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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!