23 of The best travel books to Escape the World

Before we started traveling, we read a lot of travel books.

When we wanted to escape, we’d picked up a book and let the words transport us to exotic lands to have a great adventure. 

During our 7 years on the road full time, we made our own adventures but kept travel books by our side to inspire and learn about the destinations we visited.

Now that we have slowed down and finally have a home base again, we have set up our reading room with essential oils, cozy reading blankets, mellow music, and just the right lighting where we can be transported to another world.

Our Favorite Travel Books

It’s been exciting perusing the bookstore down the street to discover new books about travel, and it’s been fun to revisit some of our favorites.

best travel books to inspire wanderlust

In our opinion, these are the best travel books of all time for globetrotters of all types.

From travel adventure travel books to luxury and romantic books about travel, you are going to love being transported to another place and time.

We’ve got a link to every one of them on Amazon so you can download for your Kindle or have the hard copies delivered today!

If you click the links below and make a purchase from Amazon, we do receive a referral commission at no extra cost to you.

Enjoy!

If you love adventure, travel, and dogs, you are going to love this book.

Ultramarathon runner Dion Leonard traveled to China with one thing on his mind; to finish on the podium of a 155-mile race through the Gobi desert.

Follow the story of a runner whose heart is warmed by the persistence of a stray dog that kept pace through heat and exhaustion for 70 miles.

See how Leonard is transformed from a focused veteran to a man that gives up what little food he has in his pack to share with the stray dog that he named, Gobi.

He allows the little guy in his tent for warmth, carries him over rushing streams and eventually creates a bond that may (or may not) last beyond the race.

You’ll have to read it to see what happens next!

A regular American boy, Matthew Polly recounts his time living, studying, and performing with the Shaolin monks in China.

This hilarious read starts with Matthew dropping out of Princeton to pursue his dream of transforming his scrawny physique into that of a kung fu master while sharing some humorous insight into Chinese culture.

He tells tales of breaking into the secret world of Shaolin and eventually becoming accepted by his Chinese peers, who study disciplines like The Iron Crotch and other various indestructible body parts.

Many people know him as a massively talented drummer from Rush.

But what they do not realize is that Neil Peart was not only one of the greatest drummers in the history of music, (Rolling Stone has him at #4 in the Greatest Drummers of All-time) he was also an avid cyclist.

Sadly, Peart died of cancer this year, but with his music and travel memoirs his genius lives on.

Masked Rider is an honest and undisguised account of his time cycling in West Africa.

It is not your average rock legend’s journey.

He suffers from the usual problems that other poor backpackers face: Disgusting accommodations, heat, exhaustion, personality clashes, and don’t forget inevitable dysentery.

Neil Peart lets us see the man behind the rock star and he makes us realize that superstars are people too.

Who would have thought that the author of such bestsellers as Jurassic Park, Rising Sun, and Disclosure could also be such an avid traveler?

Michael Chrichton’s Travels is one of the best travel books we have ever read. It’s a collection of memoirs dating back to Crichton’s med school days.

It was his retelling of his climb up Mount Kilimanjaro that inspired me to always be truthful when writing about travel.

People always forget the bad and only tell the good when they get home from a trip.

Travel is tough and it is not always fun, but travel will always be an extraordinary experience.

The movie took the world by storm and it is one of the few travel books that translates to screen beautifully. But don’t just see the movie, the books give you so much more juicy stuff to read.

Peek behind the looking glass of the secretive billionaire families that have more money than Vladimir Putin.

Crazy Rich Asians takes you into the exclusive world of ultra-rich Singapore families that fly off to Hong Kong and Macau for private parties, and then pop over to Australia on a moment’s notice.

When Rachel accepts her boyfriend’s invitation to spend the summer in Asia she gets quite a shock.

As the story progresses, she learns her humble boyfriend is Asia’s most eligible bachelor and everyone (including his mother) is out to tear them apart.

Love Africa is a story about Jeffry Gettleman the East Africa bureau chief for the New York Times.

It begins with his first trip to Africa when he volunteered and fell in love with the continent.

But he kept being called back to the United States to his other love, his girlfriend Courtenay who is a criminal defense lawyer. 

Follow his story as he navigates his career as a journalist, to his love for Africa and his true love relationship with Courtenay.

Can you have it all? Read the book to find out, because we’re not giving it away.

It’s an oldie but a goodie. The Alchemist is the story of a shepherd named Santiago who sells his flock and purchases a ticket to Tangier, where he is robbed and must work at a shop to find his way home.

He ends up taking a great adventure across the Sahara and after all his adventures, discovers his fortune right back where he started.

I read this book before we started traveling full time and it put me in the mood to wander. And to appreciate life.

It is an inspiring story urging us to follow our dreams and listen to our hearts.

I think the Alchemist was the catalyst to me dreaming about making travel a full-time career.

If you are looking for the perfect little picture of India and a beautiful homage to its temples and culture, this book is not for you.

White Tiger tells of a dirty and unforgiving India, an India that doesn’t allow people to claw their way out of their Caste.

White Tiger’s India doesn’t have sympathy for the poor or helpless.

This is a book that neither of us could put down and a book that we feel needs to be read by everyone traveling to India.  

Those who have spent their time in an Ashram or driving around the country in an organized tour isolated from the truth won’t like it.

But, like one review said, “This is the book that India Tourism doesn’t want you to read.”

Let me set one thing straight, I hated the movie, but I loved the book.

The Beach captures what travel was like in Thailand way back in the 1990s.

The rooms in Thai guesthouses were disgusting, and the streets were filled with backpackers seeking adventure while escaping the world drinking cheap beer.

There were still undiscovered coves and beaches that nobody had heard of, and there were probably several drug kingpins running the land.

Thailand still has that feel and there are still hints of what travel was like with wannabe hippy backpackers wearing freshly bought tie-dye in the streets.

Visiting Thailand for the first time is still a great adventure and this will excite anyone going to the land of Smiles for the very first time!

Anything by Bill Bryson is a winner, but my personal favorite is In a Sunburned Country. 

I laughed out loud while reading this book.

Written at a time when the world was still getting to know Australia, it shows the quirkiness of the island country and makes you want to book a ticket to see it for yourself. Read it; you’ll fall in love with Australia and have a few good belly laughs in the process.

If you pick up any book by Bill Bryson, you won’t be sorry.

Other Bill Bryson Reads:

He may be old school, but Dave Barry is hilarious.

My friend Dot introduced me to Dave Barry in the 1990s. And it was Dave Barry who sparked my love for travel writing and how powerful, funny and inspiring it could be.

I never thought I’d become a travel writer, but I loved reading about his escapades around the world.

Dave Barry Does Japan is my favorite of his memoirs,

He explains Japanese traditions through humor and experiences at karaoke bars, geisha encounters, kabuki theatre, and confusing comedy clubs.

Japan is still very confusing even today so it is worth a read.

Dave Barry is the humor writer I wish I was, but I am content to read his stuff and be happy with where I am.

This no-holds-barred autobiography of a child soldier, Ishmael Beah, is gripping. 

A Long Way Gone tells how an innocent child can be forced into savage warfare in Sierra Leone.

Having lost everything including his family, his home, and his soul, Ishmael tells of his journey to evade the military.

For three years he hid in the jungle and half-starved to death. It recounts the fear and despair he felt each day until he was finally captured by the government army.

Hopped up on drugs, he was forced to commit unthinkable acts. This is a story of going to hell and back, living a life of revenge and violence.

He was rescued by UNICEF but it was a long and painful rehabilitation.

Set in Apartheid-Era South Africa, the Bang Bang Club is a true account telling the tale of the four photojournalists that dared to enter the townships and document history as it was happening.

It was written by two of the journalists Greg Marinovich & Jaoa Silva

Heartbreaking and shocking, the Bang Bang Club doesn’t hold back when telling of the brutality of that time.

The photographers had to come to terms with their own demons and what they witnessed day in and day out as war correspondence reporters. They were at the top of their profession with their photographs in demand around the world.

Their photos made history and set new standards, achieving two Pulitzer Prizes between them.

The story of Kim Phuc as told in her own words.

During the Vietnam War, photographer Nick Ut captured the shocking photo of children running from a napalm blast.

Kim was the center of that photograph, with her naked body covered in severe burns.

It became known as the photo of the century and she was known for decades as The Girl in the Picture.

She tells her story of what happened next, and what a fascinating tale it is. She takes us to Vietnam, Cuba, and finally Canada.

I went to see Kim Phuc speak and met her here in Ontario. She now calls Canada home and it was an honor to see her positivity and optimism after all that she had been through.

Joe Simpson recalls his harrowing climb of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes back in 1985 with Simon Yates.

The book stands the test of time as Joe recalls the three days he spent trying to get down the mountain after a near fatal fall.

Disaster struck after their summit when Joe fell into a crevasse and broke his leg (very badly).

Left for dead, he made his way down the mountain while suffering unbearable pain from a crushed tibia, frostbite, and dehydration.

This read will keep you on the edge of your seat. Definitely one of the best adventure books I have read.

I didn’t love the movie Eat Pray Love, but many of my friends did. And I read Eat Pray Love while traveling through India, so it certainly reminds me of my travels.

It is the story of Elizabeth Gilbert finding herself after divorce.

I didn’t identify with the India (pray) part of the book. Probably because I was backpacking in India at the time and felt that and she gave a sanitized candy version since she spent all her time in an Ashram.

But, I do think it is helpful to inspire certain people who have never stepped out of their comfort zone or taken a chance.

She travels to:

  • Italy for the food – Eat
  • India for meditation and yoga – Pray
  • Indonesia where she meets someone. – Love

Considering it’s her life, it’s an amazing experience.

Back in the day, I loved reading John Krakauer.

Other great Jon Krakauer reads are Into the Wild and Eiger Dreams.

Many people put Into the Wild on their “best of lists”, but I enjoyed Into Thin Air better.

Maybe it’s the adventurer in me, but reading about those who choose to summit Everest and understanding what it is like to go into the Death Zone is incredible.

He recalls the fateful climb in 1996 where 8 people died.

It delves into the mistakes that were made and the reasons people put their lives on the line to climb the world’s highest mountain.

We’ve been to Mount Everest Base Camp and it’s exciting to read about a place that we’ve been and retrace steps through Namche Bazaar, the Tengboche Monks, and the Sherpa monuments to those who have fallen.

It is a tragedy, but it is also a grand adventure.

Ultimate Journeys for Two was written by our friends Mike and Anne Howard who are currently on the world’s longest honeymoon.

And you can find us in there too talking about Greenland travel!

This book givespeople travel ideas to inspire couples to go out and see the world and have a great adventure.

There are ideas for couples to travel on every continent!

If you have a serious case of wanderlust buy this book by Patricia Schultz. I’ve taken my Sharpie Marker and gone through the destinations she recommends.

1,000 Places to See Before You Die is the world’s best selling travel book.

We are proud to say we’ve already visited quite a few recommendations, and she’s inspired us to visit many more, like the Elmina Castle in Ghana and tracking the mountain gorilla in Uganda.

I wish I had thought of this idea, but it’s the original brainchild of the talented and wonderful Patricia Schultz.

And those are the travel books that we love to read.

So what would you add to the list of Best Travel Books? Did your favourite make our list? What books have given you the most travel inspiration?

See Next: 

Best Travel Movies to Inspire Wanderlust 

About Dave And Deb

Dave and Deb are the owners and founders of The Planet D. Since launching in 2008 they have continued to inspire “Adventure in Everyone” and show that you don’t have to be an uber athlete or super-rich in order to be an adventurer.

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