It’s every book lover’s ultimate travel dilemma: what books should you bring when you travel? (Traveling without books is hardly an option, so don’t even go there.) When assembling your on-the-road TBR pile, there are lot of things to consider: will the book last all 14 hours of that flight to Beijing? Will it hold your interest even if you get delayed or stranded and have to read it twice? If you run into Colin Farrell in a pub would you want him to see you reading it? And, most importantly: which books are worth their weight in your luggage? (Because yes, some of us are still traveling without e-readers in 2016. Hard to believe, I know.)
For me, traveling and reading have always gone hand-in-hand (and as a direct result, I’ve broken a lot of suitcase zippers in my day.) But often, a book I've read inspires me to travel, or a place that I’ve discovered inspires me to expand my bookshelves in order to learn more. And I’m not alone — lots of books on this list were inspired by travel, and the journeys inspired by books. Making for some perfect on the road reading material, in my opinion. Here are eight books that are definitely worth space in your luggage this summer — what fleeting days you have left of it, anyway. *Sobs.
1. All Roads Lead to Austen by Amy Elizabeth Smith
Combining your love of Jane Austen with your love of travel!? What’s not to… love? Inspired by Reading Lolita in Tehran, Amy Elizabeth Smith decided to read Jane Austen in South and Latin America — and in the Spanish translations as well. Traveling through Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Argentina, and more she drags her suitcase full of Jane along with her, using the stories to connect with the people she meets along the way — including her own version of Mr. Darcy.
2. Heidi’s Alp by Christina Hardyment
An oldie but goodie, Heidi’s Alp tells the story of Christina Hardyment, who decides to pack up her four young daughters and travel the globe in search of the landscapes and cultures that inspired some of the world’s most classic children’s books. Trekking through Holland, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and France they search for the origins of stories like The Little Mermaid, Pinocchio, and Babar — all without Google Maps, I might add.
3. Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It: Life Journeys Inspired by the Bestselling Memoir, by Various Authors
This book is just so fun — and if you haven’t yet taken your own Eat, Pray, Love-inspired journey in the decade since that book came out, then Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It might just be the extra push you need to hit the road and follow your curiosities. A collection of forty-plus stories of travel and transformation (all inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s much-loved book) Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It is packed with unexpected, unbelievable, and unforgettable journeys both into the world and into the self.
4. Book Lust to Go: Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds, and Dreamers by Nancy Pearl
A word of caution to the intrepid traveler: this book will only result in more books, so tread lightly. With that said, it’s a super useful read. And it’s written by one of America’s top librarians, so you know this gal has got you covered. Surprisingly, Nancy Pearl herself doesn’t love to travel — but lucky for you what she does love to do is read and share books. Book Lust to Go is a collection of reading recommendations for countries all over the world, with concise snapshots of the countries and the books, and why particular books are perfect reading material for particular countries. While you can read this guide like a book (aka: cover-to-cover) you might just want to bring along an extra, empty suitcase (for all those recommendations you're about to buy) if you’re traveling with this one.
5. Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit
While not exactly a travelogue, this book by Rebecca Solnit perfectly pairs the experience of moving about the Earth with the creativity of some of the world’s greatest literary minds — Jane Austen (and Elizabeth Bennet, for that matter,) poets William Wordsworth and Gary Snyder, writer and philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. If you’re anything like me, this book will make you rethink all the ways you get from point A to point B as you travel (and dragging that giant backpack around with you will suddenly become an exercise in creativity, rather than a grueling trek back to your hostel.) You won’t be able to put one foot in front of the other the same way again after reading this one.
6. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
This, in my opinion, is one of those books that you can bring with you every single time you travel, and you will always, always be in the mood for it — especially if you’re traveling to Paris. Capturing exactly what it’s like to be young, and slightly broke, and far from home, and filled with more ideas than you can possibly manage, A Moveable Feast is Ernest Hemingway’s account of his time spent living and loving and writing in France. More than that, it is acts as love song to Paris — one of the best you’ll ever read. But no matter where you’re traveling, Hemingway’s love of the small, unfamiliar moments he experiences during his travels will definitely speak to you.
7. Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t necessarily have to leave your own country to experience a thoroughly transforming travel experience — and if you don’t believe me, John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley: In Search of America will leave you convinced. Wandering across the landscapes he described so unforgettably in his own writing, Steinbeck travels through almost all of the continental United States, during a time (1960) when the country was changing drastically from the one he had written about. If you’re sticking closer to home this summer, this book will compel you to look into familiar landscapes more deeply.
8. Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet by Heather Poole
Something of an outlier on this list Cruising Attitude was not inspired by literature, nor has it inspired any epic flying odysseys in readers (that I’m aware of) since. However, between you and your epic journey lies, quite likely, a flight. Perhaps a very long flight. And it’s much better to laugh through it than grow more and more claustrophobic until you reach your destination, amirite? That’s where Heather Poole’s Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet comes in. The perfect airplane book, it’s filled with hilarious and bizarre tales of life in the air, seen as only a flight attendant could. Love this one, and then leave it in the seat-back pocket for the next traveler’s enjoyment (although Poole would almost definitely advise against that.)
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