13 Books for the Explorer’s Shelf

November 21, 2016
Sara Ezra Fulton

Check out our list of 13 books for travellers to read on the go. Perfect for folks who like to know more about a place or self-reflect during their travels

It does not matter if you like fiction, non-fiction, war stories, or romance. For every place you go there will be a few books that speak to your, explaining the culture, show what was and could be, and reminding you of the importance of this moment in time. These books offer snippets of reality that explain how things came to be.

Personally, before traveling to a new place, I absolutely love to read book that take place in the country. I feel that it helps me slowly enter into the culture. Additionally, there are styles of books for every journey. Our list is here to help you pick the perfect read to pair with your next trip!

For the Mountaineer (Nepal)

A picture of the book into thin air written by Jon Krakauer

Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer

Perfect for the adventurer, Krakauer captures the human spirit of curiosity and strength, while also reminding us of nature’s ferocity and wildness in his first-hand account of tragedy.


For the Explorer (South America, North America, and The East)

The paperback cover of the book Deep survival

Deep Survival, by Laurence Gonzales

A book of lessons, Gonzales takes real-life events and turns them into teachable moments. This is the ultimate guidebook on how to survive (or die) in the wild.


For the Self Discoverer (Italy, India, Indonesia)

A cover of the famous book Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert

An inspiration book, Gilbert takes her personal low point and reminds us that we need to live life to the fullest. This “feel good” book is perfect reading during a journey of self-exploration.


For The Idealistic Youth (Thailand)

an image of the front cover of the book The beach

The Beach by Alex Garland

A simple adventure story, Richard’s youth and passion lead him to Thailand where he sets out for an idyllic island. His journey is utopian in nature and pure escapism travel. Despite the ups and downs of Richard’s journey, this book has inspired decades of young backpackers to head East.


For The Nature Lover (USA)

A picture of the book Walden which is great for nature lovers

Walden’s Pond, by Thoreau

Think that you’re the only person who likes to hide away in the mountains? Think again. Thoreau’s memoir is based on the year he spent secluded and living of the land surrounding Walden’s Pond in Massachusetts.


For The Journeyer (World)

an image of Matt Gross's book the turk who loves apples

The Turk Who Loved Apples by Matt Gross

Gross traveled on a tight budget while writing the beloved Frugal Traveler. However, when he exchanged in this column for the Getting Lost series, in the New York Times, he was able to finally stop worrying about our modern travel constraints and let the road and city atmosphere drive his experience. Breaking boundaries, this book is a reminder to enjoy the journey and let the path unfold in front of you.


For Reflection (The Far East)

The front cover image of the book Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse

A fictional story, Hesse tells the timeless tale of finding yourself through a Prince’s journey of self-reflection. Set during the time of Buddha, this book also offers an introduction to Eastern philosophy and religion.


For An Introduction To Africa (Africa)

The book cover of shadow of the sun

The Shadow of the Sun, by Ryszard Kapuscinski

Headed to Africa, this book offers a European perspective of the complexities and varying cultures that make up this enormous and beautiful continent. The book is written as a non-fiction memoir of Kapuscinski’s adventures in the 1960’s, but is interjected with plenty of historical narrative that provides rooted information.


For The Lost & Confused (Europe)

An image displaying the book Candide written by voltaire. An ideal book for people travelling through europe

Candide, by Voltaire

Feel like your having a streak of bad luck? Read this book and you will quickly realise that Candide has it much worse. And don’t feel too bad that you cannot stop laughing at his poor fate and helplessness. Voltaire definitely did not provide Candide with any street smarts.


For The Couple and The Self (USA & Northern Europe)

The front cover of the book Rowing to Latitude

Rowing to Latitude: Journey’s Along The Artic Edge by Jill Fredston

Centered on taking time out of your life to explore, this book deals with the inner pressure we all feel to “accomplish.” Driven by our need to reach the final destination, rather than enjoying the journey. Fredston looks at both the self that drives us, and our ability to accomplish dreams with a partner. This is the perfect book to read at any stage of life.   


For a Good Laugh (The World)

An image of Bill Bryson's down under. One of the perfect books for travellers heading to Australia

“Anything” by Bill Bryson

Let’s just face it. I could tell you to read a Walk In the Woods or Notes from a Small Island, but the truth is that Bryson has a book for every destination that will prepare you for a journey filled with heart felt moments, laughter, and tears. At 64 years old, he is one of the father’s of modern travel writing for a reason and has had epic journeys trekking along a 3,500 km trail in the Eastern United States all the way to the hot, inhabitable continent of Australia, and many places in between.


For the Political Traveler (Russia)

A picture of the book Among the Russians by Colin Thurbron       1. Among The Russians by Colin Thurbron

Written during the Brezhnev era, Thurbron captures the grating life of ordinary Russians stuck in the Communist regime. Driving across the empire, his travels take him from St. Petersburg, through the Baltic States, and continuing south to Georgia and Armenia – exposing him to the harsh reality of this ending era and the rising power of the new.


A picture of Robert Byron's book, The Road to Oxiana

      2. The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron (Middle East)

This book is seen as the start of modern travel writing, but take it with a grain of salt. As Byron narrates his ten-month journey across the Middle East we are exposed to life in the 1933 and 1934. Focused on the architectural splendor of landmarks and cities, he is a knowledgeable source. However, at times he can come off as pompous and racists in his western stance. Nonetheless, the writing is poetic in style and this book stands as a classic example of travel writing.



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