The best wanderlust books have a few things in common. They allow us to be transported into a different part of the world, to become aware of different realities or to kill a long 10-hour bus ride when there is no internet connection.
Overall, great travel books are a travellers most useful accessory whether you want to become familiar with destinations before you visit them or while you are on the road.
While the world is still slowly coming out of quarantine we are still looking for the best ways to keep travelling from home through staycations. So while borders continue to be closed let’s explore some far off parts of the world through some of the best wanderlust books.
Make sure to share your favourites with us in the comments below.
One Hundred Years of Solitude
by Gabriel García Márquez
This best-selling novel by Gabriel García Márquez (Cien años de soledad in Spanish) was first published in 1967 in Buenos Aires and has since been translated into 37 languages, with the English version first arriving in 1970. Márquez uses a real world setting and enriches it with fantastical elements, creating a world that is at once nonsensical, fascinating and a brilliant example of his literary talent.
To follow the thought process of and extremely lengthy sentences of Márquez is to dive deep within reality and fantasy and come out the other way confused but curious.
And that is where the magic of One Hundred Years of Solitude lies. It is not an easy read and keeping track of the characters takes at least a few chapters. You might even need to draw yourself a diagram. Overall, this a captivating story with lessons on love and life that are both absurd and intellectually brilliant.
Eat Pray Love
by Elizabeth Gilbert
Based on the real-life experiences of American author Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love is a best-selling memoir that was adapted into a 2010 film that starred Julia Roberts as the protagonist. The book chronicles the mid-life crisis of Gilbert as she comes to terms with her ambitions and dreams and sets out to unravel them in three different geographical locations: Italy, Bali and India.
If you are looking for an easy-to-read book that abounds with travel stories and experiences from stunning locations then, Eat Pray Love is sure to give your serious wanderlust.
Yet, it is the beginning of the book and those first steps when Gilbert realizes her unquenchable need to change her life that has made this book an international phenomenon.
Gilbert’s road to self-discovery and actualization is unconventional. There is a disconnect between what she is supposed to be happy with, the perfect house, husband and job, and her lack of fulfilment. Readers will either passionately dislike or adore this story that manages to stay relevant for the way it portrays life-changing decisions and the path we chose to take through life.
Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage
by Alfred Lansing
If there is one book or travel story that deserves the title ‘epic’ then it must be this one. The year is 1914 and the polar explorer Ernest Shackleton and his team of twenty-seven men are attempting to do what until then was considered impossible, to cross the Antarctic overland.
Their vessel, the fittingly named ‘Endurance” is trapped on an island of ice in the most inhospitable place on earth. They are stranded for almost two years during which every hour or day was so close to disaster and required incredible courage, bravery and ingenuity to overcome the obstacles of nature and mankind, that is at times almost incomprehensible.
From food shortages to dealing with medical emergencies, the sinking of the ship and their eventual journey to South Georgia Island will leave you speechless. This is a true-life tale that lives up to the legend and will make a compelling and fascinating read for everyone.
The Art of Travel
by Alain de Botton
Philosopher and author Alain de Botton could not be missing from this list of the best wanderlust books with his instructional book on ‘The Art of Travel’ that seeks to examine not ‘where’ but ‘how’ and ‘why’ we travel.
Prepare to dive deep within the philosophy of travel and re-examine perceptions and moments that are easy to forget or miss, like the feeling of anticipation, the excitement of the unknown and the power of perception.
The uncanny ability of de Botton to fuse art, poetry and literature into his writing with references will take you on a travel journey unlike no other. An easy read that can be finished within a day or as a series of stand-alone essays.
by Paulo Coelho
Arguably one of the most read books of the last 40 years, The Alchemist is a book you might not have read yet but definitely have stumbled across multiple times on book stores around the world. Written by Paulo Coelho and published in 1988, the book is partly influenced by the spiritual discovery of the author after escaping prosecution and jail in his native Brazil and relocating to Europe.
The story follows the life of a young shepherd boy, who sets off from Spain to Egypt in search of a treasure. Magical realism, prophecies, and lessons on love and life ensue, with the overarching lesson being that of “following your dreams”.
Often dismissed as New Age spiritually wrapped in an empty self-help narrative, the Alchemist continues to have raving supporters, praising it for the way it allowed them to re-examine and ultimately change their lives.
by Alex Garland
The Beach is classified as travel fiction, adventure and thriller and all together packs so much more than the simple premise of the book first suggests.
To read this book in the 21st century, you must first attempt to go back to 1998, when this book was originally published, and see the world through the eyes of technology-lacking backpackers and the search for an off the beaten path location devoid of modern pressures, violence and war.
The search for Eden is both an illusion and a trap and as readers we are at once bizarrely fascinated by and at the same repulsed by Richard, the unreliable narrator that moves the tale along.
Ultimately this is one of those books that you can go back to time and time again and get something different from each time.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
by Cheryl Strayed
Another book that was adapted for film in this list of the best wanderlust books, Wild is the travel memoir of Cheryl Strayed, an award-winning American novelist. Following the death of her mother, Strayed spirals down the rabbit hole which leads from one bad decision to another. Starting with the dissolution of her marriage and her drug abuse to deciding to hike the Pacific Crest Trail alone and with no prior experience or preparation, this is not a conventional travel story.
Questionable life decisions aside, Wild is a book about survival and hardship and how one woman set out on a healing journey to self acceptance and defeating her own demons.
How NOT To Travel The World
by Lauren Juliff
Another travel memoir on this list, written by British travel blogger Lauren Juliff. Long time fans of travel blogs might recognize some stories from her website, Never Ending Footsteps. The premise of the book follows Juliff’s self-appointed title as “Traveller, Writer and Walking Disaster”.
In her book, she recounts her frequent misadventures and general bad luck from travelling to 80 countries and the coping mechanisms and things she overcame travelling with and taming her debilitating anxiety disorder.
Picky eaters, hypochondriacs and anyone that has been forced to push themselves way past their comfort zone will relate to this honest and soul-baring collection of true stories.