45 Books to Inspire Travel – Including My Top 10 – For Wanderers and Wonderers

There’s nothing better than getting lost in a book that takes you to a new location or way of life (except perhaps going to that new location!). I love to read all types of books, but high up on my list are those that inspire me to learn about or travel to a new place. These aren’t all officially ‘travel books’ (although some like Bill Bryson’s definitely do fall into that category of a recounting of a trip or adventure taken) but they are all non-fiction books which leave the reader with a knowledge of a new place or culture and make us realize how vast the world is and how many different ways there are to live and experience life. So, yes I know that Born a Crime isn’t a ‘travel’ book, but I loved it and learned a lot about South Africa from it (and I also love Trevor Noah…) so I put it on the list!  I recently connected with Tim Butcher, author of Blood River, A Journey To Africa’s Broken Heart, a book that recounts his personal 2500 mile journey across the Congo in 2004 in which he follows the footsteps of Henry Stanley. When I asked him about why he was driven to make this journey and to write books about travel and discovery he said: “Humans are both wanderers and wonderers, we all stand at the end of rich, twisting bloodlines driven by the human spirit to walk, explore, go, and the human capacity to think, dream, imagine. The best travel writing unravels that shared lineage, it sheds light on whence we came and where we might be heading.” So in the spirit of ‘wanderers and wonderers’, below please find my wide and varied list of 45 ‘travel’ books, roughly broken out by region of focus.  I’ve *starred* my Top Ten favorites, with a little comment on why I love those in particular. Enjoy the read(s)!   Multiple Locations: * It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario This is one of my favorite books ever. In this memoir, Lynsey tells of her life as a conflict photographer which has taken her to war-torn areas around the world. She is a champion of women and a truth seeker, and her story is as wonderful as her photographs are amazing. *Swell: Sailing the Pacific in Search of Surf and Self by Liz Clark This inspiring book is written by a 22-year-old who follows her dream. An avid sailor and surfer, Liz Clark wants to travel the world doing what she loves – and ends up doing just that….solo. The book is full of adventure, hardship, courage and love. And she isn’t finished yet, as ten years and 20,000 miles later she’s still on the water. Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life by Arlene Blum Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert   Kenya: *Find me Unafraid, Love, Loss and Hope in an African Slum by Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner This book proves that one person can make a difference. It’s an amazing story of Kennedy Odede, who grew up in a Nairobi slum, and Jessica Posner, an American Wesleyan student who met Kennedy while working in Nairobi. Kennedy is an amazing natural leader who has made a difference to the lives of many people and his (and Jessica’s) story is an incredible, inspiring read. Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen West With the Night by Beryl Markam   South Africa: *The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild by Lawrence Anthony Just try to read this book and not be amazed by elephants and the power of connection. Wow. * Born a Crime: Stories from an African Childhood by Trevor Noah I’ve yet to meet anyone yet who didn’t love this book. I listened to it on Audible, which allows the listener to hear the wonderful voice of Trevor Noah as he recounts his days growing up in the apartheid of South Africa. A must-listen/read. The Wilderness Family: at Home with Africa’s Wildlife by Kobie Kruger   Botswana: Whatever You Do Don’t Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide by Peter Allison   The Congo: * Blood River: A Journey to Africa’s Broken Heart by Tim Butcher This book is both a travelogue about an amazing (and dangerous) trek across the Congo recreating Stanley’s original expedition, as well as a historical book about the past and present Congo. I learned so much about a place I knew very little of beforehand, and thoroughly enjoyed both the adventure and the history the book offers. How Dare the Sun Rise by Sandra Uwiringiyimana   Namibia: Soul of a Lion: One Woman’s Quest to Rescue Africa’s Wildlife Refugees by Barbara Bennett   Kenya: Love, Life and Elephants: An African Love Story by Daphne Jenkins Sheldrick   Zimbabwe: The Last Resort: A Memoir of Zimbabwe by Douglas Rogers Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller   Somalia: A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett   Rwanda: *Land of a Thousand Hills: My Life in Rwanda by Rosamond Halsey Carr This is an amazing story of a woman we should all know about! Having left East Coast society in the 1940s to settle in the British Congo and then Rwanda, Rosamond Carr has an extraordinary life and although she is often known for what she did after the Rwanden genocide, her entire life is a story to not miss. If you like Out of Africa, then this book is for you. A Thousand Hills to Heaven: Love, Hope and a Restaurant in Rwanda by Josh Ruxin   Mongolia: *Ghenghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford This is more of a history book than a ‘travel’ book but it’s an amazing recount of the impact Ghenghis Khan had on the world, and how he did it. Everyone should read it, but especially if you are thinking of traveling to Mongolia.   Bhutan: Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey into Bhutan by Jamie Zeppa   Nepal: Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer   India: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts   China: Wild Swans by Jung Chang Empress Dowager Cixi by Jung Chang Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by  Susan Jane Gilman   Myanmar: Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him  Save Lives in World War II by Vicki Croke   Cambodia: Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung   North Korea: *The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story by Hyeonseo Lee Amazing story about an amazing woman who defected from North Korea.  Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick   France: A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle   Iran: Maman’s Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen by Donia Bijan   Russia: Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder and One Man’s Fight for Justice by Bill Browder   Australia: *In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson This book is just so darned laugh out loud funny, plus you learn a lot about Australia.   Cuba: Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton   United States: Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me by Bill Hayse (officially not a travel book, but it’s like a love letter to New York City and if you love New York you should read it) My Southern Journey: True Stories from the Heart of the South by Rick Bragg   Please share with me (chrissie@jamboguides.com) any books that you recommend as I’d love to add a ‘others recommend’ list to the bottom of this post as well as to my own ‘to read’ list.  Also, if you don’t currently use Goodreads I highly recommend the site/app as it’s a great way to track books that you want to read and have already read and to get recommendations from friends or others you choose to follow.    

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Chrissie Kremer

I am a mixed bag traveler - I go the budget route on some things and splurge on others. I love family adventure travel, trips with girlfriends, or solo trips with my kids. I like urban exploration but prefer it coupled with outdoor activity (and when traveling with my kids it's more outdoor activity coupled with a dose of urban). I have been to 62 countries... and counting.

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Picture of Chrissie Kremer
Chrissie Kremer

I am a mixed bag traveler - I go the budget route on some things and splurge on others. I love family adventure travel, trips with girlfriends, or solo trips with my kids. I like urban exploration but prefer it coupled with outdoor activity (and when traveling with my kids it's more outdoor activity coupled with a dose of urban). I have been to 62 countries... and counting.

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and receive the “Carry On Only Packing Guide”, free. 

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