Travel books can take your imagination on inner journeys, to places you can’t actually go to – even when travel is curtailed.
International travel is still put on hold, but that doesn’t stop the imagination. Whether it be non-fiction travel books, following the self discovery of travel writers, or travel fiction books, filled with whimsical stories, these will fulfil any armchair traveller.
Follow journeys across Russia, Japan, the United States, and more with these 8 best travel books.
1. Snow in May, by Kseniya Melnik
This travel fiction book, Snow in May, is a collection of beautiful short stories, following the lives of an unlikely group of characters in the port town of Magadan, a former transit centre for prisoners of Stalin’s labour camps. Melnik integrates fiction and history of twentieth century Russia that transports readers in this captivating world.
2. Through Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road, by Donald Miller
This road-trip memoir, about crossing the United States in a souped-up Volkswagen van, will have readers dive into the deepest human questions and epiphanies. Filled with dry desert humour, spiritual journeys, and growing friendships, Donald Miller’s journey will have you question your own life’s purpose.
3. The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Matsuo Basho
Not so into travel fiction novels? Then travel poet Basho is a great choice. When he composed The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Basho was a serious student of Zen Buddhism. He chronicled in a blend of haiku and prose, evoking the Japanese sense of beauty and transience. Learn about the simple, natural pleasures as Basho shares how to let go of unnecessary ties to the material world.
4. Maxine, Aoki, Beto + Me, by Wena Poon
This book of globetrotting short fiction is playful and on trend, with its youthful cosmopolitan protagonists grappling with supply chain disruptions, natural disasters and political calamity. You can also check out Wena Poon’s black and white photography of her urban travels.
5. Stories of the Sahara, by Sanmao
As for non-fiction travel books, check out Stories of the Sahara. Author Sanmao was born in China in 1943 and travelled to Taiwan, Spain to Germany, Canary Islands to Central America, and for several years in the Sahara. Dive into self discovery, love and loss, and freedom during her extraordinary time in the desert. Stories of the Sahara also delves into the lives of nomadic people, Sahrawis, who fought for decades against western colonisation.
6. A Time of Birds: Reflections on Cycling Across Europe, by Helen Moat
Follow Helen Moat’s true story of healing as she cycled through Europe’s great waterways. Reading this slow, pedal-powered journey makes the pandemic world melt away. From emotionally charged flashbacks to vivid descriptions, Moat takes you along in this beautiful self-discovery.
7. The Only Gaijin in the Village: A Year Living in Rural Japan, by Iain Maloney
Care for a humorous non-fiction travel book? Scottish writer Iain Maloney and his Japanese wife, Minori, decided to move to rural Japan where he was inspired to write The Only Gaijin in the Village. Maloney describes his rural experience in witty self-deprecating humour as nothing short of culture shock. But more than that, this book delves into a powerful social commentary of race, gender, and generational division.
8. Sprit Run: A 6,000 Mile Marathon Through North America’s Stolen Land, by Noe Alvarez
Noe Alvarez comes from a working-class Mexican immigrant family in Washington, but left to go on a self discovery journey in a Native American Marathon from Canada to Guatemala. Not only is this a thrilling story of adventure and danger, but also pays homage to indigenous voices in a world that ignores them. Through this book, Alvarez paints his dream of liberation.
*Note: Some products may not be available in all countries. In any case, Book Depository offers a large collection of books available for free worldwide delivery.
Originally by Lee Siew Hua, travel editor. Text adapted from The Straits Times, March 2020 / Last updated by Isabel Wibowo