From travel memoirs to studies on psychology, these are the best books for travelers.
Books are a traveler’s best friend both on the road and at home. There’s no better way to pass the hours of a long flight than with a riveting book in your hands. At home, stories of adventures and lives on the other side of the world help inspire our next trips and broaden our horizons. Here are the books that should be on your bedside table (and in your suitcase) this season.
Top Picks for You
'Into the Jungle' by Erica Ferencik
Romantic and horrific in equal measure, this novel about an American backpacker’s experience deep in the jungle of Bolivia is absolutely thrilling. What starts as a story about a group of friends working at a hostel in Cochabamba quickly turns into an epic, disturbing, and sometimes beautiful depiction of the dangers—both natural and man-made—of Bolivia’s remote jungle landscapes.
Where to read it: Cruising the waters of the Amazon with Aqua Expeditions.
'The Island of Sea Women' by Lisa See
The acclaimed author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (along with other wonderful works of historical fiction based in Asia) has now set her eye on Jeju Island in Korea, famously home to the women divers (haenyeo) that ply the seas for abalone, sea urchins, oysters, and other treasures of the deep. Spanning decades, The Island of Sea Women is about friendship and the familial and political allegiances that put stress on our relationships.
Where to read it: On Jeju Island, discovering the incredible shores and landscapes where the book takes place.
'My Tiny Atlas: Our World Through Your Eyes' by Emily Nathan
Your favorite Instagram account (@tinyatlasquarterly) is now a gorgeous coffee table book, put together by founder and visionary Emily Nathan. The book is a lifetime of travel inspiration, divided into chapters that feature some of the world’s most beguiling scenery, people, meals, and architecture. All of the photos were sourced from Instagram and the #mytinyatlas hashtag, so if you’re new to Instagram or looking to freshen up your feed, this book will provide plenty of good suggestions for who you should be following—and it will have you booking a plane ticket in no time.
Where to read it: At home while planning a trip to Jaipur, Puglia, Merida, Marrakech, or one of the incredibly photogenic destinations featured in the book.
'Meet Me at the Museum' by Anne Youngson
New in paperback, this is a septuagenarian pen pal love story, unfolding between a woman living on an isolated farm in England and a man working as a professor in Denmark. It’s a charming and lovely story that reminds us how love can transcend borders and everybody deserves a second chance at a happy life.
Where to read it: Denmark, the home of the museum in question.
'Wild Life: Dispatches From a Childhood of Baboons and Button-Downs' by Keena Roberts
Keena Roberts didn’t have a regular childhood, but that’s a good thing. Splitting her time between Philadelphia and Botswana, where her parents worked as baboon researchers, Roberts learned to navigate the wilderness of Botswana and the halls of Preppydom. With hints of Mean Girls and snippets of Alexandra Fuller, this memoir is full of adventure and misadventure in two very different landscapes.
'Polite Society' by Mahesh Rao
Billed as “Jane Austen meets Crazy Rich Asians,” Polite Society takes readers to Delhi for a fun and gossipy look at the love lives of the city’s socialites. It’s full of smart and glamorous characters, taking you beyond a typical beach read to a story the illuminates a beautiful and fascinating culture.
Where to read it: Checking in to the Oberoi New Delhi, one of the city’s glitziest hotels.
'The Starless Sea' by Erin Morgenstern
Oftentimes, reading a fantasy novel can have the same effect on us as traveling—discovering something new in a place you might not know existed. Erin Morgenstern, author of the acclaimed The Night Circus, has written another enchanting novel—this time about a mysterious book found in a library in Vermont and the clues that eventually reveal a magical world.
Where to read it: Exploring the nooks and crannies of your hometown library, searching for your own magical world within the pages of a book.
'The Farm' by Joanne Ramos
The Farm, set in Upstate New York, is a book about what could be considered a dystopian wellness retreat. It’s a place where the focus is on organic food, pampering, and fitness–all for pregnant surrogate mothers participating in a Handmaid’s Tale-esque baby farm. It’s a thrilling and sometimes creepy book about a place where you definitely do not want to spend your vacation.
Where to read it: At any of the non-creepy Upstate New York wellness ventures designed for overworked city slickers.
'America Was Hard to Find' by Kathleen Alcott
Kathleen Alcott’s second novel takes a close look at the Cold War era, with two intertwining stories that show different sides of the cultural changes of the 60s and 70s. It’s an expansive book, touching on global politics and cultural touchstones from the moon landing to the Vietnam War.
Where to read it: Road tripping through the Mojave Desert, where the characters first cross paths.
'Cantoras' by Carolina De Robertis
Cantoras brings readers to Uruguay during a dangerous uprising in the 1970s and the isolated peninsula and lighthouse where five singers (cantoras) find a refuge. The books spans decades, exploring families, relationships, identity, and queerness in the backdrop of a country going thorugh immense changes.
Where to read it: On your own adventure to the rugged coastlines and pristine beaches of Uruguay.
'Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t' by Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell’s newest book isn’t about travel, but the lessons inside are valuable to any globetrotter. Using prominent cultural events from recent history, Gladwell does a deep dive into human connection to show us what’s wrong with first impressions–and how we can learn more about the complicated lives of strangers.
Where to read it: On the plane to your next solo travel vacation.
'The Guest Book' by Sarah Blake
A family drama centered around an island in Maine, The Guest Book is a sweeping look at a family secret that haunts generations. From New York City to Maine, this juicy intergenerational saga unravels slowly and thoughtfully, immersing readers in another world.
Where to read it: While enjoying the cozy fall weather on your very own private island in Maine.
'The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier' by Ian Urbina
For adventurers and adventurers at heart, this gripping book takes us to the wild of the ocean–a sometimes lawless place at the mercy of pirates, smugglers, and most powerful of all, Mother Nature. Part expose of the criminal enterprises and sketchy industries that rely on the ocean and part narrative of his own time at sea, this book is a wild ride into the unknown.
Where to read it: On a transatlantic voyage aboard the Queen Mary II.
'The Yellow House' by Sarah M. Broom
This stunning memoir about growing up in New Orleans is a must-read. Sarah M. Broom takes readers through her childhood growing up with eleven siblings in the 1960s, with the yellow house as the center of their universe. It will have readers feeling the inexplicable pull of home, long after you’ve moved away.
Where to read it: On a trip back to your hometown.
'City of Girls' by Elizabeth Gilbert
This book is pure magic, transporting readers to a wonderfully decrepit theater full of quirky characters in Times Square circa 1940. It’s a Baz Luhrmann musical in book form that will have you longing to time travel to a different era where glamour reigns supreme.
Where to read it: In New York City, of course, during a Broadway-themed trip to see some of the city’s splashiest musicals.
'The Water Dancer' by Ta Nahesi Coates
With magic, sorrow, and loss, Ta Nahesi Coates shines a light on the life of Hiram Walker, a young man born into slavery in the deep South. This beautifully written novel takes readers back in time, illuminating a story of hope and survival during dark times.
Where to read it: On a trip through the Civil Rights Trail in Memphis.