Travel books are a way of escaping everyday life and discovering new and magical destinations through a novel’s pages. Even from our armchairs, we can be transported to distant lands and capture the smells, sounds, and sights through descriptive words and authentic storytelling.
While guide books (and travel blogs) are a great way to research specific trip details, reading travel books written through the eyes of someone else, whether they be fictional or non-fictional, is an excellent way to inspire you to wander the world.
Explore new places, new experiences, and new adventures and escape to other lands all from the comfort of your own home. Immerse yourself in someone else’s footsteps for a while and soak up their feelings, desires, and wanderlust and make it your own.
Whether you love the intrigue of the Far East and Africa or dream of sipping coffee in the Tuscan countryside, there is a book waiting for you. For those looking for even more adventure, then read about the exploits of writers who have travelled across the world and let yourself live vicariously through their excitement, fear, and intrigue.
Whatever kind of traveller you are, or indeed would like to be, there is a travel book just waiting to inspire you to wander to faraway lands.
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Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts; it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” Anthony Bourdain
If any of my 14 Best Travel Books inspire you to wander, please click the book icons to purchase them on Amazon. Alternatively, if you are considering switching from paperback to Kindle, you can also buy one from Amazon.
The Wrong Way Home by Peter Moore #1
One of my favourite travel books and once I started reading this book, I just couldn’t put it down. It fuelled my desire to travel around the world. A hilarious look at how Peter back-packed from London to his home in Sydney, Australia, encountering all sorts of mishaps and funny experiences on the way.
It’s on the Meter by Paul Archer #2
A humorous true story of 3 friends who decided to buy a London black cab and go on an adventure from England to Australia. Their 43,000-mile trip took them to some of the most dangerous places on earth, but not to be defeated, they circumnavigated the globe and broke two world records in doing so.
The Pants of Perspective by Anna McNuff #3
Conde Nast list Anna as one of the 50 most influential travellers in the world. In her book, she lets us into her world as she runs New Zealand’s 3,000 km long Te Araroa Trail. Her story paints a picture of the New Zealand countryside while allowing us to see her vulnerability as she pushes herself to complete the trail.
Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux #4
The author re-connects with an Africa he last visited in the ’60s now seen through the eyes of Africans he meets on his journey. An adventurous, challenging, and a dangerous solo trip from Cairo to Cape Town and in true Theroux style hard to put down.
Down Under by Bill Bryson #5
You know that you will be entertained as soon as you turn the pages of a Bill Bryson book, and this one is no exception. A travelogue detailing his trip around Australia and the things he sees and the characters he meets on his travels. From the sublime to the ridiculous, you will be smiling all the way and itching to book a ticket to Oz.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho #6
The story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. Santiago’s journey teaches us about listening to our hearts and recognising the opportunity to follow our dreams.
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert #7
From Italy to India and Bali, the author takes us on her real-life discovery journey after a failed relationship. She describes the destinations and characters that she encounters with depth and feeling and transports us with her on her travels — a story of love and understanding and finding yourself through your journey when all else seems futile.
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes #8
The author buys a villa in Tuscany, Italy, and then devotes time, money & energy to remodel and renovate it. The book is about her time in Italy, and her description of the countryside and the characters around her is enchanting. There are even some Italian recipes in the book.
Swahili for the Broken-Hearted by Peter Moore #9
The second book on my list from this author and this time he takes us on a whirlwind tour from Cairo to Cape Town following on from a break-up with his girlfriend. He sets off to find himself but in true Peter Moore style finds he is the centre of some crazy situations such as coming face to face with a wild Hyena with terrible breath, crossing the treacherous Sani Pass, the highest in Africa, narrowly escaping a riot by hiding in a coffin shop and acting as an extra in a WW2 epic. Hilarious.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan #10
I read this book and saw the film version after I had travelled around Asia and loved it. This funny novel is about three super-rich, Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season. If you have enjoyed “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” then you will enjoy this read.
Angels and Demons by Dan Brown #11
Love him or loathe him, for me, Dan Brown is one of my favourite authors as his writing not only has suspense and thrills within it, but all his books are located in cities around the world. By turning the pages of a Dan Brown book, you are transported to historical and religious monuments, are given insights into locations you would not have necessarily even knew existed. It led down a trail of clues that help solve a final riddle. Angels and Demons is set in Rome and Vatican City.
Three Seconds in Bogota by Mark Playne #12
The gripping true story of an English author and his companion who travel around South America on a one-way ticket and try to make some money to get a flight home while stopping in Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, and Bolivia before ending up in Columbia. It is here that they fell into the hands of the Colombian underworld — a story of what to do when things turn sour.
An Elephant in my Kitchen by Francois Anthony #13
If you have ever visited Africa, then you will know the plight of some of the animals. This incredible true story spreads awareness about the horrors of poaching and highlights the courage and bravery of those trying to protect the animals. Francoise left Paris’s comforts to start a reserve “Thula Thula” for the protection of elephants and rhinos, but after the death of her husband, things got very hard for her. One woman’s remarkable story of courage and determination in the face of adversity.
Atlas Obscura by Joshua Foer #14
More a coffee table piece than a “read on the plane” novel, but Atlas Obscura takes us to destinations that offer us curious and strange things to see and do. Photographs, illustrations, maps, and charts highlight the wonderful world we live in with a heap of weird and beautiful destinations for the curious traveller.
One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things. Henry Miller
How to Connect with other Book Lovers
If you feel isolated in your own home, then may I suggest joining a virtual book group or starting one yourself. You only need a few like-minded people and hey presto, you have yourself a friendly group of book lovers.
If you are keen on setting up an online group and are looking for people to join, register on Reading Groups for Everyone. As a registered group, you’ll be updated with the latest book news through monthly newsletters, and will have access to exclusive publisher offers and opportunities. Make sure that you put as much information as you can on your profile (including how your discussion will take place, what kind of books you want to read, etc.) so people can choose the right group for them.
5 Reasons to Join or Start a Travel Book Group
- In times of isolation talking and interacting with others who enjoy the same things as you is very beneficial to your health and wellbeing.
- Reading broadens your horizons.
- When the world heals, we will want to travel again, and maybe you will have found inspiration for your adventure from the pages of a book.
- Books allow you to escape one world and discover another.
- You may get to read travel books that you may not necessarily have considered on your own.