We are all guilty of it, sitting in front of our saturated desktop of some tropical paradise or other, wishing, just for a moment that we might hop on a plane, leaving our burdens behind to venture to somewhere suitably farflung.
Whether you are booking a cheeky city break, or have your next big adventure planned, we have come up with our top 12 travel adventure books you simply must read.
The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton
Alain de Botton presents his personal travelogue in five compelling essays, that cover everything we love about travel, from the trepidation of departure to the thrill of coming home. Alain de Botton’s passion for travel and depth of knowledge of art is truly evident in this book. The comparisons he makes between the desolate landscapes of Edward Hopper paintings and the places he encounters along his way, are a joy to read and truly illuminate his travels.
Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer
Although some have criticised Harrer’s involvement with the Nazi regime, his seminal book Seven Years in Tibet, is undoubtedly a true masterpiece everyone who longs for adventure should read. Harrer was in India in the early days of the Second World War, where he would eventually be imprisoned by British authorities and later would escape to Tibet.
This is the story of his remarkable journey across the rugged terrain of the Himalayas and of the colourful people he meets along the way. Harrer finally reaches his ultimate destination- the Forbidden City of Lhasa. Where he is embraced by the upper echelons of Tibetan society and the Dalai Lama himself.
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
This is the fascinating story of Christopher Johnson McCandless, a middle class young man who one day decides to hitchhike to Alaska, and wander into the wilderness of Mt. Kinley. McCandless had given $25,000 in savings to charity before setting off, abandoned his car and most of his possessions- all with the aim of leaving his old life behind. Four months later his body would be found by a group of moose hunters- a thoroughly captivating read.
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
In her early thirties Elizabeth Gilbert had what every young American woman strives for- the husband, good job, and lavish country home. Instead of being satisfied, Elizabeth became consumed with feelings of panic and despair. Unable to take much more, she embarks on a journey of self discovery, traveling to Italy, India, and Bali. This is the story of how Elizabeth Gilbert found herself, in the midst of good food, transcendent spirituality and new love.
A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
This is the enthralling story of Peter Mayle moving lock stock and barrel to a 200 year old farmhouse in the lofty Lubéron Massif. Here he enjoys all that the Rhône Valley has to offer, including it’s challenging weather, intense sport of goat racing, and the glorious local cuisine. A Year in Provence transports the reader far away to Provençal life where one is governed by the rhythm of nature, not the rush of modernity.
Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl
Kon-Tiki retells the epic story of a group of five norwegian men who wanted to prove the theory that the South Sea islands were colonised by South Americans. In 1947 they set out on a raft made from Balsa wood complete with a makeshift hut and no modern equipment, accept their radio. They would have to navigate by the stars and the oceans; their journey taking them a total of three excruciating months. Absolutely gripping stuff.
The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux
Theroux recounts his adventures on the grand continental tour via some of the world’s most iconic trains- the Orient Express, the Khyber Pass Local, the Frontier Mail, the Golden Arrow to Kuala Lumpur, the Mandalay Express, and the Trans-Siberian Express. We join Theroux at the beginning of his journey eastbound from London's Victoria Station to Tokyo Central, then finally back from Japan on the Trans-Siberian. This is essential reading for ardent travellers, as well as those who love the old glamour of the railway.
The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen
This is the journey of Matthiessen and Schaller in 1973 to Shey Gompa in Nepal. Schaller wanted to compare the mating habits of the Himalayan blue sheep with those of the common sheep of the USA. For Matthiessen the trip was more about spiritual exploration. Along the way we learn about the enigmatic snow leopard, a predator on the bharal and a creature that was so rare that it had only been seen twice by Westerners in the previous twenty five years.
Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
The aptly named Endurance, recounts the failure of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition led by Sir Ernest Shackleton in its attempt to cross the Antarctic in 1914, and save the stranded crew of the Endurance. As the reader, we can not but feel utter compassion for the twentyeight man crew who would fight for survival in the Antarctic wastelands for a total of almost two years.
In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin
In 1974, Bruce Chatwin a journalist for the Sunday Times, traveled to South America, after resigning with a brief telegram to his editor that read “Have gone to Patagonia”. Chatwin would spend six months there, where he wrote about the people, places, and stories he encountered. The book is comprised of 97 short vignettes, ranging from sweet anecdotes to local folklore to stories of migration to the area. Indeed this book gives a truly fantastic overview of these strange lands.
A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby
Back in the 1950s Eric Newby set out with a friend to explore the intimidating peaks of the Nuristan Mountains in northeast Afghanistan. His stories are extraordinary, detailing the best and the absolute worst of his long, beguiling journey. As the the reader we can not help but be transported to the Hindu Kush in this fantastic travelogue.
West With the Night by Beryl Markham
West With the Night tells the fascinating story of Beryl Markham- aviator, racehorse trainer, and legendary beauty. It also fondly chronicles her early life in colonial Kenya in the 1920s and 30s. Markham would go on to become the first woman in Kenya to receive a commercial pilot's license.
In 1936, utterly determined to fly solo across the Atlantic without stopping, she sets off, but due to severe headwinds and a crucial lack of power, she would crash land, several days later in Nova Scotia, becoming a global celebrity.
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