Let’s get out of town, forget who we are, meet new people, and breathe fresh air. The transformative power of travel is real, and whether you have the freedom to jump on a flight today, tomorrow, or six months from now, these travel books can simulate the sensations of sailing, sightseeing, and setting out to explore this big, wide world.
The best travel books to add to your shelf are:
The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson
Before Hunter S. Thompson was the Gonzo Fear and Loathing legend we know today, he was a green 22-year-old freelance journalist with a hunger for travel. In Thompson’s semi-autobiographical early novel, The Rum Diary, journalist Paul Kemp moves from New York to work at a newspaper in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Kemp is swallowed into the exotic Caribbean environment — its booze, women, and wiles.
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
It’s no secret that American writer Ernest Hemingway had an obsession with Europe. This locational love affair is expressed in its purest form in The Sun Also Rises, where American and British ex-pats travel to Spain for the running of the bulls. Legend has it, Hemingway wrote the book in only two months, and this urgency to translate place and feeling is absolutely engaging.
The Martian by Andy Weir
The debut novel by Andy Weir, originally self-published, will take you on a long, long flight from home. The Martian has been described as “a perfect novel in almost every way” and tells the story of a NASA mission to Mars that shipwrecks the crew on the dangerous planet. American astronaut Mark Watney is forced to survive and the story that ensues is adventurous, page-turning, and emotional.
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Marion Zimmer Bradley’s fantasy novel retelling the legends of King Arthur through female characters is comparable to riding horseback through ancient Celtic lands. Some travel is a quick weekend jaunt while others are great, epic voyages to other cultures; this book is definitely the latter. The Mists of Avalon is perfect for the guy who likes exploring the history of each destination he travels and secretly wants to take a train to Middle-Earth.
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
Odds are, if you want a vacation on open water, you’re probably looking for an escape to solitude and self-reflection. (Pick the book, not the cruise.) Ishmael tells the story of Captain Ahab’s quest to find the white whale, Moby-Dick in, a story that pits man against the natural world — a theme inseparable from the act of travel itself.
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
Travel can open your mind and often feel like you’re looking through a kaleidoscope. Travelers seeking mind-altering excursions need to trip out on Tom Wolfe’s non-fiction epic, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Jump on this psychedelic American road trip with novelist Ken Kesey. You’ll be sharing a bus with LSD-loving hippies and travel through Americana and back in time to ’60s counter-culture.
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Adventure in France with Alexandre Duma’s classic novel, which might inspire a boy’s weekend with your Three Musketeers to the beaches of Normandy. Just don’t get thrown into a dank prison like protagonist Edmond Dantès, who learns of a massive treasure off the Isle of Monte Cristo.
The Lost City of Z by David Grann
David Grann’s non-fiction hit The Lost City of Z details “a tale of deadly obsession in the Amazon,” recounting a 1925 trip by British explorer Percy Fawcett and his son who went looking for an ancient city in the rainforest. Consider this a hybrid between true crime and travel diary, since Fawcett and his son went missing and their true fate has been shrouded in mystery. Grann is able to create a truly visceral experience of stepping through the overgrowth, using his personal travel in the Amazon as a backing.
Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
Working as a park ranger at Arches in Moab, Utah, Abbey is hit with ruminations on the future of our wildernesses, the uncompromising beauty of the American West, and his own mortality. If your travel doesn’t produce similar thoughts, you’re doing it wrong.
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