Travel books can definitely inspire the wanderer in you. If you love travel, you will love these books. Some will break your heart, some will make you laugh, and others will give you some information, inspiration and tools to get out and see the world for yourself. In a nutshell, these are the best travel reads offering variety and inspiration to get out and see the world.
The Best Travel Books
We have read a lot of travel books, from the classics to the not so memorable. There are so many to choose from, but where do you start? Many publications have already shared their own lists, but we wanted to think outside the box. You already know the staples like On the Road by Jack Kerouac or Paul Theroux's The Great Railway Bazaar, and we all know Hemingway is the Godfather of travel writing. So, hopefully we can introduce you to some travel books that you may not have thought of before.
We've got a link to every one of them on Amazon so you can download for your Kindle or have the hard copies delivered today!
Neil Peart's Masked Rider – West Africa
Many people know him as a massively talented drummer from Rush, but what they do not realize is that Neil Peart is not only one of the greatest drummers in the history of music, (Rolling Stone has him at #4 in the Greatest Drummers of All time) he is also an avid cyclist. Masked Rider is an honest and undisguised account of his time cycling in West Africa. It is not your average rock legend's journey. He suffers from the usual problems that other poor backpackers face: Disgusting accommodations, heat, exhaustion, personality clashes, and don't forget the inevitable dysentery. Neil Peart lets us see the man behind the rock star and he makes us realize that superstars are people too.
1,000 Places to See Before you Die – Everywhere
If you have a serious case of wanderlust buy this book by Patricia Schultz. I've taken my Sharpie Marker and gone through the destinations she recommends. 1,000 Places to See Before You Die is the world's best selling travel book. We are proud to say we've already visited quite a few recommendations, and she's inspired us to visit many more, like the Elmina Castle in Ghana and tracking the mountain gorilla in Uganda. I wish I had thought of this idea, but it's the original brainchild of the talented and wonderful Patricia Schultz.
Grand Adventures by Alastair Humphreys
National Geographic Adventurer of the Year Alastair Humphreys has rounded up the world's most grand adventures to inspire you to try your own. He has inspired us on many levels. We first heard of Alastair while he was cycling around the world. We were cycling in the Tour d'Afrique from Cairo to Cape Town, and we were honoured when he asked us to share our story in his book! Alastair draws on his 15 years of adventures to share “encouragement, advice, and a polite kick up the backside to overcome a lack of time or money and life’s commitments” and to help you choose your adventure. He shares interviews from 100 other adventurers around the world, including yours truly!
Enjoy our Epic Adventures page
White Tiger by Aravind Adiga – India
If you are looking for the perfect little picture of India and a beautiful homage to its temples and culture, this book is not for you. White Tiger tells of a dirty and unforgiving India, an India that doesn't allow people to claw their way out of their Caste. White Tiger's India doesn't have sympathy for the poor or helpless. This is a book that neither of us could put down and a book that we feel needs to be read by 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.”
Touching the Void – Joe Simpson
Joe Simpson recalls his harrowing climb of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes back in 1985 with Simon Yates. 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. Disaster struck after their summit when Joe fell into a crevasse and broke his leg (very badly). Left for dead, he made his way down the mountain while suffering unbearable pain from a crushed tibia, frost bite, and dehydration. This read will keep you on the edge of your seat.
It was also made into a movie in 2003.
A regular American boy, Matthew Polly recounts his time living, studying, and performing with the Shaolin monks in China. This hilarious read starts with Matthew dropping out of Princeton to pursue his dream of transforming his scrawny physique into that of a kung fu master while sharing some humorous insight into Chinese culture. He tells tales of breaking into the secret world of Shaolin and eventually becoming accepted by his Chinese peers, who study disciplines like the Iron Crotch and other various indestructible body parts.
Concierge Confidential – Michael Fazio
I love this inside scoop from behind the scenes of the rich and famous by Michael Fazio. New York's top concierge shares his 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.
Discover Canada – Leigh McAdam
We first met Leigh while cycling from Cairo to Cape Town down the continent of Africa. She inspired us with her will and drive to push her limits each day. Now a successful travel blogger at Hike Bike Travel, Leigh keeps the adventure going as she treks across Canada, showcasing 100 inspiring outdoor adventures in our home and native land.
For all things Canada check out our Canada Travel Guide
It was our honour to contribute to the foreword of Leigh's book and when we are looking for adventures to have in Canada, we check out this book. It's perfect for Canada's 150th celebration, happening all year long this 2017!
He may be old school, but Dave Barry is hilarious. My friend Dot introduced me to Dave Barry in the 1990s and it was then that my love for travel began. I never thought I'd become a travel writer, but I loved reading about his escapades around the world. Dave Barry Does Japan is my favourite of his books, as he explains Japanese traditions through humour and experiences at karaoke bars, geisha encounters, kabuki theatre and confusing comedy clubs.
Dave Barry is the humour writer I wish I was, but I am content to read his stuff and be happy with where I am.
The Bang Bang Club: Greg Marinovich & Jaoa Silva – South Africa
Set in Apartheid Era South Africa, the Bang Bang Club is a true account telling the tale of the 4 photojournalists that dared to enter the townships and document history as it was happening. 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. They were at the top of their profession with their photographs in demand around the world. Their photos made history and set new standards, achieving two Pulitzer Prizes between them. But it took its toll on each and every one of them, and only 2 men managed to survive this tumultuous time in history.
How to Travel the World on 50 Dollars a Day – Matt Kepnes
For the wannabe backpackers out there, this book offers advice on travel hacking and smart banking, along with tips and tricks to traveling the world while still enjoying some of the finer things in life. Nomadic Matt has parlayed his highly successful travel blog into a best selling travel book on the New York Time's best sellers list. With money saving tips on transportation, food, beverages, accommodation, and airline tickets, it's the how to guide for twenty-something budget travellers.
A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah – Sierra Leone
This no holds barred autobiography of child soldier, Ishmael Beah, is gripping. A Long Way Gone tells how an innocent child can be forced into savage warfare. 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.
I didn't love Eat Pray Love, but many of my friends did and it blew everything away on the best seller lists, so I am not the norm. It is the story of Elizabeth Gilbert finding herself after divorce. It's self indulgent and I hated the part in India, probably because I read it while in India and she gave a sanitized candy version since she spent all her time in an Ashram. But, I do think it is helpful to inspire certain people who have never stepped out of their comfort zone or taken a chance. She travels to Italy for the food, India for meditation and yoga, and finally Indonesia, where the love part of the book comes in. Considering it's her life, it's an amazing experience.
You may like: Our 25 Best Travel Tips after 7 Years on the Road
Break into Travel Writing – Beth Blair
Want to break into travel writing? Well, our good friend Beth Blair has written a book to do just that. She provides specific advice for travel writing for magazines, travel guides, and travel books as well as information on blogging, social media, and websites. You will also see a few words of wisdom from Dave and I in there as well!
Travels by Michael Crichton – Around the World
Who would have thought that the author of such best sellers as Jurassic Park, Rising Sun, and Disclosure could also be such an avid traveller. Travels is one of the best travel books we have ever read. It's a collection of memoirs dating back to Crichton's med school days. He weaves a story through time, blending his life with his travels. It was his retelling of his climb up Mount Kilimanjaro that inspired me to always be truthful when writing about travel. People always forget the bad and only tell the good when they get home from a trip. Travel is tough and it is not always fun, but travel will always be an extraordinary experience.
Travel Between the Lines – Wandertooth Media
Not into reading about travel but want to be inspired? Adult colouring books are all the rage and travel colouring books have joined the fold. Katie and Geoff Matthews have put together illustrations from their own travel photographs that you can colour yourself. There is nothing more relaxing than sitting down and creating a piece of art. I look at colouring as a form of meditation. If you can't sit down and chant “Ohm,” try grabbing a set of markers and daydreaming about far off destinations.
The Beach by Alex Garland – Thailand
Let me set one thing straight, I hated the movie, but I loved the book. The Beach captures what travel was like in Thailand way back in the 1990's. We travelled to Thailand for the first time in 2000 and it was pretty much like it was described in the book. There were still undiscovered coves and beaches and there were probably several drug kingpins running the land. The Beach is a great adventure
The Girl in the Picture – Kim Phuc
The story of Kim Phuc as told in her own words. During the Vietnam War, photographer Nick Ut captured the shocking photo of children running from a napalm blast. Kim was the centre of that photograph, with her naked body covered in severe burns. It became known as the photo of the century and she was known for decades as The Girl in the Picture. She tells her story of what happened next, and what a fascinating tale it is. She takes us to Vietnam, Cuba, and finally Canada.
In a Sunburned Country – Bill Bryson – Australia
Anything by Bill Bryson is a winner, but my personal favourite is In a Sunburned Country. I laughed out loud while reading this book. 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. Read it; you'll fall in love with Australia and have a few good belly laughs in the process.
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
It's an oldie but a goodie. The Alchemist is the story of a shepherd 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. It is an inspiring story urging us to follow our dreams and listen to our hearts. I think the Alchemist was the catalyst to me dreaming about making travel a full time career.
Into Thin Air – John Krakauer
Back in the day I loved reading John Krakauer. Into the Wild was his first book and many people put this book on their best travel books lists, but I enjoyed Into Thin Air better. 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. He recalls the fateful climb in 1996 where 8 people died. It delves into the mistakes that were made and the reasons people put their lives on the line to climb the world's highest mountain. We've been to Mount Everest Base Camp and it's exciting to read about a place that we've been and retrace steps through Namche Bazaar, the Tenboche Monks, and the Sherpa monuments to those who have fallen. It is a tragedy, but it is also a grand adventure.
So what would you add to the list of Best Travel Books? Did your favourite make our list? What books have given you the most travel inspiration?