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40 Spectacular Books That Will Awaken Your Inner Traveler

40 Spectacular Books That Will Awaken Your Inner Traveler
Written by Duke Stewart

Books” by Brad Hammonds, used under CC BY / Text & Filter Added to Original by Duke Stewart

40 Spectacular Books That Will Awaken Your Inner Traveler

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one. ― George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons

Travelers and non-travelers all have something in common – we read. Everyone goes through phases where we’ve hit a wall and can’t find that next good book. I guarantee that once you read these, your inspiration meters will jump through the roof and the traveler inside you will immediately want to take off! That’s why I created this list of 40 spectacular books filled with a mix of history, inspiration, travel, and adventure surrounding a diverse array of topics and places. Let’s go!

Jack Kerouac On the Road

On the Road

Obvious alert! Kerouac’s iconic On the Road isn’t the first book I’d read about far-flung places but it was definitely the finest telling of a trip from the east coast to west and back. Read this book if you enjoy long sentences and have dreams of a journey filled life.

Jack Kerouac the Dharma Bums

The Dharma Bums and More

Also, read The Dharma Bums and Big Sur for further travel inspiration ala Kerouac. You won’t be sorry with any of his spectacular books.

Confucius Lives Next by TR Reid

Confucius Lives Next Door

Confucius lives Next Door is a great read that opens up a discussion on how similar we are to cultures across vast oceans and tracts of land. T.R. Reid and his family learn lots about life in a totally foreign nation and bring back lots of questions that can’t always be answered, like why McDonalds doesn’t have a shrimp burger in every location.

Collapse by Jared Diamond


See Jared Diamond’s Collapse for another look at our similarities but from the view of failed civilizations. It will definitely put aside any notions that our place in history is a special one.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Life of Pi

File Life of Pi under “Less Conventional Travel Inspiration” because it starts with a boat wreck and subsequent survival situation. However, Martell’s beautiful book about a boy sharing a boat with a circus tiger holds so many lessons inside. It’s inspirational, spiritual, and any other sort of -al that gives one a good feeling.

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

In the Shadow of the Banyan

For a survival story that’s much sadder yet still worth a read, explore Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the Banyan. It tells the author’s personal – albeit adapted – story intertwined with the Khmer Rouge’s rise in Cambodia. Try to come out without an appreciation for your own place and with dry eyes.

Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain

Medium Raw

If you ever wanted to learn about the frustrations of traveling with a drug addict or the ins and outs of Travel TV politics, then Medium Raw will do that service for you. Anthony Bourdain is a god in so many ways to travelers like myself and his honest writing about life and just about everything else solidifies his deistic role.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Kitchen Confidential

Read Kitchen Confidential for a truly disturbing yet eye-opening look into the restaurant world and the one that Bourdain wrote about to catapult himself onto the world stage.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist

I think we all have that one book that is meant to come at a specific time and place in our lives. For me, that’s this book. The Alchemist arrived in front of my eyes while we were traveling through Southeast Asia and pounded home the idea that I can do anything that I intend to do. I just have to keep pushing forward and believe in myself along the way.

The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho

The Pilgrimage

This truly wonderful book made such a splash in my mind that I’ve neglected to explore any more of Coelho’s other works. The Pilgrimage retells the real-life journey made by the author and will soon be checked out by yours truly.

Korea the Impossible Country by Daniel Tudor

Korea: The Impossible Country

Having lived in Korea for almost half a decade, The Impossible Country immensely helped me understand the country and its culture. I know any discussion about Korean society opens up a can of worms but this book brought a lot of insight into that quirky country, helping me form a smile instead of a frown when dealing with confusing situations.

Jon Stewart America the Book


Read Jon Stewart and the Daily Show’s America to explain my own country, if you’re reading from elsewhere. Is there a book you’d like to share that helped your adjustment to another place?

Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

Homage to Catalonia

It’s impossible to imagine myself living in a war zone, writing about it, and somehow participating in the battles that took place during such tragic times. George Orwell did that and created Homage to Catalonia as a result.

Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner

For a fictional telling of a very realistic story from the dark side, read The Kite Runner. This threads in Afghanistan’s descent into chaos along with the story of a boy and his friend. Honestly, anything by Khaled Hosseini is worth a reader’s attention. I can’t wait for him to continue producing more books!

The Rum Diary by Hunter S Thompson

The Rum Diary

Hunter Thompson’s chaos-filled Fear and Loathing books are better known but The Rum Diary is great fiction for those in need of a trip to Puerto Rico. There are some similarities to Hemingway’s Sun Also Rises but otherwise, it’s a uniquely awesome read! I never watched the movie but can imagine it’s not as good as the book, which is 99-percent the case.

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 72 by Hunter S Thompson

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72

Don’t ignore the HST’s other books and definitely read Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72. You’ll never have to follow another U.S. Presidential election after reading it!

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout

A House in the Sky

Place this book into a “glad it wasn’t me” frame of mind when reading. While reading through the terrible things Amanda Lindhout had to endure in A House in the Sky, she passes on some very valuable lessons. Even if you hear that a place or topic is deemed too dangerous to visit, shouldn’t you explore it anyway?

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Into the Wild

For those of us who want to get rid of everything and go on the ultimate journey, Into the Wild is the cautionary tale we all should read first. It’s a great book by John Krakauer but definitely worth reading when going for it means trudging off into the Alaskan wilderness.

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Before the Fathom cruise we joined, this book formed most of what I knew about the Dominican Republic. While The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is marketed as fiction, Junot Diaz does well to describe the DR under Trujillo while threading it into one of my favorite stories. The main emphasis is on being an immigrant and what it’s like to be different. That’s something that many of us will never know but should try at least once in our lives.

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

In the Time of the Butterflies

In the Time of the Butterflies is on my “To Read” list and better-known by those who’ve read about the Dominican or visited in times past.

On Familiar Terms by Donald Keene

On Familiar Terms: To Japan and Back, a Journey Across Cultures

On Familiar Terms describes Donald Keene’s journey from America to eventually becoming a Japanese art and history expert, but not before a stint during World War II as a translator. The author actually spoke at my university in Japan, in full Japanese at a level that required many of the natives to look up words in their pocket dictionaries.

Yoshimasa and the Silver Pavilion by Donald Keene

Yoshimasa and the Silver Pavilion

History and art lovers will want to read Yoshimasa and the Silver Pavilion by Keene. This book inspired me to actually visit the Silver Pavilion in Kyoto, which I have on multiple occasions.

Near a Thousand Tables by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto

Near a Thousand Tables: A History of Food

Read Felipe Fernandez-Armesto’s telling of food history from fire to bottled water and try not to go out and buy a bucket of chicken. His description of raw food alone made my mouth water while reading. Don’t be hungry when reading Near a Thousand Tables.

A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage

A History of the World in 6 Glasses

Tom Standage’s A History of the World in 6 Glasses provide the drinkable chronology of our globe. P.S. I had really good and encouraging History professors who made us read fun books.

You are a Badass by Jen Sincero

You are a Badass

If you find yourself downtrodden while traveling, bummed that you’re not out there, or otherwise feeling unfulfilled, Jen Sincero’s You are a Badass is the perfect recipe for kicking your ass back into gear. Read it, love it, and get yourself moving after gulping down this wonderful book.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic

Don’t worry about reading Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s okay. You can read it but her more recently published Big Magic gets into very important territory, such as how it’s possible to be a creative and achieving dreams while maintaining a normal 9-to-5 existence.

The Beach by Alex Garland

The Beach

Alex Garland’s The Beach on many travel reading lists and for quite a few reasons. It’s a go-to read for those hoping to leave it all behind and find their own secret getaway. I pondered on this book a lot when we were traveling in the Philippines, and after we stayed at my very own “Beach.” I wanted to keep it to myself and never share it with anyone.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed


People will say The Beach is the ultimate backpacking novel but I think Cheryl Strayed’s Wild pursues more adventurous territory. Travel through her journey from bottom to finding herself while hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail and you’ll thank me for it later.

The Motorcycle Diaries by Che Guevara

Motorcycle Diaries

Read The Motorcycle Diaries without expecting Che to become a revolutionary and you might just fall in love with the story on its own. Honestly, I admire he and his friend Albert Granado traveling so far throughout South America on the dodgiest of two wheels.

Che Guevara by Jon Lee Anderson

Che Guevara

If you’re looking for something that covers all of Che’s life, then the epic Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life by Jon Lee Anderson that is so intrinsically detailed that I wonder who he had to kill to get some of this info.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One

I’m a bit of a science-fiction, dystopia, and 80s pop culture nerd (understatement) so Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is right up my alley. Mix in all that with the ability to travel via virtual reality and you’ve got the recipe for a good story.

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

I can’t mention Sci-Fi adventure without Douglas Adams masterpiece Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. There’s so much inspiration and humor within its pages for me to cover here. All I can say is, “Don’t panic.”

You Gotta Have Wa by Robert Whiting

You Gotta Have Wa

If you know me, then you know that I like baseball and that some of my all-time favorite memories involve trips to the Tokyo Dome with my teacher, Kunio Nishimura. I probably wouldn’t have been so enthused about going if it weren’t for You Gotta Have Wa by Robert Whiting. It’s a great collection of stories about players who traveled from the U.S. to Japan and struggled to succeed.

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

Fever Pitch

I don’t think Japanese or even Korean baseball games approach the atmosphere of English football, and I thank Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch for confirming that. Forgoing everything in the name of his beloved Arsenal, Hornby is supposedly still an avid fan and someone I’d like to share a match with someday.

20000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Many people will cite 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as their favorite fiction book but wasn’t Jules Verne just an awesome predictor of technologies that we’d come to use half a century later. Take the electric submarine used by Captain Nemo in this book. He’s not done yet, my friend.

From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne

From the Earth to the Moon

Read Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon and you’ll think that it’s written sometime at the dawn of the great Space Race. Nope. He wrote about projectiles carrying people to the moon way back in 1865, a century before man first set foot on our only permanent satellite.

The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson

The Lost Continent

Bryson’s The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-town America is pithy and saucy with his words but I can’t get enough. Maybe I wouldn’t if I were from Iowa, or had kin from there. I’m stuck on this book because I have a thing for small towns, so why not enjoy reading a travel god move through some of them in literary form?

Im a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson

I’m a Stranger Here Myself

His book about returning home Notes from a Big Country or I’m a Stranger Here Myself are worth a read for those people who’ve lived abroad or plan to return home like I was when reading this.

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

The Martian Chronicles

Sure it’s apocalyptic but read the first few chapters of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles and you’ll be inspired to visit the Red Planet. Honestly, the spirit of that first chapter is something I’ve longed to recreate without blatantly copying Ray Bradbury.

The Gunslinger by Stephen King

The Gunslinger

I threw Stephen King’s The Gunslinger because you should’ve read it and the rest of the Dark Tower series by now, and shame on you if you haven’t yet. It starts with an epic chase and through a variety of interesting characters, so thank me for the introduction.

Are there any spectacular books that you’d like to share? Something you wouldn’t have on this list? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments section below:) 

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40 Spectacular Books That Will Awaken Your Inner Traveler by Duke Stewart

Books” by Brad Hammonds, used under CC BY / Text & Filter Added to Original by Duke Stewart

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About the author

Duke Stewart

As a recovering Expat, I write about Life through Travel and want you there with me through captivating stories followed by guides on how to do the same. My work has been featured in various magazines throughout Korea and in online publications including the awesome I am also a nerd and love to point out a situation's similarities to any of my favorite movies, books, or tv shows. You've been warned:) Follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for daily updates.