Not too long ago I posted about the best travel-inspiring movies. I love movies, movies are great! But when I’m travelling I tend to read books instead of watching movies, unless of course, you’re on a 5,000-hour long-haul flight. One of the things I love most about books is the way they allow each person to create their own mental pictures. Sure, the writer gives you information on what a place looks, smells and feels like, but at the end of the day, it’s up to your imagination to come up with the exact picture in your mind’s eye. The picture we see is different from person to person, which means you’re free to dream up anything you want! When it comes to books, the ability to inspire is limitless.
Most of my travel-based decisions have been based on books. Books I’ve read at home or when I was younger and books I read while I travel! Here’s my list of some of the best travel-inspiring books, what are your favourites?
1. Book Lust to Go by Nancy Pearl
Nancy Pearl can be likened to a celebrity librarian. In this book, she matches books with destinations in the same way you match wine with a meal. Want to take a trip to Afghanistan’s opium fields? Nancy suggests you read Opium Season by Joel Hfvenstein. Want to spend a year with orangutans of Borneo? read Reflections of Eden.
2. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Prepare to become a hitch-hiker. This classic book details the many trips made by Kerouac and his friends across America in the years after the Second World War. Character Sal Paradise speaks for Kerouac and takes the reader from New York to Denver, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
3. The Beach by Alex Garland
Most people have seen the movie, but do yourself a favour and make the time to read the book too. The words on these pages inspired thousands to break free and head to South East Asia for a sweaty, beautiful adventure.
4. Wild Coast by John Gimlette
John Gimlette is a contributor to Telegraph Travel, so you know he’s got writing skills. In this jungle adventure, Gimlette heads deep into the jungle between the Orinoco and the Amazon, one of Earth’s forgotten corners. Follow him through remote villages and the hideouts of runaway slaves.
5. A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby
A humorous recount of a badly thought out attempt to scale one of Afghanistan’s most challenging peaks! Newby finds the whole experience gets the better of him and retells the whole story hilariously!
6. The lost girls: Three friends. Four continents. One unconventional detour around the world. by Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett and Amanda Pressner
The story of three women at a crossroads, unwilling to yield to social pressures for women of a certain age. They give up their jobs, friends, boyfriends and everything familiar to travel the world for a year. Follow them through the Amazon, Kenya, Vietnam and Australia as they look for adventure and part of themselves they haven’t met yet.
7. Vagabonding by Rolf Potts
This fantastic book is about taking time out from your normal life, whether it be six weeks, four months or two years. It’s about taking the time to discover and experience the world on your own terms!
8. Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach
A beautiful, witty book illustrated with postcards from Steinbach’s journeys, it transports you into her search for who she is away from all the ‘things’ she possesses and defines herself with. Follow Steinbach through beautiful places, experiences and friendships around Europe.
9. Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger
Published in 1959, Thesiger’s account of a dangerous journey through the Arabian deserts has met with considerable critical acclaim since. Over the course of five years, the early explorer recorded the lives of the remote tribes he met in an often hostile land. His tales of hardships, unlikely friends and age now passed have a timeless appeal for all travellers.
10. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
Surreal, sharp and consistently funny, Hunter S. Thompson’s “Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream” follows Raoul Duke and his attorney Dr Gonzo on a drug-addled trip to Las Vegas. The novel is said to owe its origins to two genuine journeys to Sin City made by Hunter S. Thompson while covering stories for Rolling Stone magazine.
11. Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah MacDonald
Holy Cow is Macdonald’s often hilarious chronicle of her adventures in a land of chaos and contradiction, of encounters with Hinduism, Islam and Jainism, Sufis, Sikhs, Parsis and Christians and a kaleidoscope of yogis, swamis and Bollywood stars. From spiritual retreats and crumbling nirvanas to war zones and New Delhi nightclubs, it is a journey that only a woman on a mission to save her soul, her love life—and her sanity—can survive.
12. Across Many Mountains by Yangzom Brauen
When the Chinese invaded, Brauen’s mother and grandmother were forced to flee from their Tibetan homeland, travelling across the frozen Himalayas to freedom. In this powerful, poetic, global memoir Brauen tells how the lives of three generations of Tibetan women were forever changed.
13. Lost on Planet China: The Strange and True Story of One Man’s Attempt to Understand the World’s Most Mystifying Nation, or How He Became Comfortable Eating Live Squid by J. Maarten Troost.
Maarten Troost brings China to life as you’ve never seen it before, and his insightful, funny narrative proves that once again he is one of the most entertaining and insightful armchair travel companions around. Troost escorts readers on a rollicking journey through the new beating heart of the modern world, from the megalopolises of Beijing and Shanghai to the Gobi Desert and the hinterlands of Tibet.