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The best travel books

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Written by
Sascha Gill

With so much time inside on the agenda, there’s one sure-fire way of keeping your wanderlust alive that’s been around for centuries: reading.

There’s nothing that diving into a good book can’t seem to solve, so to keep you entertained this quarantine season, our team have rounded up the best travel books on the market.

From journeys about following your dreams to the world’s best street eats, these reads are the perfect accompaniment for the armchair traveller.

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Inspiration

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Dubbed ‘A Fable About Following Your Dream’ by various sources, Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist has sold more than two million copies worldwide and has established itself as a universally admired modern classic. The story follows Santiago, a young shepherd boy who dreams of finding a treasure beyond his wildest dreams. As Santiago crosses the plains of the Sahara desert towards Egypt, his run-ins with an Englishman studying to become an alchemist end up teaching him a lot about his own life. A philosophical work that ensures all its readers never lose hope in the pursuit of their dreams, The Alchemist provides some much welcome optimism and escapism in the face of uncertain times. 

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Inspired Traveller’s Guide: Literary Places by Sarah Baxter

If you’re reading this guide, chances are you love diving into a good book. This one is for the real bookworms amongst you, and involves travel journalist Sarah Baxter providing a comprehensive and atmospheric outline of the history and culture of 25 literary places around the globe, as well as how they intersect with the lives of the authors and the works that make them significant. Escape from your living room and explore the lush and languid backwaters of Arundhati Roy’s Kerala, the imposing precipice of Joan Lindsay’s Hanging Rock in Australia and the labyrinthine streets and sewers of Victor Hugo’s Paris.

 

Lonely Planet’s Sustainable Escapes

It seems there is one benefit to the world being on lockdown; the Earth is beginning to breathe again – Venice’s canals are running clear for the first time in decades and air quality has started to improve across many nations. If you’re keen to keep the world breathing once you’re back on your travels, we recommend having a flick-through Lonely Planet’s latest release, ‘Sustainable Escapes.’ From eco-lodges with cutting-edge sustainability initiatives to tours designed to protect wildlife and empower communities, the team at Lonely Planet has rounded up 180 remarkable places where you can feel good about spending your time and money. From tracking rare black rhinos in Namibia to a high-end private island hideaway in Indonesia, or a remastered heritage hotel in Monaco to an innovative community tourism project in Cuba, this coffee table book is sure to provide inspiration for years to come. 

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Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the World’s Most Amazing Places

In this spellbinding coffee table book, National Geographic takes readers on a photographic tour of the world. Hundreds of Earth’s most breathtaking vistas are illustrated with vivid full-colour images taken by Nat Geo’s world-class photographers. From ancient monoliths to electric cityscapes, this varied book provides an escape for every type of traveller. With information about the locations accompanying each image, Destinations of a Lifetime has it all – when to go, where to eat, where to stay and what to do to ensure the adventure of a lifetime. 

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Rediscovering Travel: A Guide for the Globally Curious by Seth Kugel

A fitting title for preparing for when the world falls back in love with travelling, Kugel’s ‘Rediscovering Travel’ helps readers do just that. In a book with widespread cultural reverberations, Kugel aims to reignite humanity’s age-old sense of adventure that has been slowly eroded by the advent of technology such as Google Maps and TripAdvisor. Woven throughout with vivid tales of his perfectly imperfect adventures, ‘Rediscovering Travel’ charts how to make the most of new digital technologies without being constrained by them. From everyone to the first-class flyer to the budget backpacker, this read is all about rediscovering the joy of the journey.

 

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On the Road

Step by Step: The Life in My Journeys by Simon Reeve

Dubbed one of travel writing’s greatest memoirs, documentary maker Simon Reeve’s autobiography describes how he has journeyed across epic landscapes, dodged bullets on frontlines and even been detained for spying by the KGB. Not your average adventurer, Simon Reeve’s travels have taken him across varied terrains and into some of the most beautiful yet dangerous regions of the world. In this revelatory account of his life, Reeve gives the full story behind some of his favourite expeditions, and traces his own inspiring personal journey back to leaving school without qualifications to overcoming his challenges through adventure. 

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The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven

We doubt you’ll need this one, but we thought we’d include it for a little light-hearted entertainment. According to this pocket book, danger lurks around every corner – and even more so when you’re travelling. Would you know what to do if the pilot of the plane blacks out and it’s up to you to land the jet? How about surviving a shark attack? The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook is here to help, and is jam-packed with step by step how-tos for even the most unthinkable of scenarios. Whilst we’re all cooped up in the safety of our own homes, perhaps it’s time to prepare ourselves for every eventuality life on the road might throw at us. 

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Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know by Sir Ranulph Fiennes

It’s a fitting title. Sir Ranulph Fiennes is a man given to Byronic fits of adventure, and this update of his autobiography (timed to coincide with his 75th birthday) proves ‘Ran’ has lost none of his nerve in the decade since it last hit shelves. As well as detailing his youthful hitchhiking and loss of several fingers to frostbite, recent feats include his ascent of Mount Everest at the third time of asking. Absorbing and utterly exhausting – in a good way.

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The Atlas of Happiness by Helen Russell

One for keeping the spirits high during trying times, Helen Russell’s The Atlas of Happiness takes readers on a journey through how each nation in the world keeps itself happy. From la dolce far niente in Italy to the tradition of hygge in Denmark, this happiness tour of the world is sure to bring a smile to the faces of everyone who reads it. 

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Great for foodies

The World’s Best Street Food: Where to Find it and How to Make It by Brett Atkinson

This one does what it says on the (metaphorical) tin. A little known culinary secret is that the world’s best sandwich isn’t found in Rome, Copenhagen or even New York, but rather, on the streets of Vietnam! The street is where you’ll find the heart of a cuisine and its culture – somewhere among the taco carts and noodle stalls, the scent of wood fires and the hubbub of fellow diners. This collection of 100 recipes from across the globe brings the world’s greatest street foods straight to your living room.

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Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Eatlist

To satisfy everyone’s taste buds the team over at Lonely Planet have brought together the world’s 500 top-ranked food experiences into one handy coffee-table book. The planet’s top chefs, food writers and Lonely Planet’s food-obsessed authors name their favourite foodie experiences. With contributions from big names such as Monica Galetti, this book highlights the planet’s most thrilling and famous culinary experiences, the culture behind each one, what makes them so special, and why the experience is so much more than what’s in the plate, bowl or glass in front of you.

For photography enthusiasts

Wildlife Photographer of the Year Portfolios

Each year, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition is seen by millions through a global tour and international media coverage. A portfolio of the winning and highly commended images is released each year, so there’s plenty of wildlife and landscape photography to get stuck into. Each picture is accompanied by the story of how it was taken and what it reveals. The divisions are by subject – whether plants or animals, environment or landscape – and photographic genre, including portraiture, black and white and underwater. There are also special awards for young and up-and-coming photographers and, most important, for environmental and conservation stories, reminding us of our dependence on and conflicting attitudes towards nature.

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For fitness fanatics

Beyond the Footpath by Clare Gogerty

This book could be one for the spiritual amongst you, as well as fitness fanatics. Beyond the Footpath takes its readers along on the journey of many pilgrimages, through places of both spiritual and personal significance. Whether you choose a long-distance trail, an ascent of an awe-inspiring mountain, a walk in an ancient forest, a journey to a temple, stone circle or sacred garden, or simply a lunchtime stroll to somewhere special, Beyond the Footpath has suggestions and tips to inspire you to follow a path that promises meaning, a little magic and the space to breathe.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State–and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures how one woman used staying active to forge ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

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Feeling inspired? Our expert Travel Designers are always on hand to help you bring your literary journey to life.