So you’re in a slump and in need of inspiration, right? Well, me too. So today I’d like to share the best travel books to help inspire you to see the world and change your perspective.
Sometimes one lifetime doesn’t feel like enough. No, I want to know what it’s like to travel the world for a year, or to live in France, or to teach english in Japan.
Well, what better way to live another life than to curl up with a good book that takes you through the fragrant lavender fields of Provence or the intoxicating wineries in Portugal? Books have that power! for the briefest moment, I’m fully in another world – no, in another life.
For those days when the only travel you know is done from a cozy armchair, I hope these travel books bring you as much joy as they’ve brought me. Happy traveling!
Best Travel Books
Less | Andrew Sean Greer
The humorous Less offered a very welcome escape into a colorful life during a time I needed it most — quarantine. The main character in the book is invited to attend the wedding of a long-term ex-boyfriend and embarks on a half-baked literary tour to escape from the wedding, and more importantly, himself.
Greer does an excellent job taking the reader from Paris to Berlin, Morocco and India as his restless feet try to do what his complicated mind cannot — let go. It’s a beautiful read and will have you itching for world travel.
Less is a satirical comedy novel by American author Andrew Sean Greer first published in 2017. It follows writer Arthur Less while he travels the world on a literary tour to numb his loss of the man he loves. The book covers themes such as romantic love, relationships, aging, and travel.
You can pick up a copy of Less here.
Vagabonding | Rolf Potts
This is easily one of the 10 most life changing books I’ve read to date. In fact, when I first started to seriously consider life abroad, Vagabonding is the book I returned to for inspiration anew.
There’s nothing like vagabonding: taking time off from your normal life—from six weeks to four months to two years—to discover and experience the world on your own terms. In this one-of-a-kind handbook, veteran travel writer Rolf Potts explains how anyone armed with an independent spirit can achieve the dream of extended overseas travel. Now completely revised and updated, Vagabonding is an accessible and inspiring guide to
Pick up a copy of Vagabonding here.
Wild | Cheryl Strayed
I devoured Wild! And clearly wasn’t the only fan of this big hit — rarely does a product live up the hype, Wild is an exception.
If you’ve ever reached the end of your rope and thought to yourself “what do I have to lose anyways?” Then this is the book for you.
Without giving away the goose, here’s the gist:
The memoir tells the story of a twenty-something who sets off to hike the Pacific Crest Trail with no training or experience in a quest to sort through her mother’s death, family discord, and a recent divorce. Strayed’s account serves as a reminder that it’s always about the journey, not the destination.
You can pick up a copy of Wild here.
In a Sunburned Country | Bill Bryson
I laughed SO hard while reading In a Sunburned Country that my husband asked to read it when I was done (first time he’s ever done that).
He couldn’t believe a travel book could possibly be so funny. But it is! I can’t tell you how many time I’d re-read sections just to laugh longer. Bryson’s writing is that good.
Bryson has made a name for himself in the travel community and literary world alike. This book fostered a passion in me to visit a country I had little interest in. I’ve been itching to visit Australia ever since I finished this book and I think you will too.
Despite the fact that Australia harbors more things that can kill you in extremely nasty ways than anywhere else, including sharks, crocodiles, snakes, even riptides and deserts, Bill Bryson adores the place, and he takes his readers on a rollicking ride far beyond that beaten tourist path. Wherever he goes he finds Australians who are cheerful, extroverted, and unfailingly obliging, and these beaming products of land with clean, safe cities, cold beer, and constant sunshine fill the pages of this wonderful book.
Pick up a copy of In a Sunburned Country here.
The Alchemist | Paolo Coelho
We can’t talk about the best travel books without mentioning The Alchemist. I first read this book in college — it came highly recommended by a close friend.
I can honestly tell you that I’ve NEVER marked up a book the way I did with this one. Every line felt like a perfect quote! The book spoke to me in a way I’ve never experienced before and I wanted to do nothing more than travel. After reading the Alchemist, I became convinced that the only road to self-actualization is through travel.
This book is a classic, everyone should read (and re-read) it in the lifetime.
Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago’s journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.
Pick up a copy of The Alchemist here.
The Geography of Bliss | Eric Weiner
Eric Weiner is a man after my own heart. Travel mixed with psychology? swoons*
I honestly can’t say enough about The Geography of Bliss. It’s witty, deep, interesting, hilarious at times and, dare I say, life-changing for someone looking for meaning in their life. I’ve gifted this book more than any other.
In The Geography of Bliss, Weiner goes in search of the happiest place in the world. In doing so, he shares intimate glimpses into the lives and cultures of others. It’s the perfect book for someone that often finds themselves wondering “what would life be like if I lived in X.”
Pick up a copy of The Geography of Bliss here.
Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life | William Finnegan
This book spread like wildfire with my coworkers and, before I knew it, it found its way to my inner circle and, ultimately, to me — someone with zero interest in surfing.
And yet, there I was, returning to it night after night, unwilling to put it down until the last page.
Raised in California and Hawaii, Finnegan started surfing as a child. He has chased waves all over the world, wandering for years through the South Pacific, Australia, Asia, Africa. A bookish boy, and then an excessively adventurous young man, he went on to become a distinguished writer and war reporter. Barbarian Days takes us deep into unfamiliar worlds, some of them right under our noses—off the coasts of New York and San Francisco. It immerses the reader in the edgy camaraderie of close male friendships forged in challenging waves.
Pick up a copy of Barbarian Days here.
Love With a Chance of Drowning | Torre DeRoche
Love With a Chance of Drowning is a story of a woman that falls into a whirlwind romance after meeting an Argentinian man in a San Francisco bar. The challenge? He’s about to head out to sea in his small sailboat and she must choose between the (potential) love of her life or her phobia of the sea.
What ensues is a hilarious recount of the decision between a heart and mind. DeRoche finds the balance between humility and humor to weave the reader into the intimate story of new love, adventure and the joy of exploration. All essential to the human soul.
This sometimes hilarious, often harrowing, and always poignant memoir is set against a backdrop of the world’s most beautiful and remote destinations. Equal parts love story and travel memoir, Love with a Chance of Drowning is witty, charming, and proof positive that there are some risks worth taking.
Pick up a copy of Love With a Chance of Drowning here.
The Art of Travel | Alain de Botton
The Art of Travel revolutionized my approach to travel and opened my eyes to experiencing surroundings and moments without a checklist in mind. This book personifies mindfulness and reminds me why I travel in the first place.
What’s more, the books takes you to different places in the world and shares the experience through the eyes of a famous artist. For example, you’ll visit teh fields of Provence and linger as you enjoy it through the eyes of Van Gogh. It focuses on the beauty and uniquness of a place and reminds you why you went there to begin with.
The book inspired deep reflection and left me with a question: Even with the hecticness and stress of travel, I still choose to see the world. Why?
Pick up a copy of The Art of Travel here.
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Country-Specific Travel Books
A Year in Provence | Peter Mayle
A Year in Provence is the book most responsible for my swift love affair with France. And weak I am, I don’t even fight the temptation anymore.
In his memoir, Mayle chronicles his first year of living in Provence with all the humor and wit an intellectual reader can expect. The books details everyday customs and highlights local events with such effectiveness I swear I can taste the wine.
Mayle’s description of life in France makes me ache for the simplicity of small cafes, grouchy butchers and warm bread. You’ll be booking a trip to France in no time, I guarantee you.
Pick up a copy of A Year in Provence here.
A Year of Living Danishly | Helen Russell
If re-incarnation is the only hope I have of being Danish, put me down as a believer. The Danes know how to live a good life and Helen Russell made it her life’s mission to unpack some of their secrets.
Russell followed her husband to Denmark when he was sent there on a work assignment. Being restless, she set out to find the formula for happiness and the secret to success. Are Danes born happy or made?
Pick up a copy of The Year of Living Danishly here.
Me Talk Pretty One Day | David Sedaris
David Sedaris is often regarded as a humorist icon and this could possibly be the funniest book I’ve ever read in my life. If you haven’t been exposed to Sedaris yet, this is a great book to start with — although you couldn’t go wrong with any of his work.
Me Talk Pretty One Day is a collection of essays that hilariously recount Sedaris’ attempt to learn French in Paris, while overcoming his own stutter.
I’ve shared this book with my closest friends and we all came back in consensus — this book should be required reading, if not for the entertainment alone.
Pick up a copy of Me Talk Pretty One Day here.
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The Best Travel Coffee Table Books
Treasured Lands | QT Luong
QT Luong was cool before instagram and was the first to release a curated book of photographs from all of America’s national parks. And it’s funny to think that his photo book is still considered the best — especially considering how famous some instagram nature photographers have become.
This book has stood the test of time, and will continue to do so for generations to come.
Pick up a copy of Treasured Lands here.
Gray Malin: Italy
Italy is right up there as one of the most colorful countries in the world, and this photo book captures that flawlessly. Gray Malin takes you to the beaches, gelato shops, pizzerias and hotels with enthusiasm and delight!
Pick up a copy of Italy here.
Slim Aarons: La Dolce Vita
You know how they say “more money, more problems?” I say test me. I’m nowhere near seeing the right amount of zeros in my bank account so I rely on La Dolce Vita to take me to the lavish lifestyle of the uber rich in Italy.
This photo book is irresistible, each photo warrants a frame.
Pick up a copy of La Dolce Vita here.
Accidentally | Wes Anderson
I originally bought this book for the photos but kept it for the context. The witty text that accompanies each photo had me laughing uncontrollably at times.
Pick up a copy of Accidentally here.
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Best Travel-Inspired Cookbooks
The Forest Feast Mediterranean: Simple Vegetarian Recipes Inspired by My Travels
Gleeson transports readers to Europe, with recipes inspired by her exploration of the cultures and cuisines of France, Portugal, Spain, and Italy during an extended family trip. Reimagining the flavors and signature dishes of this part of the Mediterranean, Gleeson presents 100 vegetarian recipes for creating effortless, unforgettable meals. Filled with atmospheric images of coastal villages, charming watercolor illustrations, and mouthwatering food photography, The Forest Feast Mediterranean is an irresistible escape from the everyday, no matter where you might live.
Pick up a copy of Forest Feast here.
Along with their hopes and dreams, immigrants brought valuable gifts: recipes from their homelands that transformed the way America eats. What would the Southwest be without its piquant green chili pepper sauces and stews, New York City without its iconic Jewish delis, Dearborn without its Arab eateries, or Louisiana without the Creole and Cajun flavors of its signature gumbos and jambalayas? Imagine an America without pizza or pad Thai, hummus or hot dogs, sushi or strudel for most people, it wouldn’t taste much like America at all.
Pick up a copy of The Immigrant Cookbook here.
Old World Italian: Recipes and Secrets from Our Travels in Italy
Beloved for her gorgeous cookbooks A Kitchen in France and French Country Cooking, Mimi Thorisson, along with her lively family and smooth fox terriers in tow, immersed readers in the warmth of their convivial lives in rural France. In their newest cookbook, the Thorissons pause their lives in the idyllic French countryside to start a new adventure in Italy and satisfy their endless curiosity and passion for the magic of Italian cooking.
Pick up a copy of the Old World Italian here.
Bestselling cookbook author, memoirist, and popular blogger David Lebovitz delves into the drinking culture of France in Drinking French. This beautifully photographed collection features 160 recipes for everything from coffee, hot chocolate, and tea to Kir and regional apéritifs, classic and modern cocktails from the hottest Paris bars, and creative infusions using fresh fruit and French liqueurs. Each recipe is accompanied by David’s witty and informative stories about the ins and outs of life in France, as well as photographs taken on location in Paris and beyond.
Pick up a copy of Drinking French here.
In Her Kitchen: Stories and Recipes from Grandmas Around the World
These vibrant and intimate profiles and photographs pay homage to grandmothers and their cooking everywhere. From a Swedish housewife and her homemade lox and vegetables to a Zambian villager and her Roasted Spiced Chicken, this collection features a global palate: included are hand-stuffed empanadas from Argentina, twice-fried pork and vegetables from China, slow-roasted ratatouille from France, and a decadent toffee trifle from the United States. In Her Kitchen is an evocative, loving portrait of these cherished family members and the ways they return that affection–no matter where in the world you sit down for dinner.
Pick up a copy of In Her Kitchen here.
And there you have it! I hope you enjoyed this round up of the best travel books I’ve read (or should I say collected?) to date! My hope is that they stroke your wanderlust for years to come.
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Until next time,
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