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25 best travel books that are great for traveling OR will inspire you to travel.
I always ask others what they think the best travel books are, so I decided it was finally time I put my own recommendations out there as well.
I once read a quote that said: “Books are the training weights of the mind”.
Whether it’s a lighthearted story or a heavy book packed with knowledge, books allow your mind to explore, learn, grow, and escape reality.
So for anyone looking for some inspiring books, I wanted to write a list of my favorite books for traveling.
These 25 best travel books earned a place on my list in two ways:
- Some of these books are set in different countries and describe the culture and landscape so well that you feel like you’re there. So these books allow your mind to travel from the comfort of your own home. They also inspire you to travel to those places and see them with your own eyes.
- Some of these books aren’t actually about traveling, but they make great travel companions. These books are so compelling and well-written that they can make hours pass so quickly. Therefore, they are perfect for a long plane, train, or bus ride.
So whether you’re looking for travel inspiration or just an entertaining story to read, here are my top recommendations.
For each book, I’ll include the Amazon links. I usually buy used books from Amazon as they’re much cheaper than new ones and they’re still in decent shape.
25 Best Travel Books
1. The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah
This fictional story of a broken but loving family moving to Alaska is simply beautiful.
While the family deals with their demons they have to learn to deal with the raw, rough, unforgiving Alaskan wilderness.
Kristen Hannah is an incredible writer and this book had me captivated. And now I am dying to travel to Alaska.
Amazon link: The Great Alone
2. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
This story is quite famous and has been turned into a movie. So, most people probably know the tale. It’s about an Indian boy surviving a shipwreck and becoming stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal Tiger.
I absolutely loved the movie. However, the book dives deeper into powerful themes like religion, humanity, survival, animal connections, and the power of storytelling.
This book is entertaining and exciting at surface level, and the themes really make you think.
Amazon Link: Life of Pi
3. Waking Up In Eden by Lucinda Fleeson
Similar to Eat Pray Love, this book is about a woman who abandons her former life in search of freedom.
Fleeson quits her corporate job, sells her stuff, and moves to Kauai, Hawaii to work at the National Botanic Gardens.
You’ll learn a lot about the plants, wildlife, lifestyle, and conservation efforts on this tropical island paradise. Maybe you’ll even feel inspired to travel to Kauai yourself!
Amazon Link: Waking Up In Eden
4. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
This has been one of my favorite books for years. Every time I read it, my urge to travel to Japan only becomes stronger.
Memoirs of a Geisha tells the story of a geisha in Kyoto, Japan during WWII. It is one of the best travel books for Japan, as you get an interesting look into their culture during a different period of history.
Not only is the content about geisha life fascinating, but the language of the narrator is hypnotically beautiful.
Amazon Link: Memoirs of a Geisha
5. On The Road by Jack Kerouac
On The Road is one of the best travel books of all time.
It tells the fictional story of Sal Paradise as he road-trips around North America in the 1950s. He stops in New York, California, Colorado, Virginia, Mexico, and more.
So if you’re wondering what North America was like before the hustle and bustle of modern times, read this book! It showcases the older and slower, more authentic pace of life in a lighthearted way.
Amazon Link: On The Road
6. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
Dan Brown has become my new favorite author. His books are compelling, exciting, and intelligent. And I always feel smarter and more enlightened after I finish one.
The Da Vinci Code is his most famous book, and it absolutely deserves all the hype.
Though it sounds a bit corny, I promise it’s not. Everything in the book is actually fully based on historical fact, and you can tell Brown did his research.
You’ll look at history and religion in an entirely new way after reading this.
Amazon Link: The Da Vinci Code
7. Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
Dan Brown’s second most famous book, Angels and Demons, is actually the prequel to The Da Vinci Code. So I recommend reading this one first.
This story takes place in Italy’s capital city, Rome. Robert Langdon embarks on another twisted religious scavenger hunt through the Eternal City.
This book makes you feel like you are actually in Rome, wildly dashing from landmark to landmark to figure out the mystery.
Although The Da Vinci code movie version was really good, the Angels and Demons movie wasn’t. At least in my opinion. I was just disappointed about all the interesting stuff from the book that they left out of the film.
So I definitely recommend reading the book.
Amazon Link: Angels and Demons
8. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
Surprise! Another Dan Brown book. I’m absolutely hooked, and I won’t stop until I’ve read all his books.
The Lost Symbol is the third book in the Robert Langdon series, and it takes place in Washington D.C.
Again, I learned so much about the history and architecture of the US capital city that blew my mind.
Dan Brown’s books are perfect for long travel journeys; you lose yourself in the story and don’t want to put it down. Next thing you know, 10 hours have passed and all you want to do is keep reading.
Amazon Link: The Lost Symbol
9. When Heaven and Earth Changed Places by Le Ly Hayslip
This heartbreaking but beautiful story is about the struggles of a Vietnamese girl named Le Ly and her Buddhist family during the brutal Vietnam War.
Though there are countless tragedies during the war, Le Ly Hayslip handles them with dignity and grows up into a courageous and compassionate woman.
This book emphasizes how important it is to emerge from tragedy with love and respect, rather than with hatred and anger.
Le Ly chose to grow and learn from her experiences, and she is an inspirational woman who will make you take a closer look at your life and feel grateful for what you have.
Amazon Link: When Heaven and Earth Changed Places
10. The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony
This is one of the best travel books for animal lovers.
It is a true story about Thula Thula Game Reserve in South Africa, which took in a herd of rogue, angry elephants that were in danger of being killed.
Though the elephants were saved from death, the struggle of integrating them into the game reserve becomes an insane challenge.
Anthony describes in detail all the crazy happenings on his game reserve, including encounters with crocodiles, buffalo, rhinos, poachers, and local tribesmen in addition to the wild elephants.
It is an incredible story and will give you a newfound appreciation for the amazing wildlife of Africa.
Amazon Link: The Elephant Whisperer
11. The Edible Atlas by Mina Holland
For people like me who think eating is one of the best parts of traveling, buy this book and learn about international food right from your own kitchen.
With a subtitle of “Around the world in thirty-nine cuisines” Holland’s book describes her travels in different countries all over the world. She focuses on the food culture she experiences and includes plenty of local recipes.
Amazon Link: The Edible Atlas
12. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
In this captivating fictional tale, The Kite Runner author Khaled Hosseini tells a complex story of a family in rural Afghanistan, centering around a young brother and sister.
Once life forces the siblings to separate, the story continues to explore their lives as they grow up, intertwining their lives with the lives of other family members, friends, and acquaintances.
The story moves from Afghanistan to Paris, Greece, and California, and the unbreakable bonds of family remain strong throughout.
Amazon Link: And The Mountains Echoed
13. The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
This classic novel published in 1988 is one of the world’s best travel books that embodies the spirit of adventure.
The story follows a young Andalusian Shepard named Santiago as he journeys overland to the Pyramids of Egypt. The year of the story is unknown, but it definitely takes place before modern times as the only way to travel is by foot, sailboat, or camel.
Even though the story takes place centuries ago, without planes or technology, it showcases the transformative power of travel.
This book inspires me to try more slow travel. To travel overland and have conversations with random people and see the landscape without all the infrastructure.
I think this story is simple yet very powerful, and it is undoubtedly timeless.
Amazon Link: The Alchemist
14. The Outermost House by Henry Beston
If anyone from my high school English class happens to read this article, they’ll be laughing to see this on the list.
The Outermost House is a book describing, in rich detail, Henry Beston’s experience living immersed in nature in Cape Cod, Massachusetts in the early 1900s.
We read this book in high school and our teachers practically worshipped Henry Beston and his infatuation with the wilderness.
I didn’t really appreciate the book back then and it’s very dense, but I love how it captures the beauty of New England and its delicate sand dunes and thriving marshlands and the cold, rugged ocean that roars against its shores.
Amazon Link: The Outermost House
15. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
I’ve read so many war books in my lifetime, and this is one of my favorite ones.
Set in France during WWII, the protagonist of this story is a young blind girl named Marie-Laure LeBlanc who’s father is the master lock keeper at the Museum of Natural History in Paris.
Though the war created wreckage in Marie-Laure’s life, the book is about so much more than just war.
There is a mystical object that goes missing, a young genius Nazi solider with a tumultuous life, and an overall emotional and gripping storyline that makes you want to keep reading.
Amazon Link: All The Light We Cannot See
16. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
No explanation needed. 🙂
Amazon Link if you’ve lived an unfortunate life and don’t already have the whole boxed set from your childhood: Harry Potter Series
17. Abundance by Michael Fine
Though this novel is fiction, it is based on real events so it feels like you are time-traveling back to the Liberian Civil War in the late 20th Century.
Honestly, I didn’t even know that Liberia had a civil war, but regardless of my own ignorance I learned quite a bit from this book.
Love, survival, life’s purpose, and lots of brutalities are scattered throughout this book, which makes it a thrilling read.
Amazon Link: Abundance
18. Self Inflicted by Jeffrey Thornton
This “metaphysical thriller” isn’t what I normally read, but I have loved this book for years and re-read it many times.
The story involves the invention of a sensory deprivation tank that actually allows one’s mind to travel back to their past lives and live in their past bodies.
There is a murder mystery involved as one of the characters tries to manipulate the concept of “karma” by traveling to his past lives and changing events.
It is fascinating to follow the characters as they travel back to their same souls in places like Ancient Egypt and the days of hunter-gatherers.
Amazon Link: Self-Inflicted
19. Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard
Yvon Chouinard is the founder and owner of Patagonia, the famous activewear company that produces high quality and sustainable outdoor gear.
This book tells his story before and during the creation of Patagonia. He never planned to create a huge worldwide business, hence the book’s subtitle, “The education of a reluctant businessman”.
All Chouinard wanted to do was hike, climb, surf, and create useful products for his fellow athletes and wildlife enthusiasts, but Patagonia grew exponentially.
Despite this growth, Chouinard has continued to promote the values that started the company: respect for the environment and living a sustainable, eco-friendly lifestyle.
This book provides insight into what it takes to run a business, and more importantly, how to do it sustainably. If more business owners follow Chouinard’s lead, the planet may just have the chance to heal itself.
Amazon Link: Let My People Go Surfing
20. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin S. Sharma
I still haven’t actually read this, but my boyfriend absolutely praises this book so I thought I’d mention it.
As you can probably guess from the title, this story is about a hard-working man in the corporate world who goes through a physical, emotional, and spiritual transformation and sells his expensive possessions in pursuit of enlightenment.
I think this story will be inspirational to all, especially those who think they may have an unhealthy reliance on material things.
Amazon Link: The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari
21. London: A Travel Guide Through Time by Matthew Green
With this book, Historian Matthew Green tells the turbulent and iconic history of London in an accessible and funny way.
He describes the city so well that you feel like you are actually there, and if you’ve traveled to London before you can picture the sights that he talks about.
You get to time travel back to London during the Shakespeare era, the medieval era, the age of the black plague, the Victorian era, and the London of the Blitz during WWI.
Amazon Link: London: A Travel Guide Through Time
22. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Set in 1960s Mississippi, this book tells the story of African American women working for wealthy white families.
This book became famous when the movie hit theaters in 2011, and the story is just as riveting on screen as it is on paper.
The story takes places in turbulent times, when social justice and racial equality were fought upon every single day. But the charisma and personality of the characters help reveal the power of friendship, humor, and determination in this troubling period.
Amazon link: The Help
23. Marching Powder by Rusty Young
Marching Powder is the true story of British-Tanzanian drug-smuggler, Thomas McFadden, who got caught with cocaine in his luggage at La Paz Airport and was forced to spend years in the interesting and gruesome San Pedro Prison in Bolivia.
Over time, McFadden adapted to life in the prison and started hosting tours for tourists so they could see what life was like in there.
Australian Rusty Young was backpacking in South America at the time and decided to record McFadden’s story for the world to read.
Amazon Link: Marching Powder
24. Written In History by Simon Sebag Montefiore
Subtitled “Letters That Changed The World”, this book is great for lovers of history and culture.
Exactly as the subtitle suggests, this book is filled with real letters written by famous figures throughout history.
There are letters between Kings and their mistresses, famous artists and their muses, ancient Pharaohs and their neighbors, world explorers and their home governments, ruthless dictators and their families, and much more.
It is absolutely fascinating to see the actual words written by these people that ended up changing the course of history.
Amazon Link: Written In History
25. Horseshoes and Hand Grenades by S.M. Stevens
This book isn’t necessarily about traveling, unless you are time traveling back to Boston in the 1980s.
But my very own mother wrote this book and I think it is amazing. The themes of this book are so relevant today and it sends a powerful message so I wanted to include it on this list.
Horseshoes and Hand Grenades follows two young women working in Boston as they both deal with different forms of sexual abuse.
The story is lighthearted and fun to read despite the heavy topics, and it sheds light on what sexual harassment victims may go through so it is quite eye-opening.
Amazon Link: Horseshoes and Hand Grenades
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