19 Best Travel Books That Inspire Wanderlust in 2024

A hand holding an open notebook in a forest, with the phrase 'SAY YES TO NEW ADVENTURES' written on the right page, embodying a spirit of exploration and travel

Howdy adventurer! I see you’re eager for some travel book inspiration, and I have just that for you! I checked all the best-selling works, top-rated Goodread book lists, and travel blogs and came up with the ultimate 19 titles that inspire wanderlust that every globetrotter should read!

As a bookworm and a spirited traveler myself, I love the thrill and inspiration after reading about a new place and feeling so connected to it that I can’t help but book a ticket!

To make the list slightly more personal, I sprinkled it with some of my favorite adventure travel books as well as those of my dear Miss Tourist team!

NOTE: The titles aren’t given in any particular order. They are all great reads, depending on your taste and preferred book genre!

1. Atlas Obscura by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, Ella Morton

Cover of 'Atlas Obscura' by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton featuring a stylized compass and the tag 'New York Times Bestseller.
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Atlas Obscura is one of the best travel books for adventurous spirits! Consider this book your guide to curiosities about 600+ places in over 100 world countries.

Learn about London’s most famous cemetery, Scotland’s caves that look as if they came out of fantasy novels, the secrets of the tomb of Jesus, and so much more!

NOTE: Look for the updated second edition, which has awesome unique features like a foldout map that allows you to visualize your dream trip itinerary around the world!

P.S. I totally recommend getting a paperback version of the book, as it has the most pleasant paper to touch!

2. Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer

Cover of 'Seven Years in Tibet' by Heinrich Harrer with mountain imagery and a red title script
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Are you also fascinated by Tibet’s majestic mountains, unique architecture, and Buddhism like me? Then, you’re sure to enjoy Seven Years in Tibet, an epic adventure classic and a travel memoir by Heinrich Harrer, written in 1952.

Harrer is among Europe’s first travelers to visit Tibet and meet the Dalai Lama, and his captivating memoir tells about his trip! The author’s fascinating account of Tibet is so real but, at times, unbelievable.

The everyday life of Tibetans, which is by no means an easy one, comes to light in this optimism-filled, inspiring book, an essential read for everyone headed to this region! By far one of my favorite travel memoirs on this list!

This book is so epic that it received a movie adaptation in 1997, directed by the legendary Jean-Jacques Annaud and starring Brad Pitt!

3. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

Illustrated cover of 'Around the World in Eighty Days' by Jules Verne, depicting characters riding an elephant
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Here’s one of my favorite adventure travel books of all time! Awe-inspiring, educational, and thrilling, Around the World in 80 Days has all the features of a classic. In the book, a wealthy Englishman, Philleus Fog, bets his fellow club members that he can travel the world in 80 days.

After crossing Europe, Asia, and North America, he makes it back home just in time, having survived some serious setbacks that didn’t stop him from meeting his goal!

I’m sure you already know about the movie and may have already seen it, but the book is just as lovable. It’ll make you want to jump out of your comfort zone and get out there to do big things!

I read this book in a day, and I bet you will, too! It’s definitely one of the most legendary and inspiring adventure books ever written!

4. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

20th Anniversary Edition cover of 'Shantaram' by Gregory David Roberts with an orange silhouette of the Taj Mahal.
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Shantaram is an epic story that introduces the reader to the daily life of the people of Bombay, India, through the experiences of an Australian former heroin addict and bank robber who ran away from prison and escaped to India. The story takes place in the 1980s, and it’s a fictionalized autobiography, as the author did all these things in his real life.

Gregory’s stay in India transformed him completely. His interactions with the people and the Bombay slum where he lived helped him find meaning and eventually start a new life.

The thing with this book is that you’ll either hate or love the writing, but one thing’s for sure: you’ll be eager to visit India! I know I am!

5. The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony

Cover of 'The Elephant Whisperer' by Lawrence Anthony showing two elephants' trunks intertwined.
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The Elephant Whisperer offers a thrilling insight into Africa’s game reserves and Lawrence Anthony’s efforts to help save a herd of rogue elephants in Zululand, South Africa. It is a captivating story of how these elephants, whose lives entirely depended on Lawrence, taught Lawrence so much about freedom and life.

This book is a wake-up call for everyone living in noisy cities to remember the wilderness that is very much alive and waiting for us to visit.

Reading about the fascinating experiences in this book will make you feel all the emotions, be in awe of African wild animals and wildlife descriptions, and possibly want to book a ticket to South Africa!

6. The Travels of Marco Polo by Marco Polo

Cover of 'The Travels of Marco Polo' by Marco Polo, displaying a vintage map and footprint trails
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The Travels of Marco Polo is one of the first travel books I read, and I remember it causing serious wanderlust right from the start! The famed Venetian merchant spent 24 years on his travels, 17 of which were in China, and this book is a testimony to that trip.

Imagine a Lonely Planet travel guide, only written in the 13th century, describing the peoples, customs, and, sometimes, imaginary stories about the author’s encounters in Asia, starting from modern-day Israel to Armenia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and many other places.

Anyone eager to explore foreign cultures or headed for the Silk Road itinerary will LOVE this book!

7. The Catch Me If You Can by Jessica Nabongo

Cover of 'The Catch Me If You Can' by Jessica Nabongo featuring the author in a tropical setting.
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Join Jessica Nabongo in her travel memoir, The Catch Me If You Can, where she describes her journey through all 195 country members of the United Nations! Jessica is the first Black woman to complete this incredible journey, and she went above and beyond to share her story in a captivating and highly engaging way.

See the photographs from all these countries, along with short descriptions of the places she visited, and read about the lessons she learned from all her travels! The essence of the book, which is something that I also always say, is that there’s so much more to countries than what’s portrayed in the headlines!

Whether you’re looking for new travel ideas or would appreciate a new insight into the world and personal growth, this book has much to offer!

8. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Cover of 'Malibu Rising' by Taylor Jenkins Reid, showcasing surfers on waves with bold title text.
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Malibu Rising is set in Malibu in the 1980s and follows the Riva siblings. As you flashback to the siblings’ childhood in Malibu, you see that they used to spend a lot of time on the beach, and two of them grew up to be professional surfers.

The book is full of great descriptions of the beach, the ocean, and surfing. It’s a very quick read, great for summer, and the perfect book to bring on the road trip. By the end, I’m sure you’ll want to visit Malibu and see the beach for yourself, or maybe even try surfing!

9. Vagabonding by Rolf Potts

Revised cover of 'Vagabonding' by Rolf Potts featuring a solitary traveler walking in the desert
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One of the most inspiring travel books on the list, Vagabonding will make you experience serious wanderlust, pushing you towards achieving your travel goals now, not later! Basically, it shows how traveling isn’t something we need to postpone until we’re old; it’s doable anytime and for much cheaper than you may think!

This book will transform you. It also teaches that vagabonding is a mindset that translates into a genuine interest in places, people, and just about anything in life—making this piece a great source not only for becoming more open-minded about travel but also about life in general.

10. Down Under: Travels in a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

Cover of 'Down Under: Travels in a Sunburned Country' by Bill Bryson, illustrated with a crocodile and a car
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A hilarious travel book, Down Under: Travels in a Sunburned Country is a must-read for everyone interested in or planning a trip to the land down under! It is filled with fun facts and vivid descriptions of the author’s adventures, and it honors the beautiful people and wildlife of Australia.

You’ll read about the aborigines, the cities, the trails, the things that can kill you (think spiders and crocodiles), and so much more; it’ll almost feel like you visited the country yourself!

The author’s witty writing style and the art of presenting information in a fun yet educational way make all his books bestsellers! So, if you like this one, there are plenty of others to explore, most notably A Walk in the Woods (also included in this list!)

11. We Came, We Saw, We Left by Charles Wheelan

Cover of 'We Came, We Saw, We Left' by Charles Wheelan with a vintage van illustration on a yellow background
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Another one of those stories where a couple (this time the whole family, with 3 teenagers) left their daily routine and set out to travel the world for 9 months! We Came, We Saw, We Left traces a journey that took this family across 6 continents from Peru and Columbia, to Vietnam, India, Cambodia, and many other countries.

If you’re a parent of teens, you’ll want to read this book first! Traveling with your children, no matter how small, is an extremely formative experience for them, but taking them on the road for 9 consecutive months is absolutely life-changing for every family member! At the very least, reading this book will help you finally organize that long-postponed family road trip!

12. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

Cover of 'A Walk in the Woods' by Bill Bryson, showing a bear's face with a backdrop of the forest
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A classic in the making and one of the top-rated travel books on the internet, A Walk in the Woods tells the story of one man’s effort to hike the magnificent Appalachian Trail, which spreads from Georgia to Maine. It documents the towns along the route well and offers a historical perspective, but it also shares Bill’s personal anecdotes and journey notes.

Well-versed travel writer Bill Bryson will have you yearning for the outdoors very quickly, I promise you that! Hikers, mountain climbers, and lovers of the natural world – this book is a must-read!

13. The Beach by Alex Garland

Cover of 'The Beach' by Alex Garland, depicting a serene beach flanked by cliffs.
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Reading The Beach by Alex Garland will inspire you to book flights to Thailand and hit the beach there! It is a captivating story about a backpacker from Britain who goes to Bangkok and then heads to a secret beach called Eden. He embarks on the search for the island and enjoys the idyllic life on it before things start to go in another direction.

The book is super easy to read and has short chapters that are all page-turners. It meticulously depicts the adventures of this backpacker living on what was promised to be a perfect island, free from commercial activities.

14. A Search in Secret India by Paul Brunton 

Cover of 'A Search in Secret India' by Paul Brunton, featuring lit candles floating on water with boats in the distance
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In A Search in Secret India, the author tells us how he lived among yogis, traveled around India at a time when it wasn’t as popular as it is now, and finally found the peace he had been seeking all his life.

Brunton’s writing style is so artistic and mysterious yet so grounded in reason! He’s honest about India’s religious structure, writing with virtually no bias. If you’re looking for some inspiration to start your travels around India, or if you’ve just started swimming in the vast ocean of spirituality, this book is definitely for you!

15. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Cover of 'Eat, Pray, Love' by Elizabeth Gilbert, showing the title spelled out with pasta, beads, and flower petals
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Do you ever feel like you need a change but feel too constrained by society’s rules and expectations about how you should live your life? This incredible book about self-exploration will show you that anything is possible!

Elizabeth used to live the typical American life, where having a husband, a career, and a country home was supposed to be the goal of every American woman. At one point, she decided to leave it all behind and travel to Italy, India, and Indonesia to rediscover who she was.

Eat, Pary, Love is one of the best travel books of the modern era. I especially recommend it to women who are going through hardships in their lives. This book is the therapy you never knew you needed!

16. Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World by Rita Golden Gelman

Cover of 'Tales of a Female Nomad' by Rita Golden Gelman, illustrating a globe with a woman's patterned skirt in motion
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This is another inspiring story about an ordinary woman who can do extraordinary things! Tales of a Female Nomad is the perfect book that shows how you can not only visit different countries and observe their cultures but also become an active part of them!

After a failed marriage, Rita abandoned all her belongings and turned to a nomadic life. She is the perfect example of how you’re never too old to travel the world and live your dreams! Rita paints a very private picture of how people of different cultures and backgrounds are essentially the same. It’s their foods, clothes, and customs that are different.

17. Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantsakis

Cover of 'Zorba the Greek' by Nikos Kazantzakis, with a silhouette of a man spreading his arms wide
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Ah, Zorba! One of the most popular adventure books by a Greek author, Zorba the Greek will make you instantly fall in love with Greece’s largest island!

The story takes place in Cretes and commemorates Zorba, a larger-than-life man who has absolutely transformed the narrator’s life. The narrator is an intellectual who decided to leave his academic life behind and go to Crete to work in a lignite mine, where he met Zorba.

This book is for everyone who has ever been set back from being more active in life. If you spend too much time in your chair thinking about how life passes by so quickly but are not motivated to actually get up and do stuff, this book will definitely help you start moving!

18. Not Afraid of the Fall by Kyle James

Cover of 'Not Afraid of the Fall' by Kyle James, with a silhouette of a couple jumping in joy against a city skyline
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Have you been postponing your own trip for ages? You won’t be anymore after reading this uplifting travel diary. It’s a real story of Kyle James and Ashley (his girlfriend), two ordinary people who got tired of corporate life and purchased a one-way ticket from New York to Paris.

Over 114 days, they visited 15 countries and 38 cities from Western Europe to Eastern Asia. Their captivating stories will make you cry, laugh, and love this couple, but most importantly, they will show you that no matter what happens in life, the only way to go is forward!

Not Afraid of the Fall is one of the best travel books for beginner travelers in their 20s who need that final push to get on the road, but it’s not meant to be a tour guide. If you’re a seasoned traveler, I’d recommend checking other titles on the list.

19. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Cover of 'Memoirs of a Geisha' by Arthur Golden, presenting a close-up of a geisha's profile
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Is there a traveler who isn’t fascinated, or at least curious, about the life of geishas? Whether you’re planning a trip to Japan or are just hungry for books about it, Memoirs of a Geisha is a great place to start for some cultural insights.

In short, the book tells the story of Chiyo, a servant at a geisha house who undergoes rigorous training to become a famed Sayuri geisha. Her story takes the reader through the geisha world’s highly competitive, brutal, and complex hierarchy.

This jaw-dropping story treats many themes, from identity to tradition to love and relationships with others. Although not precisely a travel book, Memoirs of a Geisha will certainly have you thinking about another world that very much exists in today’s Japan.

FAQs about best travel books

Open book on a sandy beach at sunset with the sun reflecting on the water's surface, and the silhouette of a Barcelona skyline in the background

🧳 What are the best travel books of all time?

Classics such as The Odyssey, The Travels of Marco Polo, and Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain are some of the best travel books of all time!

📖 What are the best travel books for young adults?

Not Afraid of the Fall by Kyle James, The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner, and Vagabonding by Rolf Potts are some of my recommendations for young adults looking for travel books!

📚 What are the best-selling travel books?

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, and Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer are some of the best-selling travel books.

🗺️ What’s the best printed travel guide book money can buy?

I always say Lonely Planet! They have guides for just about any place you want to visit, written by locals or people with extensive experience in the area! Atlas Obscura is also great if you want a universal guide to the Earth’s hidden gems!

Final thoughts of the best travel books

Author of the post with long hair sitting at the edge of an outdoor infinity pool, looking out towards a mountainous landscape under a clear blue sky

That’s about it, my dear adventurer! I hope the travel books above help you decide on your next adventure, but not only! They’re also a journey to self-discovery, are filled with cultural insights and are a testimony to the diversity of our planet, meaning they’ll make your spirit richer right away!

Do you have a travel book recommendation you want to share with our readers? What is your favorite travel book of all time? Share your experience in the comments below!

Happy exploring,

Darija


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