After being grounded for a year, it is time to start dreaming again. The best way I know how to spark my wanderlust is to get inspiration from great travel books.
So, as I countdown the days until the world opens up I want to share some of the best travel books that made me laugh, made me cry, and inspired me to get out and travel around the world.
Best Travel Books to Explore the World
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My favorite travel books cover everything from a life changing experience to overcoming adversity. They make me laugh out loud and inspire me explore the world. These books don’t focus on one theme they focus on many. So get your Kindle ready and start downloading today!
1. Masked Rider by Neil Peart
Many people know him as a massively talented drummer from Rush. But what they do not realize is that Neil Peart was not only one of the greatest drummers in the history of music, he was also an avid cyclist. Sadly, Peart died of cancer, but through his music and travelogue books his genius lives on.
Masked Rider is an honest and undisguised account of his time cycling in West Africa. It’s a must read for anyone who wants to go on a great adventure. Neil Peart lets us see the man behind the rock star and he makes us realize that superstars are people too. Purchase Masked Rider – Neil Peart on Amazon
2. Finding Gobi by Dion Leonard
If you love dogs, this is one of the best adventure travel books you’ll read to make you smile. Ultramarathon runner Dion Leonard traveled to China with one thing on his mind; to finish on the podium of a 155-mile race through the Gobi desert.
Follow the story of Leonard, whose heart is warmed by the persistence of a stray dog that kept pace through heat and exhaustion for 70 miles. See how Leonard is transformed from a focused veteran to a man that gives up what little food he has in his pack to share with the stray dog that he named, Gobi. Buy Finding Gobi – Dion Leonard on Amazon.com to see what happens next
3. American Shaolin by Matthew Polly
A regular American guy, Matthew Polly recounts his time living, studying, and performing with the Shaolin monks in China. This is one bizarre and hilarious travel memoir about fulfilling your dreams. Follow along as Matthew drops out of Princeton to pursue his ambitions of transforming his scrawny physique into that of a kung fu master.
He tells tales of breaking into the secret world of Shaolin Kung Fu which has strange disciplines like “The Iron Crotch” and other various indestructible body parts. Check out American Shaolin – Matthew Polly today.
4. Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan
The movie took the world by storm and it is one of the few travel books that translates to screen beautifully. Peek behind the looking glass of the secretive billionaire families that have more money than Vladimir Putin.
Follow along as Rachel joins her boyfriend in Singapore on a summer holiday only to find out that her humble boyfriend is Asia’s most eligible bachelor and everyone (including his mother) is out to tear them apart. Read Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan now.
5. White Tiger – Aravind Adiga
White Tiger tells of a dirty and unforgiving India, an India that doesn’t allow people to claw their way out of their Caste. It is now a movie on Netflix. I haven’t watched it yet but if it’s good you can be sure I’ll add it to my favorite travel movies.
This is a book that neither of us could put down and a book that we feel is a must read for everyone traveling to India. Those who have spent their time in an Ashram or driving around the country in an organized tour isolated from the truth won’t like it. But, like one review said, “This is the book that India Tourism doesn’t want you to read.” Get White Tiger by Aravind Adiga on Amazon.
6. The Beach by Alex Garland
Let me set one thing straight, I hated the movie The Beach, but I loved the book by Alex Garland. The Beach captures what travel was like in Thailand way back in the 1990s. (trust me, we were there).
The rooms in Thai guesthouses were disgusting, and the streets were filled with backpackers seeking adventure while escaping the world drinking cheap beer. There were still undiscovered coves and beaches that nobody had heard of, and there were probably several drug kingpins running the land.
Visiting Thailand for the first time is still a great adventure and this is a must read anyone going to the land of Smiles for the very first time! The Beach by Alex Garland is available on Amazon.
7. In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
Anything by Bill Bryson is a winner, but my personal favorite memoir by Bryson is “In a Sunburned Country”. This was the first book I read by Bryson and it inspired me to read them all! I laughed out loud.
Written at a time when the world was still getting to know Australia, it shows the quirkiness of the island country and makes you want to book a ticket to see it for yourself. If you pick up any book by Bill Bryson, you won’t be sorry but, In a Sunburned Country is our favorite.
Go Around the World with Bill Bryson:
8. Dave Barry Does Japan
He may be old school, but Dave Barry is hilarious. It was Dave Barry who sparked my love for travel writing and how powerful, funny, and inspiring it could be.
I never thought I’d become a travel writer, but I loved reading about his escapades around the world. He explains Japanese traditions through humor and experiences at karaoke bars, geisha encounters, kabuki theatre, and confusing comedy clubs. Japan is still very confusing even today so it is worth a read. Check out Dave Barry Does Japan and have a great laugh today.
9. Love Africa by Jeffrey Gettleman
Love Africa tells the story of Jeffry Gettleman the East Africa bureau chief for the New York Times. It begins with his first trip to Africa when he volunteered and fell in love with the continent.
But he kept being called back to the United States to his other love, his girlfriend Courtenay who is a criminal defense lawyer. Follow along as he navigates his career as a journalist, to his love for Africa and his true love relationship with Courtenay. We know how Africa can tug at your heart.
Can you have it all? Read follow along on this travel memoir through Africa, because we’re not giving it away. Buy Love Africa by Jeffrey Gettleman on Amazon.
10. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
It’s an oldie but a goodie. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is the story of a shepherd boy named Santiago who sells his flock and purchases a ticket to Tangier, where he is robbed and must work at a shop to find his way home.
He ends up taking a great adventure across the Sahara and after all his adventures, discovers his fortune right back where he started. I read this book before we started traveling full time and it put me in the mood to wander. And to appreciate life. I think the Alchemist was the catalyst to me dreaming about becoming a travel writer and taking the leap to explore the world. Buy the
11. A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
This no-holds-barred autobiography of a child soldier, Ishmael Beah, is gripping. A Long Way Gone tells how an innocent child can be forced into savage warfare in Sierra Leone.
Having lost everything including his family, his home, and his soul, Ishmael tells of his journey to evade the military. For three years he hid in the jungle and half-starved to death. It recounts the fear and despair he felt each day until he was finally captured by the government army.
Hopped up on drugs, he was forced to commit unthinkable acts. This is a story of going to hell and back, living a life of revenge and violence. He was rescued by UNICEF but it was a long and painful rehabilitation. Read A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
12. The Bang Bang Club – Greg Marinovich & Jaoa Silva
Set in Apartheid-Era South Africa, the Bang Bang Club is a true account telling the tale of the four photojournalists that dared to enter the townships and document history as it was happening.
It was written by two of the journalists Greg Marinovich & Jaoa Silva Heartbreaking and shocking, the Bang Bang Club doesn’t hold back when telling of the brutality of that time. The photographers had to come to terms with their own demons and what they witnessed day in and day out as war correspondence reporters. Their photos made history and set new standards, earning a Pulitzer Prize for two of the photographers. Get Your Copy of The Bang Bang Club – Greg Marinovich & Jaoa Silva
13. The Girl in the Picture – Vietnam
During the Vietnam War, photographer Nick Ut captured the shocking photo of children running from a napalm blast. Kim Phuc was the center of that photograph, with her naked body covered in severe burns. It became known as “the photo of the century” winning the Pulitzer Prize
In her own words, Kim tells her story of what happened to “The Girl in the Picture” Read the fascinating tale as she journey’s from Vietnam eventually landing in Canada where she faced many hardships along the way. The Girl in the Picture – Vietnam
14. Touching the Void – Joe Simpson
Joe Simpson recalls his harrowing climb of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes back in 1985 with Simon Yates. Disaster struck after their summit when Joe fell into a crevasse and broke his leg (very badly).
We love adventure travel, but this is an entirely new level. The book stands the test of time as Joe recalls the three days he spent trying to get down the mountain after a near fatal fall and what he had to endure along the say. It was also made into a movie in 2003. Touching the Void – Joe Simpson
15. Into Thin Air – John Krakauer
Many people put “Into the Wild” by Krakauer on their “best of lists”, but I enjoyed “Into Thin Air” more. Maybe it’s the adventurer in me, but reading about those who choose to summit Everest and understanding what it is like to go into the Death Zone is incredible. Krakauer recalls the fateful climb in 1996 where 8 people died.
We’ve been to Mount Everest Base Camp and it was exciting to read about a place that we’ve been and retrace steps through Namche Bazaar, the Tengboche Monks, and the Sherpa monuments to those who have fallen. Into Thin Air – John Krakauer
16. Dark Star Safari – Paul Theroux
Paul Theroux is one of the Greatest Travel writers of our time. And he has written many classics such as Mosquito Coast and the Great Railway Bazaar, but our favorite travel book by Paul Theroux is Dark Star Safari.
Dave and I started our travel adventures cycling from Cairo to Cape Town and Dark Star Safari takes Theroux overland as he revisits the continent. This book took us back to Africa and brought back all the feelings we had – the good, bad, the ugly, the depressing parts that we forget. Dark Star Safari – Paul Theroux
17. Wild – Lost and Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
Adventure travel can be transformational. When taking on a challenge, it is an emotional roller coaster. I’ve definitely been there with negative and productive thoughts and regrets. But as at the end of any grand adventure, it can be healing and you can come out triumphant. Follow along as Cheryl Strayed faces her demons and struggles her way along the Pacific Crest Trail in Wild – Lost and Found on The Pacific Crest Trail. Buy it here.
19. 1,000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz
1,000 Places to See Before You Die is the original brainchild of the talented and wonderful Patricia Schultz. If you have a serious case of wanderlust to travel around the world, buy this travel book by Patricia Schultz. I’ve taken my Sharpie Marker and gone through all the destinations around the globe that she recommends. 1,000 Places to See Before You Die is the world’s best selling travel book. I wish I had thought of this idea.
20. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
I read Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert while traveling through India, so it certainly reminds me of my travels there. It is the real life story of Elizabeth Gilbert finding herself after divorce. I didn’t identify with the India (pray) part of the book since I was there at the time, but I could definitely get on board with eating through Italy and finding love in Bali.
21. Grand Adventures by Alastair Humphreys
Grand Adventures is written by National Geographic Adventurer of the Year Alastair Humphreys. We first heard of Alastair while he was cycling around the world and were inspired so much by him, we followed in his bike peddles to cycling Africa. This book round up the world’s most grand adventures to inspire you to try your own. (We make an appearance or two from one of our adventures around the globe as well.)
22. Concierge Confidential by Michael Fazio
Concierge Confidential by Michael Fazio gives the inside scoop from behind the scenes of the rich and famous. He was New York’s top concierge and he shares stories and secrets from the madness of catering to the elite. From the ridiculous demands to having to get people into anywhere, it’s an at times hilarious read. I wouldn’t want his job for the world, but it is fun to take a peek inside the secret life of a concierge.
23. Ontario Escapes by Jim Buyers
Ontario Escapes is written by Veteran journalist and top travel writer in Canada, Jim Byers. He shares his personal experiences and tips for traveling around Ontario Canada during the time of Covid. As a native Ontario resident, I found so many hidden gems in this book offering great Ontario travel tips and ideas. I love Jim’s writing style as he shares practical information with inspiring personal stories and recommendations.
24. Ultimate Journeys for Two by Mike and Anne Howard
Ultimate Journeys for Two was written by our friends Mike and Anne Howards Mike who are currently on the world’s longest honeymoon. And you can find us in there too talking about Greenland travel! This book gives people travel ideas to inspire couples to go out and see the world and have a great adventure. There are ideas for couples to travel on every continent!
25. How to Travel the World on $50 a Day – Matt Kepnes
How to Travel the World on $50 a Day by Matt Kepnes shares money-saving tips on transportation, food, beverages, accommodation, and airline tickets, it’s the how-to guide for twenty-something budget travelers. Nomadic Matt has parlayed his highly successful travel blog into a best selling travel book on the New York Time’s best sellers list.
If you are looking for good travel guide books while traveling we recommend Lonely Planet. It is still our go-to travel book to help plan our adventures.
So are you ready to go around the globe? What is the best travel adventure you’ve ever read?