I think an important part of traveling is reading good travel books. And by travel books, I don’t mean Lonely Planet guides or step-by-step manuals on finding “the 3 best coffee shops in Paris.” Ugh. I mean books that give raw, honest accounts of actual boots-on-the-ground experience by someone who has journeyed to a new place and has an interesting story to tell.
Reading books about travel helps me understand how to prepare for travel, learn more about the mental game of travel, and open my mind to what kinds of experiences await me someday in the future as I explore. Over the years, I have read a LOT of books on traveling: some are fantastic, some are just okay, and some are pretty bad.
Based on my experience, I decided to create a list of some of my favorite travel books. You might look at some of these titles and think: “Huh? That isn’t a travel book, why did he list it here?” — trust me, if it’s on this list, it’s because it’s worthwhile. What I’ve found is that a lot of books that embody all the values and goals of travel aren’t necessarily “travel books” per se.
Sometimes they’re just memoirs from someone who traveled a lot in their lifetime, and I thought that the accounts of their experience were worth putting in this list. Sometimes, they’re fictional novels, but have enough relevant content to the travel-minded individual that I think they’re worth sharing because they’ll inspire you to seek new adventures in real life. And, of course, many times even fictional books are based heavily on real-life experience by the authors, who decided to create stories with some truth and some embellishment.
So, having said all that, here’s a list of books I recommend based on travel and exploration:
List of The Best Travel Books I’ve Read
- The Man Who Would Be King – Rudyard Kipling
- Adventures in the Unknown Interior of America – Alvar Nunez Cabeza De Vaca
- In a Sunburned Country – Bill Bryson
- A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail – Bill Bryson
- I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away – Bill Bryson
- Neither here nor there: Travels in Europe – Bill Bryson
- The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris – John Baxter
- Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
- The Wonder Trail: True Stories from Los Angeles to the End of the World – Steve Hely
- In Tuscany – Frances Mayes
- The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA – Doug Mack
- The Mosquito Coast – Paul Theroux
- Sailing Alone around the World – Joshua Slocum
- Travels with Charley in Search of America – John Steinbeck
- Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
- The Long Haul: A Trucker’s Tales of Life on the Road Paperback – Finn Murphy
- Braving It: A Father, a Daughter, and an Unforgettable Journey into the Alaskan Wild – James Campbell
- Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?: A Swashbuckling Tale of High Adventures, Questionable Ethics, and Professional Hedonism – Thomas Kohnstamm
- A Year in the Merde – Stephen Clarke
- Travel as a Political Act – Rick Steves
- Lost in My Own Backyard: A Walk in Yellowstone National Park – Tim Cahill
- Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road – Neil Peart
- Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift
- The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
- Life on the Mississippi – Mark Twain
- Around the World in 80 Days – Jules Verne
In addition to this list, I also have a list of the best travel movies I’ve seen.
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