Best Travel Books

Caroline Whatley holding a book in Delaware

Inspiration comes in so many forms these days. For starters, there’s YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. But for us, nothing quite has the same effect on us as a really great book. As such, we’ve created a list of our favorite books that inspire us to travel. How many of these have you read?

Need a little travel inspiration?

We’ve broken down some of our favorite books into categories to help you decide on the perfect book for you.

If you love the water:

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan
This book was given to me by my mom’s best friend, Debbie Harmon, on a recent visit to her home in Santa Fe. Over dinner the discussion turned to books and she walked right over to her shelf and chose this one for me. I’ve been reading it slowly, savoring it, really, in the way one does with great books. As you might guess, it’s focus is on surfing.

Erin McGrady holding a book at the beach
Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan

Dove by Robin Lee Graham
I first read this book when I was 22 and living on Andros Island in the Bahamas. Boats were fairly new to me at this point in my life and I was spellbound at the thought of someone going on a solo adventure at sea on a 24 foot sailboat.

If you dream of road trips and van life:

Van Life: Your Home on the Road by Foster Huntington
If you love pictures of vans and get starry eyed at the thought of living the van life, put this book on your reading list. It’s photo-heavy and the images are so cool … vans parked in all kinds of places, peeks at the inside of unique rigs … you know the deal.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac
This is a story about a cross-country road trip that Kerouac took with Neal Cassidy. I read this in my early twenties and it continues to inspire us to hit the road and seek out our own adventures, just like it has countless others who have read it. It’s a classic, legendary even, and a must read for anyone who dreams of a road trip. It’s easily one of our favorite and best travel books.

Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram by Iain Banks
Do you love road trips? Do you love whiskey? If either (or both) of these are true for you, then this is the book for you. Follow Banks on a tour of Scotland as he goes from distillery to distillery and see if you’re not searching the internet for a plane ticket to see and taste for yourself.

If you love nature and hiking:

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
My grandfather recommended this book to me because it had to do with a shared love of ours: the Appalachian Trail. He read it first and told me to give it a try. It sat on the shelf for years before I read it but he was right. It easily makes our list of the best travel books because it’s almost guaranteed to make you get out on the trail and hike a bit.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail
This #1 New York Times Bestseller by Cheryl Strayed was also turned into a movie (you know, the one with Reese Witherspoon in it.) I liked the book even though I found myself annoyed with the author on more than one occasion. It also really inspired me to want to get out and explore.

If you want a book that pulls at your heart:

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Gilbert leave behind a marriage and a career in search of something else. Her life-changing journey takes readers through three countries and in doing so, explores themes such as pleasure (Italy), devotion (India) and Bali (balance).

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
For years after reading this book, I would buy extra copies to have them on hand and would give them out to friends who I thought might appreciate it. It had that big of an impact on me. It’s one of the rare books I’ve read more than once. It’s not your typical travel book, but it’s on the list because it impacted the course of my life and led to decisions that placed value on following dreams.

Into the Wild
Another book turned into a movie. This book is also written by Jon Krakauer. It captivated me from the moment I opened it. I’d tell you more but I don’t want to ruin it for you. If you’re looking for a book to take you on an adventure that you won’t ever forget, choose this one.

If You Love the Mountains

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster
This book can be difficult to read because it talks about the tragedy on Mount Everest that happened back in 1996. There were parts of the book that had me on the edge of my seat and other parts that made me feel deeply sad and wonder about the risks we take in the name of adventure.

Best Travel Books Recap

What do you think about our list of the Best Travel Books? Have you read any others that inspired you to get out on the road and travel? We’d love to hear about them, please leave your comments below!

Published by Erin McGrady

Erin McGrady is a filmmaker, photographer, and writer exploring Asheville and beyond. My work focuses on sharing about LGBTQ safe spaces, camper van life, and the outdoors.

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