Just because we’re stuck at home doesn’t mean the wanderlust goes away. Take a trip around the world from the comfort of your couch with these 10 travel books which explore countries, cultures, and characters from far away lands. Plus, some of them feature language learning, too!
1.Mother Tongue: A Family’s Globe-Trotting Quest to Dream in Mandarin, Laugh in Arabic and Sing in Spanish by Christine Gilbert
As the name suggests, this book is part travel nonfiction and part language-learning memoir. We join one family on their round-the-world travels as they attempt to learn Mandarin in China, Arabic in Lebanon, and Spanish in Mexico. Not only do we get the humor of Gilbert trying to learn this trio of tongues with her young kids—an insightful look into how children pick up languages differently compared to adults—but there’s plenty of travel inspiration thrown in, too, with scenes from cities like Beijing, Beirut, Chiang Mai, and Barcelona.
2. Italy Is My Boyfriend by Annette Joseph
Annette Joseph’s years in Italy revealed this truth: Italy, in all its multifaceted, glorious history and culture has to be experienced in full. Over almost three decades, Italy has fed, entertained, confused, excited, lured, promised, lied, satisfied, occasionally disappointed, and utterly enchanted her. She’s left, but can’t stay away—she’ll always return. Always. Just like a beloved partner…Italy Is My Boyfriend will take you through the journey of finding love, life, and a sense of home.
3.Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
If you’re missing Asia, dive into Golden’s travel novel which takes us to Kyoto, Japan. It tells the fictional story of Chiyo who recounts her life in the mysterious role of a geisha in the 1900s. As well as a moving personal tale, the book gives readers a peek into this unique aspect of Japanese culture and, although the novel is fiction, it draws from real-life history to describe the geisha world.
4.The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love by Per J Andersson
Another tale that takes us across countries and continents, this story follows PK from his childhood in the jungles of Orissa in India to his teenage years in New Delhi. And, after falling in love with a Swede, we follow his travels by bicycle to join her in Europe. As well as vivid scenes from India, we see PK’s adventures cycling through Iran, Turkey, Austria, and eventually Sweden. Plus, there’s some language learning in there, too, as PK speaks his native tribal language and learns English, Hindi, and Swedish.
5.Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams
Explore South America from your couch with this title which sees Adams backpacking through Peru. For his travel memoir, the author—who worked as a travel and adventure writer and editor, but wasn’t all that adventurous himself—sets out to follow in the footsteps of explorer Hiram Bingham III, who is said to have discovered Machu Picchu. From Cusco, the old capital of the Incan empire, to a collection of ancient ruins, and eventually to the grand ancient city so many travelers dream about.
6.On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Craving a cross-country USA road trip? Pick up Kerouac’s 1957 novel which tells the story of fictional characters as they hitch-hike across America in search of a good time. Though fiction, the travels are based on the author’s own experiences traveling across the country. We get an insight into 1950s USA from New York to San Francisco and even down into Mexico, as well as the post-war culture of the time.
7.The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
This travel book is a bestseller for a reason. Coelho’s novel follows the adventures of Santiago, a young shepherd who travels across his home country of Spain to Egypt in search of treasure. Along the way, he meets motivational guides, mystical scenery and finds treasure—but not the kind he set out for. Part travel book, part fable, you’ll find plenty of wisdom and motivational anecdotes with the theme of never giving up on your dreams.
8.Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
It wouldn’t be an article about the best travel books without Bill Bryson making an appearance somewhere. The Iowan novelist has penned plenty of books detailing his travels through Australia, Africa and his home country of America. But one of his bestsellers details his time in the U.K., where he lived for 20 years. In Notes from a Small Island, Bryson says goodbye to the island before moving back to America with a final farewell trip taking in big famous cities and small little-known villages across the U.K.
9.Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town by Paul Theroux
As the title suggests, this novel from great travel writer Paul Theroux takes us the length of the African continent from Egypt’s Cairo to South Africa’s Cape Town. And the adventure is overland by any means available which includes cars, buses, trains, and even a canoe. In classic Theroux style, you’ll not only be transported to the scenery, but get a mini-lesson in history, politics, and culture of the continent, all delivered through wit and irony as his adventures, of course, go awry.
10.Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland by Sarah Moss
Take a deep dive into Iceland with this travel memoir of Moss’s time living in the capital of Reykjavik. The book follows her adventures as she moves her young family from England to Iceland and attempts to fit in in the land of Vikings. As well as humorous accounts of everyday life—like the culture shock of winters where the sun barely rises and a life where watching the northern lights becomes part of the everyday routine—we see the island’s jagged mountains, icy plains and learn about the Icelandic elves.
Be ready for your next adventure.
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