You’ll love these 16 books about travel & self-discovery

The best travel reads fuel the traveler’s desire to wander and learn more about themselves and their world. Here are 16 great books about travel self-discovery that are currently inspiring me. 

If you haven’t read these books yet, I encourage you to pick one up today. 

These are awesome books to inspire wanderlust. Whether you’re into reading about solo travel, travel and adventure, nonfiction travel books, or fiction travel books, you’re sure to find something on this list that you’ll love.

woman wearing a red backback sitting by a lake and reading a book

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Good books (I mean really good books) don’t just entertain—they broaden you, they make you think, and they take you outside yourself. Books lead you on a journey without leaving your house so to speak. 

I love books that not only broaden my mental horizons but also inspire me to pack up and broaden my travel horizons. And isn’t that really what travel is about? Learning more about the world, but firsthand rather than just through others?  

So whether you can’t travel for a while or are just looking for some good books to read, here are some of my top recommendations.

When you are ready to travel again, make sure you check out these best books to read on your flight.

Nonfiction travel books

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

You’ll find Eat, Pray, Love on a LOT of top travel book lists for a reason. It’s well-written and absolutely makes you want to jump up from your comfy couch and start packing. 

This book made me yearn to be back in Rome. And this was not just a “oh, I’d love to go back to Rome someday,” but a deep longing to be in Rome…like a physical pain almost. I suppose that’s what good travel writing is supposed to do. 

cover image for Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilberty
15,739 Reviews
Eat Pray Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Gilbert, Elizabeth (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner

Eric Weiner’s The Geography of Bliss was my introduction to great travel writing. I read this on the recommendation of my mother (thanks, Mom!) who read it when she was in a Borders bookstore book club (remember Borders??). 

Weiner, a former NPR foreign correspondent, covers thousands and thousands of miles in search of what it is that makes people happy and makes some surprising discoveries along the way. This book inspired my desire to travel to Iceland long before it was such a hot travel destination. Unfortunately, I have yet to make it to Iceland, but I’ll get there someday.  

cover image for The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner
2,021 Reviews
The Geography of Bliss
  • Weiner, Eric (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 345 Pages – 01/05/2009 (Publication Date) – Twelve (Publisher)

In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

I have to admit that before I picked up Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country, Australia was not really near the top of my travel bucket list. This book changed all that for me. Now I can’t wait to see Australia for myself. 

If you’ve never read any Bill Bryson before, this book is a great place to start. And if you have any kind of sense of humor at all, you will laugh out loud. 

Bryson’s descriptions of the places he visits, the people he meets, and how he describes all the terrible and dangerous ways one can die in Australia still make me chuckle when I think about them.

cover image for Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country
10,681 Reviews
In a Sunburned Country
  • Australia – description & travel
  • Bryson, Bill (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

Think of this as the East Coast version of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. Just kidding. It’s not that. 

Bryson’s classic book about walking the Appalachian Trail (or parts of it) A Walk in the Woods should really be required reading for American travelers…just because.  

I think I had somehow gotten it into my head that the Appalachian Trail, while really really long, was somehow easy to walk. Yeah, I don’t think that anymore. You probably won’t catch me gearing up and heading out on the trail anytime soon, at least partly because this book made Bryson’s experiences on the Trail come quite alive for me.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Into the Wild is the story of Chris McCandless, who cut ties with his family and took off. Later found dead by a party of moose hunters, this book demonstrates that “striking out on your own” when you really have no idea what you’re doing can and often does have deadly consequences. This is definitely the dark side of going solo and in search of yourself. 

cover image of Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
20,484 Reviews
Into the Wild
  • Random House Into the Wild, Paperback by Jon Krakauer – 9780385486804
  • Jon Krakauer (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

If you need more from Krakauer (and who doesn’t need more of that great writing?), then Into Thin Air should also be on your “to-be-read” list. Considered one of the greatest adventure travel books of all time, Into Thin Air tells the story of Jon Krakauer’s experience as a part of a Mt. Everest expedition in May 1996…the deadliest season ever.

Harrowing is the best way to describe this book. I couldn’t put it down.

cover image of Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
21,731 Reviews
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster
  • Random House Into Thin Air, Paperback by Jon Krakauer – 9780385494786
  • Jon Krakauer (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Frances Mayes’ surprise bestseller about buying and fixing up a Tuscan villa so she could live in Italy part-time while on breaks from her university teaching job should be in every wanderluster’s “to be read” pile. This book was on the New York Times best-seller list for more than two and a half years. 

I never read a book that made me want to pick up and move to another country (in this case Italy) more than Under the Tuscan Sun. Well, Eat Pray Love did also. A lot. Okay, this one is a close second then. 

I think it’s important to point out that the movie Under the Tuscan Sun bears little resemblance to the actual book. So, if you enjoyed the movie, you may be a little surprised if you pick up the book.

cover image for Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
2,172 Reviews
Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy
  • Mayes, Frances (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 320 Pages – 09/02/1997 (Publication Date) – Crown (Publisher)

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Wild is the story of how Cheryl Strayed took off to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, from the Mojave Desert to Washington State…with no hiking experience. Distraught at the death of her mother (her father left when she was a young child), Strayed set off on an epic journey to find healing for her grief. 

cover image for Wild by Cheryl Strayed
73,909 Reviews
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
  • 102812 Has limited quantity available
  • Strayed, Cheryl (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Published posthumously, A Moveable Feast is the memoir of young Ernest Hemingway’s time in Paris as a writer following World War I. It includes his personal memories and stories and features other notable Lost Generation figures like F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and Ford Maddox Ford. 

I picked up my copy at Shakespeare and Company on my trip to Paris. I love how the cover of my copy has a photo of Hemingway standing out in front of the original Shakespeare and Company shop.  

The Absolute Best Books to Read Before Your Trip to Paris

A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition
  • Hemingway, Ernest (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages – 07/20/2010 (Publication Date) – Scribner (Publisher)

My Life in France by Julia Child

When Julia Child arrived in Paris in 1948 with her husband Paul (who had been sent there by the U.S. State Department) she didn’t know anything about the culture or language. But soon she was engaging in the culture…and as a result, discovered her hidden talent for cooking. 

My Life in France is the story of Child’s willingness to try new things and stretch herself led directly to her changing the face of cooking in America. Child’s autobiography was used as part of the basis for the film Julie & Julia.  

My Life in France
  • Great product!
  • Child, Julia (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Fiction travel books

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” — Bilbo Baggins   

Not every travel book is a memoir. The ultimate in travel quest literature has to be J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Bilbo’s and Frodo’s journeys changed them forever in ways they could never have imagined if they had stayed quietly at home in their hobbit hole in Hobbiton. 

Yes, these are two distinct books, but I don’t think anyone should read one without the other. Tolkien’s books also have the advantage of being great for younger readers as well as adults. 

The Hobbit (The Lord of the Rings)
792 Reviews
The Hobbit (The Lord of the Rings)
  • Tolkien, J.R.R. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 320 Pages – 08/15/2002 (Publication Date) – Clarion Books (Publisher)
The Lord of the Rings: 50th Anniversary, One Vol. Edition
3,802 Reviews
The Lord of the Rings: 50th Anniversary, One Vol. Edition
  • Tolkien, J.R.R. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 1178 Pages – 10/12/2005 (Publication Date) – Mariner Books (Publisher)

A Room with a View by E.M. Forster 

I credit (blame?) this book for fueling my desire to see Florence, Italy, on my first international trip. A Room with a View starts out telling the story of Lucy Honeychurch on a trip to Italy with her spinster cousin Charlotte. While in Florence, Lucy and Charlotte get to know the other English tourists visiting Florence at the same time…and those relationships continue once they return home. 

It’s considered one of the finest 20th-century novels in the English language. 

In this case, I think the Merchant Ivory film with Helena Bonham Carter and Maggie Smith is an excellent adaptation of a lovely book. Oh, and Daniel Day-Lewis is great too. (When is he not?) 

cover image for A Room with a View by EM Forster
7,295 Reviews
A Room With a View (Annotated by Vocabbett Classics) (Vocabbett Classics: Annotated Editions)
  • Forster, E.M. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 235 Pages – 11/03/2023 (Publication Date) – Vocabbett Press (Publisher)

Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

Around the World in 80 Days (published in 1873) tells the adventure story of Phileas Fogg and his valet as they make their way literally around the world to win a bet. Fogg bets half of his fortune that he can make his way around the world by rail, steamer, and such in just 80 days. 

Of course, the two men have many adventures along the way. It’s a great read. By the way, I’ve yet to see a good film adaptation of this wonderful book. 

Around the World in Eighty Days: 5 Weeks in a Balloon (Wordsworth Classics)
  • Jules Verne (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 384 Pages – 08/05/1997 (Publication Date) – Wordsworth Editions Ltd (Publisher)

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

On the Road is a classic of beat literature but not a fun read. Nope. But it is essential reading if you’re into travel and American lit…which, fortunately, I am.

On the Road is a fictionalized account of Kerouac’s American road trip travels with Neal Cassady, another major fixture of the Beat Generation. On the Road cemented Kerouac’s standing as THE voice of the beats. 

On the Road: The Original Scroll: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Kerouac, Jack (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift did not intend for Gulliver’s Travels to be merely entertaining, though it definitely is. This book follows Lemuel Gulliver as he explores fantastical lands like Lilliput, Brobdingnag, Luggnagg, and Glubbdubdrib. Considered a masterwork of satire, Gulliver’s Travels often appears on lists of the greatest books of all time.

Gulliver’s Travels
  • Swift, Jonathan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 312 Pages – 05/05/2020 (Publication Date) – Independently published (Publisher)

The bottom line

Reading about travel may not be as good as actually traveling, but a good book can be wonderfully transporting…if you let it. So when you can’t travel, what could be better than a book? 

Do you have any travel books you’d recommend?

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