Are you looking for travel books to fuel your wanderlust during this unprecedented social distancing and lockdown?
The success of any great travel book can be measured in miles rather than awards. But, when it comes to these books, the sheer distances they take our imaginations and the miles they inspire us to hike, drive, and fly are what matters. And, on occasion, reading a travel book can be as transformative as the journey itself.
Are you ready for a reading list that will transform the way you travel? According to seasoned travelers, these are the nine must-read travel books. Prepare yourself for a severe sense of adventure.
W.G. Sebald's "The Rings of Saturn"
When asked to choose the best travel book, James Kay, editor of Lonely Planet's website, chose a work that does not fit neatly into any genre.
Travelogue? Memoir? Novel? W.G. Sebald's account of a walking tour of Suffolk, England, defies categorization. The narrator walks a few miles down the coast, but his mental journey is much longer. This book blends beguiling descriptions of the places and people he meets with meditations on topics ranging from the history of herring fishing to Congo colonialism to the reign of a Chinese empress. 'The Rings of Saturn' contains a philosophy for travelers who want to delve beneath a destination's surface.
Slow down, look for stories, and strive to be a more thoughtful explorer. Take a copy of this one-of-a-kind with you, and cultivate your sense of curiosity with each step—you never know where it will lead you.
"Into thin Air" Jon Krakauer's
The book is a personal account of the 1997 Everest disaster, which killed eight climbers and stranded several others on the highest mountain due to a storm.
During the disaster, Jon Krakauer worked on a story for Outside Magazine. On that unfaithful day, he went up to the roof of the world with a handful of exhibitions and recounted everything from the people he briefly met to a full analysis of what went wrong.
It was a chilling reminder of how vulnerable we are in the mountains. While it may have scared others away from hiking in the Himalayas, it motivated me to hike the Everest Base Camp independently, to see all of Everest's deadly features for myself.
It's a fantastic book based on an actual gripping event that will either make you wary of hiking or inspire you to book a flight to Nepal and hike the Himalayas, as it did for me. In any case, there is no better hiking/disaster book than this one.
Alain de Botton's "The Art of Travel"
With so much travel literature telling us where to go, it's easy to lose sight of why we're traveling in the first place. "The Art of Travel" by Alain de Botton serves as a reminder of the how and why of travel.
Many travel-themed books play on our daydreams about travel. Still, de Botton takes a brutally honest and philosophical look at why we travel and exposes truths we don't want to see or believe, such as the fact that our fantasies about a place can often be better than the reality we encounter once we arrive.
Alain is incredibly articulate when describing the mundane aspects of travel that we often forget. It's not just about the exquisite moments—every detail contributes to the overall experience.
"A Moveable Feast," edited by Don George
Some of us live to travel, while others travel to eat. And if you're looking for a book to fuel your gourmand journey, "A Moveable Feast" has you covered with this celebration of 38 foodie tales from around the world, according to Debbie Arcangeles, host of the podcast The Offbeat Life, which features the lives of location-independent professionals.
A Movable Feast' is a collection of short stories by well-known chefs, writers, and foodies from around the world. They all share a passion for food and its ability to unite people. Reading the short stories will give you a taste of the culture and make you hungry.
Violet Moller's "Map of Knowledge"
The Map of Knowledge by Violet Moller is a history book about how knowledge moved from city to city during the dark ages and how it was preserved over time in Europe, and wanderlust for places in Southern Italy and Southern Spain. It'd make you want to visit Sicily and Toledo the next time you're in Europe.
The book follows the journey of three of antiquity's greatest scientific knowledge, the Element, Method of Medicine, and Almagest, by Euclid, Galen, and Ptolemy, through seven cities over a thousand years.
The book will transport you from sixth-century Alexandria to ninth-century Baghdad, from Muslim Cordoba to Catholic Toledo, from Salerno to Sicily's Palermo, and finally to Venice, where it was printed for the first time, and the knowledge was finally preserved.
The incredible journey through Europe and the Arab world will pique your interest in these cities of knowledge and make you want to visit all the locations that played a significant role in preserving these valuable scientific discoveries over time.
Paulo Coelho's "The Alchemist"
On their adventures, most travelers are looking for something, whether it's amazing archeological sites or the most delicious meal. But, while you're looking for something outside yourself, you usually discover a part of yourself you didn't know existed. That occurs in Paulo Coelho's novel "The Alchemist."
The enthralling story of an Andalusian shepherd seeking treasure is told in 'The Alchemist.' During his adventures, however, he discovers himself. Coelho takes us on the journey that matters—a journey filled with lessons and charming stories about snakes, love, dunes, and alchemy."
Anthony Bourdain's "Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook"
Anthony Bourdain holds a special place in the hearts of all travelers. But it's difficult to say which aspect of his storytelling is more influential, between his award-winning TV shows and best-selling books.
Tony appears in this book a little older, a little more worn, and, above all, wiser and more apologetic for his previous firm stances. In this memoir, he's still the same Anthony Bourdain, with the same convictions about what makes good cooking, but his years on the road have softened his soul.
Anthony Bourdain was transformed by travel. It showed him a world that was forgiving and kind, a world of people who were less fortunate than him but happier than he could ever be, and it taught him the importance of stepping outside your comfort zone as a means of growth.
"Lands of Lost Borders: A Silk Road Journey," written by Kate Harris
Many people's desire to travel stems from a desire to explore the unknown. But where do you go when it seems like every place on the planet has been visited by millions before you? Is there anything else to discover? Kate Harris considers these and other questions in her memoir about a year spent cycling the Silk Road.
This travelogue is unlike any other; it is a meditation on remote places that are rarely written about, history, and borders. Yet, Harris perfectly captures what it's like to want to explore—not for the perfect Instagram or to tick off the must-see sights but to be exposed to wildness and discomfort.
Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson is a hilarious travel book that follows the author and an uninterested friend as they attempt to hike the 3,500 km Appalachian Trail, one of the world's longest hiking trails that takes hikers from Georgia in the southeast to Maine in the northeast of the United States.
Bill's sense of humor, combined with his friend's hilarious complaints throughout the journey and all of the misfortunes they encountered along the trail, results in a fun travel book that tells the story of what it's like to attempt the Appalachian Trail.
All the strange characters you meet along the way may save your life if you encounter a bear in the wild.
It's a page-turner from start to finish, and you'll be finished before you know it. So if you're looking for a fun travel book to read to pique your interest in the wilderness of the United States, this is a great choice.