10 Must-Read Books for Passionate Travellers

Apr 7, 2020

Many passionate travellers are also passionate readers — especially of books set in foreign locales. Ask travellers what books they loved as kids and they might name favourites like "Curious George" or "A Bear Called Paddington" — whose heroes discover new cities — "Madeline" (those images of Paris!) or "Eloise" (imagine having the Plaza Hotel as your playroom). Is it any wonder that we grow up seeking out words and pictures that will transport us to other worlds? 

These days, when we’re restricted to our homes, books that evoke places far from home are more appealing and essential than ever. Here are 10 of our top recommendations for novels, memoirs and travelogues that will inspire future trips, expose you to new cultures and provide page-turning travel adventures from the comfort of your armchair. 

Make the most of your extra time at home with a free trial of Kindle Unlimited, allowing you to read as much as you want from over 1 million titles and thousands of audiobooks. (If you have both Canadian and U.S. Amazon accounts, the free trial must be redeemed using this one.) 

'The Alchemist' by Paulo Coelho 

A fable meets self-help story about following your dreams, "The Alchemist" follows a young shepherd boy on his journey through Spain, Morocco and Egypt on a quest for treasure and to meet the titular alchemist. Along the way, his adventure unfolds many lessons, but it's the philosophical passages on the true meaning of life that shine brightest.

Makes you want to visit: Spain, Morocco, Egypt

Perfect for the deep thinker who is looking for an inspiring and easy-reading novel to cozy up with

Why we love it: This modern classic is filled with wonderful inspiration and it reminds us that we all have a life purpose, a reason for being and that yours is just as significant as anybody’s, so it's important to rise up and break through the fears that hold us back.

Listen to "The Alchemist"

'Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail' by Cheryl Strayed 

"Wild" follows Cheryl Strayed’s journey hiking 1,100 miles (1,770 kilometres) of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California, Oregon and into Washington state. The memoir is one of grief, resilience and survival, both physical and mental, and it's uplifting to the last word. 

Makes you want to visit: the 4,275 kilometre long Pacific Crest Trail on the west coast of the U.S.

Perfect for those looking for nonfiction that reads with the intensity of a novel

Why we love it: A woman who voluntarily walks away from it all and sustains herself on a brutal outdoor trek — without previous experience — is naturally a compelling story. During her long days on the trail, it’s Strayed’s raw honesty about every aspect of her life, flaws and journey that keep up the story’s momentum. Plus, we also get a vivid picture of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets on the U.S.'s west coast. 

Listen to "Wild"


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by South African Airways (@flysaa) on

'Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood' by Trevor Noah  

The funny and affecting memoir by "The Daily Show" host brings readers to South Africa with stories about growing up under apartheid. Trevor Noah is the son of a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother, born at a time when such a union was punishable with prison time. The coming-of-age chronicle depicts life in Johannesburg during a tumultuous period and also visits Kruger National Park and other South Africa landmarks. 

Makes you want to visit: South Africa

Perfect for readers looking for astute observations of humanity, family and politics, all wrapped up in a quick and comical read

Why we love it: Trevor Noah has a unique perspective as the child of mixed-race parents. He writes with such strong humour that even the most painful subjects make for page-turning reading. 

Listen to "Born a Crime"

'Eat Pray Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia' by Elizabeth Gilbert 

Elizabeth Gilbert's bestselling memoir of breakdown, recovery and self-discovery, "Eat Pray Love" takes readers on a three-country journey: first to Italy (where Gilbert indulges in food); then to India (where she learns the power of prayer in an ashram); and finally to Indonesia (where she falls in love). 

Makes you want to visit: Rome, Mumbai, Bali

Perfect for soul searchers on a journey of discovery with short chapters that you can finish in 10- to 15-minute increments

Why we love it: This is the story of travel as transformation and will almost certainly make you want to visit Italy, India and Indonesia. It shows us that it’s nearly impossible to travel without experiencing a certain amount of personal growth through leaving your comfort zone and introducing you to new people, places, food and cultures. Plus, the book is divided into 108 chapters, which makes it easy for casual reading.

Listen to "Eat Pray Love"


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by State of Alaska Tourism Office (@travelalaska) on

'The Great Alone' by Kristin Hannah  

Set in the early 1970s, this is a coming-of-age story about a girl who moves with her parents to a log cabin in a wild and remote area of Alaska. It's a tale of love, heartbreak and survival and it's set against the fierce beauty of the Alaskan landscape.

Makes you want to visit: Homer, Alaska

Perfect for those looking for a book to really dive into; you'll read and reread passages that tug at your heartstrings

Why we love it: This is Alaska how you imagine it: vast and bold landscapes; long, dark and cold winter days; and, of course, an oddball cast of characters. The vivid scenery and idea of adventure play a central role in the story and by the end you'll be hooked to experience it for yourself. 

Listen to "The Great Alone"

'Where the Crawdads Sing' by Delia Owens 

Set on the North Carolina coast, this heartbreaking story tells the tales of Kya, a mysterious young woman who comes of age in the backwater marshes. Abandoned and alone, she learns to survive and discovers nature, romance and suspicions of murder along the way. 

Makes you want to visit: The Outer Banks, North Carolina

Perfect for book clubs, discussion and anyone who enjoys a good story, engaging characters and beautiful writing

Why we love it: You see the beauty of nature through the eyes of Kya as she forages for sustenance in the marsh and on the ocean. More than an extraordinary backdrop, the wild swamps, lakes and tidal waters are so integral to the story that they take form as a central character in their own right.

Listen to "Where the Crawdads Sing"


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Vietnam Travelers (@vietnamtravelers) on

'The Sympathizer' by Viet Thanh Nguyen 

This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel follows a Vietnamese agent's double life during the fall of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) and the years that followed. The narrator is a sympathizer, wanting only to unite his country from the conflict and forces that have divided it. 

Makes you want to visit: Ho Chi Minh City and Los Angeles

Perfect for deeper contemplation and a heavier read on Vietnam, set within a fictional framework

Why we love it: "The Sympathizer" reveals an authentic perspective on Vietnam we don't usually see in popular culture, capturing the chaos of war as well as the effort of refugees to build new lives in America. Viet Thanh Nguyen blends a story of war, love, friendship, and duty into a powerful novel that's based on real events. 

Listen to "The Sympathizer"

'In A Sunburned Country' by Bill Bryson

One of the world’s most beloved travel writers, Bill Bryson is known for his humourous and affectionate way with words in capturing his destinations’ idiosyncrasies. "In a Sunburned Country" offers a colourful portrait of Australia through a collection of nonfiction essays that are part-travel guide, part-historical lens, in a book that is well researched and told in the author's signature style.

Makes you want to visit: Australia’s cities, beaches and bush country

Perfect for easy and lighthearted literary comfort food before bedtime, or whenever you have a few minutes to spare

Why we love it: It's a page-turning escapade more about the real Australia than the icons you already know, and it's filled with useful information and hilarious accounts of the venerable storyteller's travels through a land of deadly creatures, stunning landscapes and friendly locals. This is essential reading for anyone planning to take a trip Down Under. 

Listen to "In A Sunburned Country"


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by NYCgo (@nycgo) on

'Kitchen Confidential: Adventures In The Culinary Underbelly' by Anthony Bourdain 

A book of essays that introduced the world to the late, legendary chef and passionate traveller, "Kitchen Confidential" came out of an article Bourdain wrote for the New Yorker (“Don’t Eat Before Reading This“). The humourous and eye-opening story was so well received that he got a book deal out of it.

Makes you want to visit: New York City

Perfect for those who love memoirs and food — this is one of those books you don’t ever want to end

Why we love it:
It's Anthony Bourdain! Profane, outrageous, funny and brutally honest, with inside information that will forever change the way you look at the culinary industry. This is the book that jump-started his career rewriting the rules on food and travel, encouraging others to embrace the unknown and elevating him to gourmet god-like status in the process. Yet it was in New York City where everything started and where he celebrated the unsung heroes of the culinary landscape.

Listen to "Kitchen Confidential"

'The Art of Travel' by Alain de Botton

What compels us to see the world? Travel writer Alain de Botton aims to answer that by sharing his own experiences on the road — yearning to stay in bed rather than exploring Madrid, arguing with his partner over desserts in Barbados, seeing Provence through the eyes of Van Gogh. The book is a philosophic take on the joys of going away, exploring why we do so in the first place and how we can avoid falling into common tourist traps.

Makes you want to visit: Just about everywhere and nowhere in particular

Perfect for armchair wanderlust and dreaming of days when we can travel once again

Why we love it: Any travel guide can tell you the best places to visit, but "The Art of Travel: goes deeper into why you should go. The author’s vivid use of language and imagery sucks you in, with clever insights about the urge to be somewhere else, to see something else. It's a must-have if travelling is a part of your identity.

Listen to "The Art of Travel"

The Wordy Traveler by Cratejoy

The Wordy Traveler is a quarterly subscription box for people who want to combine their love of reading with their wanderlust for travel. Books are curated around a regional theme and paired with ethically sourced teas, art and other surprises. 

Makes you want to visit: Destinations around the world

Perfect for people who want to read and dream about new places or as a gift for travel-junkie friends and family

Why we love it: The hand-picked items in each delivery introduce you to new destinations and inspire future travel, plus the purchase of each box helps support women and children around the world with access to education.

We may earn a commission for products purchased through links in this article.

Visit our blog home page for more travel inspiration!

Popular Pages