Before and while travelling it’s a good idea to read a book to gain a sense of culture and experience a taste of what’s to come. Over a million books are published every year; a feat that can make it hard to weed out the good from the bad.
To help you choose what book to take away with you on your next trip we’ve pulled together a list of travel-centred recommendations.
On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
On the Road by American writer Jack Kerouac is a largely autobiographical work, based on road trips made by a group of friends across America. The Telegraph Travel explained that the book should come with a warning: “proceed with caution; you may never be able to settle in one place again.” The 1950’s cult classic transports the reader from New York to LA, encountering music, poetry and wild antics along the way.
The Beach, by Alex Garland
Like Jack Kerouac, Alex Garland explores themes of restlessness and escapism, in his novel The Beach. Made into the famous film by the same name (starring Leonardo DiCaprio) The Beach follows a British backpacker’s search for utopia. Since its 1997 release, the semi-autobiographical story, set in Thailand, has inspired a generation of gap-year students to travel to the Far East on symbolic voyages of self-discovery.
A House in Bali, by Colin McPhee
Colin McPhee, a young Canadian-American composer just out of college, also travelled to South East Asia, but to study the people, culture and music of Bali. Littered with lyrical prose, A House in Bali is his warm-hearted account of island life, and a great introduction to exotic Indonesia.
Tales of the South Pacific, by James A. Michener
Encapsulating the mystique of the South Pacific, James A. Michener's semi-historical novel Tales of the South Pacific won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Based in and around Vanuatu, Michener's story gives the reader a great sense of life in the Pacific during World War Two, and probes universal subjects of love, war and cultural difference.
In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson
One of history’s most prolific travel novelists, Bill Bryson received great acclaim when he turned his attention to Australia. His 2001 story, In a Sunburned Country takes readers on a boisterous adventure, far beyond the beaten tourist path. The funny and fact-filled novel engages people with its campfire-style narration and humorous prose.
Slowly Down the Ganges, by Eric Newby
On his 44th birthday, English travel author Eric Newby embarked on a 1200-mile journey down India’s Ganges River, resulting his novel Slowly Down the Ganges. A spiritual and colourful journey, the story comes to life with charming characters, and truly captures the sights, sounds and enchantment of travelling in India.
Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes
Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun, as the name implies, explores Tuscany and its traditions and cuisine. Entering into a new and testing world, Mayes tells a charismatic part-autobiographical tale about life in Italy, through the voice of a poet, the eyes of a seasoned traveller, and the palate of a cook.
Springtime for Germany, by Ben Donald
Rediscovering ‘wanderlust’ – a German word that translates to ‘crave for travel’ – and venturing where few travellers have gone before, British writer Ben Donald visits ‘unseen’ Germany in order to upend clichés. What emerges is Springtime for Germany, a hilarious exploration of untold Germany and its people.
Among the Russians, by Colin Thubron
Intrepid traveller, Colin Thubron delivers a captivating account of Russia in his novel Among the Russians. Journeying from St Petersburg to Armenia, Thubron and his thought-provoking social commentary expose the lives of everyday Russians living under a harsh Communist regime at the end of the Brezhnev era.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go, by Dr Seuss
Dissimilar in nature and length to the books previously mentioned, but just as acclaimed and insightful, Dr Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go is a classic read for those looking to explore. The book concerns life and its challenges, as the protagonist – spurred on by the thoughts of places he will visit and things he will encounter – discovers himself and the world.
Books often hold a memory of where you have been...
Whether it’s the quotes you underlined one night in Morocco, the red-wine stains you accidently made in Paris, the water damage you carelessly caused in Fiji, or the page you had to tear out to write down a number in Dublin... books you’ve travelled with have a way of recalling memories, experiences and emotions.