Of course, it’s all a matter of personal taste but whether you’re planning a trip or just dreaming of an adventure, a good travel book can inspire, inform and most definitely entertain. The best travel books can transport you to another location as you leaf through their pages, so even armchair travelers can enjoy a new destination.
In this modern travel classic, author Paul Theroux chronicles his journey from London through Europe, the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia aboard famous trains such as the Orient Express, the Frontier Mail, the Mandalay Express and the Trans-Siberian Express. Theroux’s detailed-filled writing, including the people he meets and the unfamiliar food he eats along the way, makes for a fascinating travelogue. One of the best travel books for train lovers and those interested in taking an iconic rail journey.
“I was nineteen years old, still soft at the edges, but with a confident belief in good fortune. I carried a small rolled-up tent, a violin in a blanket, a change of clothes, a tin of treacle biscuits, and some cheese. I was excited, vain-glorious, knowing I had far to go; but not, as yet, how far.”
So begins the adventure of the young Laurie Lee, who walks from his tiny village in a remote corner of Gloucestershire, to London and into the twentieth century. Knowing one Spanish phrase, he decides to take the ferry to Spain. Unbeknownst to Lee, Spain in 1934 was on the verge of war, and, inexorably, he becomes entangled in the passionate, violent and bloody confusion that was the Spanish Civil War.
No list of the best travel books would be complete without featuring Jack Kerouac’s timeless classic On the Road, considered by many to be one of the best travel books of all time. Largely autobiographical, the novel follows two friends, Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty, who in 1947 leave New York City and head west in search of freedom and fulfilment through drink, sex, drugs and jazz. A literary embodiment of the Beat generation, the tale of their hitch-hiking and train-hopping adventures encapsulates the rebellion and exuberance of American youth in the post-war years.
This classic travel adventure is the tale of Eric Newby and Hugh Carless – two young, inexperienced Englishmen – who set out to walk through Afghanistan to the Nuristan Mountains in the 1950s. The pair were completely unprepared but full of Boys’ Own-style confidence and optimism. It’s a funny, thrilling account of adventure, complete with acute observations of the characters they meet along the way and the fascinating geography of the region.
Author John Steinbeck recalls his road trip across the United States in 1960 with his French poodle Charley. Traveling through 40 states, they traversed woods and deserts, dirt tracks and highways to cities and remote wildernesses on a journey of discovery. Along the way, Steinbeck reflects on America and the American character.
If you’re planning a trip to the southern tip of South America, then Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia is a must-read. Charting his six-month journey across this remote and mysterious land, the book is a jumble of travel stories, full of evocative descriptions, fascinating history and encounters with the people he met on the way. An instant classic when published in 1977, In Patagonia inspires with its zest for adventure.
This real-life tale of Robert Byron’s travels in the Middle East in the 1930s has inspired countless travelers and travel writers. In search of architectural treasures, Byron undertook a journey through Beirut, Jerusalem, Baghdad, and Teheran to the ancient Oxus river – which borders Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. The Road to Oxiana is not only an entertaining account of his adventures but a fascinating insight into a region now inaccessible to many travelers.
Grab your umbrella for a grand tour through the heartland of the United Kingdom. As author Bill Bryson wanders through tiny villages and bustling cities, his irreverent travelogue will keep you laughing out loud and eager to explore what lies just around the next corner. Before he returns to the United States after nearly two decades on British soil, Bryson decides to take a farewell jaunt through his adopted homeland. But his plans to neatly traverse the island by foot, bus, and train are soon thwarted. On weekends, odd train and bus schedules leave him stranded in isolated communities with damp, moldering inns. And as a destination beckons above the rooftops, a maze of city streets leads him further away. Amidst the difficulties, Bryson encounters quirky age-old customs, charming architecture, and salt-of-the-earth inhabitants.
Homage to Catalonia is George Orwell’s personal account of his experiences and observations in the Spanish Civil War. Orwell served as a private, a corporal (cabo) and—when the informal command structure of the militia gave way to a conventional hierarchy in May 1937—as a lieutenant, on a provisional basis, in Catalonia and Aragon from December 1936 until June 1937. In June 1937, the leftist political party with whose militia he served (the POUM, the Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification, an anti-Stalinist communist party) was declared an illegal organization and Orwell was consequently forced to either flee or face imprisonment.
First published in 1926, The Sun Also Rises is a classic example of Hemingway’s spare but powerful writing style. A poignant look at the disillusionment and angst of the post-World War I generation, the novel introduces two of Hemingway’s most unforgettable characters: Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley. The story follows the flamboyant Brett and the hapless Jake as they journey from the wild nightlife of 1920s Paris to the brutal bullfighting rings of Spain with a motley group of expatriates. It is an age of moral bankruptcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealized love, and vanishing illusions.