Best Travel Books
Travelling opens up the senses like no other experience on earth - and the next best thing to actually going somewhere has to be reading about it. If trekking through the desert on a horse is not your thing, booktrailing might be and could even inspire you to do both.
An author is akin to a travel guide of sorts, taking you to places you may not even have been to before. A journey via a book or even one in your suitcase gives you a chance to see a place in a new light. Of course this works the other way as by buying a book set in the location you are going to, you can learn a lot about its people and culture before you go.
It’s true that travel opens the mind and a person’s horizons but with both combined, you get to immerse yourself even more fully into your destination. Travelling and seeing the world is one thing but booktrailing is quite another and when you combine the two, your world is not only your oyster but your very own book of never ending stories.
Whether you are going travelling, or are keen to be transported to a different place, there are so many books which will have you gripped. There is something magical about reading a book and with the advent of the Kindle you can literally have hundreds of books in the palm of your hand at any one time.
With so many amazing books to choose from we have put together a guide to essential titles you really need to read. Included in our list are books from world famous authors right up to modern day masterpieces you might not have heard about.
Top Tip - Buy a Kindle
Before we get started, if you haven’t already got a Kindle we highly recommend getting one. They are perfect for reading while you’re at home or on your travels and you can find so many different books which you can download quickly and hassle free.
You can have everything you need in the palm of your hands - literally hundreds of books in just one device. This will really help you to save space in your luggage.
There are several different models of Kindle available including:
List of the Top Travel Books in the World
Check out our comprehensive list of the best travel books of all time below. We have included links to Amazon where you can read more information, check reviews or buy paperback, hardback or ebooks.
On the Road (1957) - Jack Kerouac
On the Road is a classic novel by American writer Jack Kerouac, based on the travels of Kerouac and his friends across the USA. It is considered a defining work of the generation, with its protagonists living life against a backdrop of jazz, poetry, and drug use. A must read!
The Beach (1996) – Alex Garland
The Beach is one of the all time classic travel books written by English author Alex Garland in 1996. The book was made into a smash hit film with Leonardo di Caprio and is essential reading especially if you are planning to travel to Thailand.
The story follows Richard, a young backpacker who goes in search of a legendary paradise untouched by tourism inhibited by a community of backpackers. The book has sold millions of copies and is arguably much better than the film. This is one of our top recommendations if you have never read it before.
Into the Wild (1996) – Jon Krakauer
Into the Wild is the true story of American student Christopher McCandless who disillusioned with society gave all his money to charity and went backpacking. The book is uplifting and heart breaking with Christopher travelling around the west-coast of the USA up to Alaska seeking a sense of belonging. We also recommend watching the film which features a fantastic soundtrack from Eddie Vedder, the lead singer of Pearl Jam.
Forrest Gump (1996) - Winston Groom
Everyone has watched the film Forest Gump right? This amazing story is one of the most popular films of all time, but how many people have read the book or even know there was a book before the film? The book is arguably better than the film too, author Winston Groom unravels the story brilliantly and you follow Forest of his adventures in the USA and around the world. If you want a lighthearted book which will really suprise you, then look no further!
The Backpacker (2001) - John Harris
The Backpacker is lesser known compared to books like The Beach, but it is well worth a read, especially if you are a keen traveller. The book is filled with wild adventures in exotic destinations - and is an amazing true story. You will find it hard to keep your wanderlust at bay after reading this book!
Down Under (2000) – Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson is one of the all time best travel writers and there are so many of his book which could make our list. Down Under focuses on Brysons travels through Australia as he shares his observations and funny view of the land down under. This book will appeal to anyone who has ever been to, or is keen to visit Australia.
The Motorcycle Diaries (1952) – Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara
The Motorcycle Diaries is a memoir that traces the early travels of Marxist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, then a 23-year-old medical student, and his friend Alberto Granado, a 29-year-old biochemist. The book follows Guevaras early travels with his friend Alberto Granado through South America by motorcycle and shows how the journey changes his perspective of people, society and the world.
Shantaram (2003) – Gregory David Roberts
Shantaram is a semi-biographical true story about a convicted bank robber in Australia who escapes from prison and travels to India. Shantaram is a compelling read as you see how the main character Roberts finds living in India and you journey on his travels as he aims never to be caught and deported back home. This book will reall inspire you to go India.
The Life of Pi (2001) - Yann Martel
After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains afloat in the Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orang-utan and a Royal Bengal tiger. This sets the scene for one of the most extraordinary and best-loved works of fiction in recent years which has also been made into a blockbuster Hollywood film. This is a great book to get engrossed in.
The Alchemist (1986) – Paulo Coelho
The Alchemist is a book written by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho that was first published in 1988. Originally written in Portuguese, The Alchemist has now been translated into lots of worldwide languages and is a modern classic. This book will make you want to chase your dreams.
Brazil (2013) - Michael Palin
Michael Palin, is a No.1 bestselling author, with excellent books including Himalaya and New Europe. 'Brazil' details Michaels experience travelling around Brazil a country that is now a global superpower. Michael visits the major tourist hotspots like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo but also goes off the beaten track to meet the indigenous Yanomami tribe to learn about their ongoing problems with the gold miners. 'Brazil' offers a fascinating insight into life in Brazil - the culture, people and places.
Travels with Charley (1962) – John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck is one of the all time great American authors and in 1962 he won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Travels with Charley: In Search of America is different to other books he had published and focuses on a 1960's road trip across the United States he took with his poodle, Charley.
Steinbeck aimed to try to understand modern day America and discovered more than he bargained for. If you haven’t heard of this book before, go look it up, you won't regret it.
Around the World in 80 Days (1873) - Jules Verne
Well over 100 years old, this is one of the most favourite travel books of all time. It includes many places such as San Francisco, New York and Egypt to name but a few. This is one of the original adventure books which is still a great read today.
Blood River (2007) – Tim Butcher
Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart is a fascinating book written with courageous by journalist Tim Butcher who was sent to cover Africa in 2000. Tim was keen to recreate H.M. Stanley's famous expedition - but this time do it solo through some dangerous areas of the continent.
Despite warnings, Tim set out for the Congo's eastern border with just a rucksack and some money. He embarks on an epic journey through the Congo on a voyage which is full of bravery in one of the most dangerous places in the world. This is a terrific and underrated book.
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In Patagonia (1977) – Bruce Chatwin
English writer Bruce Chatwin fulfils his childhood dream of travelling to Patagonia in this beautifully written book which is full of wonderful descriptions and intriguing tales. Bruce gets to experience one of the least visited destinations in South America and encounters people who fascinate him. The book is a fantastic adventure.
The Wrong Way Home (1994) – Peter Moore
Peter Moore decided he was going to travel from London to his native Australia without flying and this book documents his travels over the eight months (and twenty-five countries) that followed.
Moore retraces the steps of many who had made the overland journey from London to the East circa 1967 with the knowledge that his funds were painfully inadequate and the chances of actually making it through places like the Balkans, Iran and China were, in a word, slim. He describes the places - and the people he encounters and the book is a great read and very funny at the same time.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974) – Robert M. Pursig
If you haven’t read this book, go read it now. This book caused a sensation when it was first published in 1974.The story of the narrator, his son Chris and their month-long motorcycle odyssey from Minnesota to California profoundly affected an entire generation. Both personal and philosophical, this book is a compelling study of relationships, values, madness and, eventually, enlightenment. This book is really powerful even 40 years on and it will have a profound effect on your life.
Magic Bus (2006) – Rory Maclean
In the 1960s thousands of young travellers, inspired by Kerouac and the Beatles, blazed the 'hippie trail' overland from Istanbul to Kathmandu in search of enlightenment. Rory MacLean decided to retrace the famous 'hippie trail' and shares his experience of visiting India, Nepal, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Magic Bus is creative and brings the hippie trail to life, with perspective of how tourism has development and changed the countries since the 1960s.
Mr Nice (1996) – Howard Marks
Not a convention travel book but a wild story nonetheless. In the 1980s Howard Marks had forty three aliases, eighty nine phone lines and owned twenty five companies throughout the world. At the height of his career he was smuggling huge consignments of drugs, and was in contact with organisations as diverse as MI6, the CIA, the IRA and the Mafia.
Following a worldwide operation by the Drug Enforcement Agency, he was busted and sentenced to twenty-five years in prison at the Terre Haute Penitentiary, Indiana. He was released in April 1995 after serving seven years of his sentence. Told with humour, charm and candour, Mr Nice is Howard Marks own extraordinary story.
Homage to Catalonia (1938) – George Orwell
If you've read "1984" or "Animal Farm", and are a fan of George Orwell then this book will not disappoint. Homage to Catalonia is George Orwell's personal account of his experiences and observations in the Spanish Civil War and is a masterpiece. This is one of Orwell’s best books.
Under the Tuscan Sun (1996) - Frances Mayes
Twenty years ago, travel writer Frances Mayes bought and restored an abandoned villa in the beautiful Tuscan countryside. Under the Tuscan Sun describes the people, markets, food and life in the Italian countryside. If you are keen for a change of scenery this book might give you the impetus. This is a timeless classic and international bestseller which you will love.
Wild (2012) - Cheryl Strayed
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail is the true story of Cheryl Strayed who thought she had lost everything after her mother's death from cancer. Cheryl made the impulsive decision to walk the 1000-mile long path along the Pacific Crest Trail on the west coast of America, alone. Wild quickly became a favourite and is one of the most inspiring books you will read. It has recently been made into a film with Reece Witherspoon playing the lead role.
Marching Powder (2003) - Rusty Young
This book is based on the true story of British-Tanzanian traveller Thomas McFadden turned drug smuggler who was imprisonsed in San Pedro - Bolivia's most notorious prison in La Paz. Marching Powder is a quite terrifying story of how Thomas managed to cope and stay alive amist gangs, drugs and corruption.
Whilst in the 1990's the jail was listed in the Lonely Planet as a tourist attraction and soon people from all around the world were going on tours let by inmates including Thomas. This book is written by Thomas's friend Rusty Young who he met on one of the tours, you will find the story compelling, funny and riveting.
The Great Railway Bazaar (1975) - Paul Theroux
Paul Theroux is one of the best travel writers and the Great Railway Bazaar is a title you must add to your list. In The Great Railway Bazaar, Paul travels through Asia by train sharing his experiences of legendary train routes like the Orient Express, the Khyber Pass Local, the Delhi Mail from Jaipur, the Golden Arrow to Kuala Lumpur, the Hikari Super Express to Kyoto and the Trans-Siberian Express. The book magnificently it describes places, cultures, sights and sounds and really embraces the joys of travelling.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) – Mark Twain
Mark Twain is one of the most iconic American writers and this story follows Huckleberry Finn in an adventure to escape home and his violent drunken father. This book will transport you to a bygone era whilst you travel down the Mississippi River, meeting different characters from slave-hunters, thieves and conmen to feuding aristocrats and even relatives of Tom Sawyer. This is a dark and funny satire that exposes the bigotry and hypocrisy of provincial America during this period.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1869) – Jules Verne
Jules Verne is one of the greatest travel writers of all time and this is his second inclusion in our list. In 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea you go on a voyage with Captain Nemo and his submarine, the Nautilus, as they discover the unknown. This book is really captivating and is one of the all time classic must reads! If you enjoy this book you might also like to read his other book Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
Eat, Pray, Love (2006) - Elizabeth Gilbert
Eat, Pray, Love is a 2006 memoir by American author Elizabeth Gilbert who documents her travels across Italy, India and Indonesia after her divorce. This book will have you engrossed and you might also want to watch the recently released film.
Around The World in Eighty Days (2009) - Michael Palin
Okay, we are slightly biased but we love Michael Palin and the journeys he shares. The pace he travels at, the people he meets and the experiences he shares are amazing. In Around The World In Eighty Days Palin follows the route taken by Phileas Fogg 115 years earlier, visiting so many wonderful places along the way. This book will ignite serious wanderlust!
Notes From a Small Island (1995) - Bill Bryson
Another Bill Bryson book on our list (we really could include all of them! Notes From a Small Island focuses on Bill's travels around Great Britain and his observations of the people, places and culture. This book will appeal to anyone who lives in the UK, has been before or has an interest in visiting. The book is well written, funny and has the classic Bryson style.
The Separation (2013) - Dinah Jefferies
Travelling revives and engages all the senses - The Separation by Dinah Jefferies for example was a fine example of entering 1950's Malaya, now Malaysia - a country often visited but whose history is perhaps not as well known. Dusty history books show facts yet Dinah shows you history from a character’s personal experience and makes it a much more interesting and fascinating introduction to the country.
Slow Train to Guantanamo (2013) - Peter Millar
Some places might be more remote and sometimes inaccessible due to distance and cost but with this book, you can travel unimpeded on a train across Cuba. You will love this very easy to read book especially if you have an interest in travelling to Cuba. Award-winning journalist Peter Millar takes you on a journey with a true reflection of what Cuba is like - the book is informative and insightful.
Do you have any recommendations which we have missed off our list? Let us know in the comments section below.