Travel Through Books
As we gear up for summer, we may not find ourselves packing books for our far-flung vacations, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be transported to wherever the pages take you! I like to think that the first trips I ever took were through books! Before I was old enough to travel, and long before I turned it into my job, I relied on books to fuel my wanderlust. Over the years, whenever I couldn’t travel, books allowed me to escape to other times, lands, and worlds!
Books To Inspire Your Next Adventure
In this blog post I’m sharing some of my all time favorite travel and adventure themed books to get you outside your house, and out on an adventure – metaphorically speaking of course! Whether you’d like to visit a fantasy world full of magic or travel deep into the Amazon with President Roosevelt I’ve got you covered. Happy reading!
1. The Name of The Wind (The King Killer Chronicles) by Patrick Rothfuss
The King Killer Chronicles is a high fantasy story about a young man named Kvothe, and his exploits as the most notorious magician his world has ever known. There’s adventure, intrigue, romance, and anything else you could ask from a good story. I fell in love with the first two books in this series, and I am not generally a huge fantasy fan.
The only downside is that with every passing year, it seems less and less likely that Patrick Rothfuss will actually complete the King Killer series. But hope lives eternal, and I, for one, will keep anxiously waiting for the third and final book.
Favorite Quote: “It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”
“In many ways, unwise love is the truest love. Anyone can love a thing because. That’s as easy as putting a penny in your pocket. But to love something despite. To know the flaws and love them too. That is rare and pure and perfect.”
2. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
There was a period during school when my love for reading wained. If it wasn’t for an assignment, I couldn’t be bothered. Larry McMurtry’s epic frontier adventure Lonesome Dove pulled me out of that slump. The Pulitzer Prize–winning American classic follows two aging Texas Rangers as they embark on one last adventure across the American West. With its colorful characters and wide-open spaces, Lonesome Dove transports the reader to a bygone era that feels both familiar and once upon a time.
Favorite Quote: “Talk’s the way to kill it. Anything gets boring if you talk about it enough, even death.”
3. Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
If ever a true story lived up to the hype, this is it! Endurance is the harrowing survival story of polar explorer Ernest Shackleton after his ship is caught between ice floes almost a thousand miles from any civilization. First-hand accounts of the fateful journey, and diary excerpts, come together to paint a truly astounding story of human perseverance and ingenuity.
Favorite Quote: “In ordinary situations, Shackleton’s tremendous capacity for boldness and daring found almost nothing worthy of its pulling power; he was a Percheron draft horse harnessed to a child’s wagon cart. But in the Antarctic—here was a burden which challenged every atom of his strength.”
4. The River Of Doubt by Millard Candice
Both a startling adventure story and a gripping biographical portrait, The River of Doubt is the true story of Theodore Roosevelt’s little known exploration of one of the most treacherous rivers on earth. As Roosevelt and his men face an onslaught of harrowing ordeals as they make their way through the Amazon, the narrative unfolds like a real-life Heart of Darkness.
Favorite Quote: “The ordinary traveler, who never goes off the beaten route and who on this beaten route is carried by others, without himself doing anything or risking anything, does not need to show much more initiative and intelligence than an express package,” Roosevelt sneered.”
Bonus Read: Candice Millard is brilliant at finding real historical stories and bringing them to life in a way that is stranger than fiction. Millard’s account of President Garfield’s short but amazing life, in Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President, is one of the most interesting non-fiction books I’ve ever read.
5. In The Heart Of The Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick
In The Heart of the Sea is one of my all time favorite books – not just in the adventure/travel genre! This epic saga of survival and adventure is made even better because it is based on actual events that allegedly inspired Herman Melville’s, Moby Dick. In 1820, the whaleship Essex was sunk by a furious sperm whale, leaving the ship recked crew to fend for themselves on the open ocean for over ninety days. Set against the brutal tradition of whaling in the United States, this unbelievable tale of survival isn’t for the faint at heart.
Favorite Quote: “The Essex disaster … is a tragedy … [and] one of the greatest true stories ever told.”
Movie Bonus: In the Heart of the Sea, was adapted into a major feature film starring Chris Hemsworth. It’s a pretty good movie, but I’d highly recommend reading the book instead (or at least first). The movie simply can’t capture all of the detail and nuances that made the book so good.
6. A Walk In The Woods By Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson’s A Walk In The Woods documents his hilarious journey thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail as a middle-aged man with little previous trail experience. Bill manages to brings the 2,190 mile long ATC to life for the reader by intertwining fascinating facts and anecdotes with his own personal experience. A Walk In The Woods holds a particularly special place in my heart because it got me through a little hiking fiasco of my own. My brother and I got lost on a backpacking trip in Utah, and although we were woefully unprepared, I did have a copy of this book. At night my brother and I would read the book out loud to each other to keep our minds off our impending fate, and it never failed to put a smile on our faces.
Favorite Quote: “Black bears rarely attack. But here’s the thing. Sometimes they do. All bears are agile, cunning, and immensely strong, and they are always hungry. If they want to kill you and eat you, they can, and pretty much whenever they want. That doesn’t happen often, but – and here is the absolutely salient point – once would be enough.”
7. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
When people talk about the best adventure books of all times, Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild generally makes their shortlist. For whatever reason, I never really resonated with the main character, so I’ve chosen to include Into Thin Air instead!
In March 1996, Outside Magazine hired seasoned mountaineer and writer Jon Krakauer to write an article about the increasing commercialism on Mount Everest. In preparation for the article, Krakauer joined an expedition led by celebrated Everest guide Rob Hall. Little did he know that his would be one of the most disastrous Everest expeditions in the peak’s history, resulting in eight deaths by the end of summit day. In his book, Krakauer attempts to objectively analyze the various factors that led to the tragic events of that day, while also dealing with his own feelings of survivors guilt. In the process, he addresses timeless questions about life and human ambition. The story is both fascinating and gut-wrenching in its transparency.
Favorite Quote: “Unfortunately, the sort of individual who is programmed to ignore personal distress and keep pushing for the top is frequently programmed to disregard signs of grave and imminent danger as well. This forms the nub of a dilemma that every Everest climber eventually comes up against: in order to succeed, you must be exceedingly driven, but if you’re too driven, you’re likely to die. Above 26,000 feet, moreover, the line between appropriate zeal and reckless summit fever becomes grievously thin. Thus the slopes of Everest are littered with corpses.”
Bonus Read: Into The Wild is the true story of Christopher McCandless. After graduating from Emory University, Christopher leaves his family, worldly possessions, and savings before hitchhiking to Alaska to live off the land. After his body is found by hunters, Krakauer retraces the events and people that shaped Christopher’s life before its tragic conclusion.
Movie Bonus: Into Thin Air was one of the inspirations for the major motion picture Everest, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Keira Knightley. While the movie is undoubtedly entertaining, Krakauer didn’t approve the script, and allegedly felt that the movie’s depiction of the individuals involved in that fateful day’s disaster was “total bull.”
8. The Beach by Alex Garland
The Beach was one of the first books that really fueled my wanderlust. The main character Richard, travels to Thailand to escape reality and comes into possession of a mysterious map. Rumor has it that the map leads to a solitary beach paradise and tropical bliss. Excited and intrigued by the opportunity to get off the beaten backpacker path, he sets out to find it with a friendly French couple from his hostel. They arrive at the island and are introduced to the utopian commune that lives there only to find out that paradise isn’t what it appears to be.
Favorite Quote: “Trust me, it’s paradise. This is where the hungry come to feed. For mine is the generation that travels the globe and searches for something we haven’t tried before. So never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite & never outstay the welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience— And if it hurts, you know what? It’s probably worth it.”
Movie Bonus: The Beach was adapted into a movie with the same title starring Leonardo DiCaprio in 2000. The film was largely responsible for the over tourism and eventual closure of the beautiful Maya Bay on Phi Phi Leh island in Thailand. It didn’t however have an awesome soundtrack!
9. Life of Pi by Martel Yann
When Pi Patel is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship with their menagerie of zoo animals. When their boat goes down, Pi is left to drift the open ocean alone, with a hyena, an orangatang, a zebra, and Richard Parker, the zoo’s prize Bengal Tiger. Life of Pi is at once a realistic story of the emotional toils of a shipwrecked boy and highly fantastical adventure. It’s suspenseful and beautiful with a thought-provoking twist at the end.
Favorite Quote: “The reason death sticks so closely to life isn’t biological necessity – it’s envy. Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can.”
Movie Bonus: I don’t think I’ve ever felt a movie was as good as the book it was adapted from. And Life of Pi is no exception. For a story with only one human character, a long time drifting at sea, and beautifully crafted world, I was pretty impressed with how much of the book the movie was actually able to capture.
10. The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner
Someone gifted me Eric Weiner’s, The Geography of Bliss, a few years ago. In Weiner’s semi-autobiographical, semi-travel log, semi-science based book Eric Weiner uses the ancient philosophers and the much more recent “science of happiness” as his tour guide around the world. I really enjoyed Weiner’s invites into some of life’s big questions like “why are some people happier than others” and “what does it even mean to be happy.” I finished the book pleasantly entertained and motivated to apply some of the big lessons gleamed from Weiner’s research into the geography of happiness.
Favorite Quote: “[Happiness is] a ghost, it’s a shadow. You can’t really chase it. It’s a by-product, a very pleasant side effect to a life lived well.”
I’ve still got a ton of adventure and travel books on my “to-read” list. And I’ll continue to add them to this list as I find good ones. What are your favorite books to read when you want to get away? Let me know in the comment section!
Thank you so much for your support! Happy Adventuring. – jess