What books are in your travel library? Most people accumulate travel guides, filled with details on what to see, where to stay, what to buy, and where to eat. But there's another category of travel books, ones that inspire armchair and active travelers alike to read and reflect on the pleasures and perils of travel. You'll find both classic travel books and lesser-known travel books on this list, all worthy of inspiring journeys of the mind.
Ever wonder what it would be like to leave behind everything you know and immerse yourself in a totally alien environment? The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles follows three young travelers on a harrowing journey through the cities, markets, and desert landscape of North Africa.
In this charming story, an American woman recounts her experiences finding, buying, and making an Italian villa that's fallen into disrepair her home. Mayes' rich, sensual descriptions of the Tuscan countryside and its colorful inhabitants have already convinced thousands of travelers to visit this exquisite region.
Travel books don't get much sillier than this one. Molvania ("A Land Untouched By Modern Dentistry") doesn't actually exist as a country, but the authors have replicated the travel guide format down to its clichés and coverage of minutiae. Travel with them from Molvania's royal palace to the mountains, laughing all the way.
The subtitle of this book is "Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail," and that's what Bryson, accompanied by a friend, does. The two begin their journey on foot in northern Georgia, planning to traverse the route's full 2,100 miles, which end atop Mount Katahdin in Maine.
This biography details the travels of an extraordinary woman, who even today would be admired for her courage and fearlessness. Freya Stark had a fascination with the Middle East, learned Arabic, spent time as a nurse and a war correspondent, and mapped previously uncharted regions. She published 30 books and was honored by the Royal Geographical Society for her contribution to the world's understanding of this still-confounding region.
Paul Theroux isn't every reader's cup of darjeeling. He can be snobbish and elitist, but those who overlook his prejudices and climb aboard are rewarded with vivid accounts of his travels aboard the Orient Express, the Khyber Mail, and the Trans-Siberian Express.
Bruce Chatwin spent six months in vast, far-off Patagonia at the tip of South America. He brings this mysterious land into focus, explores its history, and introduces readers to a cast of characters drawn to the ends of the earth.
An adventuress like Freya Stark before her, Davidson travels 1,700 miles across the lonely deserts and rural outposts of Australia accompanied by just her dog and four camels. At turns funny, heart-breaking, and furious-making (Davidson encounters both racists and misogynists on her journey), Tracks portrays the writer's inner and outer experiences on this long odyssey.
Forget everything you heard about this classic book in school. Originally published in 1726, Gulliver's Travels traces the four fantastical journeys of ship's surgeon Lemuel Gulliver. While Swift's Lilliput, Brobdingnag, Laputa, and the Houyhnhnms' home exist on no map outside this book, the creativity and satirical wit of this brilliant writer have endured through the centuries... and they continue to lead readers on journeys of imagination today.
10. Coming into the Country by John Mc PheeAmerica's own remote wilderness, Alaska beckons New Yorker writer John McPhee, who meticulously details the landscape, the natives, the culture, and the contemporary issues and conflicts in the state.
11. The Razor's Edge by Somerset MaughamAmerican Larry Darrell's spiritual journey leads him high and low through Europe. On his quest for enlightenment, Darrell meets unforgettable characters on the search to discover his true self.