Travel Fiction and Memoirs

Here are some books that I enjoyed. They’re not all usually categorized as travel books, but they take place in other countries. I believe reading books like these can be an inspiration to travel and they can teach you something about the culture or history in an enjoyable way! Not to mention it’s a lot cheaper than a plane ticket and if you don’t have the time to travel, you can fit reading in during your free moments. If you have a recommendations for another book that fits the list, post it as a comment below! Happy armchair-traveling!

  • Africa
  • Blood River by Tim Butcher
    An English journalist traveling overland through the war-ridden jungles of the Congo.

    Iris & Ruby by Rosie Thomas
    An English teenager runs away from home to unsuspecting family in Cairo and brings back her grandmother’s memories of the city from World War Two.
    See my full review of Iris & Ruby.

  • Asia
  • Hokkaido Highway Blues: Hitchhiking Japan also called Hitching Rides With Buddha by Will Ferguson
    A Canadian English teacher follows Japan’s Sakura (Cherry Blossom Front) by hitchhiking from the very south of Japan to the very north.
    See my full review of Hokkaido Highway Blues: Hitchhiking Japan.

    Marrying Buddha by Wei Hui
    A Chinese writer tries to find peace in her pleasure-filled life and seeks out one relationship with a Japanese-Italian man and another with an American.

    Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
    Krakauer climbs Mount Everest in 1996 when disaster strikes in the deadliest season on the mountain.

    The Piano Teacher by Janice Y. K. Lee
    The stories of the expat community of Hong Kong during the Japanese occupation of 1942 and ten years later, a British woman moves there and teaches piano for a wealthy Hong Kong family with a hidden history. The book starts really slow, but picks up at the end with interesting twists bringing the 1942 storyline to the 1952 storyline.

    Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah Macdonald
    Australian journalist moves to India and explores the culture and religions of India.

  • Australia
  • Down Under also called In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
    An American writer charmingly explores every corner of Australia and wittingly tells you what he finds. He writes so entertainingly it’s hard to tell you’re learning, but he’s teaching you a lot.

  • Central America
  • The Land of Miracles: A Journey Through Modern Cuba by Stephen Smith
    An English journalist traveling back in time through present-day Cuba.

  • Europe
  • Guernica by Dave Boling
    Boling goes into the historic devastating events of 1937 in the Basque town of Guenica in the northeast corner of Spain. The book concentrates on the social issues and personal stories before, during and after the bombing of Guernica. The book is based on facts, but moreover, it gives the an appropriate feel for the time in Basque Country. The lessons learned from Guernica can also be applied to other conflict areas like Palestine, Cyprus and Burma.

    Shakespeare by Bill Bryson
    Bryson explores little-known facts about William Shakespeare and how he affected London’s theater scene. Bryson’s entertaining writing style makes Shakespeare’s history come to life. Scandals and all!

    French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano
    Not so much a diet book, but definitely a comparison of American eating styles to French habits, this book has perspectives on healthier eating habits inspired by French culture.
    See my full review of French Women Don’t Get Fat.

  • North America
  • Into the Wild by John Krakauer
    A young, intelligent man from a well-to-do family leaves home and travels around the US for a while before setting off to make a new life for himself in Alaska. Attempting to live off the land, this book shows just how dangerous and unforgiving nature can be.

    Encounters with the Archdruid by John McPhee
    Four men explore an island, a mountain range and a river, offering perspectives from their very different lives. This book gives a variety of ecological philosophies and is a must read for anyone interested in North America’s ecology.

  • General Travel
  • In The Devil’s Garden by Stewart Lee Allen
    Some foods have a sinful past and this book tries to tell their stories. From Eve’s apple to the Masai people’s cow blood drink, many foods have colorful pasts that Allen teaches you in this book.

    The Devil’s Cup by Stewart Lee Allen
    From Italian stovetop espresso machines to American supersized cups of joe, most of the world consumes coffee daily. This book explains the history of the bean and it’s influence in the world.

    Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
    A single female traveler eats her way through Italy, prays in India and finds love in Indonesia.

  • Books on my to-read list
  • The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson
    A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
    The Zahir by Paulo Coelho
    Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
    The Little Book by Selden Edwards
    Balham to Bollywood by Chris England
    I Have Seen the World Begin by Carsten Jensen
    The Best American Travel Writing 2002 Edited by Frances Mayes
    Evening Is the Whole Day by Preeta Samarasan
    Lost on Planet China by J. Maarten Troost
    Mariana by Katherine Vaz
    The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner

    7 thoughts on “Travel Fiction and Memoirs

    1. I always try to read books based in or about the country I’m traveling to. I think it’s fun to be reading about a place while I’m traveling through it. One of my favorite experiences of this was when I read Angela’s Ashes while on my way to Ireland. It got the sound of the Irish accent in my head before I even got there. While there I ended up buying the sequel, ‘Tis. I highly recommend both!

      Also, I’ve read Tales of a Female Nomad, it’s kind of dry. Just FYI. Oh! and one you might want to add to your list of to-be-read: The Oracle of Stamboul. I just bought it but haven’t read it yet. It looks fascinating though. It’s historical fiction set in Istanbul. Can’t wait to get started on it!


      • Hey Becca! I finished Tales of a Female Nomad about a month ago….. I see what you mean by dry… I found an old bookmark in the middle of it…. from several years ago…. I must have started it way back when and gotten bored…..

        I plowed my way through it this time (with notes to keep all her characters straight in some parts!) and I was glad to finish it…. like I had finally conquered it. ๐Ÿ˜› Off my shelf of ‘to-read’ books. ๐Ÿ™‚

        I read Avoiding Prison and Other Noble Vacation Goals by Wendy Dale next…. that turned out to be a similar book but with a writer 30 years younger. ๐Ÿ˜› More exciting than Tales of a Female Nomad, but still hard to get in to. ๐Ÿ™‚


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