25 Must-Read Books about Travel and Adventure for Explorers

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Before I left my home country Germany to travel the world in 2020, I only had the occasional trip once or twice a year to feed my wanderlust. Well, not just that, I also read books about travel and adventure. Lots of books. And reading one of those books again just recently, I decided to put up a list of the best travel and adventure books I’ve read in the past, and here it is!

Whether you’re dreaming of hiking through remote landscapes or embarking on a life-changing pilgrimage, these books are your passport to adventure. So grab a cup of coffee and scroll through this list of my 25 favorite books about travel adventure!

1) Into the Wild

In all my years of traveling, I haven’t met a single traveler who did not watch the movie, but only a few of them read the same-named book. I am talking about ‘Into the Wild‘, a captivating exploration of the motivations and consequences of living in the wild. Written by Jon Krakauer, this non-fiction novel delves into the real-life journey of Christopher McCandless, a young man who ventures into the Alaskan wilderness, seeking to escape the trappings of modern society and live a life of true freedom and self-discovery.

 

“Into the Wild” Captivates Wild Living’s Motivations and Consequences.

 

The book takes a quasi-linear plot approach, introducing characters, setting, rising action, conflicts, and resolution of Christopher McCandless. It also incorporates small stories with different protagonists and antagonists to provide context and comparison. Krakauer’s skillful storytelling and exploration of the human psyche make this book a must-read for anyone seeking insight into the human condition and the pursuit of a meaningful life.

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2) The Alchemist

The Alchemist‘ was the first book about travel and adventure I’ve ever read, the first and one of the best! Follow the footsteps of Santiago, a young Spanish shepherd who dares to dream beyond his homeland. With three gold coins from his father, Santiago sets off on a quest to find treasure near the pyramids in Egypt. Along the way, he encounters obstacles and learns important life lessons about love and pursuing dreams while staying true to oneself.

 

“The Alchemist” Follows Santiago, a Daring Spanish Shepherd’s Dream.

 

The Alchemist is a thought-provoking tale that explores themes of destiny, spirituality, and the pursuit of one’s true purpose in life. It keeps you engaged with its suspenseful plot and encourages you to reflect on your own personal legends. Through Santiago’s journey, you are reminded of the power of following your dreams and how the universe can conspire to help you achieve your goals. A true classic!

3) The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

Discover the mesmerizing tale of Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett’s relentless pursuit of the lost City of Z, where danger lurks in every corner of the Amazon. In David Grann’s gripping non-fiction book, ‘The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon,’ you are transported to a time when exploration was fueled by an insatiable curiosity and an unwavering determination.

 

“The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon” Is a Great Book About Travel and Adventure.

 

Grann delves deep into Fawcett’s expeditions, shedding light on his interactions with indigenous tribes and his clash with Western civilization’s view of superiority. The book not only explores Fawcett’s personal journey but also provides insights into the impact of exploration on South America and its uncontacted tribes. With detailed descriptions and meticulous research, Grann paints a vivid picture of the Amazon rainforest, making you feel as if you are right alongside Fawcett on his perilous quest!



4) Jupiter’s Travels

Jupiter’s Travels‘ is a travel memoir that takes you on an exhilarating ride across continents and cultures. In this book, you will embark on an adventure filled with the thrill of departure and the joy of discovering new things. Jupiter’s Travels captures the essence of long-distance, long-time traveling as it explores the difficulties of language and culture while providing insight into the surprises and challenges one might face on a similar journey.

 

“Jupiter’s Travels” Exhilaratingly Journeys Through Continents and Cultures.

 

This classic travel book by the Father of adventure riding offers an intelligent perspective of the world in the 1970s. With its well-written narrative that doesn’t indulge in excessive introspection, Jupiter’s Travels inspires you to explore more, ride more, and read more. It is a must-read for any explorer seeking to understand the universals of human experience found in travel!

5) Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback

Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback‘ is an inspiring memoir written by Robyn Davidson. The book chronicles Davidson’s extraordinary journey as she embarks on a solo trek with her four camels and dog through the vast and unforgiving Australian Outback.

 

"Tracks: A Woman's Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback" Is a Great Book About Travel and Adventure.

 

As a woman challenging the conventions of her time, Davidson’s determination and resilience shine through the pages. Her intimate account delves into the physical and emotional challenges she faces, the encounters with Indigenous communities, and the profound connection she forms with the harsh but stunning landscape—a powerful narrative of self-discovery, adventure, and the strength of the human spirit.

6) A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Embark on a transformative journey through the fluid spaces of ‘A Field Guide to Getting Lost‘, where you’ll explore the power of getting lost and find new connections within yourself. Rebecca Solnit’s collection of essays takes you on a poetic exploration of loss and change, drawing on notable figures and their experiences to convey the idea that being lost can be a catalyst for growth.

 

"A Field Guide to Getting Lost" Is a Great Book About Travel and Adventure.

 

Solnit weaves together history, art, philosophy, and personal memoir to create a philosophical treatise on flux and the constant nature of change. Through her words, she encourages slowing down and reflection, emphasizing the value of the unknown and the power of wandering. I liked how Solnit addresses the relationship between sadness and pleasure, offering a brighter context to being lost – an opportunity for new connections and self-discovery. Definitely worth reading!

7) Shantaram

In ‘Shantaram‘ you dive into the captivating world of Mumbai in the 1980s, telling the story of a mesmerizing and unforgettable journey filled with friendship, redemption, and self-discovery. Lin, the protagonist, flees from an Australian prison to find himself entangled in Mumbai’s vibrant culture, where he forms unexpected alliances with criminals and saints alike, navigating a world of good and evil. 

 

“Shantaram” Mesmerizes With Friendship, Redemption, and Self-Discovery.

 

In this literary masterpiece, Roberts weaves a compelling narrative of redemption and the search for identity. As Lin grapples with his past and seeks a sense of belonging, “Shantaram” becomes an unforgettable exploration of the human spirit, love, and the enduring power of friendship amidst the chaos of Mumbai’s streets.



8) The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea,” written by Ernest Hemingway, is a captivating work of fiction set in Cuba. The story revolves around the friendship between Santiago, an old fisherman, and Manolin, a young boy. Santiago takes it upon himself to teach Manolin the art of fishing, and in doing so, he discovers that fishing is not just a means of survival but his true calling in life.

 

“The Old Man and the Sea” Is a Classic Novella About an Aging Fisherman’s Epic Struggle With a Giant Marlin.

 

The plot takes an adventurous turn when Santiago finds himself battling against a great marlin that takes him out to sea alone. Determined and resilient, Santiago fights off man-eating sharks after catching and killing the marlin. Not exactly a travel book, but one that vividly tells a fascinating and unique adventure. A classic which I really enjoyed!

9) Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail‘ is another captivating tale of adventure and self-discovery. Cheryl Strayed’s memoir takes you on a journey through her personal struggles and transformation as she embarks on a three-month backpacking trip along the challenging Pacific Crest Trail.

 

“Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” Is a Memoir of Self-Discovery Through Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

 

In this raw and introspective account, Strayed shares her lack of preparation and unfamiliarity with the terrain, painting a vivid picture of the discomforts she faced amidst the stunning landscapes of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Ranges. As you follow Strayed’s steps along this arduous trail, you’ll witness her self-absorption and how others are drawn to her magnetic presence. The fascinating story of an incredible adventure!

10) A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

In “A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail” by Bill Bryson, you join the witty author and his comical companion, Stephen Katz, on an extraordinary adventure. As you delve into the pages of this captivating narrative, you’ll traverse the rugged wilderness of the 2,100-mile-long Appalachian Trail, experiencing its beauty and challenges.

 

A Walk in the Woods Is a Great Book About Travel and Adventure.

 

Bryson’s engaging storytelling and humor vividly describe the camaraderie of fellow hikers, the thrill of reaching scenic vistas, and the occasional mishaps that make the journey all the more entertaining. “A Walk in the Woods” is not only a tale of exploration but also a celebration of the profound connection between humanity and the natural world, truly inspiring!

11) The Rings of Saturn

Delve into the haunting and enigmatic world of W. G. Sebald’s ‘The Rings of Saturn,’ where the eastern coastal area of England becomes a melancholic backdrop for introspection and unexpected relationships. In this unique travelogue, Sebald’s elegant and brilliant writing style transports you to a place where random trains of thought intertwine with beautiful descriptions.

 

“The Rings of Saturn” Portrays Melancholic Reflections in England’s East Coast.

Sebald seamlessly blends history, memories, and a touch of melancholy, creating this captivating and introspective adventure. It’s not just a travelogue; it’s a mosaic of tales about silk merchants, naturalists, writers, and dreamers, all tied together by the threads of time and place.



12) The Songlines

The Songlines‘ by Bruce Chatwin takes you on a journey through central Australia. Through his travels and encounters with the Indigenous communities, Chatwin delves into the concept of “songlines”, the ancient and sacred paths that crisscross the vast Australian landscape, carrying the music of creation and the stories of the Dreamtime.

 

“The Songlines” Describes a Journey Into the Heart of Australia.

 

Chatwin takes you on a journey of discovery and understanding, learning about the deep spiritual connection between the Aboriginal people and their land. His vivid storytelling and keen observations bring to life the beauty of the Outback and the unique way in which the songlines serve as maps, guides, and cultural repositories. It’s a thought-provoking and lyrical read that transports you to the heart of Australia’s ancient and enduring culture, an absolute must-read!

13) Siddhartha

I know that “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse is not typically considered a travel book. Although the story involves physical journeys and travels, the primary focus of “Siddhartha” lies in the inner journey of self-discovery, questioning, and enlightenment. But that’s what makes it so special! In this philosophical novel, you’ll follow the life of Siddhartha, a young Brahmin who embarks on a quest for enlightenment and understanding.

 

“Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse Is a Contemplative Journey Through the Spiritual Landscape of Ancient India.

 

Through Hesse’s mesmerizing prose, you’ll accompany Siddhartha on his transformative path, from a wandering ascetic to a wealthy merchant and, finally, to a humble ferryman. The novel explores the essence of existence and the interconnectedness of all living beings, delving into profound questions about the meaning of life and the pursuit of truth. There’s no way you will read this book without stopping once in a while to think and reflect!

14) Travels with Charley in Search of America

Travels with Charley‘ by John Steinbeck is a non-fiction tale that invites you to embark on a journey across the United States alongside the renowned author and his faithful poodle, Charley. As you join them in their trusty camper van named Rocinante, Steinbeck’s vivid descriptions effortlessly transport you to diverse landscapes, where dialects change and regional uniqueness comes alive before your eyes.

 

'Travels with Charley in Search of America' Is a Great Book About Travel and Adventure.

 

As you follow Steinbeck’s expedition, you’ll witness a heartwarming bond develop between him and Charley, a companion that becomes more than just a pet. Along the way, themes of loneliness, isolation, and the desire for adventure resonate deeply within your own spirit. If you’re seeking a book that explores the essence of American travel with insightful observations on human nature, this is an absolute must-read!

15) On the Road

Join the wild journey of Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road‘ as you hit the open road with a cast of unique characters and experience the raw energy of the Beat Generation of post-World War II America. Follow the protagonist Sal Paradise on his cross-country odyssey as he crisscrosses the country with his free-spirited friend, Dean Moriarty.

 

Jack Kerouac's 'On the Road' Is a Great Book About Travel and Adventure.

 

Kerouac captures the restless spirit of a generation seeking meaning and rebellion against societal norms. The road becomes a symbol of freedom and self-discovery, with the characters immersing themselves in jazz, poetry, and the thrill of spontaneous adventures. ‘On the Road’ is THE travel book every traveler should read at least once in their lives. I did, and I loved it!



16) The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey

Embark on an unforgettable journey through the landscapes of South America as you witness the transformative experiences of Ernesto Guevara and his friend Alberto in Che Guevara’s captivating autobiography, ‘The Motorcycle Diaries‘. This book will transport you to a time when adventure and exploration were paramount, as the two friends set out on a motorcycle tour of South America.

 

'The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey' Is a Great Book About Travel and Adventure.

 

The descriptions of landscapes and personal experiences are so vivid that you’ll feel as if you’re right there with them, encountering peasants, poverty, and injustice along the way. You will also gain valuable insights into Che Guevara’s philosophy as a young man and his development as a complex individual finding his idealism. The Motorcycle Diaries is not just an adventure tale, it is also a snapshot of the social problems that plagued Latin American countries in the 1950s.

17) Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time

Strap on your hiking boots and get ready to explore the lost city one step at a time by reading ‘Turn Right at Machu Picchu‘. In this captivating travel and history book, author Mark Adams takes you deep into the heart of the Inca Empire. Through his educational and amusing storytelling, he weaves together his own research and personal experiences, offering a fascinating glimpse into the world of Machu Picchu. 

'Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time' Is a Great Book About Travel and Adventure.

 

As you follow in Hiram Bingham’s footsteps, Adams provides detailed information on not only the Inca civilization but also the Aztec and Maya cultures. But it’s not just facts and figures that make this book so special. Adams infuses his narrative with humorous anecdotes and insightful observations that will keep you entertained from start to finish.

18) The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition

‘The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition‘ by Caroline Alexander tells the fascinating story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his brave crew as they embark on a daring journey to cross the Antarctic in 1914. Through extensive research and interviews with crew members and their families, the author provides a comprehensive understanding of the polar conditions and the hardships faced by the crew. 

 

‘Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage’ Tells the Harrowing True Story of Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition.

 

Read about the challenges Shackleton and his crew were facing, like getting stuck in ice and being stranded in the freezing and harsh Antarctic wilderness. What I enjoyed the most was the determination and teamwork displayed by the crew. They stick together through thick and thin, battling the bone-chilling cold and darkness, and facing unimaginable odds. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves captivating true stories of survival and human perseverance!

19) Lost on Purpose: The Adventures of a 21st-Century Mountain Man

In ‘Lost on Purpose,’ Patrick Taylor takes you on an unforgettable adventure through extreme conditions. Taylor recounts his courageous decision to leave behind the comforts of the modern world and venture into the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains. With his attention to detail and preparation, Taylor brings to life both the challenges of the environment and the struggles of the human mind.

 

'Lost on Purpose: The Adventures of a 21st Century Mountain Man' Is a Great Book About Travel and Adventure.

 

As you delve into the pages of this gripping memoir, you’ll be taken on a wild journey filled with challenges, triumphs, and profound reflections on life’s true meaning. Taylor’s vivid storytelling paints a clear picture of his experiences living in harmony with nature, facing the elements head-on, and forging a deep connection with the untamed wilderness. Truly inspiring!



20) Through Sand & Snow

Through Sand & Snow‘ is a thrilling travel memoir by Charlie Walker who tells the incredible story of his daring expedition on foot and bicycle, covering vast distances from the UK to the Himalayas and crossing deserts, snow-capped peaks, and remote lands. At the age of 22, Charlie Walker defied comfort and boredom and left his home in search of something extraordinary. 

 

Through Sand & Snow: A Man, a Bicycle, and a 43,000-Mile Journey to Adulthood via the Ends of the Earth.

 

Aiming for the farthest points of Europe, Asia, and Africa, he sets off without extensive training or elaborate plans. From the harsh winter on the Tibetan plateau to the suffocating jungles of Southeast Asia, Charlie’s quest tested his resilience at every turn. An incredible journey you should not miss!

21) The Sun Is a Compass: A 4,000-Mile Journey into the Alaskan Wilds

Experience the breathtaking beauty of Alaska as you join Caroline Van Hemert and Patrick Farrell on their extraordinary 4,000-mile journey into the heart of the Alaskan wilds in ‘The Sun Is a Compass.‘ Through their eyes, you will feel the wonder of nature as you encounter diverse wildlife while learning about Alaska’s geography, birds, and animals through interesting scientific facts.

 

‘The Sun Is a Compass’ Is the Story of a Biologist and Her Husband’s Journey Through the Remote Alaskan Wilderness.

 

This remarkable adventure is not just about exploring nature; it’s also a personal reflection for Caroline Van Hemert as she makes life-changing decisions along the way. The narrative is compassionate and honest, drawing you into both the geographical journey and emotional experiences of wetness, coldness, hunger, and self-discovery. I highly recommend ‘The Sun Is a Compass’ to those who would like to read a travel book that combines adventure with a love for the natural world.

22) The Places in Between

While journeying through the empty spaces of Afghanistan, you will uncover a world vastly different from your own in ‘The Places in Between‘. The author Rory Stewart takes you on a remarkable adventure, delving into the lives of people who inhabit these remote areas. As you follow his journey from Herat to Kabul, you will witness firsthand the stark contrasts in lifestyle and perspectives between Westerners and those living in emptiness.

 

'The Places in Between' Is a Great Book About Travel and Adventure.

 

On his journey, Stewart connects deeply with the people he encounters. He emphasizes the importance of diversity and being open-minded when immersing yourself in different cultures. You’ll also learn valuable lessons about respecting indigenous communities and refraining from flaunting material possessions while doing fieldwork. I guarantee that this book will expand your understanding of unfamiliar territories!

23) A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East

In Tiziano Terzani’s captivating book, ‘A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East,’ you are transported to a world where ancient knowledge intertwines with modern dilemmas. As Terzani shares his experiences consulting fortune tellers across Asia, you will witness a journey that explores both the fading traditions of the past and the collision of cultures brought about by modernization.

 

“A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East” Is a Fascinating Account of the Author’s Journey Through Asia.

 

Through his vivid anecdotes and insightful observations, Terzani reminds us of the importance of preserving our connection to nature and each other in a spiritual way. This thought-provoking tale not only invites you to explore different Asian societies but also challenges your perspective on belief systems and predictions. Get ready to be captivated by tales of wonder and self-discovery as you embark on this unforgettable expedition through time and space!



24) Blue Highways: A Journey into America

Blue Highways,‘ set in the 1970s, takes you on a road trip like no other, as you traverse the secondary roads of America (known as blue highways) and discover the hidden gems tucked away in small towns. Through Heat-Moon’s detailed descriptions and conversations with locals, you’ll gain a deep understanding of the history, culture, and way of life in these communities.

 

'Blue Highways: A Journey Into America' Is a Great Book About Travel and Adventure.

 

‘Blue Highways’ is not just a travelogue, it’s also an exploration of personal growth. As Heat-Moon navigates his modified van across the country, he encounters various challenges and experiences that shape him along the way. From fishing trips to sampling local cuisine, he immerses himself fully in each town’s unique offerings, providing a unique perspective on small-town America during a specific era. 

25) Round Ireland with a Fridge

Get ready for a unique and hilarious travel tale in ‘Round Ireland with a Fridge.’ Step into the shoes of Brit Tony Hawks as he embraces an outlandish challenge brought about by drunken banter, traveling around Ireland with nothing but a compact refrigerator.

 

'Round Ireland With a Fridge' Is a Great Book About Travel and Adventure.

 

Join Tony as he hitchhikes his way through the stunning landscapes of Ireland, delving into its culture and meeting fascinating characters along the way. From cozy B&Bs to unexpected encounters in local pubs, this book is full of humor and unexpected twists. Definitely worth reading!

Conclusion

Now you know my collection of 25 Must-Read Books about Travel and Adventure. Any of these tales will take you on extraordinary journeys and I promise that each of these books will wake up that spirit of wanderlust in you (if it even needs to be woken up). 

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