August 3rd, 2017

5 Great Travel Books You've Probably Never Read

5 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 (or in a hotel while on the road) with a good book. If you love to explore, chances are you’ve made your way through the canon of well-known travel literature. So, here are some offbeat choices about globetrotting adventures from different periods in history that you can pick up next.

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 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 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 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 summer 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.

Your turn, readers: What travel books are on your summer reading list? Let us know in the comments below.

Related links (from Eagle Creek blog):

How to Take a Red-Eye to Europe and Arrive Refreshed

What To Pack For a Music Festival

How to Pack an Activities Kit for Young Travelers

by Shannon ODonnell

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 works with universities and businesses all over the U.S. to talk about supporting developing countries.