Best Travel Books

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”



The following are my favorite travel stories, books and articles in no particular order, divided into completely random categories.

  • Pico Iyer – No one captures the essence and spirit of a place like Pico Iyer. I’ve read most his books, but The Lady and The Monk stands out as the book that inspired me to go to Kyoto, Japan.
  • Tim Cahill – True adventure travel stories written with an unsurpassed sense of humor. Read all his stories, all his books, you can’t go wrong with any of them. His story about his death in the Grand Canyon is mind blowing. One of his personal travel rules inspired my story about my trip to India: “The worse the experience, the better the story, therefore there are no bad experiences.”
  • Harry Alverson Franck – This guy did amazing stuff in the early 1900s. He walked from Columbia through Peru and Ecuador (Vagabonding Down the Andes) traveled around the world (A Vagabond Journey Around the World) and traveled through Spain in 4 months on $172.00. The stories are descriptive and humorous, but reflective of the times, so would be “politically incorrect” for many readers.
  • Richard Grant – all of his books (some are collections of short stories) are excellent.
  • David Yeadon – Back of Beyond and Lost Worlds are two of my favorites
  • Herman Melville – skip Moby Dick, read Typee and Omoo instead
  • Bruce Chatwin – In Patagonia and The Songlines. The Master.
  • Joe Kane – Running the Amazon about kayaking the Amazon River from its origin in Peru to the ocean is amazing. Savages is a horrifying account of the devastation caused by the oil companies in Ecuador and particularly on the Huaoroni Indians

Stories of Life and Death/Survival

  • The Incredible Voyage – Tristan Jones
  • The Worst Journey in the World – Apsley Cherry-Gerrard
  • The River of Doubt – Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey – Candice Millard
  • Seven Years in Tibet – Heinrich Harrer
  • Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage – Alfred Lansing
  • Skeletons on the Zahara- Dean King
  • Touching the Void – Joe Simpson
  • Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer

Epic Journeys

  • Arabian Sands – Wilfred Thesiger
  • Stanley: Africa’s Greatest Explorer – Tim Jeal
  • Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton – Edward Rice

Humorous Travel

  • A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush -Eric Newby
  • In Trouble Again-Redmond O’Hanlon
  • Into the Heart of Borneo-Redmond O’Hanlon
  • Innocents Abroad/Roughing It – Mark Twain
  • The Hazards of Topless Sunbathing – a collection of short stories by women writers edited by Kate Chynoweth
  • Bad Trips – a collection of stories about trips gone wrong edited by Keath Fraser. Includes stories by Anita Desai, Martha Gelhorn and Jan Morris. Gellhorn’s story “What Bores Whom” whereby she theorize boredom as the kernel of a horrible journey is fascinating. Nothing to Declare by Mary Morris is entertaining and heartbreaking at the same time.
  • Americana – Hampton Sides
  • Anything by Tim Cahill


  • The Man Who Would be King -Ben Macintyre – fascinating story about a Pennsylvania Quaker who set out at age 22 on a 22 year voyage, crossed the Hindu Kush and became King of Afghanistan
  • Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton – Edward Rice

Philosophical/Life Changing

  • Cowboys are my Weakness – Pam Houston
  • Thank God It’s Wednesday: An American Family in Saudi Arabia – Maralyn G. Doyle
  • Zero to Sixty – Gary Paulsen
  • Desert Solitaire – Edward Abbey
  • Snow Leopard – Peter Mathiessen
  • The Sheltering Sky – Paul Bowles
  • Travels with Epicurus – Daniel Klein
  • The Dangerous River – R.M. Patterson
  • Grass Beyond the Mountains – Richmond Hobson

I’ve read all the books above and can attest to their greatness. Some famous travel books/authors may be missing because I did not enjoy them. A Bend in the River or On the Road for example. A couple are not here because their status as non-fiction has been questioned. Others may be missing because I haven’t gotten to them yet: Laurie Lee, Chris Stewart, Byron, AA Gill

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