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Reader Recs: World's Best Travel Books

If you're looking for a bit of wanderlust, look no further than your bookshelf. Here are the best travel books, as told by our Nat Geo Travel Facebook fans.

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A woman reads a book in a park


We recently asked our National Geographic Travel Facebook fans to share their favorite books for inspiring wanderlust. From the story of an escaped prisoner to the tale of an epic road trip, their answers did not disappoint.

So join us as we escape inside the pages of some of the world’s best travel books:

Ika I. kicks things off with a trip down an Icelandic volcano in Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne. “There’s nothing more exciting than fusing plausible fiction with facts,” says Ika. “I haven’t stopped wanting to visit Iceland ever since!”

The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner gets a vote from Zenny T. The book, which follows the author’s search for the happiest places in the world, won Zenny over for its “close take on the people, cultures, and vibes” of the places the author traveled to.

Ketan T. suggests Papillon by Henri Charrière and Jean-Pierre Castelneau, which tells the true story of Charrière's escape after being wrongly imprisoned in French Guiana. Ketan loved the way the authors described how it felt for Charrière to visit new places while on the run.

The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk is a tale of forbidden romance, and it made the list thanks to Neagu A. After reading the book, Neagu booked a trip to Istanbul, where the book is set.

Nikki A. and Mark H. agreed on the best book for travel inspiration: Wild by Cheryl Strayed. A powerful memoir about a woman’s solo hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, Wild is not just about hiking, but also about personal experience, as Mark points out.

Christian B. named The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova as the best book for a bit of travel inspiration. “It’s not possible to read it and not dream of visiting all the great remote monasteries,” Christian writes. The book, which made its debut in 2004, mixes history and folklore for an epic thriller set in Europe.

Down Under by Bill Bryson won Juan P. over for its accurate depiction of life in Australia. After reading the book, Juan visited Australia and found himself laughing at little things the author had mentioned—because they held so much truth.

Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist was a popular suggestion among our fans. The novel tells the story of a boy named Santiago who travels through Egypt in search of a treasure. Melisa T. says the book inspired her to travel because its main character was, as she describes, a dreamer and a seeker. Jenna M. recommended the book because it reminds her to keep following her destiny while on the road.

Lucy S. added Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts to our list because of “the imaginative and articulate way it’s written.” Based on the life of its author, the book follows an escaped convict through the streets of Mumbai, India. It “fed my wanderlust and made me underline paragraphs that I found beautiful,” said Lucy. Laura M. couldn’t agree more, and the book even inspired her recent trip to India.

Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon gets the vote of Lindsay J., who read it at the age of 15. The autobiographical book reads as the ultimate road trip guide through America’s back roads, while also telling the stories of the characters one meets on such a trip.

Speaking of autobiographies, Srishti J. recommends Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum. The “classic sea adventure” is sure to give you goose bumps, says Srishti. “It makes me feel that the romance of travel lies not in the beautiful places alone, but within ourselves.”

Laura M. loved The Walking Drum by Louis L’Amour because the main character is “constantly being thrown into wild scenarios that he has to overcome.” This powerful adventure is set in the 12th century and has something for everyone—danger, love, and revenge. “From the very first chapter it filled me with a desire to travel the world and find my own adventures,” says Laura.

To round out our list, Andrea M. offers up an unconventional selection: the encyclopedia (but what a great suggestion it is). While writing a report on Holland in the third grade, Andrea used the encyclopedia to find facts. “It is where my desire to travel began,” she says.

What’s the best travel book you’ve ever read and why? Tell us in the comments section.


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