10 Great Travel Books That You Should Read

I love reading. From scientific essays to business-related books to classic novels, my book case consists of a wide variety of literature. However, as a travel writer myself, I must say that I have a certain fondness for travel books. I’ve read a couple of dozen books related to travel so far, whether they’re fictional novels or non-fictional adventure stories. In this post, I’ve listed what I think are the top 10 travel books out there—ten travel books that you simply have to read if you love traveling. They’re absolutely wonderful to virtually transport yourself to another place during times when you’re not traveling yourself.

Top 10 Travel Books That You Should Read

Top 10 Travel Books

Non-Fiction

Rowing to Latitude – Jill Fredston

Together with her husband Doug, Jill Fredston has traversed more than 20,000 miles of Arctic waters—she in an ocean-going shell, he in a sea kayak. For years, they both went north for a few months every summer to explore the coasts of Alaska, Greenland, Spitsbergen and Canada, their adventures being completely self-sufficient. In this lively book, Jill describes their hardships, the landscapes they saw and their encounters with wild animals, including polar bears and whales.

On The Road – Jack Kerouac

This “semi-fiction” novel by Jack Kerouac has grown into one of the classic travel books. As the front man of the so-called Beat Generation, Kerouac retells the story of his time spent traveling across America in the 1950s. Filled with adventure, drugs and sex, poverty and generosity, and camaraderie, this marvelous read is strongly recommended to anyone with a sense of adventure.

Top 10 Travel Books That You Should Read: On the Road, Jack Kerouac
On the Road, Jack Kerouac: Photo on Flickr by solarisgirl / CC BY-SA 2.0

Travels With Charley: In Search of America – John Steinbeck

Another American classic, this novel by John Steinbeck features the author’s trip around America in the 1960s with his dog Charley. It showcases the real heart and soul of this incredibly diverse and fascinating country, and reflects on the kindness of the American people and their communities, the underlying racism, the habits of Americans, and the nation’s superb nature.

Top 10 Travel Books That You Should Read: Travels with Charlie, John Steinbeck
Travels with Charlie, John Steinbeck: Photo on Flickr by Frank Smith / CC BY-NC 2.0

The Lost World of Quintana Roo – Michel Peissel

A relatively unknown travel book (and actually out of print now), The Lost World of Quintana Roo recounts the surreal 1968 adventure of French student Michel Peissel in the Mexican province of Quintana Roo. Before it became flooded with tourists and high-end resort, Quintana Roo—the location of present-day Cancun—was a true wilderness area without any roads, inhabited by native Mayan fishermen. With giving too much away, he ends up discovering dozens of ancient Maya sites, eventually becoming one of the world’s most respected explorers.

Into the Wild – John Krakauer

Made famous by the movie bearing the same name, John Krakauer’s Into the Wild is one of the best-known true adventure stories of modern times. Based on his diaries, the book tells the story of Christopher McCandless, who leaves everything and everyone behind after graduating from college to travel around the United States without any money. Eventually, as the ultimate adventure, he hitchhikes to the heart of the Alaskan wilderness and attempts to survive for a few months living off the land.

Top 10 Travel Books That You Should Read: Into the Wild, John Krakauer
Into the Wild, John Krakauer: Photo on Flickr by Eddo Kloosterman / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail – Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson has written many travel books, but I think this is his best one. After moving back to the United States after living in England for several years, Bryson, an inexperienced hiker, decides to hike the Appalachian Trail, which is more than 2,000 miles long and runs from Georgia to Maine following the ridge of the Appalachian Mountains. It’s a hilarious, superbly readable travel book.

Top 10 Travel Books That You Should Read: Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson
Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson: Photo on Flickr by Raymond Shobe / CC BY-NC 2.0

Seven Years in Tibet – Heinrich Harrer

This extraordinary tale is one of perseverance, dedication, persistence and—let’s be honest—luck. Seven Years in Tibet has become one of the absolute classics in travel writing and tells the story of Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer who gets captured in India at the outbreak of World War II, escapes and manages to make his way into Tibet, where he ends up befriending the Dalai Lama. It’s a remarkable story, providing a unique insight in the life in Tibet from a European perspective.

Top 10 Travel Books That You Should Read: Seven Years in Tibet, Heinrich Harrer
Seven Years in Tibet, Heinrich Harrer: Photo on Flickr by warwick_carter / CC BY-NC 2.0

Fiction

Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson

This easily readable fictional adventure story features pirates and buccaneers, gold and greed, and one young lad who gets dragged along in the adventure of a lifetime. It’s one of the all-time classics in English literature, a strongly recommended read for everyone with a love of history, a sense of adventure and a longing for tropical islands.

Top 10 Travel Books That You Should Read: Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
Inspiration for Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson? – Photo on Flickr by byronv2 / CC BY-NC 2.0

The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien

In my opinion, this is the ultimate adventure travel story, and should be in everyone’s top 10 travel books. The Lord of the Rings may take place in a fictional world of elves, dragons, dwarves and hobbits, but the background—linguistics, history and sheer details—is nothing short of brilliant. Many of you will know what this story is about, so I won’t get into that. I do want to say, though, that the books are even better than the movies (as is usually the case).

Top 10 Travel Books That You Should Read: Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien: Photo on Flickr by tripu / CC BY-NC 2.0

The Call of the Wild – Jack London

In Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, which takes place during the Klondike gold rush, a dog named Buck gets removed from his comfortable life in suburbia and transported into the Yukon where he becomes a sled dog. The treatment he receives from his subsequent owners and the influence of the harsh environment change him completely, bringing out his intrinsic wolf-like instinct.

Top 10 Travel Books That You Should Read: Bust of Jack London
Bust of Jack London: Photo on Flickr by CLS Research Office / CC BY-NC 2.0

These are my top 10 travel books. If I have missed any out, please tell me your top 10 travel books, so that I can include them in my next trip!

About Bram

Website: http://www.travel-experience-live.com

Bram is a Belgian guy who's currently living in the USA. For over four years now, he has been wandering the globe, with jobs here and there in between. So far, his travels have taken him to four continents and twenty-two countries. Bram likes to try different styles of travelling: from backpacker and adventurer to tourist and local, he has been all those stereotypes and probably will be many more in the future. You can follow his adventures on his travel blog, on Twitter and on Facebook.

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