It’s no secret that I’m a huge bookworm. There’s nothing I find more comforting and exciting as curling up with a good book- getting lost in the words and worlds created for the author, just for you. Reading has always been a form of escapism for me, which is why I grew up reading so many fantasy texts.
I admire authors. Writing is so very personal, and it’s brave to let people in to your imagination, opening yourself to judgement. It’s like a contract between them and yourself, with the writer allowing you into their world, and you promising to wipe your feet and be a good guest.
But anyway. I thought it would be fun to do a top 10 list of my favourite books to inspire travel and wanderlust. They all mean a lot to me, and have impacted my life in one way or another. Not all of them are even strictly about travel, but the feeling they give me makes me want to wander, and encourages me to be confident and curious.
The Shadow of the Wind– Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Get lost in the labyrinthine backstreets of Barcelona. A magical, gothic mystery. Not about travel as such, but definitely an adventure book with twists and turns. The book was written in Spanish (so this is a translation), but the writing is still so lyrical and atmospheric. I love it.
Shantaram– Gregory David Roberts
A big old brick of a book. I gave up very valuable backpack space in Vietnam just to carry this thing around. A mad, true adventure set in India, with a mix of crime, gangs, slums, Bollywood movies, and overwhelming love and friendship. What I especially like about this book is that all the characters are real people, with human flaws. No one is held on a pedestal, they make mistakes and are not always likeable. I think it’s really refreshing when character are written in this way. I got totally absorbed by this book.
Into the Wild– Jon Krakauer
You might have seen the movie that came out a few years ago now. An ultimately sad but none-the-less inspiring story about the human condition, escaping materialist society, and the wilderness of Alaska. Chris McCandless was a real person, so his character naturally has a lot of contradictions, which some people have criticised. This isn’t an invented story, and McCandless’s struggles and triumphs are explored without preconception.
Walden– Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau was an inspiration for Chris McCandless (who Into the Wild is about). A transcendental philosophy interrogating materialism, society and human nature. It may be a bit difficult to get in to initially, as it was written in the 1800’s, but it’s such a relevant text that’s seriously timeless. One of my ultimate favourite books to inspire travel.
On the Road– Jack Kerouac
The daddy of beat culture literature! More of an unapologetic autobiographical musing than an actual story. About wandering, self-discovery and a journey rather than an actual plot. I love Kerouac’s writing- it’s like beautiful poetry.
The Alchemist– Paulo Coelho
The Alchemist has been translated into 70 languages, and was written in two week as Coelho said it was ‘already written in in [his] soul’. A beautiful story of fate, philosophy and destiny. I think it’s an amazing book, and everyone I know who’s read it has taken something different from it. I love the mystical desert setting of Santiago’s pilgrimage to find his destiny.
War Of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts (and subsequently: Senor Vivo & The Coca Lord, and The Troublesome Offspring Of Cardinal Guzman– Louis de Bernières
These books are pure real-life-fantasy-hallucinogenic-spiritual madness. It sounds very cliche but I honestly couldn’t put these down once I’d started reading them. They’re hilarious, tragic, euphoric and heartbreaking all in one. Like nothing else I’ve read.
Fear, and Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know– Ranulph Fiennes
Surely Sir Ranulph Fiennes is the ultimate adventurer. I find his life story so inspiring, and he makes me believe in being resilient, brave, and relentless even in the face of adversity. His outlook on life is incredible, and I think he’s a real life super hero!
The Beach– Alex Garland
Thanks to Leo’s lovely face, the film of this book is hugely well-known. The book is also definitely worth a read, especially if you’re going to Thailand where you’ll most likely visit ‘the beach’ (Maya Bay in the Phi Phi Islands). Funny, inspiring and dark in equal measures.
The Motorcycle Diaries– Che Guevara
Young Che Guevara and his friend go on an adventure on beat up motorcycles. Great for if you’re planning to travel through Latin America. Lots of beautiful descriptions of the countryside and indigenous people. Really funny in parts, but you can also see how some of the sights inspired Che’s later ideas of Marxism and revolution.
I hope you like my list! Are there any travel related books that you love? I’m always looking for new ones.