Is there anything more exciting than deciding what books to take on vacation? What you’d read on a flight may not be what you’d want to read on the beach — and what you read on the beach may not be what you’d read when you’re camping. Plus, a good book can put a vacation into perspective. Whether on the Atlantic, in the forest, or road-tripping across the country, here are some travel memoirs that’ll have you covered for any adventure.
For the Camping Trip: A Walk in the Woods
Bill Bryson’s hilarious novel documents the witty writer’s journey along the Appalachian Trail. Ripe with hardship and tips for fending off bears, the novel follows Bryson’s and his friend Katz’s hike from Georgia to Maine; however, the tough terrain and a “powerful urge not to be this far south any longer” quickly ushers in a change of plans. Funny and informative, Bryson explains the history of Appalachia and national parks’ place in U.S. history.
For the Beach: The Sex Lives of Cannibals
Troost and his wife relocated to the not-so-tropical paradise of Kiribati to start a life. The book documents the couple’s experiences like transitioning to a diet of raw fish and “coconut Stalinism.” He survives such horrors as “The Great Beer Crisis” and extreme heat. Throughout the story, he offers scathing critics of the U.S. and foreign aid workers who, for the most part, ignore the real needs and culture of the islanders. The book’s an entertaining, quick read, and takes place in — what should be — a paradise.
For the Road-Trip: Travels with Charley
John Steinbeck dives into his wanderlust to rediscover the country he felt he had lost — with his poodle Charley by his side. During the trip, Steinbeck drives the country roads, dines along highway interstates, and reflects upon definitions of America, concerning its character, kindness, and an overwhelming loneliness.
For the Trip of Self Discovery: On The Road
Kerouac’s calling to the free spirits chronicles a raucous journey across North America. Characters Sal Paradise (Kerouac) and Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady) go on a quest for knowledge and self-discovery. The novel is an expose on not only a trip and love of America, but an examination of the beat generation, jazz, and freedom. The book is entertaining for both the restless teen and the reflective adult, though the stream-of-consciousness-style takes time to appreciate.
For the Coffee Shop in Paris: A Moveable Feast
Published posthumously, the book accounts Hemingway’s years as a struggling writer in Paris in the 1920s. From a literary level, the memoir provides a glimpse into the lives of expatriates in Paris like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and Gertrude Stein and their impact on the young author. From a personal standpoint, A Moveable Feast details Hemingway’s life and relationships, the inspirations for his first stories, and his favorite cafes.
Or the One in Rome: Vroom with a View
Much like the American road trips by Kerouac and Steinbeck, Peter Moore endeavors on one in Italian style: with a scratched up Vespa and a desire to see the true Italy. Moore rides along Italy’s backroads — from the Alps to venerable villas with his girlfriend on the back. Here, the young couple finds a way into the hearts and homes of many locals who reminisce about life, love, and their first Vespa.
For the Train: The Great Railway Bazaar
A contemporary classic of travel literature, Paul Theroux recounts his unusual rail journey from London’s Victoria Station to Tokyo Central. For both enthusiastic adventurers or a vicarious vacationers, Theroux ventures into the crowded cabins along such famous trains as the Orient Express, Khyber Pass Local, and the Trans-Siberian. Hilarious, bizarre, The Great Railway Bazaar observes a world unseen for jet-hoppers and compliments any railway adventure..
For the Trip Home: The Geography of Bliss
What makes us happy? Why is vacation more enjoyable than everyday life? Eric Weiner sets out to discover the happiest places in the world. His trip takes him to the war-torn lands in Asia to the uber-wealthy Swiss Alps all to uncover how a place — whether it be a Florida beach, Japanese spa, or Qatari desert — can make you happy. Hopefully, this book can help you transfer happiness from the beach to the office.