Everyone loves to travel, but only a few can travel as much as they’d want. As we grow older time and money become a serious issue, as most of us take on big responsibilities – we have to study, then work to earn a living, and then take care of our family. So what do we do when we start feeling that wanderlust itch (don’t look at the title!)? We take a book and let it carry us somewhere else.
A good book can take you climbing the highest mountain on earth, diving in the deepest sea or discovering ancient cities in jungles. It enriches our soul, excites our imagination and inspires us to learn more about different cultures and places. In this article, we summarized 10 of our favorite books about travel, books every traveler needs to have on their reading list.
1. Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
In April 1992 Christopher Johnson McCandless, a young man from a well-to-do family, hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. He had given all his savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, gave himself a new name and went into the unknown wilderness. A few months later, his body was found by a hunter.
Into the Wild tells the presumed story of McCandless journey until his unfortunate death. This is a powerful and mesmerizing story of someone who just wouldn’t compromise with modern society.
2. On the Road – Jack Kerouac
On the Road tells the story of two friends whose road trips across the U.S. are a quest for meaning and true experience. It is considered a defining work of the postwar Beat and Counterculture generations, with its protagonists living life against a backdrop of jazz, poetry, and drug use. The book features many key figures in the Beat movement, such as William S. Burroughs (Old Bull Lee), Allen Ginsberg (Carlo Marx) and Neal Cassady (Dean Moriarty) and Kerouac himself as the narrator Sal Paradise.
On the Road follows Sal Paradise as he traverses the American continent in search of new people, ideas, and adventures. But it's the way Sal and his friends, especially Dean Moriarty, look at the world with a mixture of sad-eyed naivete and wild-eyed abandon that causes the rumbling in the soul of so many who read it. This is a book that changed American literature and changed anyone who has ever picked it up.
3. The Alchemist – Paulo CoelhoPaulo Coelho's masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who travels to Egypt to find the biggest treasure in the world. However, what he discovers is very different from what he had in mind. Santiago's journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, recognizing opportunity and to follow our dreams.
If you are looking for a book that will inspire courage, this is the one. No matter what your dream, goals or visions are, the universe will conspire to help you achieve the things you want, regardless of how insurmountable the task seems. You must live the life you truly desire to its fullest extent if you want to look back on a life having worth living. Very hippie, we know, but The Alchemist will definitely inspire you.
4. The Beach – Alex Garland
After meeting a crazy guy who calls himself Duffy Duck, and receiving a hand-drawn map from him, three western tourists are on the quest to find a secret untouched community, a haven from western culture’s maladies. The three backpackers find this utopia in a beautiful pristine lagoon on a Thai island and join the community, helping with daily chores and living the dream. But then a series of incidents changes everything.
The Beach was first published in 1996 and became a huge hit following the film starring Leonardo DiCaprio in 2000. Since then it’s remained a classic, describing the classic wish of today’s backpackers – finding this one, pristine, untouched haven, and having the courage to leave everything behind and join it. The beach by the way, is on the island of Koh Phi Phi, so make sure to visit it on your next trip to Thailand. It is truly breathtaking!
5. The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
The Sun Also Rises is Ernest Hemingway’s first novel. First appeared in 1926, it's still as fresh as it ever was. The book tells the story of American Jack Barnes and British Lady Brett Ashley, two expatriates living in bohemian Paris in the years after World War I. Jake, Hemingway's narrator, suffers a mysterious war wound that’s left him sexually incapable and is the heart and soul of the book. Brett, the beautiful English woman he adores, provides the glamour of natural chic and sexual unattainability. Alcohol and post-World War I decadence fuel the plot: weary of drinking and dancing in Paris cafés, the expatriate gang decamps for the Spanish town of Pamplona for the "wonderful nightmare" of a week-long fiesta.
Alcohol and post-World War I decadence fuel the plot: weary of drinking and dancing in Paris cafés, the expatriate gang decamps for the Spanish town of Pamplona for the "wonderful nightmare" of a week-long fiesta.
Despite some controversies regarding Hemingway’s attitude towards homosexuals and Jews in the book, The Sun Also Rises is Hemingway's first masterpiece and one of the most remarkable ones and sucks the reader into Hemingway’s world of vivid characters and notions of life without any effort.
6. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M. PirsigDon't let the name intimidate you, the book isn't about motorcycle mechanics. One of the most important and influential books written in the latter half of the 20th century, Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a powerful, moving, and penetrating examination of how we live and a breathtaking meditation on how to live better. The book tells the story of the unforgettable summer motorcycle trip across America's Northwest, undertaken by a father and his young son. A story of love and of the fear of growth, discovery, and acceptance, that becomes a profound personal and philosophical odyssey into life's fundamental questions – the essence of quality, reality, and sanity just to name a few.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance doesn’t start as an easy read, but then it evolves and unwraps into a beautiful, touching, and sometimes scary story about the meaning of life in the least cliché form there is. This is can change your life. Read it and you’ll never think of our culture the same way again.
7. The Motorcycle Diaries – Ernesto ‘Che’ GuevaraWritten as a travel journey by THE Che Guevara, this is a cult book, telling the story of 23 years old Che and his friend Alberto as they’re riding their old motorcycle for 9 months throughout South America. During their 9 months of travel in 1952, they ride the battered roads of Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela to do their medical residency and serve at leprosy colonies of Latin America. You can really feel Che’s free spirit and emerging rebelliousness taking form between the lines.
The Motorcycle Diaries has all the elements that define a perfect road trip and make you realize how you can explore your true self by traveling across countries and meeting different people. At the end of his journey, Che is transformed and has a clear view of his destiny. Shortly after the described events, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara would become a household name. Che’s trip might have been the adventure of a lifetime, had his lifetime not turned into a much greater adventure.
8. Holy cow: An Indian Adventure – Sarah MacdonaldIn her twenties, journalist Sarah Macdonald backpacked around India and came away with a lasting impression of heat, pollution, and poverty. After this experience, she swore never to come back to India again. But eleven years later she does, following her love’s move to India, and Macdonald quits her dream job to move to the most polluted city on earth, New Delhi.
Just settled, she falls dangerously ill with double pneumonia, an experience that compels her to face some serious questions about her own fragile mortality and inner spiritual void. “I must find peace in the only place possible in India, within” she concludes. Thus begins her journey of discovery through India in search of the meaning of life and death.
Macdonald describes her cultural shock in chaotic India in a light, hilarious way, and those who already traveled to India could definitely see themselves immersed in the sounds, smells, and colors of this giant country. For those who haven’t visited the Indian subcontinent yet, Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure is a great introduction to Indian culture on its many beliefs and cultural structures.
9. Around the World in 80 Days – Jules Verne
Around the World in 80 Days is a classic adventure novel by the French writer Jules Verne, published in 1873. After having read in a newspaper an article stating that with the opening of a new railway section in India, it is now possible to travel around the world in, you guessed it, 80 days. Phileas Fogg, a rich English gentleman, and his French valet Passepartout take it upon themselves as to complete a trip around the world in 80 days on a £20,000 wager (today it would be much more) set by Fogg’s friends at the Reform Club.
Fogg and Passepartout leave London by train at 8:45 P.M. on Wednesday, October 2, 1872, and are due back at the Reform Club at the same time 80 days later, Saturday, December 21, 1872. While many of us first came across this book as children, it’s recommended that you give it a try as an adult as well, to discover all the little details and layers you probably didn’t originally get. This is true to any of Jules Verne’s other magical books.
10. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark TwainHere’s another book you’ve probably read as a child, and should definitely pay a revisit to. Mark Twain's classic novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, tells the story of a misfit teenager, cruelly abused by his drunken father, who finds himself floating on a raft down the Mississippi River with an escaping slave, Jim. Along the way, they encounter a deadly feud, a pair of con artists, and other characters from the pre-Civil War South. All the while, Huck's conscience and basic decency wrestle with his society-bred ideas about race and slavery and right and wrong.
Considered the first great American novel, part of Finn's charm is the wisdom and sobering social criticism lurking underneath the seemingly innocent observations of the uneducated Huck and the even-less-educated Jim. This book, like its former on this list, can be read as a children’s book, but also as a serious account of the American south prior to the civil war, offering a brave and critical perspective of this period's common racist conventions. Few lists of the “greatest American novels” fail to cite it and few reporters describing its influence fail to quote Hemingway’s famous claim that “all modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.”