18 Best Travel Books to Read This Year

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Travel coffee table books, guidebooks, and novels!

If you consider yourself a traveler or desire to be one, your shelves are probably already full of some of the best travel books marked with places on your bucket list.

But why not add a few more to your collection? There’s nothing quite as inspiring as seeing all of the incredible places left to see or old ones to rediscover.

We asked travel bloggers to recommend their favorite travel books. This article is divided into three sections: travel coffee table books, that are too big to bring along, travel guidebooks that can fit in your bag, and travel novels that follow a storyline.

Keep reading to be inspired by the best travel books on the market but be warned that your credit card will hate you!

Sustainability Tip: Purchase used books or eBooks! Not only are they cheaper, but they’re also better for the environment.

Travel Coffee Table Books

I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for a beautiful travel coffee table book. Heavy, filled with stunning photos and the best tips and tricks, I think you should have at least a few on your table.

Lonely Planet’s Where to Go When

Lonely Planet’s Where to Go When is such a fun travel coffee table book to inspire you to travel.

The book is organized by month and within each month there are ways to determine where you want to go by price, adventure level, desired temperature, and even the amount of cultural experience that you want.

Where to Go When will have you exploring the pages for hours and is one of the best travel books out there.

Ultimate Journeys for Two by HoneyTrek

Mike and Anne Howard of HoneyTrek created this book with National Geographic to give couples (or your and your bestie!) a guide some of the most epic destinations.

The book is organized in such a way that it requires exploration. Chapters are divided by location such as mountain, beach, or desert, and different travel couples are featured along the way.

This is one of the best travel coffee table books out there for couples hoping to add some adventure to their relationship.

Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel List

Submitted by Emma of Emma Adventures

Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel List is one of the best travel coffee table books for any traveler. Featuring 500 of the best places to visit in the world, the book will inspire wanderlust whenever you need it.

Lust over the beauty of Petra in Jordan, Angkor Wat in Cambodia or the journey to Everest Base Camp in Nepal.

No matter what type of travel you like, the Ultimate Travel List is the perfect book to add to your collection and inspire your next trip. Read it over breakfast with coffee or on a lazy Friday night with a glass of wine and prepare to be inspired! 

The current version is from 2015 but you can also preorder the updated 2020 version.

Atlas Obscura

Submitted by Jenny of Global Game Plan

As a worldwide traveler, I’m a fan of old-school guidebooks because of the high-quality recommendations they provide for so many popular destinations. 

However, when I’m looking for unique and interesting places to go, I check out Atlas Obscura:  An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders, a NY Times Bestseller with over 400 pages of secret treasures found in the U.S. and all across the world. Easily organized by region, there is also an excellent online version that stays up-to-date.

The book is one of the best travel coffee table books around and it makes a great gift for the curious traveler or you can keep a copy for yourself – either way, you won’t be disappointed. 

Insta Travel by Aggie Lal

Insta Travel by Instagram travel influencer, @Aggie, is a book not only for travel addicts but for photographers and social media lover’s alike.

The travel coffee table book features stunning shots with travel tips for each location as well as photography tips. The awe-inspiring shots will have you booking your plane ticket ASAP. Published in early 2020, Aggie’s book will surely be one of the best travel coffee table books of 2020.

At the time of writing, Aggie was donating all of the profits to help Australia.

Read More: 15+ Best Instagram Spots in Paris

Lonely Planet’s Vegan Travel Handbook

Submitted by Karen of World Wide Writer

If you are a vegan traveler you really need The Vegan Travel Handbook by Lonely Planet. It is full of practical tips for how to survive when you travel (planning is crucial, as is a flexible approach).

Better still, it shows how you can eat well while traveling. There are lots of restaurant and hotel recommendations, as well as vegan tours, festivals and cooking classes. You can even find places to hang out with other vegans. With this book at your side, there is no reason to allow food to limit your travels.

Read More: Best Vegan Restaurants Around the World

Travel Guidebooks to Bring Along

While I’m all about my Kindle, some books, like guide books, are great to bring with you, to add post-it notes and polaroids to, and to highlight. These books are small enough to stuff in your backpack and bring with you on the road.

Andy Steves’ City Hopping on a Budget

Submitted by Krystianna of Volumes and Voyages

My favorite go-to travel book is Andy Steve’s Europe: City-Hopping on a Budget. I studied abroad in Dublin last year, and since I was a student, I did everything on a very tight budget. I worked to stretch out my dollars as much as I could so that I could explore as much of Europe as possible during my time abroad.

Thanks to this travel book, I was able to do just that. The book goes through the best things to do in the city and discusses a lot of places that students would love to go to. I especially loved all the information about transportation – it was a lifesaver for me while traveling! 

National Parks of the United States by National Geographic

Submitted by Tatiana Sorokina of Family Road Trip Guru

The best travel book I can recommend is National Geographic’s Guide to National Parks of the United States.

I have been the owner of this guide for 8 years and I love it because it has all the necessary and useful information about every single national park in the country in a concise and well laid out form, with maps, itineraries suggestions depending on how much time you have and beautiful photographs.

It has everything you need to start planning your National Parks trip. The book is also small enough to put in your backpack when you are on the road.

Read More: Must-Have Travel Apps Recommended by Travel Bloggers

Rick Steves’ Italy 2020 Guide

Submitted by Lisa of Planning Away

Are you traveling to Italy?  My number one recommendation and one of the best travel books that I’ve come across is Rick Steve’s Italy Travel Guide.  We were able to go to nine cities in Italy and this book saved our lives!  

Not only does it have maps and top tourist destinations, it also has audio guides. (Venice, Pompeii, Rome…) These audioguides are amazing and so informative. 

One of my favorite things in this book is the food recommendations.  We tried to pick restaurants on our own but were underwhelmed.  Once we started going to the restaurants Rick Steve’s suggested we were blown away!  Everything he suggested was amazing!  

I highly recommend getting the most current Rick Steve’s Italy Guide as one of the best travel books to read before you head to Italy!  

Read More: Weekend Itinerary in Catania, Sicily

Rick Steves’ Mediterranean Cruise Ports

Submitted by Taima of Poor in a Private Plane

Rick Steves is known for writing some of the most helpful guidebooks and there’s no shortage of cruise books available. If you’re looking for a quick guide to help you plan your next European vacation then Rick Steves is the guy for you. 

The one standout about this guide is that it is perfect for budget travelers. If you are looking to save a few bucks on cruise excursions Rick Steves walks you through how to DIY your own tours. For example, if your ship is docking in Rome instead of paying for a pricey tour to the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel the guide book will walk you through how to get to these landmarks from your cruise ship. And even better the guides contain walking tours that you can follow along with tidbits of history, information, and facts along the way.

Sustainability Tip: Reduce your carbon footprint by taking trains! Cruises produce even more emissions than planes.

The Unofficial Guides for Disney Travel

Submitted by Ruby of A Journey We Love

If you’re going to Disney or Universal Studios in Orlando, or thinking about going on a Disney Cruise, my favorite travel book series are the Unofficial Guides.

I live around 2 hours north of Orlando, so these books are my go-to guides that I read yearly to check for updates on the parks like new restaurants, attractions, and tips on how to skip lines and get the most out of our day from the parks.

The books on Disney and Universal even cover the hotels within the premises of the parks, which is an entire destination on its own! 

Travel Novels

Moving away from travel coffee table books and guidebooks, let’s get into some novels! Whether you’re a full-time traveler looking for your next on-the-road read, or you’re happy on the couch at home, these travel novels will keep you glued to the pages.

Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux

Submitted by Safaris Africana

Safari means ‘journey’ in Swahili, and this book documents Theroux’s ultimate safari – an adventurous overland trip from Cairo to Cape Town by train, bus, and car.

The book is a must-read for anyone who’s considering traveling in Africa as it combines a high level of literary crafting with bucketloads of insights into all aspects of African life, culture, and geography. Descriptions of his experiences of countryside, villages, and towns across the multiple African countries he travels through are so vivid you almost feel you’re there with him.

It was this book that inspired my first backpacking trip to Africa to explore many of the places Theroux wrote about and has established a life long passion for the continent. Highly recommended! 

An Embarrassment of Mangoes by Ann Vanderhoof

Submitted by Kimberley of Two Travelling Toques

An Embarrassment of Mangoes is an easy, fun book to read written by Ann Vanderhoof. She, along with her husband Steve, did what most people only dream of doing. In the mid 90’s they quit their jobs and set off on a 2 year-long sailing trip from Toronto to Trinidad in a 42-foot sailboat. 

Ann talks about the fears she has about leaving behind a successful career in her 40’s, to the daily planning it takes living on a sailboat full-time. Plus you’ll learn about the colourful friends they make along the way, the wicked weather they encounter, to some amazing Caribbean food and recipes she shares with her readers that’ll have you drooling. 

I found this book very inspiring and will have you smiling the whole time you’re reading it. Especially if you have a wanderlust spirit. 

Ann will make you feel like you’re right there on the boat with them riding the waves and daydreaming. If you love food and travelling, grab this book, find a secluded beach, and enjoy! 

The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton

Submitted by Jessica of Jessica Pascoe.com

The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton is a wonderfully fulfilling, mindful travel read, and my new favorite travel book.

Alain de Botton draws upon a selection of writers, artists, and thinkers to provide thought-provoking insights into the ‘why’ behind traveling. In a digital world oversaturated by travelers getting that perfect snap on Instagram (of which I am at times guilty myself), it’s wonderfully refreshing to read something that reflects on why we really visited a destination in the first place, and how we might become happier or more fulfilled during our experiences.

My favorite chapter, ‘On the Sublime’ drawing upon the philosophies of Edmund Burke, says ‘a landscape could arouse the sublime only when it suggested power, power greater than that of humans and threatening to them’ With the recent Australian bush fires ravaging my adopted home, this concept of sublimity of nature resonates poignantly, and something I’ll consider for all future explorations in this beautiful country.

Shy Feet: Short Stories Inspired by Travel by Frances M. Thompson

Submitted by Frankie Thompson of As the Bird Flies

Writing a book while traveling the world didn’t feel hard at the time, but when I look back on writing Shy Feet I am not sure how I did it, especially as it was my first book! But travel to me has always been something that has empowered and encouraged me to do things a little differently and I hope that’s also what reading this book inspires others to do. 

In the book’s ten stories you can read different accounts of travel both far and wide, from the couple on a romantic holiday in Thailand that goes completely wrong… for one of them, to the woman that travels the world searching for something she will never find.

All these stories capture not only travel in its many forms but also travelers in their many forms; experienced and inexperienced, adventurous and reluctant, hopeful and hopeless… Travelers with brave hearts, but shy feet.

Notes on a Small Island by Bill Bryson

Submitted by Clare of Epic Road Rides

One of the first travel-focused books I ever read was Bill Bryson’s Notes on a Small Island, about the UK. I remember it made me laugh out loud within the first few pages and, while it sounds a bit profound, I feel like it changed how I looked at the world! Bryson notices and points out the little things about places that make them unique and special. I just love that and it’s made me pay more attention when I travel somewhere new.

Bryson is great at describing the oddities, the sorts of things you notice as a newcomer to a place, but once you’ve been there a while they just become the norm. Here’s a short quote that sums up the sort of thing Bryson notices and then recounts in a humorous way: “The tearoom lady called me love. All the shop ladies called me love and most of the men called me mate. I hadn’t been here twelve hours and already they loved me.”

I highly recommend a read!

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Submitted by Rai of A Rai of Light

A book that revolves around the tragic story of Chris McCandless, a young man disillusioned with conventional life and heads off to discover something different in the Alaskan wilderness. He leaves his family and friends, abandons most of his material possessions so as to live at one with nature.

The travel quote, “Not all those who wander are lost” seems to be the focus of this non-fiction biography by Krakauer who paints McCandless as a man with a brilliant mind and the soul of a nomad. He didn’t fit into the modern world’s or even his family’s view of how he was supposed to be.

Even though it may seem that McCandless was reckless and arrogant, I think he was courageous on his search for meaning. The writing is so engaging that although it is clear from the beginning how McCandless’ story would end, I was hooked until the final page.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Submitted by Aaren of What Do You Sea

If you’re an adventurous traveler like I am, The Alchemist is one of the best travel books that you’ll pick up time and time again to accompany you in your carry-on! The biggest thing that I look for in a travel book is one that is insightful, spiritual, and engaging, so whenever I first read this book, I was hooked from page one!

The Alchemist is an adventure fable written by Paulo Coelho that takes you on Santiago, a young Andalusian shepherd’s journey from southern Spain all the way through the vicious terrain of the desert to find his treasure at the foot of the Pyramids of Giza that he had seen in his dreams. In addition to an epic adventure, the lessons dotted throughout this book are INVALUABLE for travelers and dreamers. Especially if you’re on a journey yourself.

Pick it up and let it take you on a lifetime of adventure in only 208 pages!

Keep Exploring!

If you liked learning about the best travel books, from travel coffee table books to travel novels and travel guidebooks, be sure to check out our posts linked below where travel bloggers give their insights.

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22 responses to “18 Best Travel Books to Read This Year”

  1. These are all great book options. I always love reading a new book on a trip. My all time favorite that changed my life was The Alchemist!

    1. We really need to read it! I think it will be next on our list. Glad you liked the list 🙂

  2. Vicki

    Such a great selection of books. If I could I’d probably read them all. If I had to choose one I’d start with the Art of travel. Thanks for sharing this amazing list.

    1. Glad you liked it! There are so many great ones to choose from. My bookshelf has already grown!

  3. Thank you for this post! I guess I’m off to Kindle store now…. 😀

    1. Haha we can very much relate!

  4. Great list! I also love “Follow Me To” and “Paris in Color” as travel coffee table books, and the New York Times “36 hours in..” series as guidebooks!

    1. Oooh we need to check these out! Thanks for the recommendations!

  5. I love your list of coffee table travel books! I’m starting to build a collection of books from each destination I go to so these will be a nice way to round out my collection! Thanks for sharing!

    1. That’s such a great idea! Hope they work well for you. I think at this rate though we might need more coffee tables 😛

  6. Stitch a great list, I have so many new ideas now. I love reading the Bill Bryson books, he’s one of my favourites and I do like to mix in some fiction with my travel reading

    1. So glad you liked it! I’m so excited to start reading Bill Bryson.

  7. Anything from Bill Bryson is so good! He made me a traveler before I even left my hometown, if only in my mind. 😛 Love all these novels. I’ll have to update my Amazon wish list!

    1. That’s amazing! I have yet to read him but I’ve got this book downloaded on my Kindle.

  8. Oooh what a fab list! I just received some money to add books onto my kindle, so this is perfect timing! I like the sound of Shy Feet, as well as the new book on National Parks. 🙂

    I read the Notes from a Small Island and it made me laugh out loud too. I can’t read it on the bus as I look like a loon!

    1. That’s awesome! You’ll have to let us know what you think after giving them a read.

      I just downloaded Notes on a Small Island and I’m so excited to start it! I’ve heard nothing but good things.

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  11. […] in my opinion at least, is the United Kingdom. Although I’ll never be able to write as well as Bill Bryson, I can provide some tips and tricks for visiting England and […]

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