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Books and travel are two of my favourite things in the world. Hand in hand, the two are a match made in heaven. Over the years I’ve read and have had people recommend some of the most incredible travel books, memoirs and novels, written by authors who are not only able to capture the emotion of the story, but the destination. You can see, feel and almost taste the city. It’s a literary journey and experience all its own.
I’ve read a few of these books myself and the rest are on my “to read” list. Many of them have either won awards, or have received rave reviews by hundreds of others. They are all gems.
If you love to travel, I promise you these books will rock your world! Let me know if I missed any ‘must-reads’ as I’m always on the lookout for the next great book. Have you read any of the ones mentioned below?
1. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
It’s topped the best-seller’s list for a long time now and was named as one of Oprah’s Book Club picks. After the devastating loss of her mother and hitting rock bottom, Cheryl Strayed hikes the 1,100 mile Pacific Crest Trail that runs through California and Oregon. Her story is emotional, heart wrenching and inspiring.
2. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
I just finished reading this book a few weeks ago. As an athlete and a runner, Christopher McDougall sets off on a search for the world’s greatest distance runners, the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico’s Copper Canyons. After hunting them down and learning their secret, he learns that everything we think we know about running is all wrong. A fascinating look at a tribe, a destination and the art of running.
3. Becoming Oydssa by Jennifer Pharr Davis
Jennifer’s finished college and isn’t too sure what to do with her life, so she sets off on a hike through the Appalachian Trail, a 2,175 mile path that runs from Georgian through Maine. With a 30 lb pack on her back, she hikes through the next four months and learns a lot about herself and others.
4. A Thousand Days in Tuscany by Marlena De Blasi
This book continues the adventures of Marlena and Fernando as they leave Venice for Tuscany in order to find “a place that still remembers real life… sweet and salty… each side of life dignifying the other.”The book is filed with the life, romance, food and weather of Tuscany. Warning: you may want to book a ticket to Italy after this one!
5. A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena De Blasi
Do you believe in love at first sight? Marlena, a divorced American chef travels through Italy and just a few months after meeting Fernando for the first time, has sold her house and quit her job to move to Venice in order to marry him. A true love story filled with the sights and flavors of Italy.
6. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
Amazon.com’s very own review of this book describes it beautifully:
“If you love the ancient charms of the Italian coast on the Ligurian Sea, if you long for Edinburgh and its cold rain and distant hot sun, and if you love stories of the dream factory that is Hollywood, you will not be able to part from this book until you are finished reading it. Even then, for months afterward, you’ll keep it close so you can reread a passage here and there that moved you.”
7. The Longest Road by Philip Caputo
In this fascinating biography, Philip Caputo, his wife and their two dogs pack up their rented 1962 Globetrotter Airstream and trek across America from Key West, Florida to Deadhorse, Alaska to essentially talk to people about the state of the country and find out whether America really is falling apart as the media portrays. After traveling 5,475 miles, Caputo shares his story and the story of those he meets along the way.
8. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
People either hate this book, or love it. Personally, I loved it! Elizabeth Gilbert leaves it all behind in search for everything across Italy (Eat), India (Pray) and Indonesia (Love).
9. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? By Maria Semple
This is one of the one travel books that is funny, very funny indeed! It’s made the summer book list for many publications and almost everyone I know is in the middle of reading it as we speak.
The book is written using all sorts of formats from F.B.I. documents to letters and bills. Bernadette has her own set of anxiety issues that are so intense, she hires someone to deal with people and her everyday errands. Her husband and daughter adore her and everything works well until she disappears.
10. Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck, one of the greatest authors of our time, takes a journey across America with his dog Charley. Steinbeck’s sarcastic, opinionated and critical as he travels over three months traveling through America, meeting new people and discovering the country in the 1960’s.
11. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Having just escaped an Australian prison where he was supposed to serve a 19 year sentence for armed robberies, Mr. Lindsay aka Shantaram runs to Bombay with false papers, a false name and little money. There he will meet two people who will forever change his fate in the city.
12. Blue Highways: A Journey into America by William Least Heat-Moon
The ultimate American road trip. William Least Heat-Moon takes on the ultimate American road trip while traveling through the backroads of the United States. This book has become somewhat of a classic.
13. The Paris Wife by Ernest Hemingway
We know Ernest Hemingway, but his wife is somewhat of a mystery. The Paris Wife is written in Hadley Richardson’s voice, Hemingway’s first wife. Set in the 1920’s,this book follows her life as a Parisian wife to one of the greatest writers of our time.
14. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
A lighthouse keeper on a little island near Australia, discovers a baby in a rowboat one day as it washes up on shore. He and his wife look at this child as a gift from God and decide to raise it as their own. A heartbreaking tale that captures you from the first page and transports you into a different era on the other side of the world.
15. Coasting by Jonathan Raban
Jonathan Raban sails across the 2,000 mile coast of England and describes his experiences and reactions to discoveries and events along the way.
16. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
This book is award-winning Indian screenwriter Arundhati Roy’s first novel and is set in Kerala, India in the 1960s during an age where Communism and the caste system of India collide.
17. The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux
The ultimate train journey! Paul Theroux shares his travels and experiences as he tours from London’s Victoria Station to Tokyo Central and then back again traveling on the Orient Express, the Frontier Mail, the Khyber Pass Local, the Golden Arrow to Kuala Lumpur, the Mandalay Express and the Trans-Siberian Express.
18. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen
Greg Mortenson is a real-life hero. After climbing Pakistan’s infamous K2, he encountered the living conditions and poverty stricken villages of the mountainers in the area. Over the next ten years he built fifty five schools and this is the story of how he did it. Very inspiring!
19. Without Reservations for Alice Steinbach
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Steinbach takes a break from her job and travels across Europe, where she meets interesting people, faces obstacles and encountering adventures. The book is filled with postcards sent from Alice to Alice, each with a note, lesson or bit of advice.
20. Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
Many of you may recognize the title from the movie Under the Tuscan Sun, which was inspired by this book. Frances Mayes, buys, renovates and lives in an abandoned villa in Tuscany and shares the beauty, light, color and flavor of rural Italy in her story.
21. The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Che Guevara
Another book that has been made into a major motion picture! The Motorcycle Diaries follows along the journey of Chey, a 23-year-old medical student who takes a break from school and rides on his motorcycle through South America.
22. My Life in France by Julia Child
Have you ever wondered how Julia Child started her career? You may be surprised! She knew nothing about France or the language when she first arrived in Paris back in 1948, in fact she didn’t even know much about cooking. This story will not only give you a taste for France, but it will leave you inspired. Anything is possible.
23. The Most Beautiful Walk in the World by John Baxter
John Baxter, an author and longtime resident of Paris reflets on his literary walking tours through the magical City of Lights. Through the book, you’ll visit the cafes of Jaames Joyce and Ernest Hemingway, learn about Pablo Picasso’s underground Montmarte hunts and follow the trail of legendary writers and artists from Paris’ past.
24. Little Princes by Conor Grennan
At 29 years old, Conor Grennan traded his job to take a trip around the world and started off with three months volunteering at the Little Princes Children’s Home, an orphanage in Nepal. Turns out this was no orphanage. Child traffickers took the kids and promised their families that they would protect the children from the civil war. These children were never reunited with their families and instead ended up abandoned in Kathmandu.
Conor vows to help them and documents his life in this book. An incredible story!
25. Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron
The Silk Road is not just one road, it’s a 2,000 year old route that was used in ancient times for trading goods between China and Rome. This story is about a 7,000 mile journey along this route and the colorful experiences Colin Thubron goes through along the way.