I don’t know about you guys, but for me there’s something special about grabbing a good book and curling up under the blankets with hot tea as you’re taken to another time and place. I love reading at anytime of the year, but the colder seasons have a special kind of charm.
If you’re buckling down for the fall and winter and don’t have any travels coming up, these books will be your escape to wanderlust. You may even have to book a flight to an exotic place after reading some of these – I warned you!
Even if you’re constantly traveling right now, I know it’s the best to have a book list handy for what to read next on those long train/bus/flight/you-name-it journeys. These are my favorite 15 books to spark your wanderlust, and if you haven’t read all of them yet, it goes without saying that I highly recommend diving into all of these.
On the Road – Jack Kerouac
This classic beatnik coming-of-age novel is a cult read by many young and old travelers. It can come off as a sexist book in the modern era, but when it was written back in the late 1950s it presented a revolutionary idea – to live simply for the purpose of living. To take a trip not just to get from point A to point B, but to find yourself along the way and discover the country in which you grew up while you’re at it.
The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost – Rachel Friedman
This was one of the the first books that inspired me to start writing down my own travels. Friedman brings a refreshing and relatable perspective of a young woman venturing off on her own for the first time, and the challenges she faces as she learns the value of her own independence – from Ireland to Australia, and even South America.
The Lost Girls – Baggett, Corbett and Pressner
Another great travel writing piece geared towards women, The Lost Girls encompasses a story of three friends who decide to leave their jobs in New York City to take off for a year around the world. There are plenty of hilarious anecdotes and realistic difficulties that come about from traveling with your best friends 24/7 for a year.
Vagabonding – Rolf Potts
Although a tad outdated now with his talk of using internet cafes, Vagabonding is still an impressive read for the true vagabond-at-heart. This book will give you plenty of inspiration for taking off by yourself and new skills to stay on the road for however long you want. I read this while I was in New Zealand, during my two years abroad, and it was perfect timing with my coinciding epiphany that I didn’t want to end full-time travel after that trip.
A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson
Let’s be honest, I love everything that Bill Bryson has written. His witty and honest take on life makes me laugh out loud and nod along in agreement. In a Sunburned Country, Notes from a Big Country, The Lost Continent, and countless others are all great reads as well. However, A Walk in the Woods is my favorite with my fondness for the outdoors, and his comical take on gearing up and tackling the Appalachian Trail with plenty of naysayers along the way. Also, there’s a gorgeous movie that just came out based on this book.
Swimming to Antarctica – Lynne Cox
I read this book while I was still in high school at the recommendation of my step-mom, and I couldn’t have found a more inspiring book for my 16 year-old self. That’s not to say this is a book only meant for teenagers. Swimming to Antartica is about one woman’s impossible journey as a long-distance swimmer and the feats she was able to accomplish with a determined mindset. Also, it’s a true story and an amazing one at that.
Lost on Planet China – J. Maarten Troost
I recently finished reading this book, and I wouldn’t be able to count on one hand how many times it made me laugh out loud. This was the first book by J. Maarten Troost that I’ve read, and I loved his brutal honesty and Bill Bryson-esque wit (with just a tad more vulgarity). I’ve heard his other books about his time living in the South Pacific are great reads as well, but I found this one especially pertinent since I’m heading to Asia next year.
The Geography of Bliss – Eric Weiner
I actually just started reading this one, after hearing so many good reviews about it. Weiner’s The Geography of Bliss is about one incessantly unhappy man’s journey to find happiness in the happiest places on earth. Already, I love his manner of writing, and travel books that take you through multiple countries are always some of my favorites.
Wild – Cheryl Strayed
Perhaps one of my favorite books, I read Wild a few years back before I took off my two years abroad. Some may argue it’s more a story of personal battles than it is about traveling, but I would disagree. It’s great when an author can blend in a captivating inner dialogue with an adventurous journey that tests any residual strengths. Strayed is an incredibly relatable writer and I found her book a hard one to put down.
Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer
I wasn’t expecting for this book to take ahold of me like it did. I mean, it’s not like I have any plans to tackle Mt. Everest anytime soon. What I didn’t realize though, is how talented of a writer Krakauer is. Even though I may not have had plans to go to Everest, I went there anyway through his descriptive, edge-of-your-seat writing. I finished this book in a tent in Australia in the middle of a huge thunderstorm, and it felt like the appropriate setting for the finale. This is one fascinating book.
Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
Another great book by Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild is a cult classic in the backpacking world. However, it’s also a book that has had mixed reviews from readers about glorifying someone who didn’t really know what he was getting himself into in the Alaskan bush. The thing is, I enjoyed this book. Perhaps he was over glorified, personally I didn’t think that was what Krakauer was trying to do. I still appreciated the general message of this book to not be so attached to “things” and technology in life.
Walden: or, Life in the Woods – Henry David Thoreau
One of the true American classics in the transcendentalist movement, Walden is a book that we can all take to heart in the world we live in today. It’s a reflection about simple living, about connecting with nature and letting go of the superficialities you may carry with you. Who knew that a book published in 1854 would still have so much (maybe even more) relevance today?
The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
You may think a children’s book an odd choice for one to spark your wanderlust, but for me this book is tied to adventures and the accomplishment of learning something new. It was one of the first books I had to read completely in a new language (French), and I loved the simplistic nature of this type of child-focused adventure. Anything is possible and everything keeps you in amazed wonderment. This may be a children’s book, but it’s one to go back to as an adult to remember what that childlike curiosity still feels like.
Travels with Charley in Search of America – John Steinbeck
Another classic travelogue, Steinbeck gives you a glimpse into 1960s America through Travels with Charley. As in true Steinbeck manner, he has a way of eloquently showing you the honest truths of American culture – whether that be through racism, the American character, or the unique American loneliness he seems to find just about everywhere – all while traveling with his French poodle, Charley.
The Great Railway Bazaar – Paul Theroux
One I haven’t yet read, but another which I’ve heard great reviews about. Paul Theroux is seen as the father of travel writing by many, and The Great Railway Bazaar is one of his best. If any of you dream about the romantics of traveling by train, this is a must-read for you. The book takes you through Theroux’s 4-month journey by train to Europe, the Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent, and Southeast Asia.
These are just a few books to get you started and to take you away on grand adventures around the world, whether you’re traveling right now or not.
My initial goal last December was to read 30 books for 2015. I think I’m currently on my 15th book of the year, so I probably won’t make that goal this time around, but it’s at least something to strive for next year.
I find reading an important facet to life. As a writer, my vocabulary expands the more that I read. And especially with travel writing, my perspective is constantly being renewed and challenged, which is why I love reading these types of wanderlust stories.
I would love to include the following travel-related books for next year’s reading goals as well:
- The Motorcycle Diaries – Che Guevara
- Where’d You Go, Bernadette: A Novel – Maria Semple
- All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
- Tracks – Robyn Davidson
- In Patagonia – Bruce Chatwin
- The Innocents Abroad – Mark Twain
Do you have any reading goals for next year? What are your favorite travel-related books that you’ve read? Does reading spark your wanderlust?
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