Oh I love being transported by a book, living vicariously through its characters and their worldly adventures.
But reading about travel also gets me thinking about how to see my own world, both at home and on holiday.
Here’s my list of best books for inspiring travel.
For international urban adventures…
13 Little Blue Envelopes
+ The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson
European. Adventure. Goals. Ginny inherits 13 envelopes from her eccentric aunt, each of which includes a travel-related task and the tools [envelope 1: money, and a challenge to book a plane to London] that inspire an unlikely heroine into an exciting solo backpacking journey through Europe. These books got me thinking about what we want to get out of travel as tourists, and what actually matters.
Wish You Were Italian by Kristin Rae
My family had already planned a trip to Cinque Terre when I spotted this book on Jamie’s list of Top 10 Places Books Made Me Want to Visit. It’s a fun, quick read that captures what it’s like to be an American abroad for the first time, and inspires me to embody the spirit of adventure.
Anna and the French Kiss
+ Lola and the Boy Next Door
+ Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
I know I know, these books end up on every variation of a reading list I publish. Because they’re that good. Reading Anna urged me to visit Paris, and when I did, I visited all of the significant locations to Anna: Jardin du Luxembourg, Kilometre Zero, a real Parisian cinema playing old Hollywood movies… Lola makes me wanderlust for San Francisco, and Isla wraps up the trilogy with New York City and a return to the series’ Parisian roots.
For the all-American road trip…
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
What happens when you drive and just keep driving, and decide to stop just because it feels right. This one is about the adventure of living somewhere new and random as well as the journey that got you there.
For appreciating the little things…
Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson road trips through Britain, commenting on small towns as well as big cities. This book makes me appreciate travel big and small, with a SPOT ON, often hilarious description of British culture.
For making it happen…
The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
Quit your job, work four hours a week, see the world, be a professional tango dancer. That’s what Tim Ferriss did anyway, and he details exactly how in this book in a way that makes you go hey it IS possible!
For venturing into nature…
The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd
This recently-back-in-print title written by female nature writer Nan Shepherd in the1940s is transcendental, meditative, and what I think of when I fall into the trap of multi-tasking too much.
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau’s Walden documents the author’s famous cabin in the woods experiment in minimalist living. To get a flavour of the masterpiece, start with the Penguin pocket “great ideas” guide, Where I Lived, and What I Lived For, which features some of the best essays from the original.
For finding yourself along the way…
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
This book is a reminder to use travel and escape as a way to learn more about ourselves through others – and made me really really hungry for pizza.
Graduates in Wonderland by Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale
Another title that winds up on every book list I write ever, because it captures the 20-something post-college experience in SUCH a relatable way. It’s about friendship and finding yourself, exploring our roots and navigating ‘the real world’.
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Of course I must give Catherine Morland a mention whenever I possibly can, as she is the inspiration and origin of the term “heroine training”. Catherine explored the world from the comfort of her home through gothic literature, before she was given the opportunity to live her own adventure. A fine reminder of how to layer your experiences with the stories you love, but also to not take those fantasies too far.
And now I’m off to go reread all these books…