The best way I know how to spark my wanderlust is to get inspiration from great travel books. My favorite travel books cover everything from a life changing experience to overcoming adversity. They make me laugh out loud and inspire me to explore the world. These books don’t focus on one theme they focus on many. So get your Kindle ready and start downloading today!
Best Travel Books to Explore the World
In this article, we wanted 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.
Disclosure: If you click the links below and make a purchase from Amazon, we do receive a referral commission at no extra cost to you.
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 and travel books his genius lives on. (yes he has more than )
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. I seriously think this is also one of the funnest travel books to read out there. 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.
This is one of the best travel books based in Asia depicting the unique culture of Singaore. 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 was one of those travel books 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). This is one of the first travel books we read that really brought us back. toa place we had been to.
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
Bill Bryson is the king of writing travel books that make you laugh our loud. 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:
- A Walk in the Woods – Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail spanning the Eastern Coast.
- A Stranger to Myself – Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away
- The Best American Travel Writing
- The Road to Little Dribbling – An American in Britain
8. Dave Barry Does Japan
He may be old school when it comes to mentioning travel books and authors, 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 and 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.
At the heart of the book lies Santiago who embarks on a quest to find his true purpose in life. As he encounters a series of characters and navigates the challenges of the journey, Santiago learns valuable lessons about faith and perseverance.
“The Alchemist” is a book that invites readers to reflect on their own lives and aspirations. Coelho’s emphasis on listening to one’s heart, embracing the unknown, and overcoming fear resonate deeply, inspiring readers to question their own paths and pursue their personal legends with courage and determination.
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 for my dream of becoming a travel writer and taking the leap to explore the world. This book taught me that you don’t need to go far to discover the beauty in life. Buy the Alchemist on Amazon
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. It may not belong in your typical travel books listing, but it is something that people should read and know about.
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 surviving 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 journeys from Vietnam eventually landing in Canada where she faced many hardships along the way. This book not only showed me what it was like for Phuc, but taught me about communism in Vietnam and what it took to break away. 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 – Jon Krakauer
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer is a gripping and harrowing firsthand account of the tragic 1996 Mount Everest disaster. As an acclaimed travel writer and mountaineer, Krakauer brings his expertise and storytelling prowess to this unforgettable true story that resonates with readers long after the final page.
Krakauer’s ability to convey the physical and emotional challenges faced by climbers on the world’s highest peak is unparalleled. I couldn’t put this book down. Krakauer captures the essence of the mountaineering experience, immersing readers in the awe-inspiring beauty and perilous nature of Everest that inspired us to visit Everest Base Camp.
Krakauer candidly reflects on his own role and decisions during the ill-fated expedition, providing a raw and introspective narrative that adds depth and authenticity to the book. His vulnerability and willingness to share the emotional toll of the tragedy make the story even more compelling.
We’ve been to Mount Everest Base Camp and it was exciting to read about a place that we’ve been to and retrace steps through Namche Bazaar, the Tengboche Monks, and the Sherpa monuments to those who have fallen. Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer
Into the Wild by John Krakauer
We go directly to another John Krakauer. As a travel writer, Krakauer goes beyond mere adventure storytelling and has a knack for delving into the complexities of human nature and Into the Wild certainly does that.
Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer is a captivating and introspective exploration of the true story of Christopher McCandless, a young man who abandoned civilization to embark on a solitary adventure in the Alaskan wilderness. It begins with a typical road trip across the country and then takes a turn.
Through interviews, personal anecdotes, and McCandless’s own writings, Krakauer pieces together the motivations, struggles, and ideals that led him to seek solace and freedom in the untamed wilderness.examining his desire for self-discovery, his rejection of societal norms, and his yearning for a simpler existence. Krakauer offers insights into the allure of the wild and the inner turmoil of a young man searching for meaning and transcendence.
The book delves into the complexities of McCandless’s character, and Krakauer’s skillful storytelling and introspective analysis allow readers to appreciate the complexities of his subject, even if they do not completely align with McCandless’s actions. Read it now.
16. Dark Star Safari – Paul Theroux
Paul Theroux is one of the Greatest modern 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 but he was on a road trip (not bicycle). This book took us back to Africa and brought back all the feelings we had – the good, bad, the ugly, and the depressing parts that we forget.
Through his vivid account, sharp wit, and introspective reflections he brings to life the people, places, and complexities he encounters along the way from Cairo to Cap Town. From bustling cities to remote villages, readers are transported to the heart of Africa, experiencing the triumphs, hardships, beauty and every day life that define the continent.
What we like about Dark Star Safar, is how he shows the less glamorous aspects of travel. He confronts the realities of poverty, political instability, and cultural clashes, providing a nuanced and balanced perspective of Africa. Through his encounters with locals, aid workers, and fellow travelers, he unveils the complexities and contradictions that exist within each country and challenges common stereotypes. See our Cairo to Cape Town adventures at It All Began in Egypt: Cycling a Continent
Get Dark Star Safari – Paul Theroux on Amazon
17. Wild – From Lost to 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, the struggle can be healing and you can come out triumphant.
One of the most successful travel books (it always is when turned into a movie right?) focuses on the journey of the author along the Pacific Crest Trail while she navigates the physical and emotional challenges of hiking over a thousand miles in search of healing and self-discovery.
At the heart of the book lies Strayed’s emotional and psychological journey. As she grapples with grief, loss, and personal demons, she confronts her own vulnerabilities and gradually finds strength and resilience. Her candid exploration and raw honesty of her past mistakes, relationships, and the complexities of human nature is both relatable and inspiring.
Follow along as Cheryl Strayed faces her demons and struggles her way along the way. You can purchase Wild – Lost and Found on The Pacific Crest Trail. On Amazon here.
18. A Woman Alone: Travel Tales from Around the Globe
A Woman Alone: Travel Tales from Around the Globe is an anthology that celebrates the spirit of solo female travel. Edited by Faith Conlon, Ingrid Emerick, and Christina Henry de Tessan, this collection of personal narratives showcases the empowering and transformative experiences of women who have ventured out into the world on their own.
Solo female travelers will love this travel book. The book features a diverse range of stories from women of various backgrounds and destinations, offering a mosaic of perspectives and travel experiences. From exploring bustling cities to traversing remote landscapes, readers are treated to a rich tapestry of cultures, encounters, and adventures.
The anthology captures the essence of travel, going beyond mere descriptions of destinations to delve into the transformative power of exploration. A Woman Alone: Travel Tales from Around the Globe is an empowering and inspirational read for both seasoned travelers and those dreaming of embarking on their first solo adventure.
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. This travel book makes for a great gift!
Many travelers are always looking for inspiration and there is an endless supply here. 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. If you are a collector of travel books, you need to have this in your library.
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 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. Many travelers love following in the footsteps of Eat Pray Love and why not? Who doesn’t want to run away from it all, find themselves, fall in love and write a book about it?
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 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 in to anywhere possible, 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. One of the more unconventional travel books since it’s from the perspective of the Concierge getting travelers their every whim, it still transports you to another place.
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.
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 there too talking about Greenland travel!
This travel book is more of an account of a bunch of couples giving advice and snippits about a place. Its more of a travel reference giving 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 Times’ best sellers list.
While I’m not sure if you really can travel for $50 a day in today’s world, it is still a good reference for budget travel and budget tips and advice.
26. Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2023
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.
Lonely Planet was once often referenced as “The Bible of Travel.” Dave and I never booked a trip without buying a lonely planet country guide. While travel blogs have taken away a lot of travel guide book revenue, the Lonely Planet is still highly regarded. And you can never Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel series. Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2023 follows the formula of the previous Best in Travel series.
Published annually, Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel showcases the top destinations, experiences, and trends around the world, curated by travel experts. What are the top destinations for 2023? You’ll have to purchase it to find out.
Here’s a cool fact, we named The Planet D after The Lonely Planet in 2007. We were so inspired by the Lonely Planet travel books that when trying to think of a name for our travel blog, we simply took off the lonely, and added a “D” Plus, the Lonely Planet is what inspired me to get into travel writing. It was my dream to write for them one day.
Get the Lonely Planet Best of 2023 on Amazon Here
27. The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain
Mark Twain’s “Innocents Abroad” takes readers on a delightful through Europe and the Holy Land aboard his voyage in a retired Civil War ship (the USS Quaker City). Why do we love it? Well, this travelogue, first published in 1869, offers a unique perspective on the experiences of American tourists during the mid-19th century.
Twain’s witty and satirical writing style shines throughout the book, making it an enjoyable and entertaining read. While the book is primarily a humorous account of his journey, it also delves into deeper themes and critiques of society. Twain reflects on the idiosyncrasies of human nature, the follies of tourism, and the stark contrasts between cultures.
It is worth noting that Innocents Abroad can be a dense read at times, particularly for readers who are not familiar with the historical context or the locations mentioned. Twain occasionally includes lengthy digressions and references to classical literature, which might require additional effort from the reader to fully appreciate. Get it on Amazon
28. Right Turn at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams
Right Turn at Machu Picchu is a travel memoir by Mark Adams that weaves together history, archaeology, and personal discovery as Adams retraces the footsteps of Hiram Bingham III, the explorer who rediscovered the ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.
Blending his own travel experiences and encounters with informative and fascinating insights into the history and culture of the Incas creates an infectious story where readers will find themselves eagerly turning the pages to uncover the secrets of Machu Picchu.
One of the book’s strengths lies in Adams’ ability to convey the awe-inspiring beauty and mystique of the Peruvian landscape. With a modern travel writing tone, Adams transports readers through the rugged terrain, lush jungles, and awe-inspiring ruins that make up the region surrounding Machu Picchu.
It even provides a wealth of historical and archaeological information, offering a deeper understanding of the site’s significance. See reviews and purchase it on Amazon
29. This Contested Land: The Storied Past and Uncertain Future of America’s National Monuments by McKenzie Long
A new addition to our best travel books article is This Contested Land: by Mckenzie Long delves into the history and complex issues surrounding America’s national monuments. (Shall we talk about Mount Rushmore anyone?)
Long sheds light on America’s national monuments including their creation, significance, and the ongoing debates surrounding their management. Through modern travel writing, Long explores the intertwined narratives of nature conservation, cultural preservation, and the conflicting interests that have shaped these sites.
This Contested Land does not shy away from exploring the controversies and conflicts surrounding national monuments. Long examines the various stakeholders involved, including local communities, indigenous groups, environmentalists, and commercial interests. By presenting multiple perspectives, the book encourages readers to contemplate the intricate balance between preservation, public access, and economic development.
This Contested Land serves as a valuable resource for anyone interested in America’s national monuments and the broader debates surrounding land conservation and cultural heritage. Check it out
30. In The Kingdom of Men by Kim Barnes
Kim Barnes takes readers on a mesmerizing journey into the heart of Arabia with her novel, “In The Kingdom of Men.” Set in 1960s Saudi Arabia, Barnes’ paints vivid prose of the desert landscape, transporting readers to a world of contrasts and contradictions in the Middle East. From the vast expanses of sand dunes to the opulent palaces and bustling markets, the setting becomes as much a character as the individuals who navigate its complexities.
The protagonist, Gin McPhee, a young American woman thrown into the unfamiliar Saudi Arabian culture, brings a fresh perspective to the narrative. As she grapples with the oppressive societal norms and her own desires for independence, readers are drawn into her struggle and resilience.
Barnes skillfully explores the clash between tradition and modernity, particularly through the lens of gender dynamics and the stark divide between the Western expatriates and the local Saudi community of the Middle East. She delves into the intricate web of power, politics, and cultural tensions, illuminating the challenges faced by those who seek to bridge these divides. Get it on Amazon
So have these travel books inspired you to go around the globe? What is the best travel adventure you’ve ever read? If you have other travel books to share, leave them in the comments below, we are always looking for good reads.