Want to travel, but can’t because…life? We feel you! Sometimes we’re destined to be arm-chair travellers ourselves until our next real adventure—but we’ve got the perfect antidote. Reading a great book can take us to places we’ve never been, sparking wanderlust like nothing else.
So to celebrate Book Lover’s Day (August 9), we’ve put together our top picks for the best travel books to inspire your next trip. Grab one of these and start dreaming—where will your next book take you?
The Motorcycle Diaries, Ernesto Che Guevera
Chile, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, USA
Ever dreamed of escaping your mundane life and hitting the open road with no plan to speak of? If you can’t fit a road trip into your schedule right now, but find yourself craving an epic adventure, pick up a copy of The Motorcycle Diaries. This classic travel tome is 23-year-old Ernesto “Che” Guevera’s personal account of his 1952 trip with friend Alberto Granado across South America.
After leaving home in Buenos Aires, the pair made their way by motorcycle through Chile, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela, where Che hopped a cargo plane to Miami.
You’ll get to experience South America through the eyes of a budding revolutionary, meet the locals and struggle with the issues Che faced as he awakened on his tour of self-discovery.
This New York Times best seller is described as “lively and highly entertaining” and has also been turned into a movie starring Gael Garcia Bernal. Perhaps you may have heard of it?
Saving Fish from Drowning, Amy Tan
Myanmar (formerly Burma)
In Saving Fish from Drowning, Joy Luck Club writer, Amy Tan takes the reader from San Francisco on a journey to the mysterious Burma (formerly Myanmar). In this quirky adventure, you’ll join the ghost of recently deceased art patron, Bibi Chen and a group of 11 friends on a carefully curated trek along the Burma Road.
Without Bibi to guide them, the rag tag group “embarks on a trail paved with cultural gaffes and tribal curses, Buddhist illusions and romantic desires,” eventually disappearing on Christmas day. This is a vivid colourful read, both an adventure and a mystery with some comedy thrown in for good measure. Read for yourself and see!
Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts
Shantaram can only be described as an epic adventure! And for armchair travellers, it may be the perfect foray deep into the underworld of Bombay (Mumbai). The story, which claims to be based on true events, is told by Lin; an escaped convict who’s fled a maximum-security prison in Australia.
Lin becomes part of a gritty Bombay world occupied by beggars, gangsters, prostitutes, holy men, soldiers, actors and exiles. He falls in love with the elusive Karla, while operating a clinic in one of the city’s poorest slums and working with the local mafia.
There’s a lot going on in this book but we think it’s worth the time. Load it on your e-reader though, because at 936 pages, this is a heavy one!
The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
Egypt & Spain
Often considered a masterpiece, Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist shows up on many “best travel books” lists. It’s easy to see why. This book tells the story of Santiago, a young Andalusian shepherd who’s been bitten by the travel bug. He yearns to leave home in search of a mystical treasure.
Santiago’s quest leads him from the plains of Spain to the pyramids of Egypt. On his journey, he learns these vital lessons: how to listen to his heart, recognize opportunity, read the omens along the path of life, and follow his dreams.
A Cook’s Tour, Anthony Bourdain
California to Cambodia
Anthony Bourdain is easily one of the most recognized celebrity chefs, authors and travellers of his time. And his legacy will live on despite his untimely passing in 2018. Bourdain had a way of drawing in his audience so that they felt they were right along with him on his many culinary adventures around the world.
A Cook’s Tour depicts Bordain’s travels around the world in search of the perfect meal. In it, he sets out on a quest for his culinary holy grail. Travelling from California to Cambodia, the reader joins this bold, quirky chef tasting many global delicacies along with him. So if you agree that food and travel are the perfect combo, this book is for you!
Wild, Cheryl Strayed
Whether you’ve read the book or seen the movie, you’ll be transported on a gritty journey of discovery with Wild, Cheryl Strayed’s compelling autobiography. Deeply depressed after losing her mother at 22, Strayed’s marriage soon broke down.
Four years later, she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State, alone…and with no experience to speak of. Not recommended.
Luckily, you don’t have to make the same choice, but can tag along with her as she pushes her body to the extreme, experiencing the wild beauty, battling the harsh wilderness and challenging her inner demons in the Mojave desert.
CBC books sums it up: “Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.”
Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan
Read Crazy Rich Asians yet? Or maybe you’ve seen the movie? Either way, it’s hard not to be swept up in the glitz, glamour and gossip of this fun glimpse into the world of the uber-rich!
When the handsome heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his American-born Chinese girlfriend for the wedding of the year, tongues wag and claws come out amongst three super-wealthy, Chinese families.
Down-to-earth Rachel Chu has no idea what she’s getting into when she agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend Nicholas Young. Instead of quality time with her man and days spent exploring the island, she’s met with a palace, private planes, and a whole lot of jealousy from people who want a piece of Nick’s fortune.
Through this book you’ll enter the world of the insanely wealthy and experience Singapore in ways you’ve never dreamed, dine in opulent gardens, spend the night in a mansion and even sample some classic Singaporean street food.
Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
Italy, India & Bali
Eat, Pray, Love is the story of Elizabeth Gilbert’s early midlife crisis and resulting soul searching journey through Italy, India and Bali. While Gilbert seemed like she’d hit all the major milestones by 30 (husband, house, successful career), she became crippled by depression, panic, grief, and confusion.
After going through a divorce and a failed relationship, she quit her job, got rid of her things and started off on a year-long solo adventure around the world. In Rome, she studied the art of pleasure, in India the art of devotion, in Bali the art of balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence. Why not join her?
There are so many great books out there that inspire travel. Have any recommendations of your own? Share below!