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The best travel books to take on the road

Reading and travelling just go together. There is nothing more compatible than a thrilling novel about a road trip or harrowing journey to keep your mind occupied during a long train or aeroplane trip, while spending an afternoon at a beach or in a shady park with your nose in a book. Don’t know what to read this summer while you’re travelling? Take a look at these!

When you stuff a paperback into your pocket before heading out on your journey, something epic has happened. You’ve made the first step to taking two journeys: one with your backpack and your feet, the other with you mind inevitably being lost within the story of a travel novel. Reading is not just one way to pass time while on the road, it’s inspiring too, especially if you pick the right book for the right adventure.

Is there any better tour guide through Paris’ arrondissements than Hemingway, any better guide across America than Kerouac? Although some may scorn packing books for those who want to travel light, travelogues are an invaluable necessity, one that you will be grateful for when you find out it’s a 9 hour train ride from Dresden to Budapest.

Dishwasher: One man’s quest to wash dishes in all 50 states – Pete Jordan

Only one man can make washing dishes as intriguing and exciting as this guy: Dishwasher Pete, also known as Pete Jordan, who washed dishes in all 50 states of America for over 10 years. Along the way he underwent a journey of adventure and self discovery, and shares his experiences in this book.

Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer

Made into a film recently, Into the Wild follows Chris McCandles, a young college graduate, who gives up his entire life and heads for Alaska. His journey is not only endlessly inspiring but heartbreaking.

On the Road – Jack Kerouac

For the vagabond, where nothing in life matters more than living and wandering. Kerouac takes readers across America, searching for enlightenment. It the classic road trip novel.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera

An essential read for those planning to travel to Prague in the Czech Republic and former Czechoslovakia. It follows the lives of several artists during the Soviet invasion and will give you more than just philosophical and artistic insight.

In Patagonia – Bruce Chatwin

Chatwin tries to re-trace the steps of his grandmother’s uncle through South America. Highly entertaining and endlessly creative, Chatwin is one of the best travel companions there is. When this novel was first published, some said it set a whole new standard for travelogues.

Life of Pi – Yann Martel

A boy, whose father is a zoo keeper, becomes shipwrecked in the middle of the Pacific. In his lifeboat are several animals, including a tiger. For 227 days, Pi, the boy, examines spirituality, psychology, trauma and religion with this Bengal tiger who is at that point the only friend he has in the world.

Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town – Paul Theroux

Travelling by trains, dug out canoes, cattle trucks and by foot, Theroux takes readers on a journey along the Nile and through Sudan and Ethiopia, past Kenya and Uganda to the tip of South Africa discovering the deceptiveness of Africa.

Travels with Charley – John Steinbeck

In the 1960s John Steinbeck travelled across America and recorded every detail. Travels with Charley is his personal account of discovering what modern American really means as well as the experience of travelling with the company of a dog.

Death in the Afternoon – Earnest Hemingway

This book is for anyone going on holidays in Spain, especially if a bullfight in on their list of must-have experiences. Travel with Hemingway and you’ll come out with an enlightening idea about the art of bullfighting and its importance to Spanish culture.

Dubliners – James Joyce

Joyce reveals Ireland’s middle-class in the twentieth century through 15 stories which were written during the country’s nationalist movement. The Irish are searching for their own identity, trying to form one, struggling in the shadow of England.

What are you favourite travel novels? Let us know your chosen books for your destination!

Thanks @justinsimoni for some of the suggestions!

Image: shutterstock

4 comments

  • Nic Julian Reply

    I recommend Robert Pirsig's “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”. It may seem a bit too philosophical, but for those with a taste for this type of reading it will be worth the time.

  • Jacksonmk123 Reply

    The America the Beautiful National Park Pass. For about eighty bucks, you can get into every national park, monument, and get discounts on campsites, for a year. Most of the big parks charge $25 entry fees. Now, I love to support the National Parks. And if most of my budget didn’t go to oil companies, maybe I’d be more of a philanthropist. Attention senior citizens: the pass costs you a whopping ten bucks. This little card is still the most treasured item in my wallet. Simply put, I saved hundreds of dollars with this, and probably went to more monuments and parks because of it. There’s no good reason not pick one up at your first park.
    _______________________________________________________
    @Jackson
    Budget Travel

  • Katie Reply

    Cool! I really enjoyed the movie but now I think I should read the book. I also had “Into Thin Air” by the same author on my first list, you'd probably like it too if you enjoyed Into the Wild!

  • Jeremy Reply

    I really advise Into The Wild. The movie is nice, the book is even better. Great list here!