Last Updated: 10/29/23 | October 29th, 2023
The end of the year is just that time for favorites lists – and I’ve written about the best travel books many times over! I love talking about travel books. Why? Because part of the tool belt of any traveler is a good book. Long bus, train, or plane rides can get pretty boring and can give you a lot of “dead” time if you haven’t mastered the art of the 10-hour blank stare. Additionally, reading travel books helps you learn about the destinations you are visiting. The more you know about a place, the more you can understand a place.
I am a voracious reader and even used to have a book club on this website where I shared all the books I read. Today is another one of those days where I share some of the books I’ve read recently! If you’re looking for some great reads, here are my current list of the best travel books to inspire you to travel to far-off lands:
1. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
A books about following your dreams, this is one of the most-read books in recent history. The story follows a young shepherd boy from Spain to Egypt as he follows his heart, goes with the flow, and learns love and the meaning of life. The book is filled with wonderful and inspirational quotes. My favorite: “If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man… Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living right now.” I can’t recommend this book enough.
2. Love With a Chance of Drowning, by Torre DeRoche
This book is written by travel blogger Torre DeRoche. While I’m normally not a huge fan of “travel love stories” I actually couldn’t put this book down. It’s a beautifully written book about overcoming her fear of the ocean to sail across the Pacific with her boyfriend. The way she describes the scenery, the people, and her experience makes me want to follow in her footsteps. It’s powerful, vivid, and moving. It’s also the best travel book I’ve read all year.
3. The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca by Tahir Shah
Inspired by the Moroccan vacations of his childhood, Shah decides to buy a house in Casablanca. He moves his family from England in hopes of breaking out from the monotony of life in London as well as exposing his children to a more carefree childhood. While dealing with corruption, the local bureaucracy, thieves, gangsters, jinns causing havoc, and the hassle that seems to come with even the most simple interactions, Shah weaves a story that is simply one of the best I’ve read all year. It’s endlessly enthralling.
4. On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
Written in 1957, Jack Kerouac’s Beat Generation classic is a timeless travel novel. The story follows his character, Sal, as he leaves New York City and heads west, riding the rails, making friends, and partying the night away. The main character’s frustration and desire to see the world are themes that can resonate with many of us. What I especially love about On the Road is that through all his travel adventures, he becomes a better, stronger, and more confident person — something I can personally resonate with.
5. Looking for Transwonderland, by Noo Saro-Wiwa
This was one of the best travel books I’ve read in recent memory. I absolutely loved it. British author Noo Saro-Wiwa returns to her Nigerian homeland to learn more about her heritage, country, and her father (who was executed in 1995 in Nigeria for protesting against the government). It’s filled with vivid descriptions, engaging prose, and wonderful dialogue that gives a lot of insight into the culture and diversity of Nigeria, a country I’ve yet to visit. It’s a must-read.
6. The Lost City of Z, by David Grann
This book seeks to find out what happened to Percy Fawcett, an adventurer and explorer who trekked through the Amazon jungle in search of the fabled lost city of Z. Blending history, biography, and travelogue, Grann intermingles information about Percy’s life and expeditions with the science behind the myth of Z and the possibility that there could have been vast advanced civilizations in the Amazon that we have yet to discover. I learned a lot about the region and history of the cultures that inhabited the land long before Westerners arrived.
7. The Beach, by Alex Garland
Besides The Alchemist, this is probably my favorite travel book. (I like the movie too, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio, but the book is way better.) Focused on a group of backpackers, what I love about Garland’s tale and their search for the ultimate backpacker paradise is that many of us can identify with Richard and his quest to “do something different and get off the beaten path.” Yet in the end we often realize that very quest is an illusion. It’s a fun, page-turning tale about how backpackers’ search for the “ideal destination” can end up ruining that ideal. I love this book a lot!!
8. Vagabonding, by Rolf Potts
Written by the godfather of vagabonding, Rolf Potts, this book is a must-read for those new to long-term travel. Rolf spent 10 years on the road (he even walked across Israel), and his book contains valuable insights, interesting quotes, and a lot of practical information. From saving to planning to life on the road, this is a must for newbies. It’s an inspirational book and one that really affected me when I was planning my trip. It delves into the why and philosophy of long-term travel that no other book has come close to doing.
9. In A Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson
It’s hard to pick just one book by Bill Bryson because they’re all great. He’s one of the most prolific and recognized names in travel writing. This book chronicles a journey through Australia and takes you from east to west, through tiny little mining towns, forgotten coastal cities, and off-the-beaten-path forests. Bryson includes lots of trivia in his tale as he travels around in awe — and sometimes in fear (thanks to box jellyfish, crocs, spiders, and snakes) — of this enormous country. This is the book that inspired me to go to Australia.
10. Dispatches from Pluto, by Richard Grant
As a big fan of the state of Mississippi, I was excited to read this book, in which English writer Richard Grant and his girlfriend move to rural Pluto, Mississippi. Their aims are to live a better life, escape the big city, lower their cost of living, and try something new. Along the way, they learn to hunt, garden, fend off wild animals, handle snakes, and befriend some interesting characters too. Grant dives into the contradictions of this state, from race relations and class to education, food, and family.
11. Turn Right at Machu Picchu, by Mark Adams
This book recounts Adams’s tale of roughing it through Peru in search of Inca ruins and ancient cities while following archaeologist Hiram Bingham’s original route to the famed Machu Picchu. The book taught me a lot about Peru, and I am inspired to visit a lot of the sites Adams explored on my trip there next year. Like him, I fully plan to turn right. It was the best travelogue I’ve read in the past year and has inspired me to visit a lot of the places he did in the book whenever I finally make it down to Peru!
12. A Year of Living Danishly, by Helen Russell
This was probably my favorite book I read that year. When her husband gets a job at the Lego offices in Jutland, Helen Russell decides to head to Denmark with him, freelance write, and try to figure out why the Danes are so happy. From childcare, education, food, and interior design to taxes, sexism, and everything in between (turns out the Danes love to burn witches), Helen’s funny, poignant story kept me enthralled from start to finish. It’s informative, hilarious, self-deprecating, and tells a great story of someone trying to fit in.
13. The Art of Travel, by Alain de Botton
A departure from travel books where the author recounts their adventures on the road, this book examines the why of travel. Why do we travel? What drives us? Botton delves into every aspect of travel, from the journey to the destination to the return home. His sophisticated prose and vivid imagery sucks you in as he examines the mundane, the beautiful, and the wondrous. It’s one of the most thought-provoking travel books I’ve read.
14. From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home, by Tembi Locke
Recently made into a captivating Netflix series, this New York Times bestseller tells a powerful tale of love, grief, and resilience. Estranged for years from her husband’s Italian family, the author connects with them on the island of Sicily after his death. There, she discovers the unexpected healing powers of food and family as she reflects on their romance and life together. The powerful imagery and emotion of this book made me tear up so many times. It’s an incredible read.
BONUS: Ten Years a Nomad: A Traveler’s Journey Home, by me!
Ten Years a Nomad is my memoir, focused on a decade of travel and backpacking. In it I share my philosophy on travel, the lessons I’ve learned (that can help you travel better), and the reality of long-term travel. Prepare to take a trip around the world from start to finish, from getting the travel bug, to planning and setting off, to all the the highs and lows that come from nomadic life. I poured my heart into this book, my opus on travel. In it you’ll find all my best stories too!
Books about travel inspire us to go visit far-off lands and imagine us doing incredible things. Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country inspired me to visit Australia! I hope these travel books inspire you to travel the world and feed your wanderlust. If you have any suggestions that I can add to this best travel books list, leave them in the comments.
If you’d like to see some of the other books I’ve recommended (or are currently reading), check out this page I created on Amazon that lists them all!
You can also find them listed in our Bookshop store, which helps support locally-owned bookstores. If you’re in the US, click here to check out my Bookshop store!
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being 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 it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and 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. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- SafetyWing (best for everyone)
- Insure My Trip (for those 70 and over)
- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
Want to Travel for Free?
Travel credit cards allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for free flights and accommodation — all without any extra spending. Check out my guide to picking the right card and my current favorites to get started and see the latest best deals.
Need Help Finding Activities for Your Trip?
Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace where you can find cool walking tours, fun excursions, skip-the-line tickets, private guides, and more.
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.