6 Great Travel Books You've Probably Never Read
If you love to travel―or simply enjoy reading about others’ experiences―you’ll appreciate this list of five lesser-known adventure books.
There’s nothing quite like relaxing on the beach or curling up at home with a
(or in a hotel while on
the road) with a good travel book by your side. If you love to
explore, chances are you’ve made your way through the canon of
. So, here are some
offbeat and unconventional choices about
from different periods
in history that you can pick up next, slip into your
to explore on the road,
or dive into when you need a dose of armchair travel
“The Geography of Bliss” by Eric Weiner
Author Eric Weiner is a self-described “grump,” so it may seem unlikely that he’d want to research what makes people around the world happy. Yet, that’s exactly what he set out to do. As an NPR foreign correspondent, Weiner packed his bags and traveled the globe reporting on disasters and other causes of unhappiness. But for this book, his journey took him to places where people are content, like Qatar, Holland, Switzerland, and Thailand.
What he found is that happiness is subjective and complicated; it
can’t be wrapped in a neat bow with the ribbon of psychology. Weiner
is an engaging and interesting writer, and reading his travel book is
sure to give you at least a handful of smiles and a fascinating view
of some of the happiest (and least happy) countries and cultures
around the world.
“The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey” by Candice Millard
After losing the 1912 election, former president of the United States Theodore Roosevelt agreed to go on a journey to map the Amazon River with his son, Kermit, and famed Brazilian explorer, Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon.
The trip was not anticipated to be an eventful one, but the travelers ended up narrowly cheating death in several captivating twists and turns of fate. Roosevelt dealt with flesh-eating piranhas, white water rapids, and the prospect of starvation. In writing about the experience, author Candice Millard conveys all these dangers, as well as the more mundane intricacies of Roosevelt’s relationship with his son. The book is an unexpected page turner filled with history, adventure travel, and fascinating glimpses of a bygone era of exploration.
“Papillon (P.S.)” by Henri Charrière
Henri Charrière, nicknamed "Papillon" for the butterfly tattoo on his chest, is the hero of this eponymous autobiography first published in 1968, some twenty years after his escape from the infamous French Guiana prison, “Devil’s Island.” Charrière was convicted of a murder he did not commit, and his memoir tells the story of a man who would not be beaten down by persecution and whose perseverance would become legendary. His story is richly told and filled with anecdotes affirming the power of the human spirit. There have been questions about the veracity of Charrière’s account, but Papillon remains one of the greatest adventure travel stories ever told.
“The Devil's Picnic” by Taras Grescoe
What is so exciting about forbidden fruit? That’s the question posed by author Taras Grescoe, who searches the world for illicit pleasures. “From Norwegian moonshine to the pentobarbital sodium sipped by suicide tourists in Switzerland―and, in between, baby eels killed by an infusion of tobacco, a garlicky Spanish stew of bull's testicles, tea laced with cocaine, and malodorous French cheese―Taras Grescoe has written a travelogue of forbidden indulgences,” Amazon’s description of the book states. And the experience of reading it lives up to that description. It makes you question the adventurousness of your own palate, as well as our reasonings behind cultural taboos. If you’re a food-loving traveler, this is an offbeat read you should put on your reading list ASAP.
“The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost” by Rachel Friedman
The Lost Girls are the better-known adventuresses of modern-day round-the-world travel, but author Rachel Friedman’s story is certainly worth a read, too. Friedman, a recent college grad, spontaneously buys a ticket to Ireland and finds a fast friend in an Australian expat who leads the young traveler through three continents of new experiences and into the welcoming arms of countless new friends. Especially inspirational to the solo female traveler, “The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost” is a gripping memoir for the modern-day nomad.
“A Field Guide to Getting Lost ” by Rebecca Solnit
While this may seem an odd choice to add to a list of great travel reads at first, it’s a handbook of processing experiences to their fullest as an opportunity for growth—it will deeply resonate with anyone who has long suffered from a case of wanderlust. The series of autobiographical essays makes this an easy-to-read format as Solnit meditates on what it means to lose yourself beyond the physical, but rather in transformational ways that allow you to discover yourself in relation to the wider world.
Unconventional travel books abound, and the single best way to find
them is to start looking for books about regions and issues you know
nothing about. As North Korea started making the news more and more,
“Without You, There is No Us” by Suki Kim came onto my radar and
completely shifted my understanding of the isolated country through
Kim’s nonfiction account of teaching English to students under this
dictatorship. Similarly, a work project in Kyrgyzstan showed me just how little I
knew about the Silk Road, leading me to “Lands of Lost Borders: A
Journey on the Silk Road” by Kate Harris, a fascinating read for
anyone keen to expand their knowledge of the history shaping that
part of the world. If there’s a country in the world that fascinates
list offers book
titles for every single country in the world to spark your wanderlust.
Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):
By Shannon O’Donnell on April 10, 2020
Shannon O'Donnell is a long-term
traveler who has
been on the road since 2008; she travels slowly and supports
grassroots tourism along the way. She is an acclaimed travel speaker
and was named a National Geographic Traveler of the Year for her
work advocating for sustainable and
responsible tourism development