For the past whole year the world has been shut down due to Covid19 and only in recent times a hint of normalcy has crept in. Books have been an incredible escape much of the time and normal travel as we know it seems extremely near. We have a list of travel books that you can read and be inspired for your travels in 2021.
1. Less by Andrew Sean Greer
Traveling is the ultimate form of escapism and every person has had moments when they just want to drop everything and escape their reality. The protagonist of Andrew Sean Greer’s novel does exactly that. The story is about a successful novelist – Arthur Less – who is striving to stay relevant in the publishing industry. To add to his troubles is the wedding of his ex-boyfriend with whom he spent the last nine years of his life. Quite a mess! Less decides to escape it all on a around-the-world book tour that takes him to New York City, Mexico City, Turin, Berlin, Paris, Morocco, India, Japan and finally San Francisco. Full of wit and comedy, this is the perfect book to escape the lockdown blues and plan your next destination.
2. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
The Pacific Crest Trail is a dream of hikers and adventurers, but every once in a while, it witnesses those who are lost. Cheryl Strayed was one of those lost souls, who decided to pause her life and take off on the trail to find herself. The plot of ‘finding oneself through travel’ is often used by writers but seldom are they done well. Wild is one of the books that aces it! The book traces the life of 26-year-old Cheryl who embarks on the trail after the death of her mother, and her marriage. It describes her journey from the Mojave Desert in California to the Cascade mountains in Washington. It’s an ideal book to discover the trials and tribulations of travel and the joy of living in the wild.
3. A Walk in the woods by Bill Bryson
The COVID-19 quarantine inspired a lot of out -of-the-box travel ideas, many folks especially took to camping with a vengeance. Bill Bryson though embarked on his wild adventure years ago, he undertook a journey on the 2,200 miles long Appalachian Trail. One of the longest hiking trails in the world it stretches between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. Bryson undertakes the journey with a friend, Stephen Katz, and packs his trademark humor that keeps him sane through the journey. The book is a must-read for anyone who aspires to head on a long hiking trail. Bryson has other fantastic travel books including ‘I’m a stranger here myself’ and ‘In Sunburned Country’.
4. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Unlike the other books on this list, Shantaram is not about travel itself. It makes it here because of the way the author has brought a city to life through his writing. Shantaram is a fictional novel set in Mumbai about Lindsay Ford, an Australian who is a heroin addict and has escaped prison for robbery. He finds himself in Mumbai on his way to Germany but ends up living there for a decade. The book paints a picture of Mumbai in all it’s elements – the good, the bad and the ugly. It describes the people and their lives with such vivid imagery that the reader can find themselves living vicariously through the book.
5. Travels with Charley – In search of America
John Steinbeck is America’s favorite writer and if you want to read about America then you need to start with his writing. Having won a Pulitzer and a Nobel Prize for Literature, Steinbeck was at the end of his writing career when he undertook an epic journey across America in 1960. His health was ailing and he wanted to rediscover America and find out more about the people. He traveled with his poodle named Charley across Maine to the Pacific Northwest, down to his hometown in Salinas, California and onward to Texas and finally finishing in New York. The book is part fiction and part travelogue and an excellent book to understand life in America in the 60s.
6. Into the Wild by John Krakauer
Into the Wild is a tragic book, so you might want to move on if you are looking for a breezy read. The non-fictional novel follows the story of Chris McCandless, a young 22-year-old who ceases all communication with his family, donates his college fund and heads off into the wilderness. On the face of it the story seems of an entitled youth with a death wish, but peel off the layers and you will learn more about a man with a turbulent childhood, who was finding his space in the world. The book is a page-turner and makes the reader ponder on the balance of nature and the modern life we have created among other things.
7. Stephen Fry in America
There are very few people who shine both on paper and on camera, and Stephen Fry is one of them. This book was published in accompaniment to the BBC TV Series of the same name and you might as well add it to your watchlist. Stephen Fry takes a journey across all the 50 American states right from Maine to Hawaii to meet the people and sample the culture. He meets a variety of people like mayors, factory workers, teachers and even a few celebrities including Morgan Freeman and Ted Turner. Stephen brings his legendary wit and sarcastic humor to the book and makes it a fun read as you travel exploring the quirks of each state and its people.
8. World Travel: An Irreverent Guide by Anthony Bourdain
Anthony Bourdain has led many armchair travelers to the most remote corners of the world through his TV series No Reservations. The entire world misses him after his untimely death and the best way to perhaps pay homage to him is by reading his last book ‘World Travel: An Irreverent Guide’. Written with his long-time assistant Laurie Woolever, Bourdain takes the reader through his travels and offers a behind the scenes look on organizing logistics, and meeting people. If you have watched the show, it will be difficult to not read the book in his voice!
9. In Xanadu by William Dalrymple
William Dalrymple is a renowned historian and author whose claim to fame was this first book ‘In Xanadu’. This book recounts the journey he takes from Jerusalem to Shangdu in China, known in Western Literature as Xanadu. He undertakes the journey with a vial of holy oil from the Holy Sepulcher just as Marco Polo did centuries ago. His journey takes him across Asia along the silk route where he compares the present day towns and cities to their ancient counterparts. It’s an entertaining read with the right amounts of history thrown in and a great read to plan your Asian adventures.
10. Footsteps: From Ferrante's Naples to Hammett's San Francisco, Literary Pilgrimages Around the World from The New York Times
Have you ever been a to a place and felt an urge to write a book or a song? The scenery and the vibe create an overwhelming desire to create something? This feeling is all this book is about. Footsteps is a collection of essays by New York Times authors and journalists that explore the geographic muses of famous literary works. It explores the streets of Naples in Elena Ferrante’s books and the historic neighborhood of Oxford alike. It is the perfect book for a bookworm with a penchant for travel.
Want to travel to any of the wonderful places described in these books? Get in touch with our expert travel designers at voyay!ge who can help customize a perfect literature-inspired tour for you.