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19 travel books to read now to inspire your next trip

May 09, 2020
11 min read
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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 image by Getty Images

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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
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5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023