herself amidst a string of lovers, travel, and the life in the unknown.
I love the honesty that the author conveys as well as the strong voice urging others that it’s okay to live an unconventional life.
Backpacker Business | Nikki Scott
Nikki fondly recounts tales of travel and frustration as she tries to launch a business in Asia — something I can definitely relate too. It’s a good mix of hilarious travel insights which are very relatable (hands up if you’ve been on a chicken bus) and practical business woes.
Marching Powder |Rusty Young
Marching Powder is an interesting read about an English drug smuggler, Thomas McFadden, who was arrested in Bolivia and thrown in San Pedro Prison.
The book gives you a glimpse of prison hierarchy, drugs, and surviving life inside the prison. Everything from the production of top notch cocaine, to how he ended up making a living by giving backpackers tours of the prison.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas | Hunter S. Thompson
Before Hollywood and Johnny Depp made this book popular, it had already been making its rounds as an epic travel book full of tales of adventure and mischief clouded by the flurry of drugs and alcohol.
The book is extremely well-written, and witty, perfectly summing up the recklessness of the character as he searches for the elusive “American dream”.
Turn Right at Machu Picchu | Mark Adams
Travel writer Mark Adams was on a quest to rediscover Machu Picchu, much like Hiram Bingham did 100 years ago. After visiting the place with his son, following the regular tourist trail, he decided to hike, camp, and explore his way through this region.
The book is a good mix of historical facts, timelines, and humor.
Long Way Down | Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman
I loved the first book and enjoyed this one as well. What I love most is that they aren’t pretending to be travel gurus or writers. They are just two down-to-earth people looking for adventure.
This travel book is perfect for anyone who loves motorcycles and exploration.
The Alchemist | Paolo Coelho
One of my favorite travel books of all time, The Alchemist taught me the lesson of listening to your heart and not being afraid to dream. The story revolves around an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel the world.
As cliche as it sounds, it’s a book about self-discovery, spirituality, subtly reminding you of what’s important in life.
Eat, Pray, Love | Elizabeth Gilbert
This much-loved book was made into a movie, and even if you’re familiar with the movie version starring Julia Roberts, the book is worth a read.
Elizabeth Gilbert takes us along on her search for self-discovery across the world. Set in Italy, India, and Bali, she shares her personal struggles and how each country and culture taught her something about herself. Wise, witty, and deeply personal, this book has particularly struck a chord in many women.
Her insightful memoir will inspire you not only to travel, but also to find your own journey to becoming your best self!
Into Thin Air | Jon Krakauer
Want an inside look into an adventure gone wrong? In May 1996, disaster befell mountaineers on Mount Everest as a storm unexpectedly hit. Krakauer himself was on the summit, and this book recounts the catastrophe.
This personal account accurately relays the challenges and emotional struggle of climbing Everest, highlighting just how difficult a proposition it is. The dramatic tension builds when the storm hits, and Krakauer honestly recounts the human errors that led to the loss of life.
Gripping, terrifying at times, and absolutely riveting, this is one of the best books on mountaineering.
Vagabonding | Rolf Potts
If the thought of packing up and leaving to travel for an extended period of time has ever crossed your mind, this is the book for you! Rolf details the joys of slow and long-term travel, and shares his reflections on what he’s learned along the way.
What’s more, there are lots of useful advice on how you can begin your own vagabonding adventure!
Both inspiring and empowering, this is a must-read for anyone who has the yearning to travel long-term.
The Great Railway Bazaar | Paul Theroux
Traveling by rail has its own special charms, and Paul Theroux deftly crafts an engaging story of his own travels in The Great Railway Bazaar. Set in the 1970s, he shares his experiences traveling from Europe to Asia by train in a four-month journey.
This classic travel book is a look back into a time where you’d be traveling without Google Maps, the internet, or tons of guidebooks. Peppered with anecdotes of the people he met and the encounters he had, this book will remind you that travel is as much about meeting people as it is about seeing new places.
The Great Bazaar Railway will make you feel like you’re right there with Theroux, exploring the world in the 1970s.
Under the Tuscan Sun | Frances Mayes
Fall in love with the Italian countryside in Under the Tuscan Sun. If you’ve seen the Hollywood take on this book, you may still want to read this as the movie differs quite a lot.
Frances Mayes paints a beautiful picture of Italy; its sights, sounds, people, and food. You’ll be enticed by her anecdotes of small town life in Italy and its leisurely pace of life. Before the end of the book, you’ll be yearning to visit Tuscany!
An added plus for foodies: there are recipes included so that you can try your hand at making those delicious-sounding dishes!
Seven Years in Tibet | Heinrich Harrer
Set in the 1940s, this classic adventure story follows the experiences of Heinrich Harrer, an Austrian mountaineer who escapes a British internment camp. He ends up in Tibet and becomes tutor to a young Dalai Lama.
It’s a story in two parts. The first is a harrowing tale of escape as Harrer shares the struggles he faced in getting to Lhasa. The second, Harrer’s personal observations about Tibet and its people as well as the Chinese invasion of Tibet.
This book hold valuable insights into a Tibet that no longer exists. Harrer’s love for the country, its culture, and its people will stoke the same feelings in you as well. A must-read.
PS: It’s better than the movie version!
How Not to Travel the World | Lauren Juliff
Told with humor and honesty, this is a courageous tale of a woman facing her fears head on — and living to tell about this! Lauren’s misadventures will make you laugh and cry, and they’re totally relatable for anyone who’s ever been on an extended trip or backpacking.
If you’re in need of some inspiration and motivation to step out of your comfort zone and see all that the world has to offer, this is the travel book for you!
Other Travel Books Worth Mentioning
- The Penguin Lessons | Tom Michell: An uplifting tale about a young teacher and a penguin (yes, a penguin!) that’ll also make you fall in love with Argentina.
- The Art of Travel | Alain Botton: For the moments when you need a reminder on why we travel.
- Medium Raw | Anthony Bourdain: Take a food tour around the world with Bourdain!
- Lands of Lost Borders | Kate Harris: Follow Kate as she spends a year cycling the Silk Road.
- A Walk in the Woods| Bill Bryson: Tag along as Bill and his buddy attempt to conquer the Appalachian Trail.
Hopefully, this list has given you some inspiration to beef up your travel reading list. If you’re looking for travel books for kids, check out this list for more inspiration.
Do you have any other favorite travel books? Let me know in the comments below!
Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out our other articles to get you moving
- Best Adventure Quotes of All Time
- Am I Traveling to Escape Life?
- Why I Choose to Travel the World in my 20’s
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