I’ve always been a bookworm. Books transport you to new places, different times, and cultures unlike your own—much like traveling itself does. So it’s no surprise that many avid travelers are also avid readers.
Here are my five best books to read before you travel, both fiction and non-fiction, about the art and beauty and joy of traveling to get you all inspired for your next journey. They’re perfect whether you’re yearning to travel just a few miles away or across the world.
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1. The Pillars of Hercules by Paul Theroux
Every travel book Paul Theroux has written lights a fire under you to undertake some epic journey – across all of Russia by train, or other similarly arduous trips. But I really love this exploration of the Mediterranean as he journeys around the whole soft, secluded sea (it barely even has tides).
It’s a different look at the cultures that have sprung up and changed constantly around this very old sea. Plus, he wrote it in the middle of the war in Yugoslavia, so reading a description of wartime Split and recently opened Albania was fascinating while I was living there. Buy it on Amazon.
2. Travels with my Aunt by Graham Greene
I have seven nieces and nephews, and someday I dream of pulling them out of a gardening obsession into a swirl of exotic locales. That’s what happens in Graham Greene’s very funny and oddly touching novel, plus some light crimes and a lot of scandalous love affairs.
He is one of my favorite writers of all time and was an obsessive traveler too (Journey Without Maps is also a really excellent travel memoir), but this novel is light and still instructive. You’ll want to forgo a dull suburban retirement once you read it too—it’s a fun but also sublime read and one of the best books about traveling. Buy it on Amazon.
3. The Lonely City by Olivia Laing
Not a typical travel memoir, as the author doesn’t stray outside of their hometown of New York City, but a beautiful travel read nonetheless. Laing ties the work of four innovative artists and their connection to urban life and modern loneliness in a sublimely beautiful way.
As a solo traveler, this book about traveling resonated deeply with me and gave me a new appreciation for my own company, especially as a woman. It’s one of those books that moved me so much I remember exactly where I read it (in bed, under the mid-summer light, in a converted barn on the Isle of Man full of kittens and spiders). Buy it on Amazon.
4. The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton
I love everything the philosopher Alain de Botton has written (high marks also for How Proust Can Change Your Life), but his guide to getting lost and found in travel is lovely. Don’t let his fancy titles fool you into thinking this is some dense, inaccessible philosophical work – he explores why we travel, what we get out of it, and how it changes us.
And he does it all in a way that seems so simple it’s easy to forget the depths of knowledge he accesses to get us there. It’s one of my favorite books about travel and finding yourself. It will make you look at your past travels, and your desire to travel, and your future travels, in a new and clearer light. Buy it on Amazon.
5. A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
Another one of my favorite authors, Rebecca Solnit, makes the case in this book on traveling for getting lost in the uncertain and the unknown as an antidote to freezing ourselves too much within what we think is our comfort zone.
A little loss of control is good for us humans, who like to cling to the illusion that we have any at all. And traveling, whether it’s to the other side of the world or just to the other side of town, is the perfect way to do that.
It will inspire you to lose yourself more, and find yourself too, as all the best books for travelers do. Buy it on Amazon.
Best books for travelers
These are all good books to read while traveling as well as before you head out on your next journey. But they’re also wonderful travel reading to help you explore the world from the comfort of your own couch if you don’t have any upcoming travel plans.
Treat yourself to a little escape via these books about traveling the world, a corner of it, or just your own hometown through new eyes—I hope you love them as much as I do!
Want more recommendations for books to read before you travel to some of my favorite places? I’ve got you covered!
- Best books about Greece
- Best books about England
- Best books about Ireland
- Best books about Italy
- Best books about France