By the time this post is published I will be a couple of hours in to a very long bus journey to Paris. I had been thinking about what book to take for the journey, and thought I may as well share with you all my top ten books about travel to keep you entertained on future long journeys of your own!
1. Fiesta (The Sun Also Rises) by Ernest Hemingway
By far my favourite book of all time, Hemingway nothing short of romanticises Paris in this semi-autobiographical account of a post-war American expat living and writing in the City of Lights. When I first made plans to spend this week in Paris, all I could think of was the protagonist, Jake, contemplating his love/hate relationship with Robert Cohn at the Café de Versailles and spending the majority of the book chasing after the boyish Brett, who I always imagined alike to Audrey Hepburn’s character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It was also this novel that has inspired my bucket list entry to visit the bulls of Pamplona, although as Orson Welles spoke regarding Hemingway’s expertise on the subject of bull-fighting, “he thought he invented it” and so I doubt I could ever appreciate it as well as he writes of it in Fiesta.
2. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
My love for The Historian comes extremely close to my love for Fiesta. The author shows herself to also be quite the historian, combining a deep and well-researched knowledge of Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, whilst weaving the historical facts in with Bram Stoker’s legend of Dracula. Above all, Elizabeth Kostova also shows herself to be a talented travel writing, and her depictions of Romania, Turkey, France, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Amsterdam, and Switzerland have long inspired a wanderlust within me for the balkan regions of medieval Europe.
3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Whilst depicting the sad journey of one family’s struggle during the Great Depression of the 1930s in America, John Steinbeck frequently alternates each chapter with another depicting the family’s surroundings. Each of these short chapters pulls together all the minute details of the road they are on, or the dust lands they are leaving behind, with startling landscape depictions of a natural world (not just a human one) brought to it’s knees by the Great Depression. Unlike the most famous of road trip stories, On the Road by Jack Kerouac, The Grapes of Wrath is the story of a road trip fraught with tribulation.
4. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
I’ve always been a little bit obsessed with La Esmerelda, dressing up as the Disney perception of her no less than three times for fancy dress, the first time at the age of 6 or 7. I also think the Notre-Dame in Paris is one of the most startling examples of Gothic architecture and it never fails to take my breath away no matter how many times I visit it, despite Hugo’s suggestions that renovation works have left the Cathedral less beautiful than the original. Unfortunately, the novel is another unhappy one, but the way in which themes of loyalty, appearance, and love are depicted within and surrounding the walls of the Notre-Dame just add to it’s mystical allure in real life.
5. In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin
The majority of my recommendations so far have focused on the depictions of authors of the landscapes around them, but Chatwin pulls together the image and history of the land in Patagonia with the lives of the people he meets on his journey. Patagonia is a destination at the very top of my travel wish list, but in this book you really get a feel for the region through the eyes of those that live and work on the soil.
6. Kook: What Surfing Taught Me about Love, Life, and Catching the Perfect Wave by Peter Heller
After my very first surf camp I went through any book on surfing I could find at an alarming pace. I was nothing short of obsessed with the way in which surfing goes hand in hand with exploration and travel, and Heller’s tale of a road trip along the coast of Mexico with his girlfriend, searching for his perfect wave, is one biography that does nothing but inspire wanderlust in the reader. I would go as so far as to say you don’t even need to care about surfing to read this book. The focus is far more on the journey.
7. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare set three of his plays in Verona, but of those three Romeo and Juliet has to be the most famous and without a doubt the most romantic. You can’t read the play without your mind illustrating a projection of winding Italian streets, passionate Italian men, and most off all, Juliet’s famous balcony. And if you are a romantic and don’t mind a cheeky chick flick, I’d also suggest watching Letters to Juliet after reading the play. If ever there was a city as romantic and enticing to the traveller as Verona…
8. The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Ruiz Zafon was born in Barcelona in 1964, but his depiction of the city’s dark, mysterious streets in the years following the Spanish Civil War is every bit as gripping as it is fascinating. The story begins when the father of the main character, Daniel, takes him to a secret library known as Cemetery of Forgotten Books. After choosing one book from the library, the rest of Daniel’s life is spent in an odd mystery involving the book’s author and events involving them both take place all over Barcelona, as is shown on this website depicting locations in the novel.
9. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
Technically, this book is less about travel and more about the individual life of a single South American town told through the various generations descended from the man who founded it. Steeped in the mystical and sometimes hands-down bizarre, it is a beautiful novel that covers themes of love, pride, and of course, solitude, but it inspired me to travel in a more responsible way by getting to know villages and people and not just wonder at the sights.
10. The Tibetan Book Of Living And Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche
I know a lot of people who have disregarded this book as too morbid or depressing because of it’s title and so have never benefitted from reading it, which I believe everyone should! Whist Rinpoche covers themes of compassion, death, karma, and meditation, above all it is his musings on the impermanence of life that will most resonate with the travellers reading this. If the wisdom in this book give you anything, it will be gratitude for your journey, and a desire to use it not only to your benefit but for the benefit of others you meet along the way.
What are your favourite books about travel? Let me know in the comments below!
Lots of love,
p.s. some of the links above are affiliate links, which means if you buy the book through this page I will receive a very very small commission… but every little helps so thank you in advance 🙂