20 Books That Will Inspire You to Travel

Book your plane ticket with a little inspiration from these nonfiction, travel-friendly reads.

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'Across Many Mountains' by Yangzom Brauen

When the Chinese invaded, Brauen's mother and grandmother were forced to flee from their Tibetan homeland, traveling across the frozen Himayalas to freedom. In this powerful, poetic, global memoir Brauen tells how the lives of three generations of Tibetan women were forever changed. (amazon.com)

'A Year in the World' by Frances Mayes

"The urge to travel feels magnetic," writes Under the Tuscan Sun author Mayes in her latest celebration of wanderlust. " Two of my favorite words are linked: departure time. And travel whets the emotions, turns upside down the memory bank, and the golden coins scatter."  Here, she departs from her home in Tuscany to see Spain, Portugal, France, the British Isles, Turkey and North Africa. (amazon.com)

'Book Lust to Go' by Nancy Pearl

Pearl, a celebrity librarian of sorts, plots itinerary for your next armchair traveling adventure with recommendations for fiction and nonfiction linked to destinations. Read Opium Season by Joel Hafvenstein for a journey into Afghanistan's opium fields or spend a year with the Organgutans of Borneo in Biruté Galdikas's Reflections of Eden. (amazon.com)

'The Geography of Bliss' by Eric Weiner

In this amusing memoir meets delightfully moody self-help guide, Weiner goes in search of happiness around the world: Are the Swiss in better spirits because they live in the most democratic country in the world? Do the oil-rich citizens of Qatar find joy in all that cash? (amazon.com)

'The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost' by Rachel Friedman

Ever wish you took a year off after college to see the world? Backpack vicariously with Friedman's coming-of-age travel memoir about the year she spent plane- and train-hopping across three continents. (amazon.com)

'Istanbul' by Orhan Pamuk

"Gustave Flaubert, who visited Istanbul 102 years before my birth, was struck by the variety of life in its teeming streets; in one of his letters he predicted that in a century's time it would be the capital of the world. The reverse came true," writes Istanbul native Pamuk in this stunning portrait of place. (amazon.com)

'It Still Moves' by Amanda Petrusich

This spirited, music-fueled roadtrip (part travelogue, part musical history) through the American past and present introduces readers to the latest incarnations of Americana tunes (think Iron and Wine, The Carter Family, Wilco and others ). (amazon.com)

'Life is a Trip' by Judith Fein

"It occurred to me that any traveler can travel like a jounralist—looking for cues and clues, diving into new cultures, and coming home with great stories and new ways of responding to life," writes Fein in this guide to changing how you see the world through travel. (amazon.com)

'The Lost City of Z' by David Grann

"I pulled a map from my back pocket. It was wet and crumpled, the lines I had traced to highlight my route now faded. I stared at my markings, hoping that they might lead me out of the Amazon, rather than deeper into it." So begins Grann's riveting search for "Z", a fabled city that has captivated not just him, but also legendary explorers, scientests and adventurers. (amazon.com)

'Maphead' by Ken Jennings

"I will cheerfully cop to being a bit of a geography wonk. I know my state capitals—hey, I even know my Australian state capitals. The first thing I do in any hotel room is break out the tourist magazine with the crappy city map in it," confesses Ken Jennings (of Jeopardy! fame), in this alluring ode to map culture and a lifelong love affair with geography. (amazon.com)

'A Paradise Built in Hell' by Rebecca Solnit

Solnit examines the extraordinary ways in which disaster brings people together, highlighting the devastation, and later the rebirth, of cities struck by calamities (the San Francisco earthquake, the explosion that tore up Halifax, Nova Scotia, the Mexico City earthquake and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans). (amazon.com)

'Running Away to Home' by Jennifer Wilson

Wilson, a wife and mother from Des Moines, Iowa, moves her family to her ancestor's Croatian mountain village in this warm, wise memoir. (amazon.com)

'The Sex Lives of Cannibals' by J. Maarten Troost

"One day, I moved with my girlfriend Sylvia to an atoll in the Equatorial Pacific. The atoll was called Tarawa, and should a devout believer in a flat earth ever alight upon its meager shore, he (or she) would have to accept that he (or she) had reached the end of the world. Tarawa was the end of the world, and for two years it became the center of mine," writes Troost in this wild tale of adventure abroad. (amazon.com)

'Sideways on a Scooter' by Miranda Kennedy

Kennedy transports the reader to India, where she spent five years covering the region for NPR, in this lovingly detailed fish-out-of-water tale. As she builds a life for herself, she settles in with a group of Indian women, who "alter her own attitudes about everything from politics and relgion to marriage and family." (amazon.com)

'It's Not About the Tapas' by Polly Evans

From the Pyrenees to the vineyards of Jerez de la Frontera, Evans pedals across spain, "thighs burning," on a bike. (amazon.com)

'Terra Incognita' by Sara Wheeler

Journalist Wheeler details the seven months she spent living in Antarctica: "Standing on the edge of the ice field in a wind strong enough to lean on, squinting in the buttery light, it was as if I were seeing the earth for the very first time." (amazon.com)

'The Wave' by Susan Casey

Casey's mesmerizing book tunnels through the science and history of the ocean's colossal rogue waves, some approaching 100 feet, and introduces readers to the venerable surfers in Hawaii who seek them out. (amazon.com)

'Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven' by Susan Jane Gilman

"In 1986, my classmate Claire Van Houten and I decided to backpack around the world for a year," writes Gilman in this page-turning memoir about two young women and the crisis the faced while traveling in China. "We had no idea, of course, of how complicated the world could be, or of our place in it, or of just how much trouble we were in for." (amazon.com)

'Unfamiliar Fishes' by Sarah Vowell

With her trademark wit, Vowell turns her eye to the history of Hawaii, "the place where Manifest Destiny got a sunburn." (amazon.com)

'A Voyage Long and Strange' by Tony Horwitz

Horwitz goes back in time, retracing the footsteps of the Europeans who journeyed to America before the pilgrims. It's a fascinating tale of "first contact" and the pull of exploration and adventure. (amazon.com)


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