I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t read enough classics. I can’t seem to get around to reading travel staples like Out of Africa, 7 Years in Tibet and Travels with Charley, yet when Brandi Glanville, my favorite Real Housewife, comes out with a new book it’s on my tablet in a week. Priorities have never been in the right order with me.
I’d love to tell you all the most meaningful travel books written, but it’s safe to say I haven’t read all of the best. You’re going to have to google for a few seconds and I’m sure someone else will share. I also won’t be able to tell you about those girly travel books they say you MUST read, because I found ones like Wild and Eat, Pray, Love a little too slow or just not my style.
That being said, I do read often and most of my favorites have been read 10-20 times. Here we go!
The Best Travel Books that will Induce Severe Wanderlust… I’ve warned you.
1. The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
Need a push to follow your dreams? Not sure if home is where the heart is? Can you fall in love anywhere in the world? He’ll tell you all the answers to life in every one of his books. Probably my all-time favorite book after Harry Potter. I was told once that in Brazil, Paulo Coehlo isn’t taken seriously, but the rest of the world looks at him like a philosophical guru; a spiritual warrior of life.
I couldn’t flip one page in this book without stopping and thinking, “wow, that was insightful”. I think half of my favorite quotes are from Coehlo and I’ve read at least half of his books. Here are some of my favorite quotes of his below!
2. The Beach by Alex Garland
I finally gave in an read this after seeing the movie and being at the beach itself, Maya bay in Thailand. Interestingly enough, the author was actually inspired by Goa, my home, as well as Bangkok and Thai islands! That’s what pushed me into reading. The book has a few differences from the movie and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
Some backpackers think it’s showing them in good light, but Alex has made it clear that is not the case. He thinks tourists, travelers, and backpackers are the same thing, as he’s said in interviews. He has quite negative things to say about backpackers in general but that doesn’t bother me; so much of it is spot on.
“And me? I still believe in paradise. But now at least I know it’s not some place you can look for. Because it’s not where you go. It’s how you feel for a moment in your life when you’re a part of something. And if you find that moment… It lasts forever.”
3. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
A fun read, this has been a favorite since I was a little kid. You all know the story but why not give it another go? You’d be surprised how much of it is so much more cleverly written then you would have noticed as a child.
“Alice came to a fork in the road. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked.
‘Where do you want to go?’ responded the Cheshire Cat.
‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered.
‘Then,’ said the Cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”
“Have I gone mad?
I’m afraid so, but let me tell you something, the best people usually are.”
4. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
This one doesn’t need much introduction. If you’re into travel, I’m sure you’ve either read this, seen the movie, or maybe even go by the nickname “supertramp”. I have such admiration for Chris McCandless and could read this over and over. He burnt his money, made his way solo up to the Alaskan wilderness where… well, I won’t say (but things didn’t go as planned.) His famous bus/house is a stopover for backpackers even now.
“It is easy, when you are young, to believe that what you desire is no less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something badly enough, it is your God-given right to have it.”
5. On The Road by Jack Kerouac
This novel has been a favorite of mine since I was about 18. A mix between history, drugs, sex, booze, and hitchhiking, this novel gives us an inside look into the “beat generation” of the 50’s. Oh how things have changed! Lately, they’ve come out with a couple movies about him and his friends like “On the Road” and “Big Sur” (which wasn’t as good).
It’s a strange book because that was a strange time. He was kind of like the first hipster, but cooler. You can’t help but wonder if he’s trying a little too hard. He writes like he talks: fast, like the jazz music they loved during that time.
It’s hard to follow, but every few pages he says a sentence or paragraph that makes you re-read, grab a highlighter, write it down, or even tweet it out as we do in this generation when we read something life-changing. Let Jack take you on his true to life U.S. road trip with his best dude, Dean Moriarty.
6. The Travel Book: A journey through every country in the world by Lonely Planet
One of my two coffee table books. The title is pretty self explanatory, but as well as giving you serious Wanderlust, this book is great for just reading a page a day to learn a little about a new place. I put tabs in the countries I’ve been to and love watching it fill up!
7. Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World by Rita Golden Gelman
I read this book right before my trip to India, which was my first real solo travel trip. I was incredibly inspired by this. Someone who was “living the life” let it go, but it didn’t seem fake, exaggerated, or forced.
Some of her adventures were more like she was an anthropologist and I respected her involvement and willingness to learn. She wasn’t exactly at gap-year age, starting her trip at almost 50 years old. I really related to her thoughts on leaving her family and how to deal with them- it was hard on her, as she left two children (although they were grown).
One quote of hers about females always resonated with me:
8. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
Another childhood favorite, I have an incredible copy of this book that is completely worn in from many reads. Another one where you know the story, this is a great book to re-read. Why not remind yourself how simple the world can be, and how we can all do just want we want… after all, we don’t have forever or do we?.
“To die would be an awfully big adventure.”
“Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.”
9. Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Greatest Trips by the National Geographic Society
This is my other coffee table book and is the ultimate in serving up a desire to see new places. It is less dense on tips, but full of fabulous photos and ideas for your next trip. I already want to order the follow up: Secret Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Best Hidden Travel Gems
The three books I have downloaded and ready to read next are below. I’ll let you know what I think!
In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey by Che Guevera
The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific by J. Maarten Troost
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Great list!! I’m heading to Borneo this weekend and will have a lot of travel time to do some reading so I def will add a few of these to my tablet. You’re going to LOVE “In a Sunburned Country”, it’s one of my favorites and Bill Bryson is the BEST! You should also check out his book “A Walk in the Woods”. So good. Some other travel books I’ve enjoyed recently are “Love With a Chance of Drowning” by Torre Roche and “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. :)
I’ll have to check out those other ones, thanks for the advice! :)
Great list, definitely bound to induce wanderlust :) The Beach really pushed me to explore Southeast Asia more, and for some reason Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman inspired me to discover London. Oh and 1493 (Uncovering the New World Colombus Created) was also really inspiring for me before starting a US roadtrip (and overall travel/ exploration fever) :)
I haven’t read Neverwhere- I’ll have to find that!
Fab list! And I’m so glad I’m not the only one who wasn’t impressed by Eat, Pray, Love. A friend of mine lent it to me as she thought it would be my kind of book (simply because I love to travel) – I couldn’t make it through the first few chapters!
I love On The Road and Tales of a Female Nomad. I also recently read Enduring Cuba by Zoe Bran in preparation for our trip there next year :)
I haven’t heard of the Cuba one- I’ll have to check that out!
Into the wild is SO good. I read it in college and have wanted to go to Alaska ever since (hopefully a bit more safely). I’ve actually never read On the Road but plan on reading it on a some upcoming long train/bus rides. This is a great list and some of them are books that I sort of overlook
I’d also love to go to Alaska! It’s a dream of mine.
This is a great list of classics and things I haven’t heard of…like Tales of a Female Nomad. I can’t believe I haven’t seen that coffee table book from Nat Geo, gotta go find that on Amazon now…
I’m glad you found some new ones to try out! They’re all good :)
Great list! I always appreciate book recommendations, especially if they are travel related. Into the Wild is one of my favourites!
I’m glad you found a few recommendations!
Great post! but what about Around the world in 80 Days by Jules Verne? That is one of the best adventure fiction novels ever written! :)
I haven’t read it! I’ll have to add it to the list.
You’ll love The Sex Lives of Cannibals. Maarten a true traveler, and a very funny guy.
The Rita Gelman book is a great inspiration, ain’t it?
Yes, I love Rita’s book!
Yay, thanks for the list! I’m prepping for a super long flight from California to Indonesia, so I’m looking to put some books on my Kindle! You’re going to love Motorcycle Diaries; it’s a great book :)
Im glad I could help :)
Thank you, thank you Rachel!!! What a Wonderful List! I indeed read The Alchemist some 15 years ago…one of my faves ever! FILLED with lovely quotes to cherish for Life! Travel Books are my favourites, I’m reading ” The Geography of Bliss” right now, by Eric Weiner, NPR Journalist: It’s Fabulous. This Santa Monica girl is currently living in Argentina and this very confusing, too dangerously close to Dictatorship Government has shut down all imports. Only 3 of this book made it in the country ( IN ENGLISH, YAAY !!!!) …and I GOT ONE!!! ;-D You never know what you have at the reach of your fingertips ’til you can’t get it!!! Will be working on getting somehow the Jack Kerouac book, it sounds Wonderful. Big Hug all the way to India!
Yes the quotes in the Alchemist are So great! I hope you can get a hold of On the Road- it’s also very good!
My favourite from your list are Alice in wonderland and into the wild.
Have never really thought of them as travel books but now I do :)
Great! Alice is one of my faves
Guess I have to add more to my reading list! Books kill my budget more than anything else. Great list!
Oooh, I’ve been recommend the Alchemist and have never got around to reading it. That’s definitely next on my reading this, thanks Rachel :)
It’s SUCH a good book!
Nice list full of inspiration! I read “The Alchemist” and I found it very intense and charming. I didn’t read the book but I saw the film “Into the Wild” and it was really something that inspires me, so well done for including it.
Thanks Franca! I love all books by Paulo!
Great list, and I’m completely taken with the images you made. Seriously, I took The Alchemist one and saved it as my screensaver. What program do you use to make them?
wow thanks!! That’s flattering. I just put them in Picasa (an app I downloaded to my mac) and then add text on there! Doesn’t take long at all :)
And I have not read a single one of these! Who am I?! I should probably find and charge my Kindle…
haha that’s okay, I haven’t read any of the “serious” ones!
This is a great list, I agree with you on so many points! Have you seen the film of the motorcycle diaries? Maybe you should read the book first (I haven’t yet), but it’s really good. I’m glad you included Alice in Wonderland. I’m kind of obsessed…
I actually have it on my computer but haven’t watched it yet!
Awesome list. I’m a big fan of Bill Bryson! You should work through his books while on the go.
Good idea :) I’ve heard great things
Great list! I’ve been thinking about buying The Alchemist for absolutely ages and now I’m going to stop procrastinating and actually go buy it!! :)
It’s so great! You’re going to love it.
Love all these! I haven’t read tales of a female nomad, so will definitely check it out.
Yeah it’s good!!
Wow, thanks for the list! I actually own Into the Wild–haven’t read it yet. Got it among a lot of others at a thrift store (as usual). I put the others on my wish list. And I LOVE the pics you put up! Could I share them on my blog and facebook? Of course, I’d be crediting you!
Yes of course you can share!
Now that you’re based in India, you cannot not read Shantaram! =) It’s definitely made it into one of my top three books of best books ever. I thought it captured the magic and romance of India very well coupled with sufficient drama and intrigue.
haha, funny you say that, I’m 3/4 the way through it & have a post coming on books about india!
I cannot wait to run to the book store and grab some of these now!
and the pictures make it to my desktop wallpaper for all that great inspiration they provide!
Enjoy the books & thank you about the photos.. I love making them!
Gotta show some love to my boy Che Guevara and “The Motorcycle Diaries”
Bookmarking this list for my next trip! Great post, and loving all the recommendations in the comments :)