If you type the word “travel” on Google, you will be bombarded with details of enough picturesque locations and images to fuel your wanderlust for quite a long-time. From the innocent exploration days of Marco Polo and Freya Stark to the Instagram-worthy holidays now — travel sure has changed.
While there’s no dearth of words on the web about any location you can point to on the map, there’s nothing like reading a well-written book about a new place. Good books set in another city or country can make your heart yearn to travel.
Haven’t we all heard of millions of die-hard Harry Potter fans who want to be magically transported to the Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry?
Well, that’s not possible and we can’t make it happen, unfortunately.
However, you can find many fictions as well as non-fiction books that can transport you to a different place. Some authors can make you visualize a new city through their impeccable writing style, thus making an impact more than a picture.
In this article, we will discuss books where the authors have subtly taken their readers on a journey without them knowing about it. Maybe, you will find some books set in places that are already a part of your bucket list. If not, get ready to make a new one.
Word of caution — this is not your usual list of travel memoirs.
Table of Contents
- 1. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
- 2. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
- 3. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Tahir Shah
- 4. The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca by Tahir Shah
- 5. Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran by Lois Pryce
- 6. Only in Naples: Lessons in Food and Famiglia from My Italian Mother-in-Law by Katherine Wilson
- 7. City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi by William Dalrymple
- 8. My Life in France by Julia Child
- 9. The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzales
- 10. The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey by Ernesto Che Guevara
- 11. The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner
- 12. Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams
- 13. In Xanadu: A Quest by William Dalrymple
- 14. In an Antique Land by Amitav Ghosh
- 15. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
A New York Times bestseller, this fictional novel explores the life of a former Count on house-arrest in one of the most renowned hotels of Moscow — the Metropol.
Whether you have an interest in the Bolshevik revolution that led to the end of aristocracy in Russia or not, this novel will mesmerize you with glimpses of the country’s glorious past.
The book mostly highlights the life of one person who was an aristocrat with an oblivious existence now.
However, Towles has painted the life and culture of Russia in such a nuanced manner that you would want to visit this hotel and dine in its art nouveau dining hall.
Not to mention the vivid details of the main character’s life before the revolution and the luxuries that came with being a nobility.
Sadly, Anne Frank didn’t live to see how successful her book would become or how much it will impact readers in the future.
“The Diary of a Young Girl” is all about the sufferings of the Jewish community in Germany during World War II, specifically the hide-out where Anne and her family spent the last two years of their life, and it will definitely make every reader add Amsterdam to their bucket list.
You must be curious as it doesn’t sound like the kind of book people read to get inspired for traveling. But, that’s the beauty of human stories — it tends to draw people to places where the characters have lived.
This book has the power to engage readers despite the simple details about Anne’s everyday life and what a teenager feels in hiding without any hopes of freedom or fresh air for days.
The ability to connect with her story is something that makes the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam a tourist hotspot among people across the world.
And though Amsterdam is well-known for its artistic heritage and an elaborate canal system, visiting the Anne Frank house will become a huge draw for you once you read this timeless classic. Just a little warning — Be prepared for a truckload of crying.
India is a country that has a certain mystical, exotic charm among many travelers – some are intrigued by its centuries-old heritage while others visit this country in search of spirituality.
In The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Tahir Shah, a British author, writes about his experiences and learnings from his travels across India in search of the unusual i.e. the con artists who use magic to lure their audience.
While it’s fun to explore the historical monuments and holy cities in India, there’s a lot you can know about this country if you read his book.
It might not be possible for you to visit every place he talks about in this book, it will still give you a general idea about the personality traits and beliefs of people in different parts of India.
And, like Shah, you might as well be intrigued to meet some street magicians, conjurers, and self-made Godmen who devise new ways to dazzle or rather deceive their followers every day.
While most travelers choose to travel to Marrakesh and Fez in Morocco, Casablanca will find its place in your heart once you read Tahir’s book.
Another travel magnet by him, The Caliph’s House starts with the author’s sudden decision to pack up his bags in his London home and move to Morocco on a whim one day.
What follows is an interesting and humorous journey to understand how Moroccan people live life and an attempt to make Casablanca home.
It also highlights the author’s struggles with renovating an old, dilapidated house, which belonged to an erstwhile Caliph and was bought by the author to live luxuriously.
In all the mayhem of finding contractors to fix the old house and meeting people who were capable of replicating the Moorish architecture, Tahir gives his readers bits and pieces of Moroccan culture which is difficult to experience if you’re passing by for a week or two.
This book will offer you insights into how dreamy Casablanca is as well as leave you aching for a grand house with courtyards lined with hibiscus flowers and gardens planted with exotic plants.
Whatever inhibitions you have about traveling to Iran will evaporate in thin air when you read this travel memoir by a British travel writer.
After all, she traveled across Iran on her bike all by herself. And, in all her experiences, barring a few, the people and places in Iran blew her mind.
Contrary to popular belief, Iran surprises travelers of all kinds with its beauty and the hospitality of its people.
Inspired by a stranger who urges her to visit Iran, Lois starts her journey in search of what lies in the country and continues to be spellbound by each city she travels to from Tehran to Shiraz.
Though she is clearly not a fan of the way people drive in Iran, she is amazed by how much people are ready to help as well as feed her despite never having met her earlier.
Apart from the hospitality, you can find architectural marvels, soothing gardens, and the evergreen Alborz mountain range in Iran.
If you want an alternate perspective or are looking for an offbeat destination to travel, try giving her book a read, you will not be disappointed.
Although this sounds more like a book that talks about family life and traditions, you will get quite a few vivid descriptions of Naples, its people, culinary traditions, as well as places to explore.
If you’re a food lover, this book will make you instantly fall in love with Naples as Katherine discusses many local staples in detail. And, in Naples, it’s all about the food. After all, who doesn’t love their famed Neapolitan pizza?
It’s a light, fun read for a sun-drenched weekend that will surely take you to the streets of Naples where you will experience large family gatherings and learn how to plate pasta the right way.
Other than feeling an instant need to book a flight to Italy, readers will also be mesmerized by the relaxed rhythm of life in Naples which makes its locals some of the most friendly people on this planet.
And if you need to practice some Italian words before you take your flight, the author has added a few phrases here and there to make your travels easier in Naples or at least help you order the right food while you’re there.
Everything you need to know about Delhi (India) is in this book by William Dalrymple — from how Delhi has changed over the last couple of centuries to minute details about the historical significance of one of the oldest cities known to man.
You will find an unimaginable number of guidebooks on Delhi if you want to look out, however, to understand Delhi, you have to read the City of Djinns.
Through his adventures and in-depth research, Dalrymple has painted a picture of Delhi that’s not visible to the naked eyes, only when you read this book you will realize why Delhi is the way it is now.
Part history and part travelogue, this book shows the transformation of Delhi from the Mughal rule to the British colonization to its current state. When you visit Delhi after reading this book, you will know why there’s so much diversity in each of the monuments, gardens, and alleyways.
Even if you aren’t a history buff, you will enjoy the author’s writing style that condenses years of invasions and destruction in a 350-page book.
And, without a doubt, you will make this city a part of your bucket list soon after reading the book.
Who doesn’t remember the famous cook who brought French cooking to every American home through her television shows and cookbooks? Yes, we’re talking about the hearty and lovable Julia Child.
Don’t worry, her book, My Life in France, isn’t about just her recipes and cooking, it’s rather a homage to the country that changed her life.
While there are many people who find the French a bit snobbish, Julia describes her experiences well, “The sweetness and generosity and politeness and gentleness and humanity of the French had shown me how lovely life can be if one takes time to be friendly.”
Well, no one can dispute that claim, and you will get many snippets about France, it’s people and culture in this book that will give you itchy feet. So, if you have any misconceptions about France, this book will change your point of view.
Moreover, you will also read about a few mouthwatering mentions of delicacies that will definitely make you hungry but also prepare you well for your future trip. And, maybe you will learn a few recipes that will help you with meal planning for your home.
After the restrictions on travel to Cuba were lifted by the U.S. government, there has been a lot of interest among American travelers to visit Cuba. If you’re planning to go to Cuba, you should give this engaging book, The Red Umbrella, a read.
Though it’s not a traditional travel book or anything close, it’s inspired by true stories of Operation Pedro Pan that involved the organized exodus of children to America after the Cuban revolution.
Reading this book will make you realize the vulnerabilities of life and how certain revolutions or regime changes can suddenly topple over your life. Through the main character’s story, you can see Cuba and everything the country offers to its people from relaxed beaches to Cafe con Leche — just like any other country on this planet.
And, if for any reason you stop yourself from visiting Cuba, The Red Umbrella will make you rethink your decision.
Get to know the man and icon before he became an international sensation for taking a major part in the Cuban revolution. Some say that Che was inspired to change the circumstances people lived in because of his travels across South America.
He was 23 when he started exploring South America on a bike with his dear friend, Alberto, and took notes as well as pictures to document his experience. Within a decade, he would become the iconic revolutionary that we all know about.
This is a great book to know about the countries Che traveled to and will offer you great insights into a lot of aspects that can help a person traveling to South America for the first time.
Though most of these countries have changed considerably from the time he traveled, it will give you perspective about a distant past and help you to relate to those places better.
Some of the countries that you will read about in this book are Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela. And, he has vividly described the characteristics of each country.
Are you looking to find happiness in a far-away land because of a past-life connection or just like that? Haven’t we all at some point believed that we were born in the wrong country and maybe, living in France would make us happy? Yeah right, we hear you.
Unlike most of us, Eric does set off on a year-long expedition to find bliss in life and travels to nine countries – Thailand, Bhutan, India, Qatar, Iceland, Netherlands, Denmark, Moldova, and the U.S.
He is basically looking for answers to what makes people happy and why certain countries are designated as the happiest or otherwise.
While no one has an exact answer to what makes people happy, this book is a light read and lets readers explore cultural aspects of different countries.
This book gets a little philosophical as well since Eric is trying to find does a place make someone happy, whether the circumstances contribute to a content life, or if personality traits are the main reason behind happiness.
There are a lot of lessons to ponder in this book, however, it will give you a nice glimpse into many countries.
If you like traveling, the chances are either you have already been to Machu Picchu or it’s at least one of the places in your bucket list. In this book. Mark traces the route taken by Hiram Bingham, the American explorer who discovered this ancient Inca citadel.
Taking inspiration from the early American explorer, Mark sets off on his own journey to get to the ancient ruins of the Inca civilization by taking a route not many dares to attempt.
For those who like a bit of mystery and history, this book includes both these elements and you’re keen to learn more about why this site was left behind by the Incans.
You will also get a lot of details about possible routes to find the ruins as well as learn about Peru in detail. This one’s an engaging and entertaining read for everyone.
Another masterpiece by William Dalrymple, In Xanadu, traces the author’s journey from Jerusalem to Xanadu following the footsteps of Marco Polo.
This is one of the first books by Dalrymple written during his college days when he decided to take this epic journey on his summer break.
In this three month, 16,000 miles long-trip, Dalrymple experienced a large part of the erstwhile silk route while walking and hitchhiking throughout his travels.
What’s charming about this book is that it’s an account of travel experiences at a young age when people are usually free of prejudices about countries.
Dalrymple welcomes each day with equal enthusiasm and gives readers a chance to chuckle through his observations.
He also notes certain behavior traits of people he wasn’t expecting thus bolstering the fact that travel opens your eyes to the goodness in everyday life.
Also, the way he writes about some exotic places in this book will enable readers to envision those locations.
In short, In an Antique Land is a tale of travel combined with an anthropological study of Egypt.
Does it sound boring? It might not appeal to everyone at first, but when you turn the pages of this book, you will learn a lot about the culture and people of Egypt.
There are many anecdotes to treasure in this travel journal, specifically the musings and stories about a poor village where Ghosh spends a considerable amount of time. Moreover, it is also interesting to read about the perspective of Egyptians about the author’s country, India.
Everyone travels with their own set of notions and this book highlights how wrong we all are in assuming things.
This book also takes an interesting turn when Ghosh returns to the same village after seven years to notice the surprising changes in its prosperity and meets the people who were young when he first went.
If you want to travel to Egypt, this book is a great one to help you understand the Egyptian culture and people.
While talking about the best travel inspiration books, Eat, Pray, Love inevitably makes an appearance because of its massive appeal with people of all ages.
The author documents her journey across three countries — Italy, India, and Indonesia — to find the most basic things that make us happy.
In Italy, Gilbert discovers gastronomical pleasures and happily gains a few extra pounds. In India, she spends time living in an ashram to find spirituality, while Indonesia offers her love.
Eat, Pray, Love is basically taking yourself out from your comfort zone and exploring places to find yourself and feel the most basic of human emotions.
Readers can instantly relate their life with this memoir since we all are looking to explore our hidden emotions at some point in our lives. There’s a lesson in this book for all of us to leave our plush cocoons and travel like Gilbert.