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.
Related Blog Post: Siphromatum. Inspiring Traveler Interview with Savannah Grace.
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
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
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.’