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I’ve been an avid reader since I was a young boy. I was (and still am) a strong introvert, and so I spent a lot of time on my own. Books have always been my window to the world. A few years ago I started reading books about travel – not just city or country guides, but great stories by authors who recounted their trips to exotic parts of the world. I fell in love with the stories of adventures, of faraway lands, and unfamiliar cultures. I’ve also found a few like-minded travel bloggers who have a similar interest in books like these. I reached out to ask for their travel book recommendations, and I’m sharing them below to pique your interest.
Out of all the travel-related books I’ve read, The Tree Where Man Was Born by Peter Matthiessen is my absolute favorite. It’s Matthiesen’s description of his journeys throughout East Africa over a twelve-year period. He tells stories about the day-to-day lives of the people he meets and shares some of their history, culture and mythology. He also describes his time with anthropologists in the Oldupai Gorge as they search for the origins of life. His story telling is top notch, and he has great insights into the people and places he saw on his trips.
A good friend recommended this book before my wife and I left for a safari in Tanzania and Kenya. The trip from Chicago to Nairobi was a long one, so having a thick book to plow through really helped the time fly. As I dug into the book I found that his journey through Africa was similar to the trip we were taking. As we hit various parts of both countries, more often than not I was reading about them in his book at the same time. It really gave me a deeper appreciation for everything I experienced whilst on safari. I plan on picking this book up again every year or so just to enjoy it again. This book is always at the top of my personal travel book recommendations.
But hey, enough about me. Let’s hear about the recommendations I got from fellow travel bloggers:
I am a travel blogger, and Photo Nomad helped me to finalize my style. It tells the story of the legendary photographer David Douglas Duncan. His career lasted for 70 years and during this journey, he photographed many things, from world-changing events and war to small moments of happiness. In the book, there are over 400 photos, including the most iconic ones.
Many people now talk about adventure traveling, isn‚Äôt the life of David ultimate adventure? My travel blog started as a somewhat general list of ‚Äúthings to do‚Äù, which I got tired of quick. After reading this book, I restarted the blog, focusing more on unusual places, events, and photojournalism.
When I was a kid I discovered a fascinating book, Ali and Nino by Kurban Said.¬† It was about a Muslim boy and Christian Georgian princess that fall in love in Baku, Azerbaijan. The talented author described the city in a way that I almost smelled the spices in the bazaars. The story explores the attitudes of Christian and Muslims to each other against the backdrop of an exotic city in a turbulent time before the Russian Revolution.
¬†To a large extent, it was this book that led to my life-long obsession with travel. Years later, I read an article by the famous travel writer, Paul Theroux. In it he said that as a kid he came across a paperback called Ali and Nino that influenced his love of travel to such a degree that he became a travel writer.
The Architect’s Apprentice (Elif Shafak) is the story of an Indian elephant trainer, his extraordinarily white elephant, the Chief Royal Architect, and the Sultan’s daughter. The novel was set in Istanbul, Turkey at the seat of the Ottoman Empire.
Being set in Istanbul, the novel was filled with detailed descriptions of the Turkish capital’s architectural wonders, including the Hagia Sophia. But more than the world-renowned structures, the novel wildly reflects the ancient culture in the 16th-century Istanbul.
For starters, there is fratricide: a practice among the royalties during the Ottoman Period wherein, upon succession to the throne, the reigning sultan will have to kill all his beloved brothers to prevent interregnum.
The book is altogether intriguing, inspiring, and almost historically accurate you’d question whether it was still fiction or history.
My recommendation is Kim Dinan‘s The Yellow Envelope. When Kim and her husband Brian embarked on a challenging journey around the world, a friend offered them a yellow envelope with money to give for noteworthy projects and people that make a difference. The evaluation of the opportunity is a choice in itself, but the meaning of the yellow envelope gives a completely different impetus to the travel experience, which means more than checking a line of countries and places on the bucket list.
It is a completely different way to approach travel: sometimes we go to places we are happy to share on our social media channels and eventually write about this, but in this case Kim and Brian connect with locals and discover their stories. They are not passing by through a place, but making connections and create relationships with the local people and, what it is very important for me, they offer them something that might change their life.
As a frequent traveller myself, this book made me think about my reasons for travel and forced me to think a bit more about how to make my experiences more meaningful not only for me, but also for the people I am encountering on the road.
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My favorite travel book is Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. This book was published in 2013 and is 315 pages long. This book is about the author when she was 22 she lost everything, four years later she decided to go on a huge journey on her own. She would hike more than 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in the Mojave Desert. She would do this entire journey alone. This journey would ultimately heal her of all her pain of what she had been through and everything that she had lost in a short amount of time.
This book kept me entertained, in suspense and a truly heartfelt inspirational story. This book was one of the very few books I could not put down. I highly recommend this story to anyone of all different backgrounds, it is a truly touching story.
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Thanks for including me into the list 🙂 I have checked the other books and added some to my “to read” list 🙂 Hope to find good audio book.
Thanks for your contribution, Alexander! I’m going to add all these books to my list also. I’m headed to Africa next month, so I’ll have a LOT of time to read on the plane. :-/
These are great recommendations! Since you are an avid reader, I wanted to also share a link to my friend Michelle’s blog: https://bookthoughtsfrombed.com/. She is battling ALS and writes her blog from her hospital bed. Not only is she an inspiring, brave woman but she is also an entertaining writer and shares lots of great book recommendations!
I’m so sorry to hear your friend is battling ALS…that’s awful. Thanks for sharing her blog, and I’ll definitely check it out!
Great list 🙂
Will definitely be adding these books to my reading list.
I’m not much of a reader, but travel books are my exception lol. These travel books sound great! Might have to pick one (or more) of these up 🙂
I hope you enjoy all of them Louise!
Thank you Jim for sharing an amazing article. I’m always struggling to find an inspirational traveling book that will keep me interested. I will check these books. Also, I really recommend you reading The Alchemist from Paulo Coelho (I know you probably read it!). 🙂
Glad you liked it Antonio! And yes…I have heard great things about The Alchemist, so it’s on my list to read!
Wow, what a great article, I haven’t read any of these! Will have to get on that for sure. Thank you for sharing!