40 of the Best Travel Books to Read

Best travel books to read
Grab a book for a gift or yourself this season. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

I am a writer so that means I am a reader too. Tasked with any tedious job, I always download an audiobook and listen while I work. It’s the easiest way to get through a lot of books. And when I’m not listening to a book, I’m reading the paper versions, usually at night before I go to sleep. Here’s a list of what I’ve read in the last year, just in time for the holiday season. For the travelers on your shopping list, the best travel books to read.

Table of Contents

Best Travel Books to Read

Keep the adventure and sense of curiosity alive in-between trips with a travel book. Here’s a combination of classics, along with books about the national parks and titles for the foodie or female solo traveler.

Ernest Hemingway et al

Not only one of the most pivotable authors of the 20th century, he was an adventurer and traveler of the highest caliber. He chronicled his adventures with the precision of a journalist. And his readers see what he saw, they feel what he felt whether it was in war or on safari.

A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition by Ernest Hemingway

For the Hemingway fans, take a walk through the 1920s Paris as he’s coming into his own as a writer. Visit the bars and cafes where he worked and socialized with a who’s who of the Paris literary elite. Live the life of a struggling writer in a cold Paris apartment with his first wife, Hadley.

Green Hills of Africa: The Hemingway Library Edition by Ernest Hemingway

Take an African safari during the 1930s with Hemingway. Get all safari details from his guides, walk through his camps and understand the nature of big game hunting. Not for the gentle reader, this story includes some gruesome details.

The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories by Ernest Hemingway

The main short story, Snows of Kilimanjaro, is set in the shadow of Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro as the main character dies of gangrene. And he and his wife bicker as what to do.It’s not a light and fluffy summer read though a must for Hemingway fans.

The Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway

Explore the south of France with the newly married characters as one writes and the other experiments with self-expression. Explore Côte d’Azur through their eyes in this book published after his death.

A Farewell to Arms: The Hemingway Library Edition by Ernest Hemingway

Though not a travelogue, A Farewell to Arms paints a vivid picture of World War I in the Italian countryside. In the moments between battles and campaigns, walk with characters as they fall in love, desperately and tragically.

Love and Ruin: A Novel by Paula McLain

Is not a travel book precisely, it does offer exotic locales, like Spain and Cuba. It’s historical fiction detailing the life of Ernest Hemingway and his third wife, Martha Gellhorn, from the start of their relationship at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Then as they move to Cuba as their careers ebb and flow.

Travels with Myself and Another: A Memoir by Martha Gellhorn

Offers an autobiographic account detailing her travels during the Ernest years. As his travel companion and third wife, Martha Gellhorn was a notable wartime travel journalist.And the only wife not to turn into Hemingway’s caretaker.

Mark Twain

If it’s been middle school since you’ve read Mark Twain, you’re missing out. With his boyish wit and habit for stumbling into mischief, most readers can’t tell if he’s making the whole tale up.

Roughing It by Mark Twain

Offers a double scoop of western adventure when real-life Samuel Clemens (his legal name) followed his brother to the Nevada territory. Learn about the day-to-day life of prospecting forsilver as well as life in area in the 1860s.

Mark Twain in Hawaii: Roughing It in the Sandwich Islands, Hawaii in the 1860’s

Mark Twain spent four months living and visiting the Sandwich Islands of Oahu, Maui and the Big Island. In a series of letters for the Sacramento Union newspaper, Mark Twain details the sights, including a visit the present-day Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Mark Twain: A Tramp Abroad

Pack your steamer truck, Mark Twain sets sail for a walk around southern Europe. With the help of guides, this American aboard explores and immortalizes the details along the way.

Modern Travelogue Classics

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

In this classic road tripping travelogue, Kerouac runs back and forth between the coasts looking for himself and running from himself at the same time. It’s a must so if it’s not on your bookshelf, make room. This book defined a genre, the counterculture of the 1960s. A must for teens, musicians and those lost and looking.

Hotel Honolulu: A Novel by Paul Theroux

Paul Theroux drops his readers into a place and they live a world through the rich characters he introduces. Weaving the characters into an intertwined storyline makes for an unforgettable adventure.

I read this before my first trip to Hawaii and learned about the native Hawaiian culture along with the castaways that land on the island and don’t leave. I’ll read more of Paul Theroux.

Travel Books for the History Lover

The Log from the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck

In a departure from his fiction, sail the Sea of Cortez, or the Gulf of California, on a scientific expedition with the author. Follow along as the crew explores the rich marine life on water and the exotic Mexican ports on land. A must for sailors and mariners or those exploring Baja Mexico in the near future.

The Rough Riders: By Theodore Roosevelt

Compiled from the detailed personal diary, read about the legendary group of horsemen and fighters. Starting with the group as they trained in Texas and then as they departed for Cuba.

Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madina and Mecca by Sir Richard Francis Burton

Learn the details of the 1853 trip into Mecca and Medina as a forbidden non-Muslim. The author, an Englishman, uses disguises and a knowledge of the local languages to travel undetected in this fascinating account of Arabia.

Best Books for the Adventure Traveler

Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time by Mark Adams

Readers climb up and down the South American mountains discovering the ancient trails of the Incas. A must read for anyone remotely considering a trip to Machu Picchu. And Adam’s guide through the adventureis asinteresting as the trek.

Digging for the Truth: One Man’s Epic Adventure Exploring the World’s Greatest Archaeological Mysteries by Josh Bernstein

Walk through the process of filming an on-location show for the History Channel. As the host of the popular show, Digging for the Truth,Bernstein recounts what happens when the cameras stop rolling.

Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?: A Swashbuckling Tale of High Adventures, Questionable Ethics, and Professional Hedonism by Thomas Kohnstamm

Here’s your how-to guide to update a Lonely Planet book. As a travel writer, it offered some very real dilemmas that writers face when traveling and writing. Want to know what the job is really like, here it is.

Read More

Best Books for Dads

Best Books about the National Parks

America’s National Parks By Lonely Planet Kids

In a guide with charming illustrations, kids can explore the big book of national parks. Starts with nifty things to know about visiting National Parks, then learn about the parks in ABC order. So this is a great reference guide for kids. Or get them excited about a national parks road trip.

As a fan and devotee of the National Parks, I’m always picking up books along the way.

Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park by Lee Whittlesey

Get a detailed account of how to die in Yellowstone National Park. Should be required reading for volunteers and contract workers spending their first summer in the park. Through the seasons and over the years, learn about how the weather, the animals and the skirmishes can be deadly. Not suitable for sensitive readers or young kids.

Dear Bob and Sue by Matt and Karen Smith

A pair of young retirees, Karen and Matt Smith, take off and hit the road to see all the national parks. In a series of emails to Bob and Sue, the friends they left back home, get a park-by-park account.

A must for anyone gearing up to explore the U.S. with their spouse in tow. Get truthful accounts of the popular tours and trails. And find tips for sneaking beer into lodges along with the best pizza joints near the parks in this humorous read.

And the near plane crash in Alaska explains why I’m leery of small planes.

One Man’s Wilderness, 50th Anniversary Edition: An Alaskan Odyssey by Sam Keith and Richard Proenneke

Richard Proenneke set out to live his life in harmony with the Alaskan wilderness. During the summers of 1967 and 1968, he constructed a hand-made cabin fabricated with only hand tools. In this descriptive day-by-day account, get all the details of the process. A must read for those wanting to escape the hectic nature of present-day life.


Deep into Yellowstone: A Year’s Immersion in Grandeur and Controversy by Rich Lamplugh

Recounts the dream of living year-round near Yellowstone. After a few seasons of working in the park, Rick and his wife Mary, relocate to Gardiner, Montana. Learn about the issues between Yellowstone, the tourism industry along with the ranchers.

Read More

National Parks Book List

How To Travel Books

How to Travel the World on $50 a Day by Matt Kepnes

Offers some excellent tips on traveling across the world with a limited budget. A must for recent high school students who want to see the world or anyone wanting to optimize their travel budget.

Wide-Open World: How Volunteering Around the Globe Changed One Family’s Lives Forever by John Marshall

Retells the adventure as a modern American family packs it up and volunteers around the globe. It offers a been there voice for families wanting to raise world citizens and be more engaged in their environment.

The Books about Living in Paris

I’ve always dreamed of living in Paris and these authors did just that. So read any or all for research though each person encountered similar issues while living in France.

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard

Reads like a true-to-life romance novel. Fascinating American woman meets a French man then falls fast in love and moves to Paris. It’s equal parts social commentary and a day-in-the-life of a new Parisian/American ex-pat.

The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious – and Perplexing – City by David Lebovitz

Helps his readers not only imagine how to live in Paris but how to be a food writer in Paris. And the descriptions of his tiny Paris kitchen might be enough to smother the living in Paris idea for some foodie readers.

The Streets of Paris: A Guide to the City of Light Following in the Footsteps of Famous Parisians Throughout History by Susan Cahill

Readers get an account of 21 famous Parisians, like Madame Curie and Edith Piaf. And the streets where they lived and worked.

For the Solo Female Travelers

I’ve been a solo female traveler, off-and-on, for over 20 years. So I celebrate women who head out for the corners of the world on their own.

All Over the Map by Laura Fraser

Get the details of a woman at a crossroads, in life and love. Walk through the seasons and through the trips of a professional writer as she navigates the ups and downs of her life. Revel in her metamorphosis in a new land with a new start.

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding: A Memoir by Kristen Newman

Here’s the deliciously decadent romp across the continents as the author retells her stories of sexual exploration. While she’s exploring new locales and its men, her readers get an escape from the ordinary. Yes, it’s a bit of a tell-all so not for the young or impressionable reader.

Read More

Best Books by Women 

Books about the U.S.

The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town Americaby Bill Bryson

Bill loaded up the family car and road tripped across the U.S. Though not his best loved book since his eye is harsh and his tongue is pointed when it comes to America and Americans. It’s a good read for Bill Bryson fans.

Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland by Dave Barry

This book will explain why Florida is the way Florida is. Travel up and down the peninsula and meet the interesting people and places in laugh-out-loud Dave Barry style.

The Dark Side of Disney by Leonard Kinsey

Get all the details the Disney doesn’t want you to know.

50 Great American Places: Essential Historic Sites Across the U.S. by Brent D. Glass

Takes readers through the 50 states, one point-of-interest at a time. With a heaping spoonful of history, it can be a dry read for some readers though packed with background information.

For the Nature Lovers

The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables: The Enchanting Island that Inspired L. M. Montgomery by Catherine Reid

Readers walk through the idyllic Prince Edward Island landscape in Canada. Get the in-depth look into the setting of the children’s classic series, Anne of Green Gables.

The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk Through the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood by Kathryn Aalto

Get a glimpse of the real-lifeworld that inspired Christopher Robin and his family at Ashdown Forest, in southeast England.

Best Books to Inspire More Travel

Wanderlust: A Traveler’s Guide to the Globe by Philippe Gloaguen

Keep the curiosity alive in-between trips with an array of areas to explore. Get concise lists on everything, like the 50 best cities to explore, legendary bars and cafés and top festivals around the globe.

Then explore the natural world with remote locales to visit, best islands to escape it all and top places for northern lights or stargazing. Get ideas on cultural traveling and foodie destinations in this comprehensive book filled with illustrations and inspiring photos.

I read it cover-to-cover adding places to my bucket list.

Best Books to Take on a Trip

Puzzlesnacks: More Than 100 Clever, Bite-Size Puzzles for Every Solver by Eric Berlin

Get a dizzying amount of puzzles for road trips, or keep sharp by solving them at home. Seriously, puzzles I’ve never seen before.

More: Road Trip Snacks

For the Foodie Travelers

Super Sushi Ramen Express: A Culinary Adventure Through Japan by Michael Booth

Dishes up the details and the history of a thousand years of Japanese food. If you’re headed to this fascinating island to sample its culinary delights, it’s a must.

More Books

Best Books to Inspire Kids to Travel
Ernest Hemingway Books
National Park Books
Books set in France
Best Gifts for Women

Here's 40 books for the readers or travelers on your list. Find books for adventure travelers, history lovers, solo female travelers. This guide even features Amazon links to make holiday shopping easier. #Travelbooks #GiftGuide | Holiday Guide | Best Books for Travelers | What to buy for a traveler

Looking for More Ideas?

Gifts for Grandparents 

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This post contains affiliate links. Some books were provided for review purposes.

Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a pair of 100-year-old houses. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.

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