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The top ten best travel novels


Photo Credit: Sara Rossini

October is National Book Month, and as an avid reader and lover of all things travel related. I thought a post on favorite travel books was in order. This genre is more than just a piece of non-fiction, but is a piece of literature which can transport us word by word, tale by tale.

There is a wide array of great travel fiction out there, and here is my list of a few of my favorite travel novels.

1. On the Road by Jack Kerouac. This classic is often known as the soul of the Beat movement, but is also considered a classic travel book. The narrator, Sal Paradise, is on an epic quest which has him and his partner-in-crime, Dean Moriarity crisscrossing the continent encountering adventure, sex, drugs, poverty and more.

2. The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train through Asia by Paul Theroux. A prolific writer, all of Theroux novels are hugely entertaining and dripping with detail. This classic travelogue captures the romantic, exotic and lonely aspect of train travel as the author portrays his travels on the Orient Express.

3. Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson. There are tons of fantastic Bill Bryon books out there, and any one of them could hold this spot. In addition, it’s no secret that I love all things relating to the UK, so it’s not surprising that this travel memoire made the list.

4. Into the Wild by John Krakauer. This book has it all: travel, journalism, nature, adventure all wrapped up into a paperback. Krakauer recreates the account of Chris McCandless, an idealistic young man who cuts off all ties to his upper-middle class family to explore the heart of Alaska. This novel may not have you packing your bags for a solo adventure hitchhiking through Denali, but it will keep your attention.

5. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. This classic post-colonial literature offers a historical view of the hopes, dreams and passions of modern India. The novel centers on the two children born within the first hour of independent (get it, Midnight's Children?) from Great Britain whom are switched at birth. This 1981 Booker Prize winner is also a stunning work of magical realism.

6. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. Arguably Christie’s best known novel this has mystery and suspense wrapped up on the Orient Express.

7. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This simple fable, based on simple truths, follows the protagonist, Santiago, from Spain to Egypt as he follows his heart learning the true meaning of life. His quest allows the reader to understand the treasures of life are not in riches and gold, but within our hearts and minds.

8. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne. By no means a modern novel this is a classic tale of travel and adventure. This novel captures the lost sense of travel characterized by crossing frontiers, inventiveness and adventure. Put simply: A fantastic read.

9. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway.  Truth be told, I have only heard this via audio book, not the classic paperback. Typically the travel genre is loaded with adjectives, but part of the appeal in Hemingway his is simple, direct and somewhat plain style. However, the backdrop of Paris and Spain are beautifully and evocatively described.

10. In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin. I haven’t had a chance to read this infamous piece yet, but this book is high on my “to-read” list as its touted as one of the most creative and entertaining travelogues to date.

What books would you add to the list? Leave your picks in the comments! 


  • Skeptical Observer 5 years ago

    You've included non-novels in your list! If one is to be that liberal, please also include a couple of travel books by UK's Eric Newby, one of which, "A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush," I can recommend as especially enjoyable and humorous.

  • Sara 5 years ago

    Hi Skeptical Observer - Thanks for the new recommendation. I haven't read anything by Eric Newby, but I'll give him a go. I'm always open for new authors.

  • Packabook - Travel Novels 4 years ago

    I have to admit I'm a bit of a stickler for travel novels being actual works of fiction, rather than something like the works of Bill Bryson - so for me that means ANY novel that takes you to a different place than your own. Recently I have read The Avenue of Eternal Tranquility by K. Overman-Edmiston, which gives not just one, but two accounts of travel on the Trans-Siberian as part of the novel. Heaven.