Man moves. His movement from place to place is, indeed, the largest factor in our human history – new lands are explored and settled; lands are conquered and liberated; man’s curiosity and sense of adventure causes him to travel to new places. Today, we travel for all types of reasons – business, pleasure, and schooling – and some of those travels last quite a while. When travel involves lontrain rides or evening in hotel rooms, or dormitories, it is good to have reading material to “soak up” some of that time. And, if you are traveling, nothing could be more fitting than to read books about the travels of others, real or imaginary. For the travels of others can provide entertainment, humor, and often some pretty major insights into human nature and the diversity that inhabits this planet of ours. Here, then are 10 great reads about travel that you will love.
1. Eat, Pray, and Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
This is first and foremost a book about change. Elizabeth Gilbert’s comfortable upper middle class lifestyle fall into disaster with a divorce and ensuring depression. Finally, she decides to “find herself” by traveling to 3 countries that are best known for the 3 aspects of her personality she wants to know and develop. Italy was a destination for its focus on pleasures; India for 4 months of spiritual meditation and inner peace, and Indonesia for balance between the worldly and spiritual. The journey occupied an entire year of her life, and resulted in major changes in her values, beliefs and lifestyle.
2. The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner
NPR correspondent Eric Weiner is tired of covering war zones and other miserable places of corruption, poverty and disease. He decides that he is going to travel to a variety of places in the world to search for happiness. From America to (people in Asheville, North Carolina are happy), to Switzerland (are the people happy because this may be the most democratic country in the world?) to Singapore (are people happy here because they don’t have to struggle with so many choices?) At time truly humorous and others poignant, this book is perhaps an attempt to find out what happiness by studying where it is found. A great read that will amuse, enlighten, and educate.
3. Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
Kenya during the early 20th century was a British colony and was inhabited by a number of wealthy Europeans who owned land and mining operations. Isak Dinesen is really Karen Blixen, a woman who married a Swedish cousin, Baron Blixen, and moved to Africa to oversee the coffee plantation he owned. She lived in Kenya from 1914-1931 when bankruptcy forced her to sell the land, re-locate all of the natives who had been workers on the plantation, sell off all of her belongings and move home to Denmark. This book is a travelogue of sorts, for it is a series of stories and descriptions of wildlife, landscape and native people. For those traveling to Africa today, this is a wonderful look into a bygone era, many remnants of which still remain.
4. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Alexander McCandless (also known as “Supertramp”) abandoned school, family, and rather comfortable life in 1990 and took to the road, traveling across the U.S. He was ultimately found dead in an abandoned bus in the Denali National Park in Alaska, having succumbed to the weather and starvation. Krakauer’s book is the tale of the last two years of Alex’s life, as related by letters and notes that were found with the body. Exactly why McCandless chose to leave his home for the life of a nomad is still a matter of dispute, with his sisters and parents giving conflicting reasons. The book, though, is a glimpse into the soul of quintessential wanderlust.
5. A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Become History’s Greatest Traveler by Jason Roberts
Blindness would probably stop most of us from much travel, but not James Holman. A part of the British Royal Navy in the 19th century, he was blinded by a disease. At that point he determined to teach himself echolocation and, once mastered, because a world traveler. From fighting in Africa, to hunting elephants in Ceylon, to tromping through the Australian, this man did it all. He kept memoirs and write a number of books about his travels, the people, and the wildlife. This is an amazing story of the human spirit and will certainly provide a little inspiration to all of its readers.
6. Candide by Voltaire
This book is certainly not a travelogue, but it is a great story of travels. Through a series of crazy circumstances, a young man begins travels to a number of different places. He believes, before these travels, that the world is literally the best it can be. What he finds, through his travels, is just the opposite. The world is harsh and filled with cruelty and human suffering. It’s a serious “coming to terms” book, although there are certainly light sides. Anyone traveling to an under-developed part of the world will certainly be able to relate.
7. The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub
If you are into fantasy and travel both, this will be a great read for you. A young boy must travel across the United States, and, as well, into its alternate universe, in order to secure an object with magical powers that will save his mother. It’s a weird book, written by two who are famous for the macabre, but everyone will also probably see a bit of Mark Twain in its pages.
8. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Bryson is a phenomenal and hilarious travel writer. While he has written many books about his travels, this one is especially fun to read. He returns to the United States after having spent many years in England and decides that the way to re-connect with his homeland is to hike the Appalachian Trail. He takes along his old alcoholic and terribly overweight friend Katz. This sets the stage. What a wonderful book about life and the lighter side of the human condition.
9. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter Thompson
Here’s another book about traveling with a buddy through the desert from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. This is definitely a book that depicts the 1960’s in all of its gooey, crazy, “love and freedom” value system. For those who missed the 1960’s, this is a perfect read to get the real picture.
10. Bone by Jeff Smith
This is for those who have never quite gotten over their love of comic books and who also love travel. It’s an epic that rivals Gulliver’s Travels or Lord of the Rings. Having been driven out of their town, three cousins wander into a valley filled with monsters. Thus begins their epic quest. Fantasy and travel housed in a comic book – what could be better?