On the Road is the largely autobiographical story of two young men road tripping across America. It is broken up into five parts and takes place from 1947-1950. This book was hailed when it came out as “the most beautifully executed, the clearest and the most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as “beat,” and whose principal avatar he is…” by the New York Times. It is one of the most influential books of the 20th century, and if you haven’t read it you probably should. One paragraph is not really enough to do it justice. Just go read it. Read it now.
Travels with Charley: In Search of America recounts John Steinbeck’s account of his 1960 road trip around the United States with his poodle, Charley. According to his son, he always had the desire to experience more of America on an up close and personal level, and wanted to do so before he died. His journey begins in Long Island, New York basically follows an outline of the US, first heading up to Maine before going heading west to the Pacific North West, down through California, through the Deep South and back up the East Coast to New York. Was his voyage all he expected it to be? You’ll have to read it to find out.
Originally published in 1968, Desert Solitaire centers around the activities of Edward Abbey as a park ranger in Arches National Monument. If you’re into the outdoors, or just some interesting perspective on the growth of America in the 20th century, this book is a must read.
You may be familiar with the movie staring a young Leonardo DiCaprio that came out in 2000. First thing you want to do is put that out of your mind and start fresh. The Beach chronicles the adventures of Richard, a young British traveler who, while in Bangkok is given a map to an allegedly hidden island paradise located in the Gulf of Thailand. He meets up with some like minded people and makes his way to the island, which is filled with all kinds of perils that one must overcome in order to arrive safely. They eventually meet up with a group of people who have been living on the Island for over 5 years. The rest of the story is action packed and exciting, but also manages to take an interesting look at human behavior.
Based on the journey of Chritopher McCandless took into the Alaskan Wilderness, this best seller was the basis for Sean Penn’s film of the same name. Like many of the books on this list it is about more than just physical travel. Krakauer’s account looks at they voyage of the human spirit, what drives us, and what bring people together. Into the Wild may be a sad story, but there is much about it that is inspirational.
One of the more unique books on travel, The Great Railway Bazaar covers Paul Theroux’s 4 month long voyage across Asia. He begins in London, and makes his way east before coming back on the Trans-Siberian Railway. This book was ground breaking in a couple of ways, and is absolutely relevant and as entertaining today as when it was first published in 1975.
The book that established the writing career of Bruce Chatwin, In Patagonia is the account of his travels in the South American territory. Originally published in 1977, the book was hailed by critics as one of the best travel accounts ever written. There was some controversy as many locals came forward to contradict some of the events in the book. Regardless, it is still a great read that may turn you onto just how much South America has to offer.
Eric Newby writes in a style that is accessible, funny, and self deprecating. It works perfectly for A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush. The book recants his tale of his attempt to climb one of the highest peaks in Afghanistan (over 20,000 ft.) with pretty much no experience in mountaineering. This is a perfect “journey not the destination” book. His inability becomes his assets as he is able to make what could be a book about failure, a lighthearted look at himself that is just as funny today as when it came out in 1956.
There are literally thousands of books out there that can inspire travel. Which ones are your favorite? Leave a comment below and maybe there will be a follow up post! What books do you read to get excited for your next vacation?