17 Travel Books for Explorers, Drifters, and People Who Don't Mind Getting Lost
You don't need me to tell you that a library card is cheaper than an airplane ticket. You don't need me to wax poetic about the power of the imagination — the way that reading a book can be almost as transformative as experiencing a place in real life, if you just let it take you there, man. You might, however, be interested in my prescription for cabin fever, the insidious no-summer-vacation adulthood blues, and the lingering resentment you get while scrolling through your couch-surfing friends' Instagram feeds. Take one of the following 17 titles every week for a couple of months, and by the time you've skated through Antarctica and wandered the streets of Mexico City with these authors, you'll feel like every one of these chatty, dreamy, overly bold, wildly adventurous ladies is someone you met on a trip of your own.
'My Venice and Other Essays' by Donna Leon
'The Minaret of Djam' by Freya Stark
'Destinations: Essays from Rolling Stone' by Jan Morris
'Pleasures and Landscapes: A Traveller's Tales From Europe' by Sybille Bedford
'Where the Peacocks Sing' by Alison Singh Gee
This memoir reads more like a modern fairy tale: a high-powered magazine writer falls in love with a lower-profile Indian journalist, moves to the Indian countryside with him, and discovers that he owns — wait for it — a castle. A castle desperately in need of repair. Sparks fly, plumbing leaks.
'Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria' by Noo Saro-Wiwa
Noo Saro-Wiwa’s father was a famous Nigerian activist who was executed by the Nigerian military regime in 1995. Saro-Wiwa was raised in England and had always resented the obligatory summer trips to Nigeria, but after her father’s death, she decided to give his beloved homeland a chance.
'Los Angeles' by A.M. Homes
Of all the cities in the United States, Los Angeles is where the dreamers go to flare up and burn out and sometimes die of it all. Homes explores the bizarre, starry nature of this city where so many legends have made a permanent or temporary home.
'Flying South: A Pilot's Inner Journey' by Barbara Rowell
Rowell’s husband was a famous wilderness photographer, and she dedicated her life to his career, until one day she decided that she wanted something of her own to energize her — so she learned to fly. This is the story of her adventurous 25,000-mile flight. Sadly, Rowell would die shortly after writing the book — in a plane flown by her husband.
'Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country' by Louise Erdrich
Erdrich is a masterful writer of novels and poetry, but this nonfiction account is just as compelling as her imagined work. Here, she travels to southern Ontario, the land of her Native American ancestors, with her baby daughter and the daughter’s father, an Ojibwe spiritual leader. They visit the sacred rock paintings of their people, and Erdrich makes the mystical elements of the journey come alive in her poetic prose.
'Assassination Vacation' by Sarah Vowell
A morbidly curious writer sets off across America to explore all the sites of the first three presidential assassinations. There are bits of skull involved.
'I Married Adventure: The Lives of Martin and Osa Johnson' by Osa Johnson
'Sidewalks' by Valeria Luiselli
'America Day by Day' by Simone de Beauvoir
American citizens are accustomed to reading memoirs of fabulous American expats gallivanting through Europe and beyond (see: many of the titles on this list). Turn the tables on the ex-pat narrative and read a famous Frenchwoman’s account of traveling through the United States, from tequila shots to Niagara Falls to Beauvoir’s first joint.