10 Books to Read While Traveling

What’s a long road trip or plane flight without the company of a good book to occupy time? Compiled below is a list of books about adventure, exploration, traversing the world, and more. Whether you’re on the plane awaiting your departure to a tropical paradise or simply visiting a local café, these stories are sure to transport you wherever your heart desires.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Where’d You Go Bernadette is quirky, fresh, and chock-full of dry humor. Bernadette Branch is an ex-architect and an unconventional, anti-social mother who resides among the wealthy elite of Seattle, Washington. When her daughter, Bee, who is incredibly intelligent and talented, requests a trip to Antarctica in exchange for her excellent grades, Bernadette is forced out of her comfort zone. The preparation for the trip uncovers deeply rooted family secrets and problems from the past, and drama from the snarky, rude members of Seattle’s elite sends Bernadette running from home. This book will keep you occupied and absolutely hooked as you also wonder, “Where’d you go, Bernadette?”

The Alchemist by Paul Coelho

The Alchemist will take you to the pyramids of Egypt and to the cities and churches of Spain. This novel allows you to follow a young shepherd, Santiago, as he learns to (quite literally) follow his dreams. Specifically, Santiago has a recurring dream that lures him to Egypt in promise of gold and treasure. Santiago encounters robbers, romance, and a wise alchemist who guides him along his path. When Santiago finally uncovers his treasure, he has learned multiple lessons, one of the most important being the importance of individuality and listening to your heart.

South and West by Joan Didion

Renowned for her journalism and her vivid novels that create a canvas of life in America, Didion writes the perfect books about travel. The book is more of a notebook or journal and records Didion’s trip through the Southeastern United States, as well as her childhood in Southern California. Though Didion highlights many of the day-to-day particulars of her travels, the book is also full of commentary on the disparities between people in the South and people from the West. This book perfectly highlights nostalgia, the free-spirited nature of travel, and the features that make America uniquely America.

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

The Way You Make Me Feel is written in the tone of a typical YA novel, but the diversity of its characters and the richness of its story are what sets it apart from other books of the genre. The novel involves high schooler Clara Shin, who is banned from going on vacation with her mother, a social media influencer, after almost burning down her school at her junior prom. She’s forced to work on her father’s food truck, the KoBra, where she meets intelligent perfectionist Rose Carver and kind and caring Hamlet Wong, who works in a nearby coffee kiosk. The Way You Make Me Feel is a book depicting modern and multicultural Los Angeles and emphasizes the themes of summer adventure, romance, and friendship.

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Shantaram serves as a hybrid of the genres of autobiography, non-fiction, and adventure fiction. In 1978, Roberts broke out of the Australian Pentridge Prison, escaping his nineteen year sentence and arriving in Mumbai, India, in the process. The book follows Roberts (whose speaker’s name is Lindsay Ford) as he journeys to Bombay and Mumbai, where he enlists a local man named Prabaker as his guide. Roberts has a tumultuous journey in India; he becomes involved in arms and drugs trading, he sets up a free health clinic, travels through the slums and poorer areas of India, and sees the injustices of India’s underprivileged. A racially and socioeconomically diverse group of people inhabit Shantaram’s vibrant plot, and Roberts’s description of India and his experiences embody an unconventional and darker aspect of travel.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Piscine Molitor Patel, or simply “Pi”, is the religiously confused son of two Indian zoo-owners and the main character in Life of Pi. The novel is infused with the elements of a Disney movie or The Jungle Book but lacks their child-like and cartoonish wonder. When the ship taking his family’s zoo to North America sinks, Pi finds himself stranded with a ragtag group of animals, including a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena, and a large tiger named Richard Parker. Most of the animals, with the exception of Richard Parker, die quickly, leaving Pi and the tiger stranded on a small lifeboat in the middle of the ocean. Their search for food and civilization, as well as their experiences of delirium, hunger, and helplessness, accumulate into the ultimate survival story.

The Solo Travel Handbook from Lonely Planet

The Solo Travel Handbook is for those who’d like to take a step forward and confront their dreams of globe-trotting. Written by Lonely Planet, which specializes in travel guides and media, the handbook outlines the more technical details of travel, like how to travel alone, how to have a food and flight budget, and how to ensure your own safety. The guide suits any solo traveler and gives them the courage and ability to wander the world, their pack as their only companion.

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

While Searching for Sylvie Lee is mainly a mystery and thriller novel, it also encompasses themes of acceptance and culture. The story’s setting takes place in modern day New York and the Netherlands, and explores a mystery that spans across multiple generations. The main character, Amy Lee, searches for her older sister, the golden child Sylvie, after Sylvie disappears while visiting relatives in the Netherlands. Sylvie’s disappearance is coupled with odd circumstances and strange behavior from her husband and acquaintances, leaving Amy to scramble across continents to uncover the deeply rooted secrets and issues that have caused Sylvie to run away.

Love With A Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche

An autobiography, Love With A Chance of Drowning is a charming case study of what it means to take risks and live life largely. When Torre DeRoche meets the man of her dreams, an introspective Argentenian man named Ivan, she’s faced with the decision of returning to her cozy city life in Australia or setting sail on a year long voyage across the Pacific. Despite her chronic fear of water, DeRoche decides to board the ship and embark on a voyage that is transformative. Love With a Chance of Drowning is both a book that documents travel experiences on the vast canvas of the ocean and a book about love and the fleeting quality of life.

The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner

The Geography of Bliss explores the correlation between geography and joy, analyzing the makeup of locations and countries that have proven themselves to be “the happiest in the world.” It’s a book that utilizes science, psychology, and humor while also serving as a travel memoir. Weiner travels to destinations like the infamously happy land of Sweden, the islands of Qatar, and various other locations to uncover the phenomenon of contentment.


Esther Lee

Esther Lee is a seventeen year old writer and a high school junior residing in Southern California. Her poetry and short stories have been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, Hollins University, and Princeton University, among others. She's an avid tea drinker who loves sketching in her Moleskine, journalism, and watching Brooklyn Nine Nine.

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