If you are a book bug, you must have heard of these books (maybe you’ve read a few of them as well) – but if you aren’t one who’s patient enough to finish a novel – trust me when I say this, these books will keep you hooked till you finish reading the last page! And it’s not just that – these books will seriously induce a strong desire to travel, making you think about your dream destination over and over again! And who knows, you might just fall in love with one of those places mentioned in these books and then pack your bags to discover it on your own.
Some of these books have been so popular, that they were translated into different languages and republished, made into movies and even added in high school curriculums in different parts of the world. No matter what – these books will not fail to wake up the traveler in you!
Rain in the Mountains: Notes from the Himalayas
Author: Ruskin Bond
“It is always the same with the mountains. Once you have lived with them for any length of time, you belong to them. There is no escape.”
Undoubtedly, this is my all-time favorite quote. It keeps echoing in my minds & hearts, every time I’m closer to the Himalayas. Although Ruskin Bond is famous as one of the best children’s authors of modern times, I believe that his simple narration of everyday life in the mountains can melt an adult’s heart too, making the person fall in love with life through his words.
A compilation of prose & poetry, this book portrays the musings of Bond’s natural habitat & the scenes of his daily routine, from the years he spent at the foothills of the Himalayas, in the town of Mussoorie, that creates a vivid imagery of the mountain life.
Amidst all the chaos, the book would never fail to bring us gently back to the consciousness of being alive in this beautiful world, reawakening our senses to appreciate the tiny bits of happiness, and helps us to admire the greatness of the Himalayan mountains.
Eat, Pray, Love
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
“…to travel is worth any cost or sacrifice. I feel about travel the way a happy new mother feels about her impossible, colicky, restless, newborn baby–I just don’t care what it puts me through.”
A 2006 memoir written by an American lady, the book comes with a subtitle – ‘One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia’. After experiencing an unhappy marriage and a difficult divorce, Elizabeth traveled the world looking for solace and in this book, she narrates her journey and the incidents exactly the way they unfolded. Ditching her career in the USA, she traveled to Italy at first, chilling and enjoying while binging on all the good food options that she had. Later, she came to India and explored the roots of spirituality. Finally, she went to Bali, Indonesia, seeking a balance and fell in love with a Brazilian businessman. For those women who are trying to gather courage for the first solo trip, this book will be nothing short of an inspiration. The book became even more popular in the year 2010 when it was released as a movie starring Julia Roberts.
The Snow Leopard
Author: Peter Matthiessen
“And only the enlightened can recall their former lives; for the rest of us, the memories of past existences are but glints of light, twinges of longing, passing shadows, disturbingly familiar, that are gone before they can be grasped, like the passage of that silver bird on Dhaulagiri.”
This book is based on Matthiessen’s rigorous search for snow leopard that lasted for 2-months, along with legendary naturalist George Schaller in the Dolpo region in Nepal Himalayas. As Schaller was engrossed in his research on the mating pattern of the Himalayan blue sheep (bharals), Matthiessen was keen to explore the landscape for the predators of the blue sheep, the snow leopards which were, till then, only sighted twice by the western eyes and named rightly as the ‘ghost cats’.
Indeed, it’s a beautiful cocktail of a vivid natural description of the very highest order and the intricate observations make it a classic travelogue. While traveling through the mountains, the author often remembered his lost wife Deborah and took this book to a new height of stylistic writing where recurrence of his inner conflicts regarding death, loss, suffering, memory, and healing is juxtaposed with his linear outer journey. While flipping through the pages of this book, you will surely come to a self-realization that through accepting the world as it is, one can surely attain inner peace.
Life Is A Trip
Author: Judith Fein
“The difference between being a tourist and a traveler is that a traveler is open to unplanned experience and doesn’t have her nose stuck in a guidebook, tracking down famous sites. She ventures out from behind glass windows (in hotels and touring buses) and meets people. She connects.”
A mesmerizing work by Judith Fein, this book will take you on 14 different journeys and let you know about the goodness of the local culture and lifestyle, as the author experiences it. ‘Life is a Trip’ covers everything from Mexico to Micronesia and illuminates most of the destinations in a remarkable way, from inside out. The author hasn’t failed to depict her unquenched thirst for traveling and discovering the world in the most unique manner. Very few authors can portray the inner transformations so well, the way Judith has done in this book.
From wildly exotic experiences such as burial practices on an obscure Micronesian island or the work habits of good witches in Guatemala’s mountains – this book will clearly tell you what lies beneath the surface!
Author: Wilfred Thesiger
“In the desert, I had found a freedom unattainable in civilization; a life unhampered by possessions, since everything that was not a necessity was an encumbrance.”
As social media impacts our lives immensely in today’s date, we all have the exposure to several other parallel ways of living which are practiced by many indigenous groups of people dwelling in various corners of this world. In most cases, these areas are very hard to reach and often, lack modern amenities – hence very few people can go and experience the sustainable ways of living amidst the wilderness of nature. Many travel enthusiasts like us would want to visit such places, in order to experience the uninterrupted sense of freedom but have very little idea about how to prepare for the challenges that might appear while traveling to those faraway lands. In this book, you can get the answers to such questions.
Explorer and travel writer Wilfred Thesiger was born in an affluent family of a British diplomat & had his formal education from Oxford University. This book is a chronicle of his legendary journey in which he crossed Rub-al -Khali – the empty quarter in the Arabian peninsula – between 1945 and 1949.
It is one of those parts of the world where almost no life form can survive, apart from Arabian Oryx, some rare species of scorpions, desert snakes and the Bedouin people. His life as an explorer will help you to learn how you can overcome the so-called comforts of life and step out, to satisfy the travel bug in you.
Author: Alex Garland
“If I’d learn one thing from traveling, it was that the way to get things done was to go ahead and do them. Don’t talk about going to Borneo. Book a ticket, get a visa, pack a bag, and it just happens.”
Set in Thailand, this book is about a young backpacker’s journey across Thailand, where he gets to know about a legendary, idyllic, mystical and isolated beach untouched by tourism. Coming from Britain, the protagonist Richard met a man in Bangkok, who gave him a map of this island that’s nothing less than a paradise on Earth. Richard’s quest for the hidden beach of this island in the Gulf of Thailand takes him through jungles and waterfalls – and he meets a community of backpackers who came and settled down in that island to live a life completely cut off from the rest of the world.
I’m pretty sure that Thailand is a country that is probably there on your checklist already, and by the time you finish reading ‘The Beach’, you’ll surely be planning to set out, to discover this island and witness it’s beauty, all by yourself.
Into the Wild
Author: Jon Krakauer
“It is easy, when you are young, to believe that what you desire is no less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something badly enough, it is your God-given right to have it.”
An international bestseller of all times, this book was originally published as an article in the year 1993, later elaborated in 1996 and translated into 14 languages. The book is based on the life of Christopher McCandless, an American hiker and intrepid traveler who went on a hitchhiking trip across the Stampede Trail in Alaska and later died a mysterious death, while living amidst the wilderness. The book narrates the entire journey of McCandless who leaves behind his parents, gives off his possessions and explores the unknown trails, trying to survive a minimalist life. The place of his death has become a mecca for trekkers in this Alaskan region, and the book will surely trigger your wanderlust cells, making you fall in love with the quest for the unknown.
A Short Walk In The Hindu Kush
Author: Eric Newby
“All of a sudden I felt that revulsion against an alien way of life that anyone who travels in remote places experiences from time to time. I longed for clean clothes; the company of people who meant what they said, and did it. I longed for a hot bath and a drink.”
These are words by Eric Newby from ‘A short walk in the Hindu Kush’, an autobiographical chronicle of adventures in the Nuristan mountains in Afghanistan. Being immersed in the fashion business in London, the writer once decided to travel to Afghanistan and give it a try, to climb the then unclimbed mountain – Mt. Mir Samir.
The whole journey, narrated in a humorous way, would take you through Turkey, Persia, the scenic Panjshir valley and the historical Nuristan mountains. You’ll be amused to know that he was completely unaware of mountain climbing skills while taking the decision of summiting this peak. As he continued his climb under-prepared, the difficulties he faced, the disagreements he had with his guide added a comical effect to this book written in a typically British sense of humor.
This book will surely take you to the serene valleys and mountains of the apparently less-traveled paths of Afghanistan and eventually lit a flame of longingness, to explore & travel to this mystical land.
Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum
Authors: Kennedy Odede & Jessica Posner
“When we dare to hope, we create more hope in the world.”
Sometimes, words can leave a deep impact on our lives and drive our moves for good. Traveling often turns into a meaningful journey that changes the entire course of life – like it did for Jessica, an American student who went to volunteer in Kenya and met Kennedy Odede, a native from Kibera, one of the largest slums of Africa. Kennedy has started a youth empowerment group called Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) and Jessica was a volunteer there, helping the girls of Kibera to have a better life. Their journey is as uncommon as their love story and together, they took up the charge to fight against poverty and hopelessness, to make a deeper impact on the world. ‘Find Me Unafraid’ will not just fuel your wanderlust, but also inspire you to volunteer for the underprivileged societies of faraway lands, with the aim to share happiness and love among others.
Well, I was indeed touched by Jessica & Kennedy’s story and when I got a chance, it didn’t take much time for me to understand the beautiful feeling that’s intertwined with volunteering abroad.
Walking the Himalayas
Author: Levison Wood
“You meet all sorts of people along the way. I even met the Dalai Lama once; he was quite impressive!”
If you are an innate mountain lover like me, then you must have heard of this book that’ll take you across the Himalayas – from Afghanistan in the west to Bhutan in the east.
While narrating the story, Wood strikes a quintessential balance in sharing the magnitude of his own journey and the lives of the people who dwell in the snow-covered villages tucked between the slopes whom he met en route.
In a duration of 4 months, British adventurer Levison Wood traveled to cover a distance of 2,735 kilometers meeting monks, tribes, soldiers, and commoners on the way and shared his experiences in this book that’ll surely make you drool over the beauty of the majestic mountains.
The book will also add some spiritual lights to your life and definitely make you fall in love with the Himalayas.
The Great Railway Bazaar
Author: Paul Theroux
“Anything is possible on a train: a great meal, a binge, a visit from card players, an intrigue, a good night’s sleep, and strangers’ monologues framed like Russian short stories.”
Have you ever fancied to ditch a flight and travel far on a train? To state a fact, there are some amazing rail routes in the world which are worth experiencing, at least for once in life! But before you actually Google them and make your checklist – grab Theroux’s ‘The Great Railway Bazaar’ and give it a read.
Back in 1973, Theroux ventured out for a 4-months-long journey from London, through Europe, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and later, Southeast Asia, and his return journey was via the Trans-Siberian Railway. He narrates the stories of different places, cultures, people, sights, and sounds that he witnessed on the way – and it’ll give you an insight into some of the legendary train routes – like the Khyber Pass Local, the Delhi Mail from Jaipur, the Golden Arrow to Kuala Lumpur, the Hikari Super Express to Kyoto and more – that’ll make you romanticize the joys of train journeys.
Into Thin Air
Author: Jon Krakauer
“With enough determination, any bloody idiot can get up this hill,” Hall observed.
“The trick is to get back down alive.”
One of the bestselling books written by Jon Krakauer, this is a gripping, haunting account of the now infamous 1996 Mount Everest disaster which claimed 8 lives & it’s considered as the third highest amongst mountain tragedies in terms of the death toll in a single day.
As a journalist of an adventure magazine, the author was primarily asked to trek up to the EBC and cover a story on the commercialization of mountain climbing but Jon asked his editor to allow him to climb up the summit. He was then included in a team led by Rob Hall. Krakauer’s heartfelt description took me through several events during the expedition, including the tragic incident which took place during the summit push. In his book, he points out some of the aspects of commercial rivalry between agencies due to which essential safety measures are often compromised.
This book will take you to a realization that our human endeavors are so small in front of the vastness of nature. It’ll leave you on the edge, wondering whether or not people will come back into the picture again or if they really did just disappear.
The Shooting Star
Author: Shivya Nath
“We tend to make big changes only when tragedy strikes. We tend to look for alternative paths only when we feel we’ve hit rock bottom. We tend to ask existential questions about happiness only when we are at our most miserable….But what about the tragedy of a mundane, average, unfulfilling life?”
One of the most renowned travel bloggers of India, I got to know about Shivya Nath from Instagram, just before I was planning my trip to Spiti, back in 2017. Eventually, I read about how she & a bunch of other responsible travelers along with the locals, worked to set up a ‘I Love SPITI‘ installation, on the way to Key Monastery from Kaza.
Needless to say, I’ve been following her since then & each of her posts is too beautiful to be ignored. ‘The Shooting Star’ is Shivya’s travel memoir where she not only narrates her experiences on the roads, but also gives the reader a chance to look into the personal account of her entire journey, which serves as the soul of the book. She candidly shares about her family environment, relationships, career, internal and external battles and the reasons behind her unusual decisions.
Leaving her corporate job at the age of 21, Shivya chose to sell most of her possessions and embraced a nomadic life on the roads.
From the remote Himalayan villages to the Amazon rainforests of Ecuador – there’s an intricate detailing of the places she has been to, and how they touched her life. Along the way, she lived with an indigenous Mayan community in Guatemala, hiked alone in the Ecuadorian Andes, got mugged in Costa Rica, swam across the border from Costa Rica to Panama, slept under a meteor shower in the cracked salt desert of Gujarat and learned to conquer her deepest fears. One of the best travel memories by a solo Indian woman, this book is surely worth reading.
Author: Sir Edmund Hillary
“You don’t have to be a hero to accomplish great things –to compete. You can just be an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals.”
High Adventure is Sir Hillary’s immaculate and wholly entertaining memoir of his first-ever successful expedition of Mt. Everest, along with another Himalayan legend, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. They began their expedition in 1951 where they discovered a possible route to the summit via the southern slope of the mountain. In 1953, they successfully summited the highest mountain on the planet, for the first time in human history. Edmund Hillary’s words & the vivid descriptions will take you up the slope of Mt. Everest.
Undoubtedly, this book is one of a kind and took me up close to Hillary and Tenzing’s breathtaking climb as well as their historical final ascent, which took them to the hall of fame of human exploration.
It’s surely a mountain classic but beyond that, it is an inspiring story of courage & endurance which will definitely bewilder you.
The Valley Of Flowers
Author: Frank Smythe
“If everything we do in life is to be measured in terms of money, then life would be a very poor thing. The greater ambitions and desires of mankind are actuated by something deeper and finer than the desire to amass material wealth.”
In 1931, while descending after the successful expedition of Mt. Kamet, famous Himalayan explorer Frank Smythe accidentally came across a heavenly lush valley laden with colorful flowers just above Joshimath in modern-day Uttarakhand. The thrill of discovering this wonderland was first described in his other masterpiece – ‘Conquering Kamet’.
Later, in the monsoon of 1937, he returned to the Bhyunder Valley, which he renamed as ‘valley of flowers’. In Smythe’s words, “it was impossible to take a step without crushing a flower”. He collected numerous flower samples for the identification of the plants and his team scaled two mountains in the valley, Mt.Nilgiri and Mana Peak but failed to summit Mt. Rataban, due to the torrential rains. The book, ‘The Valley of Flowers’, will take you along with Smythe and group, to get drenched in both Himalayan monsoon and the streams of infinite pleasure of witnessing one of the best-kept secrets of the Himalayas.
Which of these would you choose to read first? – Let me know in the comments below! Also, write to me about your favorite travel book, in case I haven’t read it yet, I’d love to add it to my reading list.