19 travel books to read now to inspire your next trip

May 9, 2020

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With travel still largely at a standstill around the world, you may still be stuck at home for the foreseeable future. But just because you’re trapped at home doesn’t mean all your wanderlust has suddenly disappeared. Whether you’re on government-mandated quarantine or simply practicing social distancing, here are some of the best travel books out there — from classics to new debuts, memoirs to fiction, and even a few of our favorite books that will keep your kids excited about all the future travels to come.

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Ready to be transported to exotic destinations, or take an emotional or spiritual journeys? Add these books to your shopping list.

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If you’d prefer to rent instead of purchase books, consider borrowing an e-book from the New York Public Library’s collection — there are more than 300,000 e-books to choose from.

Related: Best travel movies to satisfy your wanderlust

Best travel books for foodies

“My Life in France” by Julia Child

(Photo courtesy of Amazon)
(Photo courtesy of Amazon)

If you love Fresh cuisine and the romance of Paris, Julie Child’s account of her adventures learning to cook (and live) like a Parisian is sure to delight. Read as she navigates the stark contrast between French and American cultures with her famous positivity and charm.

“World Travel: An Irreverent Guide” by Anthony Bourdain

OK, this book isn’t available until Oct. 13, 2020, but you can preorder it now to receive a delightful travel surprise in the fall. And who couldn’t use one of those right now? The book will feature some of Bourdain’s favorite destinations and, of course, advice on where to eat once you’ve arrived.

“Under the Tuscan Sun” by Frances Mayes

(Photo courtesy of Amazon)
(Photo courtesy of Amazon)

You’ve probably seen the movie, and who hasn’t dreamed of moving to Italy and renovating a dilapidated mansion? But the book is even better and includes recipes that will help you channel the Italian countryside from your kitchen.

Best travel books for wildlife enthusiasts

“Love, Life and Elephants: An African Love Story” by Daphne Jenkins Sheldrick

(Photo courtesy of Amazon)
(Photo courtesy of Amazon)

This book inspired me to plan my first African safari last year as I read about how the author worked tirelessly to save animals such as elephants, zebras and rhinoceroses, and fought to end poaching in Kenya. Jenkins Sheldrick’s friendship with Eleanor (an African elephant, of course) is particularly heartwarming.

“Tracks” by Robyn Davidson

(Photo courtesy of Amazon)
(Photo courtesy of Amazon)

Accompany the author — and her dog and four camels — on her 1,700-mile journey from the desert of Alice Springs, across the Australian Outback to the Indian Ocean. And there are no FaceTimes with family members or uploading filtered Instagram photos here, because Davidson’s journey took place in 1977. She had no cellphone, just a suitcase full of “inappropriate clothes.”

Related: 11 life-changing destination novels 

Best travel books for adventurers

“Down the Nile” by Rosemary Mahoney

(Photo courtesy of Amazon)
(Photo courtesy of Amazon)

Solo women travelers will love the firsthand account of Mahoney’s trip alone on the Nile in a small fishing boat. Though she’ll face challenging obstacles, such as stifling heat, civil unrest, conservative social norms and even crocodiles, she still manages to enchant you with Egypt’s mystical beauty.

“The Motorcycle Diaries” by Ernesto Che Guevara

Hop on the back of La Poderosa, a single-cylinder motorcycle, to explore Latin America with two 20-somethings (one of them is Che Guevara) in the 1950s. From the Andes to the Amazon, the two men discover a whole new world filled with social injustice but also kindness and hope. Warning: You may be inspired to sell your car.

“Turn Right At Machu Picchu” by Mark Adams

(Photo courtesy of Amazon)
(Photo courtesy of Amazon)

Although Machu Picchu is something of a tourist circus today, you’ll be dying to visit after reading about the author’s attempt to mimic Hiram Bingham’s original expedition through the Sacred Valley and the lost Inca lands.

“Don’t Go There” by Adam Fletcher

The perfect book to enjoy from the comfort of your sofa, Fletcher details the wild and nerve-racking adventures he’s had in places you’re probably very curious about — but may not actually want to visit. From North Korea to Chernobyl and little-known Transnistria, you can’t help but laugh as the author injects his distinct sense of humor into his insane experiences in strange places.

Best travel books for self-discovery

“Catfish and Mandala” by Andrew Pham

(Photo courtesy of Amazon)
(Photo courtesy of Amazon)

Grieving from the death of his sister, a young Vietnamese American struggles to understand where he belongs and embarks on a bicycle journey through Vietnam, Mexico and Japan. Undeterred by obstacles such as dysentery, scammers and his own conflicted emotions, Pham bikes thousands of miles over five months. This book is as much about the emotional journey as the physical one.

“Spirit Run” by Noé Álvarez

(Photo courtesy of Amazon)
(Photo courtesy of Amazon)

First-generation immigrant Noé Álvarez struggles to fit in at university, so he decides to change course after hearing about Peace and Dignity Journeys running events, dedicated to reinforcing cultural unity and diversity. The book follows his four-month-long run from Canada to Guatemala.

“Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert

Although it’s hard not to imagine Julie Roberts gallivanting across the globe, the book is just as good, if not better, than the film. Daydream of Italy’s lively cobblestone streets, discover India’s soulful spirit and imagine yourself surrounded by Bali’s verdant rice fields as you follow Gilbert’s quest to discover the meaning of life. (And yes, you can also file this under best travel books for foodies.)

“Wild” by Cheryl Strayed

(Photo courtesy of Amazon)
(Photo courtesy of Amazon)

Reeling from the death of her mother, drug use and divorce, Strayed impulsively decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Alone. From losing her hiking boots to seriously overstuffing her pack, the author details the good, the bad and the life-changing during her 1,100-mile journey on foot.

Other travel books we love

“Cathedral of the Sea” by Ildefonso Falcones

(Photo courtesy of Amazon)
(Photo courtesy of Amazon)

Few books have fueled my wanderlust the way this one did. Set in 14th-century Barcelona, this work of historical fiction blends adventure with romance and, somehow, the Spanish Inquisition. Follow Arnau Estanyol and his fellow stoneworkers as they construct the city’s famous Santa Maria del Mar cathedral, which still stands today.

“Cruising Attitude” by Heather Poole

The title pretty much sums it up, but the author — flight attendant Heather Poole — explains how the friendly skies are not always so friendly. Expect plenty of drama and tales of passengers behaving badly. For more up-in-the-air action, you can always dig into some flight attendant gossip from TPG’s very own Carrie A. Tray.

Related: 6 trips you should book at least a year in advance

Best travel books for kids

“Madlenka” by Peter Sís

(Photo courtesy of Amazon)
(Photo courtesy of Amazon)

Show your children the world within a single city block. Madlenka, an endearing child with a loose tooth, experiences the world while stopping into spots like the French bakery, the Latin-American grocery store and the Asian shop on her city block.

“The Traveling Child Goes To Rio” by Monet Hambrick

Follow along as two young sisters explore Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The book not only appeals to a child’s sense of adventure, but also explains the practicalities of travel, such as flights and passport stamps. Hambrick delves into Brazil’s culture and landmarks in a relatable, kid-friendly manner.

“The Secret Island” by Enid Blyton

(Photo courtesy of Amazon)
(Photo courtesy of Amazon)

Older kids reading chapter books will be enthralled as siblings Peggy, Mike and Nora run away from an evil aunt and uncle to discover a secret island. Along with their orphaned friend, Jack, they build a home from a willow tree and live life in their very own paradise.

“Scarlett’s Passport: Australia” by Alli Botto

For those dreaming of a family trip far, far away, “Scarlett’s Passport: Australia” is first in a series of children’s books about Scarlett, who heads to the land Down Under to have adventures with animals, food, language and more. Next in the series will be “Scarlett’s Passport: Hawaii.”

Featured photo by Morsa Images/Getty.

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