The 25 Books Every Traveler Needs To Read

Travel is one of the most rewarding activities a person can undertake. It is an exercise in simplicity, humility, and open mindedness. The travel books in this list were all selected because they embrace adventure, disregard conformity, and galvanize travel as one of the most life affirming activities a person can undertake.

My aim with this list is to highlight as many regions of the world as possible, time periods, and writing styles. Among these travel books are stories that will make you roll on the floor with laughter, cry, and contemplate life’s myriad possibilities. So whether you’re currently on a multi-year sojourn, or planning your great escape, use this list to find the perfect literary travel companion.

A brief note about The 25 Best Travel Books. Every book in this list has been picked because it is cited by travellers around the world as a meaningful and insightful read in the travel genre. In an effort to organize these books in a useful way they have been ordered according to their Amazon rank. They are all available in travel friendly Kindle format, just click the book title to access the respective book’s page on Amazon.


1) The Alchemist / Paulo Coelho

 

Quote from the The Alchemist: “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”

In many ways The Alchemist is a simple book with simple characters. It is about a Spanish boy who embarks on a journey in search of hidden treasure, and faces many obstacles along the way. On his journey to find worldly riches he discovers the wealth within himself. This book contains a compelling philosophy on how to live, and how to surmount obstacles on the path to your dreams. Because the life lessons within this book are wrapped within a beautiful story, the necessary medicine goes down smooth and leaves a warm afterglow. Paulo Coelho is a masterful storyteller, and this is one of his best pieces of work. You should read this book if you need validation during the uncertain road to achieving your dreams, or if you need inspiration on what it is that you want to pursue. This book has changed the lives of many. Give it a read, you won’t regret it.

2) Wild: From Lost To Found On The Pacific Crest Trail / Cheryl Strayed

 

Quote from Wild: “I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.”

Wild is the story of a young woman who in the face of losing everything important to her decides to undertake a hike of more than 1000 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail. Cheryl Strayed’s journey is proof that travel has the ability to heal deep wounds, even when the experience of travel itself is fraught with maddening and terrifying events. One of the reasons this book has struck a deep chord with so many is because Cheryl is brutally honest about her strengths and weaknesses, and in doing so is able to highlight how incredibly challenging situations can ultimately lead to redemption and self discovery. Read this book if you want to embark on a daunting journey with a person who faces numerous personal challenges, yet is able to find healing despite (and perhaps because of) the obstacles in her way.

3) Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values / Robert M. Pirsig

 

Quote from Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: “The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.”

Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance was an immediate bestseller upon its release in 1974. Since then it has inspired millions, and transformed a generation. This book is a philosophical examination of life and how to live it, with the unlikely task of motorcycle maintenance as the illustrative element behind the narrator’s self exploration. The reason this book has become a literary cornerstone is because it addresses complex philosophical questions in a way that is both engaging and useful to the reader. Pirsig does this by avoiding what could be overly academic philosophy, and instead intertwines useful lessons from Socrates, Hume, and Kant within the story of a summer motorcycle trip undertaken by father and son. Like any meaningful study of philosophy this book is likely to illicit more questions than answers for the reader. It is because of this that you should read it, for it is not the answers which are most valuable. The carefully crafted questions which challenge a person’s thinking are almost always the most valuable, of which this book contains plenty.

4) Into The Wild / Jon Krakauer

 

Quote from the Into The Wild: “Make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.”

Born from one of the most popular and controversial Outside magazine articles ever, Into The Wild is the vivid expose of a young man who is simultaneously a poster child for youthful recklessness, and an enigmatic cultural hero for legions of like minded adventurers. Into The Wild is best known as the story of Christopher McCandless, a brilliant and sensitive young man who embarks on a perilous journey to live in the Alaskan wilderness. While this is certainly the climax of the book (and movie), Krakaeur does an excellent job at recounting McCandless’s pilgrimage through the Western States as he follows in the footsteps of his heroes Jack London and John Muir. Thanks to the film these stories are well known. What the book does is add depth to the already explored story lines from the film, and enthrals the reader with additional tales lost on the cutting room floor. As an added bonus Krakaeur includes stories from his own intrepid adventures as a young man, stories which run very much in parallel to those of McCandless. This book is both tremendously exciting and deeply moving.

5) Shantaram / Gregory David Roberts

 

Quote from Shantaram: “Fate gives all of us three teachers, three friends, three enemies, and three great loves in our lives. But these twelve are always disguised, and we can never know which one is which until we’ve loved them, left them, or fought them.”

Shantaram is the incredible true story of Lin, a man who escapes maximum security prison in Australia and flees to India, a place where no one knows him or his tumultuous past. Fortunately for Lin he befriends a street guide named Prabaker almost immediately upon arrival. Together they dive into the hidden depths of Bombay where they meet a colorful subset of people living on the fringes. After spending some months with Prabaker, Lin begins to run a clinic using basic medical knowledge picked up during his two years as a prisoner. On his search for love and meaning, Lin bumps into mafia, mujaheddin guerrillas, and spiritual gurus. The story line could easily be the work of a fiction writer, however the fact that it recounts one man’s real experience makes it that much more humanizing and engaging. Read this book if you want to go on an incredible journey through India with a man who has an unparalleled story to tell.

6) Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia / Elizabeth Gilbert

 

Quote from Eat, Pray, Love: “A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.”

Eat, Pray, Love is another book that captured the imagination of millions, and inspired numerous (albeit unpublicized) sojourns by people looking for earthly delights, divine transcendence, and balance. It appears that for as many people who deeply connect with this book and its philosophy, there are just as many who find fault in Gilbert for being too selfish or hedonistic. In order to be rewarded by what is a very well written book, it is important to read it with the understanding that she set out to find herself, an activity which is selfish by definition. The book operates on the assumption that the quest for transformation and personal well being is as important as the end result it aims to achieve. If you find truth in this line of thought, you will find many gems within its pages.

7) The Sun Also Rises / Ernest Hemingway

 

Quote from The Sun Also Rises: “You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.”

The Sun Also Rises is the book that launched Hemingway’s career, and sent him down the road to becoming one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. It is a story of two captivating characters and their exploration of Paris and Pamplona in the morally bankrupt post WWI years. Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley, weary of their nightly charades in Paris go to Pamplona for the “wonderful nightmare” of a week long party. Like all great Hemingway novels, this one addresses loneliness, endurance, and features plenty of heavy liquor and heady conversations. The story that defines a generation is delivered in a direct, adjective free style. Many decades after its publication it is still relevant, and highly engaging. A novel about what it means to be alive in a world still reeling from an exceedingly traumatic event, it has all the trappings of a modern tragedy, written in a parred down and artful style. If you have never read Hemingway, let The Sun Also Rises be your first.

8) Into Thin Air / Jon Krakauer

 

Quote from Into Thin Air: “It was titillating to brush up against the enigma of mortality, to steal a glimpse across its forbidden frontier. Climbing was a magnificient activity, I firmly believed, not in spite of the inherent perils, but precisely because of them.”

Into Thin Air is the riveting story of Jon Krakauer’s ill-fated climb up Everest in March 1996. On the day he reached the summit, eight people died in their attempt to do the same. Krakauer wrote the book only a few months after the ordeal, and it is this freshness of the events in his mind that makes his writing of the Everest landscape so crisp, and the emotion so tangible. One of the key takeaways from this book is how exhaustion, trauma, and elevation transform truth and morality from something concrete, to something exceedingly elusive. At the beginning of the expedition, before the mind and body are starved of oxygen and stressed, truth is relatively linear. As the elevation increases truth becomes gaseous. Ultimately, this tale explores the duality of frail human morality and heroism that can both occur when a person is pushed over their breaking point. Read this book if you want an excellently written story of adventure and loss. It is a tour de force that you won’t be able to put down.

9) On The Road / Jack Kerouac

 

Quote from On The Road: “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”

Published in 1957, On The Road is the quintessential book of the postwar Beat generation. This book is both a tale of running from the difficulties of life, and an attempt to race towards it by means of controlled self destruction. The underlying philosophies of this book are heavily coloured by the potential for nuclear warfare, a phenomenon which made many youth of that era trade in a long term future for a fast paced, hedonistic life lived in the moment. The protagonists in the story are found “searching for a lost inheritance, for fathers, for family, for home, even for America.” There are many reasons to read this book: to gain an insight into Beat culture, to learn about newly post-war America, or for the breathtaking writing about a few people’s quest to find meaning and significance.

10) Travels With Charley: In Search Of America / John Steinbeck

 

Quote from Travels With Charley: “A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”

In September 1960 John Steinbeck left for a journey across America with his pickup truck named Rocinante, and his French poodle named Charley. In an effort not to lose touch with his country he sets off to re-discover the natural beauty, people, and culture of America. Steinbeck’s sojourn through nearly forty states is an intimate self portrait of one of the most influential and loved writers in the 20th century. Along this road trip Steinbeck observes racial tension in the South, industrial “progress” which has wreaked havoc on the environment, and people living miserable lives. While many of his observations are brutally honest, he also has some uplifting and humorous adventures in this thought provoking, intelligent and entertaining travelogue. In the end, Travels With Charley is a testament to the fact that you can never go home twice. Change for better or worse is always underfoot, and travel is the mechanism by which to internalize and process it.

11) The Snow Leopard / Peter Matthiessen

 

Quote from The Snow Leopard: “The sun is roaring, it fills to bursting each crystal of snow. I flush with feeling, moved beyond my comprehension, and once again, the warm tears freeze upon my face. These rocks and mountains, all this matter, the snow itself, the air, the earth is ringing. All is moving, full of power, full of light.”

The Snow Leopard chronicles the 1973 journey undertaken by Peter Matthiessen and field biologist George Schaller into Nepal’s remote mountains where they study Himalayan blue sheep, and seek out the elusive snow leopard. As a follower of Zen Buddhism Matthiessen embarks on an inner journey that brings him a deeper understanding of reality, suffering, impermanence, and beauty. As such the book has two parts which intertwine perfectly. An incredible adventure into the physical world, and a moving journey into one’s own heart and soul, both of which Matthiessen tells with exquisite intimacy. Read this book if you are interested in traveling to Nepal, want an incredible story of adventure, or want insight into how to live a good life without the author telling you what you ought to do or not do.

12) Homage To Catalonia / George Orwell

 

Quote from Homage To Catalonia: “All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.”

Orwell’s Homage To Catalonia is a gripping tale told from a soldier’s perspective of the war against Generalissimo Francisco Franco. Initially sent as a reporter to cover the burgeoning Spanish civil war, Orwell (who is British) quickly decided that he would best be able to serve as a soldier fighting against Franco’s fascist regime. The result of his experience, which included an incredible non-fatal bullet wound to the neck, is a captivating book that chronicles idealistic young men and women in wretched circumstances. It is a story full of humanity that dives into the hope that revolution brings, and how power can undermine all forward progress. It is also a book about ideology, and how people are profoundly unable to admit they are wrong about something they deeply care about, even when that idea is used to both kill others, and put one in extremely perilous situations. Homage To Catalonia is frequently regarded as one of the best fiction books of all time, and it may change the way you view politics and war.

13) A Year In Provence / Peter Mayle

 

Quote from A Year In Provence: “We had to be up early in the morning. We had a goat race to go to… We asked the old man confident in the knowledge that he, like every Frenchman, would be an expert. ‘The goats who make the most droppings before the race are likely to do well. An empty goat is faster than a full goat. C’est logique.’”

A Year In Provence paints a colorful and warm portrait of life in the south of France. Peter Mayle realizes a long pursued dream of living in a 200-year-old stone farmhouse with his wife and two large dogs, eating intensely fresh salads, and living under an azure blue sky. It is a feel good book that does its best to vicariously expose the reader to Provençal life. It brings you into contact with characters that are both charming and perplexing, unique activities such as goat racing, and of course gastronomic delights. The comedy is unforced as Mayle does not naturally adapt to French culture and sensibilities, which gives lots of fodder for farcical stories. Better than any guidebook on the south of France, A Year In Provence is a sincere and humorous look from within.

14) Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide To The Art Of Long-Term World Travel / Rolf Potts

 

Quote from Vagabonding: “Thus, the question of how and when to start vagabonding is not really a question at all. Vagabonding starts now. Even if the practical reality of travel is still months or years away, vagabonding begins the moment you stop making excuses, start saving money, and begin to look at maps with the narcotic tingle of possibility.”

Vagabonding is the only book on this list that directly discusses the practical realities of long term travel. If you dream of traveling the world (or getting to know one place in depth) over a period of 2 months or 2 years, this is the definitive book on how to make that a reality. Much more than a ‘how-to’ book, Vagabonding is a philosophical outlook on life that emphasizes creativity, discovery, and the growth of spirit. If the other books on this list are inspirational tales of lives well traveled, this book tells how to both begin and sustain that life, with advice particularly relevant for those who don’t think they have enough money or time for extended travel. If you are in search of a book where philosophy meets the realities of the road, this is it.

15) Desert Solitaire: A Season In The Wilderness / Edward Abbey

 

Quote from Desert Solitaire: “Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.”

Published in 1968, Desert Solitaire reflects on the state of our wilderness and the fate of a society that is unable to reconcile itself with the natural world. While there are many books which discuss the uneasy relationship between modern society and the natural world, Abbey’s version of this is particularly compelling. Over two years as a park ranger in Arches National Park, he developed a deep knowledge of the environment that enveloped him. It is largely because of his intimacy with the natural world that his stories, reflections, and rants contain a tremendous richness and texture. If you have never spent time in the desert, this may be the book that compels you to visit it, and at a minimum give you a new appreciation and respect for the natural world we all depend on.

16) The Rum Diary: A Novel / Hunter S. Thompson

 

Quote from The Rum Diary: “I shared a dark suspicion that the life we were leading was a lost cause, that we were all actors, kidding ourselves along on a senseless odyssey. It was the tension between these two poles – a restless idealism on one hand and a sense of impending doom on the other – that kept me going.”

The Rum Diary is a wild and energetic ride to San Juan, Puerto Rico during the late 1950s. It is a fascinating period piece which chronicles Puerto Rico’s transition from lazy sun bleached Caribbean island, to an amoral haven of American’s looking for a place where everything is possible, and anything is allowed. Thompson’s own experience in Puerto Rico is expressed through the book’s protagonist, a character who is infrequently sober, gets in fights with police, spends time in jail, and in general acts as a quintessential hell raiser, all while doing whatever it takes to make a quick buck. The characters in this book are believable, the situations captivating, and the political and economic realities of the time lend themselves well to this fun, off the wall tale. This book is not for everyone, but if you are able to relate to Thompson’s outrageous narrative even a little, then expect to be engrossed in this comedic romp.

17) The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes On A Latin American Journey / Ernesto Che Guevara

 

Quote from The Motorcycle Diaries: “I now know, by an almost fatalistic conformity with the facts, that my destiny is to travel…”

In January 1952, Ernesto “Che” Guevara and his close friend Alberto Granado left Buenos Aires on a capricious 1939 Norton motorcycle in order to explore a South America they had only previously known in books. Written by Guevara before he was politicized and romanticized, The Motorcycle Diaries is an intimate look into the journey of a deeply empathic 23 year old as he comes into contact with ostracized lepers, exploited miners, oppressed communists, and impoverished descendants of the once illustrious Incan empire. The book is not especially political (it is definitely not a book focused on the merits of Marxism), but it clearly shows where and why Guevara took up his oath to create a united Latin America, and fight for the socio-economically oppressed masses. Over and above being a memoir of a deeply influential figure, it is a an excellent travelogue full of wit, adventure, and heart. Read this book if you plan on visiting South America, want to know more about Guevara, or just want to read a touching and highly entertaining adventure story.

18) Roughing It / Mark Twain

 

Quote from Roughing It: “It is said, in this country, that if a man can arrange his religion so that it perfectly satisfies his conscience, it is not incumbent upon him to care whether the arrangement is satisfactory to anyone else or not.”

Mark Twain’s Roughing It is a classic adventure novel that is just as captivating today as it was in 1871. It is a delightful and humorous book that chronicles Twain’s travels from Missouri to Hawaii between the years 1861 and 1866, and as such gives a clear picture into a fabled time in history. During Twain’s travels he attempts to strike it rich in the ‘Wild West,’ meets a cast of colourful characters, and succumbs to a series of mishaps, all of which are described in an irreverent and humorous tone. While he pokes fun at everyone he meets along the way, he also takes the time to describe his fellow man in detail and with a respect that was often lacking during his era. Twain is a master storyteller who is able to draw the reader into his world of intrigue and believable lies. Don’t let the year of publication turn you off. This book remains highly entertaining, and is an excellent look into the America of yore.

19) The Beach / Alex Garland

 

Quote from The Beach: “If I’d learnt one thing from travelling, it was that the way to get things done was to go ahead and do them. Don’t talk about going to Borneo. Book a ticket, get a visa, pack a bag, and it just happens.”

The Beach is a spellbinding adventure novel about the search for a pristine and pure landscape in a world permeated by Western culture. Richard, a young traveler making his way through Thailand, is bequeathed a hand drawn map to a hidden island by an insane traveler after killing himself. On the surface it is a fast paced adventure story, but at a deeper level it asks why we as a culture are transfixed with looking for utopias, be they mysterious and hidden locations or groups of people cut off from the rest of the world. The tragic yet on target proposal of this book is that we, as part of Western civilization, ultimately destroy the very unspoiled places we seek. As a piece of literature The Beach is extremely engaging because of the way it etches these themes into the heart of the novel without ever inundating or overwhelming the reader with its philosophy. Part adventure novel, part social commentary, read this book if you want a twisted adventure tale that will likely inspire you to visit Thailand.

20) The Sex Lives Of Cannibals: Adrift In The Equatorial Pacific / J. Maarten Troost

 

Quote from The Sex Lives of Cannibals: “It is an unfortunate reality for innate idlers that our modern world requires one to hold a job to maintain a sustainable existence. Idling, I find, is immensely underrated, even vilified by some who see inactivity as the gateway for the Evil One.”

Possibly the funniest book in this list, The Sex Lives of Cannibals is a comedic romp that takes place on the small South Pacific island of Tarawa in the Republic of Kiribati. Troost’s dreams of an island paradise butt up against the reality of living in stifling heat, eating toxic fish, hearing ‘La Macarena’ ad nauseam, and worst of all, no beer. While his romantic notions of life on a tropical island do not come to bear, Troost and his steadfast girlfriend come to feel at home on Tarawa by the end of their two year sojourn. This experience gives Troost lots of fodder for comedically rich stories, such as aimless pigs that prevent planes from landing on the runway, dancing the funky chicken with locals, and using a toilet that extends off a boat’s stern during high seas. Read this book if you want to howl with laughter as you learn about the facts of life on a tropical island.

21) The Unconquered: In Search Of The Amazon's Last Uncontacted Tribes / Scott Wallace

 

Quote from The Unconquered: “With whites, he could be surly, contemptuous, explosive. With Indians, he was possessed of charm, patience and good humor.”

The Unconquered is an incredible look into an expedition that set out in 2002 to map, track, and ultimately protect one of the last uncontacted Indian tribes on earth. The multi-month expedition lead by larger than life and tireless advocate of Indians Sydney Possuelo, travels by canoe and foot into the deepest recesses of the Amazon. The story of this perilous expedition sucks the reader in as it aims to achieve two unharmonious goals. On one side the expedition aims to not come into contact with the Indian tribe known as the Flecheiros (Arrow People) as this could irreversibly decimate the tribe both culturally, and physically due to diseases they have no immunity against. On the other side, the expedition needs to have a clear understanding of the Flecheiros boundaries and behaviours so as to be able to lobby for an increase in the area of Amazon rainforest that is completely closed off in perpetuity to all outsiders. This is a book of great substance that will both engross and disturb you. Read it if you want to be transported to the front lines of an intractable fight to protect the last remaining uncontacted indigenous tribes.

22) The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia / Paul Theroux

 

Quote from The Great Railway Bazaar: “The railway bazaar with its gadgets and passengers represented the society so completely that to board it was to be challenged by the national character.”

The Great Railway Bazaar is about Theroux’s round trip train odyssey between London and Japan in the 1970s. His adventures and observations aboard the Orient Express, Khyber Pass Local, Frontier Mail, Golden Arrow, Mandalay Express, and Trans-Siberian Express make for an excellent travelogue. With an incredible eye for detail, the book is full of Theroux’s signature humor and wry observations. While he can come across as a cynic at times, Theroux is able to equally embrace the good and bad during his travels. He ventures into locales off the beaten track and eats gastronomical oddities that most travellers never would. He also makes observations about the many types of people he meets in vivid detail, a skill that adds great depth to this book. If you want to feel like your on an epic train ride with Afghans, Burmese, and Ceylonese, then read this book.

23) In A Sunburned Country / Bill Bryson

 

Quote from In A Sunburned Country: “’But don’t worry,’ she continued. ‘Most snakes don’t want to hurt you. If you’re out in the bush and a snake comes along, just stop dead and let it slide over your shoes.’ This, I decided, was the least-likely-to-be-followed advice I have ever been given.”

Bryson’s In A Sunburned Country is a loving and humorous book that spans the depth and breadth of Australia. He sees more of Australia than many Australians do, which gives him tremendous fodder for historical, trivial, and comedic anecdotes. For instance, Bryson takes great pleasure in recounting the time a Prime Minister got lost while swimming at sea, Japanese cult members who may have set off an atomic bomb on their 500,000 acre property without anyone noticing, and sea shells that attack people. Bryson has a deep fondness for Australia, and as such does not spend his time on cheap stereotypes. Instead he passes along a tremendous amount of information on geology, flora and fauna, and local folklore. In short, he takes the reader on a very enjoyable journey that gives a feeling of what it’s actually like to travel through Australia. A must read if you are at all interested in Australia.

24) A Short Walk In The Hindu Kush / Eric Newby

 

Quote from A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush: “A whole gale of wind was blowing, tearing up the surface of the main street. Except for two policemen holding hands and a dog whose hind legs were paralysed it was deserted.”

A Short Walk In The Hindu Kush is a highly entertaining book about two English men who in 1955 depart England for the mountains of the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan. Newby and his friend are caricatures of an England gone by. They are extremely brave, incompetent at their chosen activity (mountaineering), and they never complain or boast. In order to learn how to climb they go to Ben Nevis in the Scottish Highlands, a mere 4,409 ft above sea level, where they are given a pamphlet on climbing. This turns out to be their only instruction on how to tackle ice and snow at altitude, unless you count a few additional tips from a Welsh waitress. The characters in this book are full of personality, and their attitudes towards extremely perilous activities are a source of great enjoyment. Read this book if you want to take an adventure into one of the most remote and beautiful wildernesses on earth with a likeable yet overly courageous guide.

25) Arabian Sands / Wilfred Thesiger

 

Quote from Arabian Sands: “You can usually get on terms with people by helping them to kill something…”

Arabian Sands is about Wilfred Thesiger’s five year odyssey across the Arabian desert. During this time he traveled with the Bedu people and crossed the Empty Quarter twice, which at 650,000 square kilometres is the largest sand desert in the world. Most importantly he came to know the overwhelming personal ethics and convictions of the tribal Arabs, something which would be impossible today as their way of life is virtually extinct. Born in Addis Ababa in 1910 and educated at Oxford, Thesiger is neither fully at home in England where he feels the people are too rigid and materialistic, nor does his Christian religion allow him to be fully embraced by his Arab friends. Despite this he shines a bright and beautiful light on the nomadic bedouins of Arabia, a people who live desperately difficult lives in some of the most inhospitable conditions on the planet. Due to geopolitical changes since Arabian Sandswas published, Thesiger’s experience in the Arabian desert will never be replicated. This book is both a griping adventure novel and anthropological analysis, but most of all it is a story of love and respect for the people Thesiger meets along the way.


What Do You Think?

I would love to know what your favourite travel books are! Is there a book that has particularly inspired you, or shifted the way you think about travel? If so write it in the comments.

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