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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

Travel Books to Read if You’re Not Traveling

Are you staying local this summer? I am. I’m still traveling, but just not as far. This is intentional, because I have some other plans in the works for later this year. So how to get by? By reading about travel, of course! Here are my top suggestions – one for each continent – to help both satisfy and fuel your urge to travel. And oh, just for fun, I’m throwing in a handful of honorable mentions.

Long Way Down by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman

Long Way Down by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman

Africa: Long Way Down by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman

Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote a book? A few of them, actually. And I recommend two, especially Long Way Down for those interested in reading about Africa. Sure, Ewan and Charley also ride their motorcycles through Europe – starting all the way up at the tippy top of the UK – but the bulk of their overland trip is through Africa. It makes for a fantastic story, one which any reader can amazingly enough relate to. How do I mean? Well, despite my two trips to the continent, I’ve never experienced truly impoverished Africa. I also sure as heck don’t ride motorcycles, although someday I’d like to learn. But I was still able to connect with the story and really enjoy the read.

Honorable Mention: Gorillas in the Mist by Dian Fossey is the one book I read before traveling to Rwanda. And while it’s not for everyone, it’s definitely worth reading over watching the movie…especially if you have a strong love for animals. It’ll certainly make you think differently after you turn that last page.

The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard

The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard

Antarctica: The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard

The Worst Journey in the World is not an exaggeration in titles. It is just that, the worst journey in the world. At least one survived. Cherry-Garrard’s account encompasses more than that – his journey to get an Emperor Penguin egg in the middle of an Antarctic winter blizzard with temperatures that can barely be described as a balmy freezing – since the book details the entire expedition. The trip on the ill-fated Terra Nova is generally better known for the one that brought Captain Robert Falcon Scott and the rest of his polar team to their deaths, becoming the second to the pole by only a matter of a few days. That race is documented in The South Pole by Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian who made it to the South Pole first.

Honorable Mention: South by Ernest Shackleton is the account of the Endurance expedition. Everyone knows this story best when it comes to Antarctic travel, because of the famed photos of the ship being crushed in the pack ice and the miraculous journey to South Georgia. The read is fantastic, and the one book I took with me on my Antarctic trip.

Asia: Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron

My favorite travel book on Asia is easily Shadow of the Silk RoadWell, actually, I suppose it could just as easily be To A Mountain in TibetSeriously. It’s hard to choose which Colin Thubron book I like best, so I flipped a coin. No matter which you choose, know they’re both fantastic and both make me want to pick up more of his books; if only my shelf wasn’t already 100+ deep! He is an author with a voice the likes of which I have not heard – or read, rather – before. And if you haven’t heard of him or read any of his books, you’re truly missing out. Few are as good of writers as Thubron. So do yourself and favor and pick up, download, or order one of his books; Shadow of the Silk Road if you can’t choose.

Honorable Mention: Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier was probably one of the slowest reads I’ve ever had. It took be a good couple of months to finish it. But that’s because it’s thick and with small type. Finish it I did, though, and am happy to have read it, a great story by a top-notch author about travel and life in Siberia.

A Course Called Ireland by Tom Coyne

A Course Called Ireland by Tom Coyne

Europe: A Course Called Ireland by Tom Coyne

There are about a bajillion other books that people would recommend about travel in Europe, but one of the most unique I’ve found is A Course Called Ireland by Tom Coyne. The quick and easy read is particularly good for golf lovers, since it recounts Coyne’s walk around Ireland as he plays at each course. And when I say he walks around Ireland, I mean around – as in not across, but around the perimeter. As I said, there are a lot of other fantastic books about travel in Europe, but I chose this one because I, who have absolutely zero interest in golf – I find it quite stupid, actually – was absolutely riveted to his story, and continually think to pick it up for another read.

Honorable Mention: Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson is one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors. There really is no bad book by Bryson, which is why I chose this as an honorable mention for travel books on Europe; it’s a recommendation for his catalog on the whole.

Oceania: In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

Way back when I traveled to Australia, stepping on my seventh and final continent, I took with me Bill Bryson’s In A Sunburned CountryThis one book took my interest in casual travel reading to a whole new level, as I went on a mad spree of devouring any travel-related book I could get my hands. Since that moment, Bill Bryson has been the standard to which I hold all other travel writers. I know that’s not exactly fair, but such is life. Deal with it. And while you do, pick up a few of his books. It’ll make life a whole heckuva lot better. I know it did for me, as I’ve enjoyed his journeys – most particularly his humor – whether recent or old. They’re all timeless.

Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl

Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl

Honorable Mention: Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl is one of the best selling books in history, with over 20 million copies in print. It’s a true classic. And if you haven’t read it, you should. The story is just as fascinating today as it was when it was first printed in 1950.

North America: On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac wrote a great many books. Perhaps his most recognized is On the Road. I thought I’d hate it, but picked it up because it’s one of those things you’re supposed to read if you like to read and write about travel. My preconceived notion was quickly pushed aside, largely because I now live in Denver and Jack wrote a great deal about his time here. If you’re unsure of how you’ll receive it, come to Denver and read it here. See the Kerouac sites as you turn the pages. After all, reading a book at the place it was written is always a great treat; I did it with The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Honorable Mention: The Drive North by Jason Hussong, as in yours truly, self-published a travel memoir. And the only reason why I mention it is completely self-serving. A lot of other books probably deserve to be in this spot over me, but they’re not. So there. Deal with it and pick up a copy of my book.

The Drive North by Jason Hussong

The Drive North by Jason Hussong

South America: In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin

A lot of critics argue that Bruce Chatwin made up some of the story for In Patagonia after some of the facts didn’t quite check out. Some said the same thing about John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. The thing of it is, today, no one remembers the critics, but everyone knows the stories. And even if parts are fabricated, they both make for excellent reads. But seeing as this section is about South America, and Steinbeck is writing about the north, let’s just go ahead and recommend In Patagonia. Truth or lies, it’s an entertaining read about the author’s roughing it-style travels down in what is still one of the wildest places on the planet.

Honorable Mention: The Old Patagonia Express by Paul Theroux is a book by one of my least favorite authors on the planet. His ego overcomes me. But there’s no denying Theroux is a great writer, so I offer this up as an honorable mention for reads on South America. And in truth, if you read this then you’ve read all of his books since they’re almost all about exotic train travel.

Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum

Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum

Around the World: Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum

Is one continent not enough for your travel imagination? Then give Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World a try. He was the first person to ever accomplish the nautical feat of sailing alone around the world, setting out from Boston in 1895. I’d love to know how his name has been lost to obscurity when compared to other adventurers, because this is definitely a book worth reading – especially if you’re interested in sailing. I am not, but nonetheless found it fascinating. I’m guessing you will, too.

Honorable Mention: 360 Degrees Longitude by John Higham is the story of a family trip around the globe. I read it while on my road trip for The Drive North, but recommend it just the same if you’re staying at home for the summer.


What are your favorite travel books? Do you have another recommendation for the summer? Then share it with the group!

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4 Comments on “Travel Books to Read if You’re Not Traveling”

  1. The Guy June 3, 2014 at 10:01 am #

    Great idea and nice selection of books Jason. I like the thought of if you are not travelling to at least place yourself open to inspiration for the future.

    Also nice touch with your book too 🙂 This could be the first time of many that you are mentioned in the same context as Ewan McGregor 🙂

  2. rawahranger June 8, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

    Nice list, Jason. I would add Crossing Open Ground, by Barry Lopez, a series of essays about traveling in the Arctic to the list. It is one of my favorite books ever in *any* category. My favorite travel book of all time is on your list: The Worst Journey in the World. What a great story!

    • Jason's Travels June 8, 2014 at 6:42 pm #

      Thanks for the Lopez recommendation. I’ll have to check that one out. The only Arctic book I’ve read thus far is called Arctic Crossing. The author kayaked from Alaska to the Atlantic on his own. Pretty amazing.


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