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The Ultimate Summer Travel Reading List: 10 Travel Books You Should Have on Your Shelves

Nothing beats the feel of a good book in your hands, and sometimes the best way to inspire wanderlust is with a great travel read. And there are many out there! Authors who write of foreign and far off lands, who take us with them on their adventures and misadventures through every country on Earth.

Earlier in the year I joined the Travel With Books Project to “encourage people to read more books, to discover lesser known titles and to enrich their knowledge of places before they travel”. With that same goal in mind, here is the ultimate summer travel reading list: 10 books you should have on your shelves, and some of the best travel books around!

Once you read through this list check out the “Top 200 Travel Books” by Nomadic Notes for more titles.

Sihpromatum: I Grew My Boobs in China

By Savannah Grace

“SIHPROMATUM” (Sip-row-may-tum) is a memoir series of one family’s four-year backpacking adventure around the world. The first installment, “I Grew my Boobs in China“, is the beginning of an intensely fascinating, sobering, and emotional memoir of Savannah’s introspective and innovative family adventure.

In 2005, 14-year-old Savannah Grace’s world is shattered when her mother unexpectedly announces that she and her family (mother, 45; brother, 25; sister, 17) would soon embark on an incredible, open-ended journey. When everything from her pets to the house she lived in is either sold, given away or put in storage, this naïve teenage girl runs headlong into the reality and hardships of a life on the road.

These pages do not describe a vacation to semi-exotic locales protected from the local culture by a veneer of private transportation, scheduled meals, and ritzy hotels. The family lives and travels as the local people do, a distinction that generates fascinating and unusual experiences rich in multicultural insights, as told from the perspective of a budding young author with a traveler’s eye for detail.

Built around a startling backdrop of over eighty countries (“I Grew my Boobs in China” relates the family’s adventures in China and Mongolia), this is a tale of feminine maturation – of Savannah’s metamorphosis from ingénue to woman-of-the-world. Nibbling roasted duck tongues in China and being stranded in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert are just two experiences that contribute to Savannah’s exploration of new cultures and to the process of adapting to the world around her.

Backpacks and Bra Straps

By Savannah Grace

Savannah Grace’s best selling, award winning saga of her family’s four-year-long backpacking adventure continues. “Backpacks and Bra Straps” picks up where “I Grew My Boobs in China” leaves off, offering insights into how family dynamics are affected by such intensive togetherness as well as a candid, intriguing look at world-wide travel and the camaraderie of the backpacking community, told from a perceptive young woman’s viewpoint.

This second instalment of her Sihpromatum series takes us to Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, through Western China and Tibet, and finally, to watch the sun rise over Mount Everest in Nepal.

Savannah’s initial reluctance to travel and the personal growth she documents distinguishes this raw tale from most travel memoirs.

Around the World in 50 Years: My Adventure to Every Country on Earth

By Albert Poddel

The New York Times Bestseller

This is the inspiring story of an ordinary guy who achieved two great goals that others had told him were impossible. First, he set a record for the longest automobile journey ever made around the world, during the course of which he blasted his way out of minefields, survived a serious accident atop the Peak of Death, came within seconds of being lynched in Pakistan, and lost three of the five men who started with him, two to disease, one to the Vietcong.

After that-although it took him forty-seven more years-Albert Podell set another record by going to every country on Earth. He achieved this by surviving riots, revolutions, civil wars, trigger-happy child soldiers, voodoo priests, robbers, pickpockets, corrupt cops, and Cape buffalo. He went around, under, or through every kind of earthquake, cyclone, tsunami, volcanic eruption, snowstorm, and sandstorm that nature threw at him. He ate everything from old camel meat and rats to dung beetles and the brain of a live monkey. And he overcame attacks by crocodiles, hippos, anacondas, giant leeches, flying crabs-and several beautiful girlfriends who insisted that he stop this nonsense and marry them.

Albert Podell’s Around the World in 50 Years is a remarkable and meaningful tale of quiet courage, dogged persistence, undying determination, and an uncanny ability to escape from one perilous situation after another-and return with some of the most memorable, frightening, and hilarious adventure stories you have ever read.

Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft

by Thor Heyerdahl

Kon-Tiki is the record of an astonishing adventure—a journey of 4,300 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean by raft. Intrigued by Polynesian folklore, biologist Thor Heyerdahl suspected that the South Sea Islands had been settled by an ancient race from thousands of miles to the east, led by a mythical hero, Kon-Tiki. He decided to prove his theory by duplicating the legendary voyage.

On April 28, 1947, Heyerdahl and five other adventurers sailed from Peru on a balsa log raft. After three months on the open sea, encountering raging storms, whales, and sharks, they sighted land—the Polynesian island of Puka Puka.

Translated into sixty-five languages, Kon-Tiki is a classic, inspiring tale of daring and courage—a magnificent saga of men against the sea.

This edition includes a foreword by the author and a unique visual essay of the voyage. The book is now a major motion picture.

Related Blog Post: Movie Review: Kon Tiki

The Way of the World

By Nicolas Bouvier

In 1953, twenty-four-year old Nicolas Bouvier and his artist friend Thierry Vernet set out to make their way overland from their native Geneva to the Khyber Pass. They had a rattletrap Fiat and a little money, but above all they were equipped with the certainty that by hook or by crook they would reach their destination, and that there would be unanticipated adventures, curious companionship, and sudden illumination along the way.

The Way of the World, which Bouvier fashioned over the course of many years from his journals, is an entrancing story of adventure, an extraordinary work of art, and a voyage of self-discovery on the order of Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. 

As Bouvier writes, “You think you are making a trip, but soon it is making—or unmaking—you.”

A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush

The view was colossal. Below us on every side mountain surged away it seemed forever; we looked down on glaciers and snow-covered peaks that perhaps no one has ever seen before, except from the air.’


  1. I love this list, and have to admit, I’ve read none of them…yet! Going to start off with the first one on your list, and work my way down!

    • Glad you enjoyed the list Michele – pull out a hammock in the backyard and enjoy! Happy reading :)

  2. Well, I better start reading since summer is more than 1/2 over and I am a distracted reader!

    • Jump on to it! Happy reading :) Though let’s be honest…they make for pretty fab winter reading too :D

  3. I am always looking for new book ideas. I’ve read a couple of these. Thanks for the suggestions. Amazon will make some money today.

    • Glad to hear! Happy reading Tom :) Psyched we could set you up with some additional reads :)

  4. What a great selection of books! Recently I have enjoyed Fragrant Heart by Miranda Emmerson, travelogue set in China and South East Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand) … and a couple of fiction titles that really transported me to locale:
    Death in the Rainy Season by Anna Jaquiery, crime mystery set in Phnom Penh.
    After the Storm by Jane Lythell, thriller set on Roatán (Honduras)

    • Thanks for the additional title recommendations! Will check them out now :)

  5. Thanks Megan!!! Really appreciate the shout out for my books and will definitely have to check out your travel read suggestions. I’m looking forward to it. :)

    • Of course! I love your books and can’t wait for more!!

  6. So many great books to add to my kindle! I haven’t read any of these so I better get a move on.

    Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll get much of a chance to read until I leave for my 15 month trip (the best thing about travel downtime on public transport is the ability to read).

    • Glad we could set you up with some summer reading! I usually do the same – pack my kindle full of titles for when I have down time on long public transport rides. One of the best ways to stay entertained on a long ride.

      Happy travels & happy reading! Let me know what you think of the books!

  7. Great and an interesting list, thanks for sharing this with us.

    • Glad you enjoyed it Tom! Happy reading!

  8. What an awesome list…. Haven’t read any of them, so thats me sorted for the rest of the year. Particularly like the sound of – Around the World in 50 Years: My Adventure to Every Country on Earth. :) Thanks for sharing!

    • Around the World in 50 Years is epic – it’ll have you laughing the whole way through, he’s had some crazy adventures and really had a fantastic and humorous way of recounting his experiences :) One of my favorite books for sure!

      Happy reading! Glad you enjoyed the list :) X

  9. Love this list! Connected with Savannah Grace over twitter and can’t wait to read her books! Sounds like she has so many stories to tell for such a young woman!

    • Psyched you enjoyed the post Anna! Enjoy Savannah’s books – they’re the best, and she has certainly had her fair share of adventure over the years!

    • Hey Anna! So glad to hear you’re interested in reading my books. I’m currently working on Vol. 3 which covers our travels through India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and The Maldives. Let me know what you think of the series! And Amazon reviews are always appreciated. Yay :)

  10. Amazon selection Meg! The first 2 are way cool; I can imagine what it felt like for the kid to be uprooted, and to live in China and Mongolia and the like….crazy stuff. Thanks for the share of some fab reads!


    • Thanks Ryan! Hope there were some titles here which will make it onto your Kindle soon :) I’m so in love with Savannah’s books – her story is amazing, and it’s one of the biggest things for me which proves that reality is negotiable – their courage and sense of adventure, and everything they learned along the way. It’s very inspiring :)

    • Hey Ryan!!! So glad to hear you enjoyed my first two books. I’m hoping to finish Vol. 3 and have it released by the end of this year. It covers five months in India etc. I hope you got a chance to leave reviews! Are we connected via Twitter?

  11. I love this list! And my fav author of all times – Nicolas Bouvier – is on it!!!

    • Psyched you enjoyed the post Agata! I loved taking part in the Travel With Books Project, and it inspired me to write a list of my own favorite authors! Glad to hear we have a joint love for Nicolas Bouvier – great minds must think alike!

      Happy reading!

  12. its all year round summer here in Singapore so that gives me a year round of reading list! thanks Megan for sharing this! Haven’t read any of this so its a book shopping weekend next weekend

    • Happy reading! Glad we could set you up with some new titles :)

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