Posted: 8/16/21 | August 16th, 2021
One of the things I did a lot of this past year was read. (I mean for a while there wasn’t much to do anyway). When I finally hit the road, I read just as much. Buses, ferries, trains — they’re all perfect places to read a book. Happy hour at some random bar in a random city? Another great opportunity to read! Give me a glass of wine and a book and I’m a happy camper.
Since it’s been a while since I last give a list of some of my favorite books, I’d thought I’d share what I’ve read this year that I really loved. (If you want regular updates, we have a monthly book club that you can join, with even more suggestions!)
1. Take More Vacations, by Scott Keyes
Travel expert Scott Keyes. of Scott’s Cheap Flights. explains how to score bargain airfare and improve your trips, so this book is half practical tips and half travel philosophy. Keyes demystifies the entire process of how airfare pricing works, and his strategies for getting cheap flights will apply to you regardless of where you live.
2. Circe, by Madeline Miller
This novel follows the fictionalized life of the Greek goddess Circe. It is a well-written page-turner that spans Greek history. The author really brings Circe to life and creates a complex tale of becoming who you were always meant to be. I highly, highly, highly recommend it! I couldn’t put it down once I picked it up.
3. The Expanse, by James S. A. Corey
This hit Amazon TV show is actually based on a book series. This eight part series (with the ninth and final one coming out in November) follow humans (fractured in people living on Earth, Mar, and “The Belt”) in the near future after discovering an alien portal to systems around the universe. If you love sci-fi and are looking for a good series to pick up, pick this one up. It’s fantastic.
4. Land of Love and Drowning, by Tiphanie Yanique
Set in the US Virgin Islands and taking place through most of the 20th century, this book uses the author’s own family history as well as island history to tell a story that features a lot of magical realism. It took me a few pages to get into it, but it really picks up after the first 20-30 pages. It’s a vibrant, layered read, and I can see why the author won so many awards for it.
5. Breath, by James Nestor
Breath is about how we breathe and how we can improve the quality of our breathing. The book argues that proper breathing can literally solve pretty much all of our health problems. While I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration, there’s still a lot of good information in here on how improving your breathing can reduce allergies (something I struggle with), increase energy, and reduce sleep apnea and snoring.
6. Less, by Andrew Sean Greer
This nonfiction, Pulitzer Prize–winning book follows writer Arthur Less on the eve of his fiftieth birthday. After finding out his lover is getting married to another man, he says yes to number of business trips and workshops and goes traveling the world. (So, I guess, kind of a travel book maybe?) The more I read this book, the more I fell in love with it. And the twist at the end? Wow! You never see it coming!
7. What Doesn’t Kill You: A Life with Chronic Illness, by Tessa Miller
This book — part personal story, part resource for others with chronic illness — chronicles the author’s sudden battle with IBD and Crohn’s. It’s smartly written, informative, and an eye-opening look at the gaping holes and systemic failures of the US medical system. Three in five Americans have some kind of chronic illness and this book goes a long way at understanding their struggies.
8. Deep Work, by Cal Newport
This book is about how to avoid distractions and produce deeper work. While repetitive in some parts (like we get it, avoid distractions), the book does have a lot of great tips on how to do “deep work” and live a less distracted life. Whether you’re looking to improve your workflow, make more time for friends and family, or deepen your hobbies, this book has lots of tips and insights that can help.
9. How I Built This, by Guy Raz
Guy Raz is famous for his podcast How I Built This where he interviews entrepreneurs about how they built their companies. (Check out the one with the founders of Lonely Planet. It’s excellent.) Normally, I hate business books but this one was actually really interesting. Following the “hero’s journey” arc, Raz compiles all the lessons he’s learned into a single book about business. It’s insightful.
10. Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah
When Austin’s Snowpocalypse cut the power, I couldn’t work. So I picked up this book by Trevor Noah about his life in South Africa and ended up reading the entire thing in one day. I found it insightful and educational to read about growing up as apartheid was ending. It gave me a lot of perspective on growing up in South Africa and a deeper appreciation for Trevor Noah himself.
11. The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga
Netflix made a movie about this book by Aravind Adiga (which I haven’t seen). At first, I couldn’t get into this book. I didn’t like the format. Then, suddenly, a day had passed and I was almost done with it. The book grew on me! I The main character, Balram, is an antihero who revels in his self-serving ways as he works to get out of his village in India to become a powerful man.
12. Scotland Beyond the Bagpipes, by Helen Ochyra
Ochyra is a UK travel writer who realized that, despite many visits to Scotland for work, she had never really seen the country. She’d only had been there for quick visits. So, supured by the loss of her monther, she hops in a car and heads off to explore Scotland in depth to get a better sense of the country. This book is funny, easy to read, and full of insights into Scotland (a place I love immensely).
13. The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert
This tale of Alma, a woman living in the 1800s, was so captivating that I couldn’t put it down. It follows her life from birth to old age. The characters are complex, the story of finding one’s place in the world has a few good plot twists, and, obviously, it’s super well written. I loved it.
14. The Queen’s Gambit, by Walter Tevis
After falling in love with the Netflix miniseries (I watched it twice), I decided to pick up the book. It’s a quick and easy read. The show followed the book pretty closely, so if you watched the show, you know what happens. There’s not a lot of differences. But, again, if you liked it on the small screen, you’re also going to love the book.
15. The Yellow House, by Sarah Broom
This memoir traces Broom’s family history in New Orleans, far from Bourbon Street, diving into life in its poor parts and what it was like growing up Black in a city defined by race. She delves into her upbringing, and how Katerina changed not only NOLA but her and her family. It gave me a lot of perspective on the Crescent City.
16. American Kingpin, by Nick Bilton
This book is about Ross Ulbricht, the founder of the Silk Road, a dark-web site that sold drugs, organs, and weapons before being broken up by the FBI. I could not put this book down. Bilton immediately captivates you and draws you into this story of greed, murder, and delusions of grandeur. It’s amazing story of a genius kid who uses his intellgence for evil as well as a story about the power of ego and hubris.
17. L’Appart, by David Lebovitz
Lebovitz is a well-known travel writer who writes prolifically about Paris (and I had the pleasure of meeting while I lived there). In this humorously written, insightful book, he uses his apartment renovation to look at various aspects of French life. He’s like a Parisian Bill Bryson and is able to really peel back the layers of life in Paris.
18. Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This is the story of an immigrant who moves back to Nigeria after studying in the United States. It follows her story, as well that of her college boyfriend, shifting perspectives between them and between life in the US and in Nigeria. It was 600 pages of incredible prose and storytelling that highlights the challenges of moving to a new country and then returning home and trying to fit back in.
19. Mad Travelers, by David Seminera
Mad Travelers follows perpetual nomads — people who try to be the most traveled person in the world and hit every obscure place there is (aka “mad travelers”). The book is also the tale of how one pathological liar conned some of these folks and goes into the psychology of what makes people want to travel the world forever. I enjoyed it a lot; it made me think of what drives me to travel so much.
While the pandemic has been incredibly stressful and challenging for many of us, one of the few silver linings for me is that I’ve been able to read a lot and, for that, I am thankful. So, if you’re looking to pick up a new book, here are some wonderful ones to read!
And, finally, on September 1st, we’re talking to Mark Adams about his phenomenal book Turn Right at Machu Picchu. It’s a free event and part of our monthly book club series. Come join us as we interview him and take your questions (even if you haven’t read the book yet, though there’s time to read it before the event!).
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- SafetyWing (best for nomads)
- World Nomads (most comprehensive)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.