A person reads a book on a subway

My top 10 travel books (as of 2021)

A good travel book can induce wanderlust like your mom’s cooking can induce hunger. Once it’s begun, there’s no stopping it.

I can’t think of many things I’d prefer to do than sit in a café, park, my home, or even just a small box in a closet (don’t ask questions), and read a stack of great travel books.

Descriptions of the places carry your imagination off on its own world tour.

Smells seem to fill your nose as they emanate from the local food stalls.

Picturesque mountains, cliffs seem to shoot up into the clouds. The beautiful, sandy beaches and the waves calmly lapping against the shore.

Sprawling cities, their skyscrapers clustered together forming a busy hive of humanity.

For me, travel books were my way of transport when I was physically unable to.

I would consume them at rapid rates, devouring 300-400 page books in a couple of days. Often, though, I had trouble finding books that I knew would pique my interest.

As much as a great travel book can boost your wanderlust, I believe that a bad one can do exactly the opposite.

And I know people like you are constantly on the search for a good book to inspire that next trip.

So, here are the books that will give you the juice you’re looking for.


10/10

The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner
Khaled Hosseini

The only book that has ever made my eyes begin to burn, my throat knot up, and cause me to look away, saying, “No, something is just in my eye.”

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini tells the story of a young Afghan boy, Amir, who fled to America during the Soviet invasion.

So much has been written about this book already, but Hosseini’s writing carries the reader on a heart-wrenching story about regret, grief, and redemption.

I remember reading this book and not being able to put it down, each passing chapter making me pick up speed as the story weaved through my mind.

Fiction isn’t usually my thing, but this was an exception.

Check out The Kite Runner on Amazon.


9/10

Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea
Greg Mortenson

When you read books about certain people, you think, “Man, he/she just seems like a good person. Like a really good person.”

That was my impression of Greg Mortenson after reading Three Cups of Tea.

After attempting to climb Pakistan’s K2, Greg stumbled into an impoverished mountain community.

After seeing this community and the generosity they showed him, he vowed to build them a school that they sorely lacked.

He went on to build fifty-five schools — many for girls — right in the backyard of the Taliban.

This book does an excellent job following him along in his journey and showing the difference that one person can make with the right amount of determination.

Strongly recommend it if you want some feel-good inspiration.

You can find it here on Amazon.


8/10

Vagabonding

Vagabonding
Rolf Potts

A book that is in every long-term traveler’s arsenal.

This was one of the first books I picked up when I began to take the thought of traveling for an extended time seriously.

Rolf Potts writes a thorough and valuable handbook for prospective or current travelers.

In this book, you can find tips/methods on how to specifically save money, finance your trip, pick a destination, handle adversity, find work (if necessary), and, one of the more difficult ones for extended travelers, reverse culture shock.

This book was, and has been, invaluable for me during my travels and is one of the travel books that every traveler should have in their collection.

You can find it on Amazon.


7/10

That Wild Country

That Wild Country
Mark Kenyon

That Wild Country reeled me in like a prize sea bass from page one.

Mark Kenyon is an outdoorsman/writer by trade, and he takes you on a journey through the national parks in the U.S. and their history.

Each park served as a different section, and each section was typically two chapters.

In one part, he wrote it as a travelogue, allowing you to join him on his adventure and the beauty most people visit these parks don’t see.

The second serves as more of a history lesson, giving the background on how these parks came to be and the fighting it has taken to protect them.

An invaluable travel and history book in one.

Pick it up on Amazon here.


6/10

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy cover
Douglas Adams

I won’t lie. I was really late getting to this one.

I had always heard of the movie but never knew it was originally a book.

Finally, some friends in Phuket recommended it to me.

And, wow, I have been missing out.

Douglas Adams’s humor appealed to me instantly, and the way he bends a conversation in so many directions had me laughing out loud.

I’m assuming most have seen the movie, so I won’t go super in-depth on the details, but the story follows a man named Arthur Dent and his friend, Ford Prefect.

They continue on a journey through space, adding other interesting characters and continuing on a story that will likely have you laughing.

You can get the individual book here, or the entire collection here on Amazon.


5/10

Neither Here nor There

Neither Here Nor There
Bill Bryson

Yet another travel classic, but one that was an early read for me and was a giant inspiration in my writing.

Bill Bryson is a legend in the travel writing genre, and he delivers a great travelogue with Neither Here nor There.

His unique perspective and humor always bring a smile to a traveler’s face.

When Bryson was younger, he had backpacked across Europe. Twenty years after, he decided it was time to do it again.

Starting in Hammerfest, Norway (the northernmost town in Europe), Bryson backpacks through Europe, finishing in Istanbul, Turkey (the end of Europe and beginning of Asia).

Bryson writes one of the best travelogues, never short on stories, wit, and absurd situations.

Find it here on Amazon.


4/10

Getting Stoned with Savages

Getting Stoned with Savages
J. Maarten Troost

My girlfriend brought J. Maarten Troost’s books into my life; thank goodness she did!

She bought Getting Stoned with Savages for me and I read it in a day-and-a-half.

Troost’s unique writing style and lung-cramping stories inspired me.

In Getting Stoned with Savages, Troost is living on the island of Vanuatu to start.

In Troost’s words, the people love to indulge in kava and still “eat the man”.

As he tries to balance natural disasters, freakishly large insects, and helping his wife while she has their first son, he maintains a classic sense of humor that will keep you reading.

Following his tribulations in Vanuatu, he seeks a more calm existence in Fiji.

Let’s just say calm isn’t the right adjective for what he would get.

You can find it on Amazon.


3/10

Walking the Woods and the Water

Walking the Woods and the Water
Nick Hunt

Another great book about someone traversing Europe on foot.

In Walking the Woods and the Water, Nick Hunt follows Patrick Leigh Fermor’s footsteps, only 78 years later.

If you do not know who Patrick Leigh Fermor is, he is the author of A Time of Gifts, Between the Woods and the Water, and The Broken Road — all famous travelogues, respectively.

Nick Hunt aims to find an old-fashioned adventure, have time to slow down and enjoy a world that seems to be slipping away.

During his travels, he learns of the generosity of complete strangers, the freedom of traveling by foot, and the cultures and stories of the countries he passes through.

Like Bryson’s Neither Here nor There, this made me want to jump on a plane to Europe once I got to the back cover.

You can find it here.


2/10

The Rise of the Ultrarunners

The Rise of the Ultra Runners
The Rise of the Ultra Runners
Adharanand Finn

There had to be a crossover of running and travel eventually.

And, honestly, I can’t choose a better book to make the transition.

The Rise of the Ultrarunners is more of a #1a than #2.

Once I finished the book, I immediately reread it. I enjoyed it that much.

In addition, it gave me huge insights into better training practices.

Adharanand Finn, an award-winning author and author of Running with the Kenyans, travels the world, competing in different ultra-running events in places like Oman, the Rocky Mountains, and the UTMB in France.

His book gives a remarkable look into the world of endurance running and what pushes people to test their boundaries.

In addition, Finn faces his own trials and tribulations and comes out of them with new perspectives.

I could write an entire post on this book alone, but I’ll let you find out for yourself.

The Audible edition has a fantastic narrator if you prefer to listen.

Here’s the link.


1/10

The Footloose American

The Footloose American
Brian Kevin

I honestly don’t think you’ll find this at #1 on top travel book lists anywhere else.

I was browsing a local Barnes & Noble travel section and had picked it up.

Being someone who had recently read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, the subtitle instantly caught my eye.

It didn’t hurt I’ve always been interested in traveling to South America.

Brian Kevin travels across South America — visiting Brazil, Peru, and Colombia — following the ghost of Hunter S. Thompson, who had made the trip in 1963.

Eager to discover what may have led to Thompson’s “gonzo journalism”, Kevin contrasts his personal journey with Thompson’s.

While taking the reader on a fantastic journey, Kevin explores South American politics, culture, and ecology.

If South America and personal travelogues pique your interest, this one is definitely for you.

You can find it here.


If there are any travel books that you feel I’ve missed, let me know in the comments. There’s a chance I may not have read it yet and would love the opportunity to add it.


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4 thoughts on “My top 10 travel books (as of 2021)”

  1. Pingback: Teach English Online: A Guide – TheTravelRunner

  2. I just added several of these to my list! And I really like the combination of travel/running in The Rise of Ultra Runners, which I still need to read also!

  3. Pingback: Motivate yourself to run: Tips and tricks – The Travel Runner

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