Sometimes all you want is to lock the doors and curl up in your own home, with a cup of tea and a good book. But then there are those times that are so fantastic in their adventures and imagery of unknown and far-off lands that it’s all you can do to keep yourself from trading in your apartment for a backpack and hitting the road.
Be careful, because these ten books will give you a serious and incurable case of wanderlust.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
This book, recently turned into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon, is the memoir of a woman who, lost in life, found herself on a months-long solo trek along the Pacific Crest Trail, from Southern California all the way up through the Pacific Northwest. This book is full of amazing imagery that will make you yearn for ferns, forests, and fog, as well as emotional richness that will touch your heart.
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Yes, this story doesn’t end well for its traveller protagonist. But even though Chris McCandless was ultimately defeated by the harsh Alaskan wilderness, the purity of his connection to nature and his love of wandering is something that is truly beautiful and inspiring. As travellers, we all aspire to be as in touch with the world and the wilderness as Alexander Supertramp.
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Fantastical and colourful, Roberts’ semi-autobiographical journey from Australian jailbreak to Mumbai slums is an enchanting read. His descriptions of incredible Indian culture, social structure, countryside, and vitality are so vivid and engrossing that you may find yourself booking a ticket to Mumbai before you’ve even finished the book (to be fair, it is nearly 1,000 pages).
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
This ultimate road trip saga, now considered to be the quintessential novel of the beat generation, was written in three weeks of free-associating fever dream on a 120-foot long scroll–single space, no paragraph breaks. Kerouac’s writing style reflects the madness of the beat generation, scored by hot jazz, rampant drug use, and lots of burned rubber. It’s impossible not to be infected by the frenetic and powerful energy of these drunken, genius vagabonds and their undeniable way with words.
Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X. Pham
Part of the reason that this book was so impactful to me is that I read it in Vietnam, on a trip strikingly similar to that of the book. I realise that this kind of reading is not exactly realistic for everyone, but I can assure you that regardless of location, your heart will not escape these pages untouched. Pham returns to Vietnam for the first time since his family fled as refugees to bicycle the length of the country, connect with his past, and understand his present. It’s a beautiful tribute to the amazing people and countryside of Vietnam, the resilience of the human spirit, and the heartbreaking beauty of multiculturalism.
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
This novel by the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami does a beautiful job of describing both the controlled chaos of Tokyo streets as well as the bucolic quietude of the Japanese countryside. His relatable and vulnerable characters, delicate imagery, and simple writing style will capture your heart and leave you daydreaming about Japan.
America by Jean Baudrillard
This rambling post-modern take on ‘80s Americana is a beautiful read for any roadtrip enthusiast. Baudrillard, a French intellectual, applies his sense of wonder and analytics to diners, dust, and the American dream in this gorgeous soliloquy. America may be baffling, but it sure is beautiful.
The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño
This semi-autobiographical novel follows a group of writers and poets through the bustling cafés and bars of 1970’s Mexico City and through the pursuits of their dreamy, literary compatriots across North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. From the first section, “Mexicans Lost in Mexico” to the last road-tripping pages through the deserts of Sonora, this book will make you want to drop everything, declare yourself a Visceral Realist, and lose yourself in the pursuit of enlightenment, unmapped travel, and the perfect poem.
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
I’m a sucker for a western, and All the Pretty Horses is the ultimate. This novel of hard riding, dusty roadside diners, Mexican ranchos, and cowboy grit is irresistible in its brilliantly-constructed simplicity and breathtaking imagery of the barren and enchanting Chihuahua Desert.
Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins
Claire Vaye Watkins may be from the dry and empty plains of Nevada, but she, and her state, are anything but boring. This collection of short stories about the Battle Born State begins with a piece about her father, the real-life right hand man of Charles Manson, but quickly moves on to intricately constructed and beautifully imagined stories about isolation, hardship, and the austerely sublime beauty of the Nevada desert.