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The Best Travel Books To Inspire Your Next Adventure


The Best Travel Books

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!

The best travel books to inspire your next adventure.

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 Name Of The Wind

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

Lonesome Dove

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

The River Of Doubt

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

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

A Walk in the Woods.jpg

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

Into Thin Air

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

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

Life of Pi

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

The Geography of Bliss

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.”

The best travel books to inspire your next adventure.

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

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  1. Kirtan P. says:

    An excellent post, Jess! Love the book recommendations and favorite quotes! A favorite read of mine is "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail" by Cheryl Strayed. There was no wonderful happy ending, except that the author made it through and came out on the other side, while having one of the best, rewarding and amazing experiences of her life.

    • Totally agree! That was a great book. I love that she set out to complete something that no one thought she could do, and she learned so much about herself along the way. I actually had the chance to hear her speak at a conference last year and it was quite interesting.

  2. Tj LotY says:

    Hey Jess,
    I know I’m a bit late to this blog post but better late than never ey?
    Firstly I love this blog because it’s so different from all your other posts, I love how you still found a way to post something inspiring/travel related even during this Pandemic the world is in. Corona ain’t got beep on you :).
    Love the recommendations and favourite quotes, that’s an extra nice touch. I haven’t heard of many of these books but Into Thin Air is one of my favs back in the day.
    Name of the Wind and In the Heart of the Sea are two books that stand out to me so I’m definitely going to have a look into those two.
    I highly recommend reading (if you haven’t already) Touching the Void, Wild: From Lost to Found, Into the Wild and The Alchemist.
    Anyway, brilliant post, very open and unbiased, but then I would never expect anything less than great from you 🙂
    Hope you are well, sorry it’s been so long I’ve been off Instagram for like 5months now, but I sent you an email :). Hope you are well
    From your pal Tj Lotay

    • Thanks for the recommendations Tj! I’m so glad to hear that you liked this blog post. I’ve been wanting to put it together for a while now. I’ve read Lost, Into the Wild, and The Alchemist. All so good! I still haven’t read Touching the Void though, I’ll definitely move it up my list.

  3. R says:

    I love Ten Years A Nomad by Matthew Kepnes! It was my first travel book so maybe I’m a little biased, but I remember being at a bookstore when I came across it. I opened it to a completely arbitrary page and just started reading. I was tearing up in the middle of the aisle because I saw myself in those words.

  4. Thanks for the recommendations! Life of Pi is one of our all-time favorites 🙂

  5. Kate Rae says:

    The Beach fueled my travel imagination also. Glad you included!
    Kate Rae

  6. Hey Jess, awesome post.

    About Mount Everest: Into Thin Air was the book that got me into reading 3 years ago and never stopped since. Into the wild of course good too, both movie and books. Huge fan of anything Krakauer! I also read View from the summit by Sir Edmund Hillary. Old-school and entertaining to say the least.

    If you’re into rock climbing, The Push by Tommy Caldwell and Alone on the Wall by Alex Honnold were good ones.

    Recently read Fatu Hiva: back to nature, by classic adventure Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl, who ventures to a very remote Pacific island with his girlfriend in the 1930s, in order to get back to the basics. I enjoyed it during quarantine. He is famous for his Kontiki book and boat adventure, which I haven’t read yet but definitely will.

    I can also recommend Eight Mountains by Paolo cognetti, about hiking in the dolomites and cabin life.
    Cabin life makes me think of Thoreau’s Walden, decent read, though boring at times.

    On the trail of Genghis Khan, by Aussie Tim Cope: three year journey on horseback from Mongolia to Hungary… Rad story! Long. But rad.

    Traveling on Mars was fun with The Martian, and Between a Rock and a Hard Place was a good read too, both on how to survive when shit hits the fan.

    I’ll end with a recommendation I got but still have to read, don’t know if you have: A House in the Sky: Canadian chick travels the world as a war journalist, still have to read it but heard good thing.

    Sorry for the many titles to add… Hugs from Vancouver, BC.

    Harry from Belgium
    @harryvandurme on insta.

    • No apologies needed! This list is amazing. Thank you so much for all the recommendations! I completely agree about Krakauer. He is so good at telling true stories in a way that makes them just as page-turning as the best fiction. I have A House In The Sky on my list right now, and I will definitely add some of your other suggestions. Thanks again. Happy reading!

  7. Hey Jess! I just finished reading your blog post about the best travel books to inspire our next adventure on Jess Wandering, and I couldn’t help but feel excited about all the literary journeys awaiting us. Your passion for travel and love for books truly shines through in this fantastic article.

    I must say, your selection of travel books is impressive and diverse, catering to various interests and wanderlusts. From epic adventures to soul-stirring memoirs, each recommendation has something unique to offer. The way you highlighted the essence of each book and how it can inspire us to explore new horizons was wonderful.

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Hi, I’m Jess, an outdoor enthusiast based in Seattle. I grew up exploring the Pacific Northwest, and early on was infected with the travel bug. I tried to suppress my wanderlust in pursuit of a traditional career path, but after a short stint as a lawyer, I left the confines of my office to get back in touch with my roots. Now, I wander the world taking photos, making memories, and sharing my love for travel with others!

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