Good books are like life, they do not give up their secrets at once. How often has a book inspired you to travel? Or you have read a book to get acquainted with a place and its people? My love for travel has been fueled by reading books. As a teenager, I used to devour the books by Enid Blyton and my heart always used to fly towards Kirrin Island. But my favourite used to be the books by Satyajit Ray. All the places Feluda, his iconic character visited, I wanted to visit. And the love for books remained and so do my love for travel. So I decided to take the help of a few travel blogger friends about their favourite travel books. And I came up with some unbelievably interesting books. Read on to know the favourite travel books by the travel bloggers. And believe me, once you read them, you will definitely have a serious case of wanderlust.
Table of Contents
- Travels with Charley – John Steinbeck
- Nine Lives – William Dalrymple
- A Geek in Japan – Hector Garcia
- Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer
- The Lost World of Z – David Grann
- Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure – Sarah MacDonald
- The Happy Isles Of Oceania – Paul Theroux
- Wild – Cheryl Strayed
- Eat Pray And Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
- First They Kill My Father – Loung Ung
- Married to a Bedouin – Marguerite van Geldermalsen
- The Pilgrimage – Paulo Coelho
- A Fortune Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East by Tiziano Terzani
- Seven Years in Tibet: My Life Before, During and After – Heinrich Harrer
Travels with Charley – John Steinbeck
Recommended by Roxanna Keyes of Gypsy with a Day Job
John Steinbeck was known for his intimate written portraits of life in America in the mid 20th century. In 1960, he departed his home on Long Island to rediscover the country he had made his career writing about. Driving a pick-up truck with a camper, and a French poodle named Charley, he travels across the northern United States and back across the south. Along the way, he visits National Parks, eats at roadside diners, and makes random acquaintances. He documented this journey in Travels with Charley.
I discovered Travels With Charley by accident and fell in love with the book. Whether or not everything is told as it really happened, does not matter to me as a reader. The book opened my eyes to the character of the US, and the differences between regions. It made me long to discover my own country in a similar way, to experience the “Great American Road Trip.” Steinbeck’s adventure also spurred my interest in travelling solo, and discovering places and people in my own way, while also coming to terms with my life and myself. It is a book best read young, to inspire the joy of fearless adventure and discovery.
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Nine Lives – William Dalrymple
Recommended by Andra Padureanu from Our World to Wander
India is a fascinating place. And I have learned to love it even more through the dozens of books I’ve read about it. However, there is one that has a special place in my heart, Dalrymple’s Nine Lives. I am a huge fan of his, and I think that when reading this book, you can feel his admiration for India. It’s a compilation of nine stories through which the author tries to depict the cultural variety found in India.
From a Buddhist monk and to a Jain nun who explains the sacrifices which she makes and her decision to fast to death, from a dancer from the lowest caste in India to a woman originating from Calcutta living in a cremation ground, to idol makers and a prison warden from Kerala. They are nine Indians, nine people that through Dalrymple’s stories make us understand a world so varied and fascinating. Through their lives and way of living you get to know the problems India is facing, but also the beautiful culture is hidden in this amazing country.
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Nine Lives by William Dalrymple is one of my personal favourites as well!
A Geek in Japan – Hector Garcia
Recommended by Alex Waltner from Swedish Nomad
A Geek in Japan is the perfect book to read before you travel to Japan. It gives an insight into the modern Japanese culture and their many unique fascinations that you won’t find in the western world. It’s written to appeal Westerners who have grown up with series like Pokemon, Nintendo video games, manga and more.
The book highlights the Japanese creativity, and will in some ways prepare you for a different and fascinating experience. The book is not like a story, but rather short form articles that covers many topics. In the book, you’ll see many photos as well.
I like this book because of the unique insights it gives to the Japanese society and culture, which I find very interesting. Japan is my favourite country, and “A Geek in Japan” made me love it even more.
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Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer
Recommended by Jeffrey & Lisanne from Chapter Travel
Into Thin Air is a non-fiction book that retells the Mount Everest disaster of 1996, whereby 8 climbers were caught in a storm and died during attempts to descend from the summit. It was the worst loss of life ever on the mountain on a single day. Jon Krakauer, the writer of the book, was one of the survivors. In Into Thin Air he relives the storm and its aftermath.
Into Thin Air is a must-read for travellers and adventurers. It’s a book that you can’t put down once you start reading, as Krakauer tells the story in such a manner that you feel as if you’re right there with the climbers. Krakauer shares his experience and the personal difficulties he and others went through during the ascent and descent of Mount Everest. Throughout the book, you’ll learn about the struggles that come when you decide to climb Mount Everest. It’s a fascinating, heart-breaking story.
Right after I trekked to Mount Everest Base Camp I read Into Thin Air, making it an even more special book to read. But even if you’ve never done a trek in your life, it’s still a book that will keep you hooked from chapter one!
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The Lost World of Z – David Grann
Recommended by Josh & Sarah from Veggie Vagabonds
I found a dusty copy of the book in a tiny hospedaje in Bolivia. I didn’t have a selection to choose from, as it was the only English novel I had found in quite some time.
The book seemed fitting as it was about the British explorer Percy Fawcett’s misadventures into South America – something I was reenacting at the time. Percy and his son go missing in the Amazon whilst in search of the mythical Lost World of Z. The book recounts their journey and the perils of the Amazon jungle, from disease-ridden mosquitoes to territorial tribal people who are less than happy to see visitors.
The whole book was incredibly immersive and it definitely inspired me to make expeditions of my own. After reading it I then ventured right through the heart of the Amazon overland, all the way from Bolivia to eventually, Rio de Janiero. This saw us hiking through jungle swamps and getting stuck in caiman infested waters and a 9-day journey along the piranha-infested Rio Negra, watching river dolphins and fighting off bird sized mosquitoes!
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Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure – Sarah MacDonald
Recommended by Ingrid Truemper from Second-Half Travels
This funny and poignant travel memoir perfectly encapsulates the beauty and chaos of India from an outsider’s perspective. Australian journalist Sarah MacDonald backpacked around India in her twenties, coming away with a negative first impression of heat, pollution, and squalor. Eleven years later, when her partner is posted to New Delhi, MacDonald reluctantly returns.
Soon after arriving, she falls dangerously ill with double pneumonia; this near-death experience causes her to question her long-held atheism. Left bored and lonely due to her partner’s frequent absences, MacDonald embarks on a first-hand exploration of the numerous religions of India. Her spiritual journey takes her around the country sampling meditation retreats, ashrams, and New Age gurus. Over time, MacDonald’s critical attitude toward India is replaced by a sincere appreciation and love for the country.
A wonderful book to read if you’ve ever visited India, or to prepare for a trip if you haven’t. Her observations and insights into Indian culture are fascinating. I read it before my second trip to India, and her powerful portrait of this extraordinary country has stayed with me.
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The Happy Isles Of Oceania – Paul Theroux
Recommended by Sharon from Simpler & Smarter
In this book, Theroux shares his experience exploring many different and remote Pacific islands – 51 in total over a year. He travels around by plane, boat and, often, in his own collapsible kayak which gets him to places well off the tourist trail.
He opens up a whole new world to the reader that they are unlikely to get to explore first hand as he spends time purposefully trying to get away from it as he recovers from the failure of his marriage.
His internal angst definitely adds a shade of grey to the experiences he portrays in the book and his cynicism of everything at that point in his life comes through. However, it’s also very inspiring and opened my mind to many different travel opportunities that exist out there.
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Wild – Cheryl Strayed
Recommended by Ellis Veen from Backpack Adventures
Wild by Cheryl Strayed was one of the better travel books that I read in the past few years. If you are into hiking this is a must read. The book is about the author’s own journey of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. A long distance hiking path from the border with Mexico along the West coast to the border with Canada. The trail crosses several National Parks where there are no facilities. Food, water and camping gear all have to be carried along.
What touched me about the book is its honesty. The author starts the journey after some difficult events. The book shows how during the hike she is slowly coming to terms with some of the unresolved issues in her life. She is openly writing about past mistakes and how she starts to learn to accept them and forgive herself for it.
These reflections are interwoven with the daily struggles of hiking the path on her own. She is also honest about how she started off naïve and unprepared with way too much gear. But despite the difficulties, one can feel the beauty of the wild nature that she walks through. How we are all connected with something that is bigger than ourselves and that brings our problems in perspective.
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Eat Pray And Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
Recommended by Debjani from The Vagabong
Having a hobo mind and as an evolved vagabond solo traveller over the years, I have realised, that this book and the emotions behind it, have touched me in a way which is “The motto of my travelling life”. Out in this book, the writer goes on to describe the vivid shades of a woman who is in search of her true self. She longs to find the exact purpose of life through experiencing the very aspects of travel and the basics of becoming truly happy.
And, so she begins her journey in the quest by coming out of her comfort zone to find self by giving a worldly pleasure of her already non-existing happy life a miss and instead sets out on a journey to find happiness through knowing a new art in Italy and then getting her spiritual alignment with the eternal one in India and finally towards searching true meaning of love in Bali. Her travel chronicles have beautifully described the emotions, which went behind each day of her experiencing all new things that she had never done before.
As a solo female traveller and as a person, I would strongly connect to it, for I have realised, my passion for travelling is on the same lines to some extent. My journey from a tourist to a traveller to finally stepping into the shoes of a Travel Blogger began with self-discovery about being content through different travel ways.
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First They Kill My Father – Loung Ung
Recommended by Kristin Addis from Be My Travel Muse
This is easily one of the most powerful books I have ever read and is one of the best insights into Cambodia’s troubled past. It helped me appreciate even more the vibrant, smiling people the Cambodians are today. It details the loss, hardship, and ugly realities of the Pol Pot regime from 1975 onward in Cambodia in such a way that brought tears to my eyes more than once while reading.
It wasn’t easy to get through and there were times when my hair was standing straight up on my arms, immersing myself in the story of this remarkable woman’s childhood. For those travelling in Cambodia, understanding the genocide is important to understand how the country has become what it is today.
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Married to a Bedouin – Marguerite van Geldermalsen
Recommended by Elaine and Dave from Show Them the Globe
The sprawling city of Petra, once home to 30,000 people, is a magical place to visit. The rose-red city was carved into the rock face by a nomadic Bedouin tribe who roamed the Arabian Desert and established Petra as a major trading hub.
During our visit to Petra, we were fortunate to come across a book that truly encapsulated the essence of the ancient city. Marguerite van Geldermalsen’s ‘Married to a Bedouin’ is the story of a young New Zealand woman who fell in love with a Bedouin while she was hitchhiking around the Middle East and, instead of returning home, settled into his Bedouin cave. It’s incredible behind the scenes glimpse at what life is like in Petra from the perspective of someone with a traditional New Zealand upbringing who transitioned into a new world.
As we wandered through the Siq, a red sandstone canyon which leads visitors to the Treasury, the pages of the book sprung to life. We felt like we’d been transported to a different world and, having read Married to a Bedouin, could understand a little of what life was like in the caves and tombs of Petra. Not only is it our favourite travel book, it is a must read for anyone planning to visit Petra.
The Pilgrimage – Paulo Coelho
Recommended by Campbell & Alya from Stingy Nomads
I like reading books about places I’m going to visit. Sometimes it happens the other way around, I get a book that tells about something that wasn’t on my bucket list but after reading it I feel like I must go to this place. It has happened to me a couple of times, once with a book by Paulo Coelho The Pilgrimage. I heard a lot about the Camino de Santiago but never really thought about walking it as I prefer hiking in the wild over walking through cities and towns. The book is based on the pilgrimage walk of Coelho when he and his mentor walked the Camino de Santiago, in 1986. It’s a mix of autobiography and fiction with some elements of magic. The novel describes the author’s pilgrimage through northern Spain as his walk progresses his way of thinking and seeing things changes. After reading this book I started thinking about walking the Camino one day and experiencing it myself. The novel is a great read before walking the Camino or during the walk, it might help to overcome the physical and psychological struggles that many people face during the long pilgrimage, 800 km walk.
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A Fortune Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East by Tiziano Terzani
Recommended by Anjali Chawla from Travel Melodies
In 1976, Tizinio, a seasoned Asian Correspondent of Italian origin was warned by a fortune-teller that he must avoid air travel in the year 1993 or he would lose his life. The writer decided to listen to the warning and spent the entire year travelling only by land and water. He traversed through Thailand, Laos, Burma, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Japan, Mongolia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
Along the way, he consulted local seers, fortune-teller, astrologers, and shamans comparing and assessing the accuracy of the predictions. Travelling across the countries made him understand how the modernity has ruined the ancient cultures and traditions. The writer also realized how ditching the airports and choosing the local and crowded buses, trains and boats can help one unclothe the fascinating stories, histories, and cultures of the places. He discovered and rediscovered each country’s individuality and spirit.
Why would I recommend this book to you? Because writer’s astute way of writing is sure to grasp your soul. The book gives an interesting, instructive and entertaining glimpse of Asia. I enjoyed the writer’s offbeat take on travel.
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Seven Years in Tibet: My Life Before, During and After – Heinrich Harrer
Recommended by Amrita & Agni from Tale of 2 Backpackers
There are very few books that not only make you fall in love with a place but also stir you intellectually and spiritually. Tibet, also known as the “Roof of the World” has always been an enigma to the rest of the world. Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer is a record of his seven years spent in Tibet and it makes for a wonderful tale of personal adventure and his interpretation of the beauty and mysticism of Tibet. Harrer, a German was in a British prison camp in India at the outbreak of the World War II. The story starts with his attempts to escape the prison camp and travel through Tibet to reach Japanese lines to be returned to the German forces. He escaped and in course of time reached Lhasa, the forbidden city. He was so intrigued and fascinated with the land and its people, he decided to stay back there. In his seven years of stay at Tibet, he put his talents in many constructive uses to help the Tibetans. He also became the tutor of the 14th Dalai Lama and developed a rare relationship with him. The book is a singular narrative about how Harrer, who thought of himself as an arrogant member of a ‘superior race’ was won by the simplicity of the peace-loving people of Lhasa. The story concludes with the Chinese invasion of Tibet and the Dalai Lama fleeing from the country.
Why would you read this book? This book is not just any personal narrative or an adventure story. The author’s writing will transport you to the forbidden land. With him, you will cross the Tsang Chok-La pass to land in Tibet. You will feel the hair-raising alarm when a bunch of nomadic robbers known for their brutal killings attacks him on his way. And you will definitely develop an understanding and fall in love with Tibet and its people “whose will to live in peace and freedom has won so little sympathy from an indifferent world.”
When I started reading this book, I did not know that I would fall in love with Tibet. This book further led me to read “Freedom in Exile” by the Dalai Lama (It is an autobiography the Dalai Lama) and “Journey of a Spy” by Sarat Chandra Das (It is an day-wise anecdote of Sarat Chandra Das on his visit to Tibet as a spy of the British Government).
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Have you read all these books. If not, get them now and read them. And do let us know what are your favourite travel books.
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