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Here are the TOP 20 Best Books about Traveling EVER!

During my journey to every country in the world, I read A LOT. And maybe, being in my late-30s, I’m too old but I still prefer the feeling of a REAL book. Especially when I’m on long overland journeys across continents or countries. Although a kindle does the job when I’m on holiday, besides the pool, etc. Working through my best books about traveling was a real delight on my journey, so I hope this list helps you guys.

Anyway, I hope this list inspires you. Travel books have so much power to captivate us and encourage us to see the world. So I have compiled a list of some of the best travel books that will keep you company on your journey around the world too. Enjoy!

Here is the list of 20 Best Travel Books that any travel enthusiast should read.

A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini

best books about traveling

” One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs, or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.”

Maybe the best book I’ve ever read. Khaled Hosseini is a genius. All 3 of his books had me in tears.

There are very few books that can shock me with such a wave of emotion: make me happy at one moment and feel devastated the next; leave me laughing at one scene and in tears the next, and make me love some characters but hate the rest. This is one of those rare books.

The novel focuses on the life of two Afghan women-Mariam and Laila, who come from different walks of life.

Laila enjoys her school life and is absorbed by the thoughts of her crush Tariq. She’s beautiful, confident, smart, strong, and playful.

On the other hand, Mariam is the illegitimate daughter of a businessman named Jalil. She faces many social problems and rejection, but she is headstrong and the story’s real hero.

I was hooked right from the first chapter. This book was kind of like a rollercoaster for me. I felt a surge of emotions – anger, remorse, and joy – with every passing chapter, and I kept turning the pages to know more, and before I knew it, it was over. The story was captivating, the narration was flawless, and each chapter had a twist that compelled me to read it a second time.

Reading about Mariam and Lailby’s struggles, my heartbeat fast, and the ending was so heartbreaking that I was almost in tears.

Shantaram

One of my fav books of all time. AND A TRUE STORY! Shantaram is about the life of an escaped convict from Australia named Lin who comes to India to evade his prison sentence. He makes friends with his guide Prabhakar and other expats who are involved in minor crimes when he first lands in Bombay (now Mumbai). 

While traveling across the spiritual city, he tries to make sense of his life as a man on the run. The events and people around him cause his life to take a wild turn during his journey. 

He embarks on a series of dangerous adventures, whether it be moving to the poorest slum in Bombay, having intellectual conversations with the mafia members and getting involved in illegal activities, working for Bollywood, serving in prison, fighting in someone else’s war, being fascinated with the beautiful and elusive Karla all the while being utterly clueless about his goals.

About to be made into a Netflix show!

The Beach, by Alex Garland

ICONIC. This is probably my favorite travel book after The Alchemist. (I enjoyed the movie, but I suggest reading the book.)

One of the things about Alex Garland’s tale of backpackers searching for paradise is that you identify with Richard and his desire for something new and different.

Still, you realize this is only an illusion in the end. It’s also a good story about how backpackers’ search for the ideal can end up ruining that ideal. This book is awesome!

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

This is one of the most read books in recent history about following your dreams.

Throughout the story, a young shepherd boy travels from Spain to Egypt, follows his heart, and learns about love and the meaning of life. There are many inspirational quotes in this book.

My favorite: “If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man… Life will be a party for you, a grand festival because life is the moment we’re living right now.” I can’t recommend this book enough

The Damage Done: Twelve Years of Hell in a Bangkok Prison

The first travel book I ever read, as I flew one way to Thailand to each English in Chiang Mai! A convicted drug dealer, Warren Fellows, suffered at the hands of inmates, guards, and the appalling conditions inside the notorious Bang Kwang jail in Bangkok. 

The horrors Fellows experienced would surely test the toughest criminal mind, yet he was no doubt guilty. The beatings, malnutrition, disease, and onset of madness he endured can only be described as a living nightmare.

Reading this, you can only begin to comprehend the pain and humiliation that human beings are capable of causing to each other.

Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America’s Strangest Jail

The book Marching Powder tells the story of Thomas McFadden, who spent four and a half years in the infamous San Pedro prison in Bolivia. The book is written by an Australian backpacker who meets McFadden in prison before striking up a friendship. He decides to describe McFadden’s life and experiences within the notoriously corrupt prison and judicial systems.

As the title suggests, there are plenty of drug-related references and violence splattered throughout its pages, including “cocaine tours” for foreign backpackers that became so popular that they ended up being written up in the Lonely Planet guides.

As the story is told honestly and openly, this one-time drug trafficker will end up being a favorite of yours, and you’ll read line after line into the wee hours of the night. (get it?!)

Into The Wild – Jon Krakauer

Another well-written book by Jon Krakauer was a fascinating, and often sad, glimpse into the spiral down of an idealistic young man.

Into the Wild is a deeply emotional story about Christopher McCandless, a young man who hiked into the Alaskan wilderness in April 1992 and never walked out.

On The Road by Jack Kerouac

A popular classic made more popular by the 2012 release of the film version, Jack Kerouac’s novel is worth reading.

During the journey of Sal, who traverses across the United States back and forth, the plot reveals his coming of age experience as he indulges himself in sexual experiences, musical awakening, and the discovery of personal freedom.

This book, considered a trailblazer of the Beat Generation, tells a great story about 1950s underground America.

Sex Lives Of Cannibals By J. Maarten Troost

Could you ever imagine packing up your belongings for a remote life on Tarawa in the equatorial Pacific? An island that is a little over 100 square miles in size, located almost in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

You can’t get much more remote than that. It sounds like an adventure, doesn’t it? It’s exactly what Maarten Troost and his fiance did.

The reality of Tarawa is different from what they anticipated. This story will have every adventure traveler relate in some way to the difference in culture and the daily challenges of living on an island, such as defecating in the sea and sleeping with bugs.

Maarten and Sylvia managed to live on the island for nearly two years. Looking back on his time there, Maarten shares lessons he learned about friendship, culture, and community.

Travel As Transformation By Gregory V. Diehl

best books about traveling

The book takes its readers on Diehl’s journey from living in a van to growing chocolate with indigenous groups in Central America and his travels to the Middle East and Africa.

Travel stories illustrate how profoundly it can affect the way you think about yourself.

Diehl has spent the better part of a decade exploring countries many Westerners cannot even place on a map. Through the journey, he discovers who he is and what freedom means to him.

To The Ends Of The Earth 

During the 1500s, map makers included Australia on their world maps – long before it was “discovered” by Europeans, according to conventional history. More than 1300 years before Magellan sailed around the world, this book presents evidence that the ancient Greeks landed in the Americas and circumnavigated it. 

Greeks recorded this great expedition and stored the maps and scrolls in the Great Library of Alexandria. There they remained until 340-345AD when Roman troops removed selected items and took them back to Italy. 

A tragic event in Alexandria’s history took place around 390AD when the then Bishop of Alexandria ordered all of the library’s scrolls, maps, and other items destroyed. 

This research sheds light on what actually happened during those turbulent times and explained how some of those records survived intact for mapmakers to rediscover over one thousand years after the fact. 

Specifically, it explores how Claudius Ptolemy’s amazing works were redrawn during the 1300s. Although the original ancient maps were found, it is evident that those who drew new maps from them did not fully comprehend what the ancient Greek voyagers had achieved.

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

“Less” is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel following Arthur Less as he travels worldwide, from Paris to Berlin to a Moroccan ski chalet to a Christian retreat center in southern India.

It’s a great book to read before your next big trip, as it satirizes the role of the American overseas traveler.

Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer

This is probably the best climbing book I have read despite the controversy surrounding some aspects. 

Into Thin Air tells the story of the tragic events that took place in May 1996 after numerous climbers died on Everest. It is told by Jon Krakauer, a journalist, and mountaineer who initially joined the expedition to write a magazine piece on the growing industry of ‘guided’ groups of inexperienced mountaineers.

There are a lot of exciting details in this memoir, which explores the disaster and the unforeseen events that contributed to so much loss of life. 

Everyone there that day had a common goal – to reach the summit, and all of them were gripped to some degree by Everest fever. 

The mystique of the mountain drew them all in, pushing some of them beyond the limits. I found myself equally enthralled and incredibly anxious to find out their inevitable fate.

The Motorcycle Diaries – Che Guevara

This is not about “Che” but an ordinary young guy just like a thousand others who nurtures the dream of exploring the world around.”

The fact that this book was written by none other than “Che” may give you the impression that the text is imbued with the philosophy and ideas with which Che was associated in the latter part of his life. 

And that was one reason I was not quite excited about picking this up. But soon after I had started with an unmerited apprehension, I realized I could not have been far from the truth.

The story tells of two young, insane minds’ adventures across Latin America. With little money and other resources, they were always at the mercy of the hosts. Still, the indomitable spirits and religious enthusiasm that the two of them shared carried them all along.

Dark Star Safari, by Paul Theroux

Travel writer Theroux’s finest work is Dark Star Safari an engaging account of his journey from Cairo to Cape Town.

Theroux encounters locals, aid workers, and tourists while traversing the African continent by buses, canoes, cattle trucks, convoy armed, ferry, and train.

He paints a harrowing and heartening portrait of Africa that is richly observed as well as meticulously reported: a place of strife, excitement, and incredible beauty.

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts

There are some people who are so captivated by travel that a two-week vacation is not enough to satisfy their wanderlust. Making countless sacrifices along the way, they attempted to create an entirely nomadic life.

A surfer, alpinist, and photographer who’s traveled non-stop since 2007, Dane Faurschou teaches readers exactly what it takes to build a life on the road in his refreshingly honest book, “Vagabonding.”

There’s a lot to learn from this book whether you’re thinking about taking a longer holiday or changing your entire mindset towards money. This played a huge role in me starting my blog and changing my life.

Lands of Lost Border; A journey on the silk road by Kate Harris

Travelogues written by Kate Harris are entertaining and worth reading. The story follows Kate and her cycling buddy Mel on an epic journey along the Silk Road from East to West.

A winner of the Banff Adventure Travel Award and a Nautilus Award, this book is sure to become a classic.

It’s on the Meter by Paul Archer & Johno Ellison

An exciting novel about Paul, Johno, and Leigh, who purchase a London cab and set off on a fantastic trip around the world – with the destination of Sydney as the endpoint.

It includes some dangerous destinations and a number of close calls, making it an entertaining read for budding adventurers and road-trip enthusiasts.

The Killing Fields – Christopher Hudson

The Killing Fields is a powerful piece of non-fiction that tells the story of two reporters, Sydney Schanberg and Dith Pran, as they try to survive in Cambodia as it is ravaged by civil war. The horror of the Khmer Rouge is described in intense detail and with interesting storytelling. 

Overall, this book tells a very compelling and fascinating story and is well worth reading for anyone who wishes to learn more about Cambodia during this period.

Journeys Of A LifetimeBy National Geographic

Imagine a collection of the best storytellers and travel photographers all in one book!

The National Geographic team gathered the best travel stories from their writers to create a global journey.

In addition to the world’s most famous destinations and adventures, this book also features less well-known adventures that will immediately add to your bucket list, from cruises around Antarctica to horse treks in the Andes and everything else in between.

Books about travel compel us to plan trips to faraway places and to imagine ourselves doing incredible things. These travel books should inspire you to travel the world and feed your wanderlust.

If you have any suggestions to add to this list of best travel books, please let me know in the comments.

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One thought on “TOP 20 Best Books about Traveling EVER!

  1. Shantaram & the follow on Mountain Shadow, were a truly brilliant pair of books which i took Thailand with me on my journeys. Highly recommend

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