12 books to read when traveling
This list looks to shine some light onto your path whenever you decide to go up in the air. Whatever the reason for your adventure — distance from the routine, romantic getaway, hard breakup, loss of someone you love, quit a job, or looking to discover exciting things about exotic, distant lands, or maybe yourself — there’s a book here for you. I have different memories on the road with these books, and hopefully you’ll pick one and create some of your own. In no particular order, here is a list of the best 12 Books I’ve read when on the road.
One of the greatest gay romances of all time, this 50’s novel is a classic. It’s a very easy read with simple prose and poetic language. I wonder if the tragic ending has to do with the era it was written in, because the love Baldwin describes here is the kind of love that can only be set apart by death itself. Back in those days, most novels that had homosexual characters were some sort of a warning to gay people not to pursue their homosexual desires as it will surely end in tragedy. Giovanni’s Room is the only novel by James Baldwin in which his main character is not African-American, and it is brilliant to see how he still manages to discuss and develop the themes of outsiderness and belonging without getting into race. Great read if you are going to Paris or any romantic destination.
For all the solo travelers out there, this book will dismiss your fears and inspire you like no other. Cheryl Strayed takes us on a roller coaster of emotion on the journey that took her hiking more than a thousand miles along the Pacific Crest Trail, from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State. After losing her mother and soon after having her marriage destroyed, she goes through the four most difficult years of her life. With no experience and nothing to lose she will do what many consider impossible. Her humoristic style is full of suspense and is nothing short of inspirational. To those that are traveling to heal a wound, this book will strengthen your heart.
Or Wisdom for dummies; this spiritual book is a gift to humanity. Each paragraph, sentence, and word is so well put together that, even if you have never meditated or practiced yoga in your life, these pages will give you that sense of peace and comfort that the act of meditation brings. When Things Falls Apart is a practical guide to letting go and embracing life in the immediate now. Embracing life’s difficulties and cuts: lost someone you love, had a terrible breakup, or feel that everything is falling apart? Pema Chodron will take you by the hand.
Want to read an epic novel about love and war, life and death? A great read when traveling to the Oceania continent. Flanagan takes us to the border of the lines of War and Love through Dorrigo Evans, a doctor serving in the Australian Army in World War II. Two main narratives are developed through the entirety of the book: Dorrigo’s love affair with his uncle’s wife, Amy, and his experiences as a survivor of Japanese imprisonment during the Second World War. When not getting wounded by the horrors of war, he is broken by the consequences of forbidden love. I had to put this book down a couple of times due to the intensity of its prose. Winner of the Booker Prize for Fiction, this is a perfect book for all the lovers out there that have carried guilt and failure when in love. It’s pretty intense, so be sure to be in a good place, because, like me, it will take you six months to read.
Cartas al Agua by Ana Teresa Toro
Available only in Spanish at the moment, this is a good excuse to start taking those Duolingo lessons. Toro’s first novel is a total breakthrough. Narrated from the point of view of 3 women, Cartas al Agua presents to us their relationship with love, men, and the sea. Grandmother, mother, and daughter take us on an epic, generational trip that will put the mirror right in front of you. You will be able to see those roots that are yours, but you are not really sure where and when they started to grow. It’s an exercise of memory and retelling, with poetic language and powerful imagery. Each one of these letters will make you fall in love with every part of your past. This is an excellent option for those who travel with family.
Only available in Spanish as well, these 12 short stories represent a moment in time of 12 different families. Belloquio’s talent is to take the mundane, every day inner life of his characters and use it as material to generate profound observations about love, life, and death; it’s nothing short of a miracle. Full of powerful imagery, wit, and humor, you will find yourself and many of your relatives in more than one of these stories. Familias de Ceral is another great option for those who travel with family or are on their way to visit a relative.
Translated into more than 69 languages, this novel’s journey takes us right to the root of every self-discovery path. For those who are full of questions and are in constant search for answers, this is a great book. The Alchemist follows a young Andalucian shepherd on his journey to Egypt after having a recurring dream of finding a treasure there. Full of wisdom and beautiful story telling, the simple prose makes it really accessible for everyone to follow. From the alchemist, we learn that the biggest treasures we seek don’t come from the outside but from within.
Using two parallel narratives, Shafak takes us into two different worlds in time and space, connected by a single thread: love. In one of them we follow the story of Ella, a middle-age, Jewish-American, married woman in her forties, and in the other one we follow the historic journey of the world-famous Sufi poet of the 13th century, Rumi. In the novel, both characters are not satisfied with the routine of their life, but for different reasons. Then Shams of Tabriz changed al-Rumi’s life and showed him the road to Love, as Aziz, who turned to Sufism, became the sun of Ella, showing her something about love she had never felt before: passion. For those lovers of love, this book will bring insight and wisdom to jour journey.
Any Hemingway is a good book to travel with, but nothing better than his very first novel. This gypsy smart-ass lived a fascinating life, and he was brilliantly talented and able to turn his experiences into fictional masterpieces. With very few words he can create a complex universe, and his simple prose will surely take you to deep places. It really fascinates me how he can say so much with so little. This love letter to bistros, cafes, and bar life is a great read when traveling around the European continent. The novel is based on a trip he made from Paris to Pamplona, Spain in 1924 with his wife, Hadley Richardson.
I know, I know, this one is a play. But it’s my favorite play of all time, and here is only one reason why I’m recommending it…
The king dreams he is a king,
And in this delusive way
Lives and rules with sovereign sway; ————>(Sound familiar?)
All the cheers that round him ring,
Born of air, on air take wing.
And in ashes (mournful fate!)
Death dissolves his pride and state:
Who would wish a crown to take,
Seeing that he must awake
In the dream beyond death’s gate?
‘Tis a dream that I in sadness
Here am bound, the scorn of fate;
‘Twas a dream that once a state
I enjoyed of light and gladness.
What is life? ‘Tis but a madness.
What is life? A thing that seems,
A mirage that falsely gleams,
Phantom joy, delusive rest,
Since life is a dream at best,
And even dreams themselves are dreams.———->(pfff! Learn spanish just to read this one seriously)
In this electronic era of disconnected connectivity, individuality and uniqueness are seen as threats. Blend in, fit in, and be accepted: that has been the big phenomenon that has brought bullying around the world to new levels of cruelty. This is the story of Christopher Johnson McCandless, a guy that said goodbye to the system and created a life on his own terms. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. An incredible, inspirational story that will make you question the way you navigate life, Into the Wild is a one of a kind story, good for solo travelers and people that are looking for a fresh start.
Going on a backpacking trip with your buddies? This is a backpacker’s obligatory read. It’s not a light read; at first, it seduces us with the idea of a perfect, tropical vacation, and while you might have flashbacks of Dicaprio running shirtless around the beaches of Thailand, this book gets really deep and pretty dark. It discusses the ideas of a utopic society, questions the one we have, and exposes the naive hypocrisies of Westerners rooting out the exotic in the East. Using all these devices, he creates a brutal ending that recasts what had led up to it. In these days, where going to Thailand is so hot, you might as well read it from Phi Phi Island or in your nice Bangkok hotel pool.
Hope you enjoy the list! Don’t Forget to Subscribe to receive more posts and travel tips like this. Which one was your favorite book to read on your travels last year?
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