Something about travel lends itself to reading. Sitting on a long train ride, waiting in an airport, curled up in bed or sprawled out on the beach, a good book is always the best travel companion. Those books you read on the road can stay with you forever, a reminder of a point in time and if you’re lucky, the much-needed inspiration for change. Some books will challenge us, others will urge us in new directions or simply make us laugh. In those times when you can’t travel, a truly great book can take you far away with each turn of the page. To help you get your fill of good travel books, here are 14 of the very best travel books to read right now.
Ascent by Chris Bonington
Sir Chris Bonington’s memoir, Ascent, will chart not only his many triumphs in the climbing world – such as the Eiger, and the Himalaya – but also the struggles he has faced in his life bringing up a family, and maintaining a successful and loving marriage over the decades of travelling the world to conquer mountains.
He has undertaken nineteen Himalayan expeditions, including four to Mount Everest which he climbed in 1985 at the age of fifty, and has made many first ascents in the Alps and greater ranges of the world. Along the way, we will be fascinated by his many daring climbs, near-death adventures, and the many luminaries of the mountain fraternity he has climbed with, and in some cases – witness their deaths on the rock.
Generation Kill by Evan Wright
Within hours of 9/11, America’s war on terrorism fell to those like the 23 Marines of the First Recon Battalion, the first generation dispatched into open-ed combat since Vietnam. They were a new breed of American warrior unrecognizable to their forebears-soldiers raised on hip-hop, Internet porn, Marilyn Manson, video games and The Real World, a band of born-again Christians, dopers, Buddhists, and New Agers who gleaned their precepts from kung fu movies and Oprah Winfrey. Cocky, brave, headstrong, wary, and mostly unprepared for the physical, emotional, and moral horrors ahead, the “First Suicide Battalion” would spearhead the blitzkrieg on Iraq, and fight against the hardest resistance Saddam had to offer.
Cocky, brave, headstrong, wary, and mostly unprepared for the physical, emotional, and moral horrors ahead, the “First Suicide Battalion” would spearhead the blitzkrieg on Iraq, and fight against the hardest resistance Saddam had to offer. Generation Kill is the funny, frightening, and profane firsthand account of these remarkable men, of the personal toll of victory, and of the randomness, brutality, and camaraderie of a new American war.
The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World: Love, Loss, and Other Catastrophes–through Italy, India, and Beyond by Torre DeRoche
A funny and heartwarming story of one woman’s attempt to walk off a lifetime of fear–with a soulmate, bad shoes, and lots of wine. Torre DeRoche is at rock bottom following a breakup and her father’s death when she crosses paths with the goofy and spirited Masha, who is pursuing her dream of walking the world. When Masha invites Torre to join her pilgrimage through Tuscany–drinking wine, foraging wild berries, and twirling on hillsides–Torre straps on a pair of flimsy street shoes and gets rambling.
But the magical hills of Italy are nothing like the dusty and merciless roads of India where the pair wind up, improvising a pilgrimage in the footsteps of Gandhi along with his march to the seaside. Hoping to catch the nobleman’s fearlessness by osmosis and end the journey as wise, svelte, and kick-ass warriors, they are instead unravelled by worry that this might be one adventure too far. Coming face-to-face with their worst fears, they discover the power of friendship to save us from our darkest moments.
A Paris Year by Janice MacLeod
There are many guidebooks to Paris, but the gorgeously illustrated ‘A Paris Year’ is a guidebook not just for those walking the streets of the City of Light but for the armchair traveller, the dreamer, the person who has been to Paris and wants to reminisce. When Janice MacLeod arrived in Paris, she brought her talents for writing, illustration and photography with her. She also met Christophe, who became her reason to stay in Paris.
In the book, Janice charts the moods, changes and charms of Paris through her words, paintings and photos. The book is set over the course of a calendar year and it covers food, buildings, historical figures, places of interest and local characters. There is Hemingway, Robespierre, the author’s local boulangerie, flea markets, what Paris is like when the locals come home after la rentree, and a handy cheat sheet to help you distinguish Napoleon B from Napoleon III; there is macaron day and Le Bon Marche. In short: all the details of Paris that make the city unique and captivating.
What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding: A Memoir by Kristin Newman
A funny, sexy, and ultimately poignant memoir about mastering the art of the “vacationship.”
Kristin Newman spent much of her twenties and thirties buying dresses to wear to her friends’ weddings and baby showers. Not ready to settle down and in need of an escape from her fast-paced job as a sitcom writer, Kristin instead travelled the world, often alone, for several weeks each year. In addition to falling madly in love with the planet, Kristin fell for many attractive locals, men who could provide the emotional connection she wanted without costing her the freedom she desperately needed.
Kristin introduces readers to the Israeli bartenders, Finnish poker players, sexy Bedouins, and Argentinean priests who helped her transform into “Kristin-Adjacent” on the road–a slower, softer, and, yes, sluttier version of herself at home. Equal parts laugh-out-loud storytelling, candid reflection, and wanderlust-inspiring travel tales, What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding is a compelling debut that will have readers rushing to renew their passports.
Momofuku by David Chang
Never before has there been a phenomenon like Momofuku. A once-unrecognizable word, it’s now synonymous with the award-winning restaurants of the same name in New York City: Momofuku Noodle Bar, Ssam Bar, Ko, and Milk Bar. Chef David Chang has single-handedly revolutionized cooking in America with his use of bold Asian flavors and impeccable ingredients, his mastery of the humble ramen noodle, and his thorough devotion to pork.
Momofuku is both the story and the recipes behind the cuisine that has changed the modern-day culinary landscape. Chang relays with candour the tale of his unwitting rise to superstardom, which, though wracked with mishaps, happened at light speed. And the dishes shared in this book are coveted by all who’ve dined or yearned to at any Momofuku location (yes, the pork buns are here). This is a must-read for anyone who truly enjoys food
The Lost Executioner by Nic Dunlop
In Cambodia, between 1975 and 1979, some two million people died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. Twenty years later, not one member had been held accountable for the genocide. Haunted by an image of one of them, Comrade Duch, photographer Nic Dunlop set out to bring him to life, and thereby to account. “I needed to understand how a movement that laid claim to a vision of a better world could instead produce a revolution of unparalleled ferocity; how a seemingly ordinary man from one of the poorer parts of Cambodia could turn into one of the worst mass murderers of the twentieth century:”Weaving seamlessly between past and present, Dunlop unfolds the history of Cambodia as a lens through which to understand its tragic last forty years.
All Over the Place: Adventures in Travel, True Love, and Petty Theft by Geraldine DeRuiter
Some people are meant to travel the globe, to unwrap its secrets and share them with the world. And some people have no sense of direction, are terrified of pigeons, and get motion sickness from tying their shoes. These people are meant to stay home and eat nachos. Geraldine DeRuiter is the latter. But she won’t let that stop her.
Hilarious, irreverent, and heartfelt, All Over the Place chronicles the years Geraldine spent travelling the world after getting laid off from a job she loved. Those years taught her a great number of things, though the ability to read a map was not one of them. She has only a vague idea of where Russia is, but she now understands her Russian father better than ever before. She learned that what she thought was her mother’s functional insanity was actually an equally incurable condition called “being Italian.” She learned what it’s like to travel the world with someone you already know and love–how that person can help you make sense of things and make far-off places feel like home. She learned about unemployment and brain tumours, lost luggage and lost opportunities, and just getting lost in countless terminals and cabs and hotel lobbies across the globe. And she learned that sometimes you can find yourself exactly where you need to be–even if you aren’t quite sure where you are.
Sahara by Paula Constant
Having walked more than 3,000 miles from Trafalgar Square to Morocco, Paula Constant finds herself at the westernmost edge of the Sahara Desert–and the brink of sanity.
Sahara is the story of Paula’s struggle to overcome her innermost demons and take control of her journey, her camels, and the men she hires to guide her through one of the planet’s most extreme regions. Illness, landmines, and political red tape stand between Paula and the realization of a life’s dream. Though the wheels have fallen off her marriage on the course of her journey and her funds are quickly drying up, she is determined to complete the walk through the romantic Big Empty of Northern Africa to Cairo. Both a thrilling adventure and a story of joy, heartache, inspiration, and despair, Sahara is–above all–a celebration of the greatness of human spirit in all its guises.
The Comfort Women by C. Sarah Soh
In an era marked by atrocities perpetrated on a grand scale, the tragedy of the so-called comfort women-mostly Korean women forced into prostitution by the Japanese army-endures as one of the darkest events of World War II. These women have usually been labelled victims of a war crime, a simplistic view that makes it easy to pin blame on the policies of imperial Japan and therefore easier to consign the episode to a war-torn past. In this revelatory study, C. Sarah Soh provocatively disputes this master narrative.
Soh reveals that the forces of Japanese colonialism and Korean patriarchy together shaped the fate of Korean comfort women-a double bind made strikingly apparent in the cases of women cast into sexual slavery after fleeing abuse at home. Other victims were press-ganged into prostitution, sometimes with the help of Korean procurers. Drawing on historical research and interviews with survivors, Soh tells the stories of these women from girlhood through their subjugation and beyond to their efforts to overcome the traumas of their past. Finally, Soh examines the array of factors- from South Korean nationalist politics to the aims of the international women’s human rights movement-that have contributed to the incomplete view of the tragedy that still dominates today.
The Yellow Envelope by Kim Dinan
After Kim and her husband decide to quit their jobs to travel around the world, they’re given a yellow envelope containing a check and instructions to give the money away. The only three rules for the envelope: Don’t overthink it; share your experiences; don’t feel pressured to give it all away.
Through Ecuador, Peru, Nepal, and beyond, Kim and Brian face obstacles, including major challenges to their relationship. As she distributes the gift to people she encounters along the way she learns that money does not have a thing to do with the capacity to give, but that giving—of ourselves—is transformational.
From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty
Fascinated by our pervasive terror of dead bodies, mortician Caitlin Doughty set out to discover how other cultures care for their dead. In rural Indonesia, she observes a man clean and dress his grandfather’s mummified body. Grandpa’s mummy has lived in the family home for two years, where the family has maintained a warm and respectful relationship. She meets Bolivian natitas (cigarette- smoking, wish-granting human skulls), and introduces us to a Japanese kotsuage, in which relatives use chopsticks to pluck their loved- ones’ bones from cremation ashes. With curiosity and morbid humour, Doughty encounters vividly decomposed bodies and participates in compelling, powerful death practices almost entirely unknown in America. Featuring Gorey-esque illustrations by artist Landis Blair, From Here to Eternity introduces death-care innovators researching green burial and body composting, explores new spaces for mourning— including a glowing- Buddha columbarium in Japan and America’s only open-air pyre— and reveals unexpected new possibilities for our own death rituals.
The Wayfarer’s Handbook: A Field Guide for the Independent Traveler by Evan S. Rice
An inventive and visually-appealing passport to the wide world of travel, The Wayfarer’s Handbook doesn’t tell readers to go anywhere, it shows them how to go everywhere.
The Wayfarer’s Handbook is a treasure trove of information about the art of travel that is specifically crafted for the modern adventurer. The book is an offbeat guide full of actionable advice, a worldwide exploration reference work, an unconventional collection of world trivia, and an exciting resource of inspiration, all designed for use in a great global adventure.
At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe by Tsh Oxenreider
In her late thirties and as a mom to three kids under age ten, Tsh Oxenreider and her husband decided to spend a rather ordinary nine months in an extraordinary way: travelling the corners of the earth to see, together, the places they’ve always wanted to explore. This book chronicles their global journey from China to Thailand to Australia, Sri Lanka, Uganda, France, Croatia, and beyond, as they fill their days with train schedules, world-schooling the kids, and working from anywhere. Told with wit and candor, Oxenreider invites us on a worldwide adventure without the cost of a ticket; to discover people, places, and stories worth knowing about; to find peace in the places we call home; and to learn that, as the Thai say, in the end, we are all “same same but different.”
Useful travel resources for your next adventure!
If you found this post useful, I’d be grateful if you used the affiliate links below. I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Rest assured, these are the products and services I love and use. Thanks for your support! – Matt
Read the disclaimer for more information.
Agoda – hotels
Booking.com – hotels
Cover-More – insurance
Motorhome Republic – RVs
RentalCars.com – rentals
SimsDirect – SIM cards
Skyscanner – flights
Surfshark – VPN
TourRadar – tours
Uber Carshare – rentals