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A Quick Guide to the Best Travel Books

Long flights, train and bus journeys or relaxing time away from everyday life... one of the best things about travel is the opportunity to devour a few good books.

Here at Imaginative Traveller we love reading books about the countries we are travelling through, so here is a quick guide to some of the best travel books for particular countries or regions. It is by no means an extensive list (in fact, a mere drop in the ocean of excellent travel literature!) but is designed to give a quick taster of the fascinating reads available to you.



An Indian Odyssey -  Martin BuckleyAn Indian Odyssey – Martin Buckley

An utterly absorbing account of Buckley’s adventurous journey through India & Sri Lanka; tracing the route of the Ramayana, the great Indian epic tale of war between light & dark. A mystical, spiritual and physical exploration of a historic tale played out in the rich tapestry of modern India & Sri Lanka.


A Fine Balance - Rohinton MistryA Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

A breathtaking, compelling and heart-wrenching tale of four strangers who come to depend on each in other in times of uncertainty.  There is not enough space here to write a review that will do this incredible book justice, so you will just have to read it and see for yourself!


Behind the Beautiful Forevers - Katherine BooBehind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai slum – Katherine Boo

A gripping, true-story, narrative of a group of families struggling to survive and striving for a better life in one of the most notoriously unequal cities in the world.


The Snow Leopard - Peter MatthiesenThe Snow Leopard – Peter Matthiessen

Writer and explorer Peter Matthiessen sets out to study the wild blue sheep of the Himalayas and hope to see the elusive snow leopard. What follows is not only an exquisite account of natural history but also ‘a true pilgrimage, a journey of the heart.’




Cutting for Stone - Abraham VergheseCutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese

A riveting family saga journeying from India to Ethiopia and North America through politics, medicine and love. ‘An unforgettable journey into one man's remarkable life, and an epic story about the power, intimacy, and curious beauty of the work of healing others.’


A Primates Memoir: Love, Death and Baboons in East Africa - Robert M SaapolskyA Primate’s Memoir: Love, Death and Baboons in East Africa  - Robert M Sapolsky

Documenting two decades of baboon study in East Africa, Sapolsky takes us on an exhilarating and often hilarious journey of Masai tribesmen, gunpoint encounters and an unusual kidnapping, set among the backdrop of a baboon family drama.


Ivory, Apes and Peacocks: Animals, Adventure and Discovery in the Wilds of Africa - Alan RootIvory, Apes and Peacocks: Animals, Adventure and Discovery in the Wild Places of Africa – Alan Root

This fascinating memoir from Alan Root, one of the greatest wildlife documentary pioneers, tells the story of his life’s work. From a childhood in Kenya to groundbreaking natural history documentaries, this is an extraordinary tale of wildlife, passion, murder and adventure.




Turn Right at Machu Picchu - Mark AdamsTurn Right at Machu Picchu – Mark Adams

Unadventurous adventure travel writer, Mark Adams, embarks upon the ultimate discovery expedition, following in the footsteps of Hiram Bingham to the ‘Lost City’. Taking readers through some of the most scenic and historic landscapes in Peru, Adams searches for the answer to the ultimate question: what was Machu Picchu?


In Patagonia - Bruce ChatwinIn Patagonia – Bruce Chatwin

An exquisite account of Bruce Chatwin’s travels to a mysterious and remote land of myths, legends and almost-forgotten history. Full of wonderful descriptions, remarkable history and amusing anecdotes written by a gifted storyteller.


Viva! South America - Oliver BalchViva South America! – Oliver Balch

With a reporter’s notebook and an open mind, Oliver Balch sets out to discover if the dream of Simon Bolívar, for independence, freedom and equality, lives on in South America. Balch steps into people’s homes, into prison cells, onto dance floors and over road blocks unearthing untold stories from the frontline of South America’s modern-day fight for freedom.




Travels with Charley: In Search of America - John SteinbeckTravels with Charley: In Search of America – John Steinbeck

In September 1960, feeling that he had lost touch with his country, Steinbeck embarked on a journey across North America with a trusted companion, his French poodle Charley.  


Coming into the Country: Traveks in Alaska - John McPheeComing into the Country: Travels in Alaska – John McPhee

McPhee travels by foot, canoe, helicopter and dog team through total wilderness and urban towns, painting a rich and comprehensive history of a vast land and its fascinating inhabitants.


Wild - Cheryl StrayedWild – Cheryl Strayed

At once a heart-breaking and uplifting true-story of Strayed’s physical and mental battle hiking 1100miles along the Pacific Crest Trail in North America.




Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur GoldenMemoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

The extraordinary and seductive epic story of a geisha girl in the 1930s and 40s.  Covering more than twenty years of Japan’s dramatic history and the daily realities of life as an iconic geisha.


Wild Swans Three Daughters of China - Jung ChangWild Swans: Three Daughters of China – Jung Chang

Jung Chang reveals the incredible history of twentieth-century China through the epic story of women in her own family – her grandmother given to a warlord as a concubine, her Communist mother and Chang herself.




Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe - Bill BrysonNeither Here nor There: Travels in Europe – Bill Bryson          

Bryson’s humourous account of backpacking across Europe, retracing the steps of his student travels twenty years earlier.


A Year in Provence - Peter MayleA Year in Provence - Peter Mayle

A witty and warm-hearted account of ‘living the dream’ in a 200yr-old farmhouse in rural Provence.



Under the Tuscan Sun - Frances MayesUnder the Tuscan Sun - Frances Mayes

Poet, cook and travel writer Frances Mayes buys and restores an abandoned villa in the beautiful Tuscan countryside. Exploring the nuances of the Italian landscape, history and cuisine.





Arabian Sands - Wilfred ThesigerArabian Sands – Wilfred Thesiger

In the 1950s Thesiger spent five years wandering the deserts of Arabia and produced this book, ‘a memorial to a vanished past, a tribute to a once magnificent people.’


Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood - Marjane SatrapiPersepolis: The Story of a Childhood – Marjane Satrapi

Wise, funny, and heartbreaking, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution told through powerful black-and-white comic strip images.




Into the Heart of Borneo - Redmond OHanlonInto the Heart of Borneo – Redmond O’Hanlon

A naturalist and a poet set out to rediscover the lost rhinoceros of Borneo. Exciting and amusing, the duo proceed to have an adventure that neither were remotely prepared for…


Catfish and Mandala - Andrew PhamCatfish and Mandala: A Vietnamese Odyssey – Andrew X. Pham

Vietnamese born Andrew Pham embarks upon a voyage of personal discovery, cycling round the world to reach Saigon, desperate to find out who he really is. Exploring his parents courtship, his father’s imprisonment and the family’s nail-biting escape as ‘boat people’.


The Beach - Alex GarlandThe Beach – Alex Garland

A modern cult-classic, the Beach is a novel of paradise found, and lost. In Thailand Richard is given a map to an unknown island utopia, but quickly discovers that paradise is hard to maintain.


Finding George Orwell in Burma - Emma LarkinFinding George Orwell in Burma – Emma Larkin

In what has come to be regarded as a classic of reportage and travel, Larkin tells of the year she spent travelling through Myanmar, using the life and work of George Orwell as a guide.






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