You knocked off 35 books every man should read in his lifetime and tore your way through the best new books of 2021. Now, direct your attention to some of the best travel tomes of today and yesteryear. We’ve put together a roundup of travel books to get that glorious globe-trotting thrill from the comfort of your home (or if you’re lucky—from the porch, dock, or sliver of beachfront nirvana outside your vacation rental). We promise you’ll finish each of these travel books feeling enlightened and appreciating the tiny blue dot we call home.
1. The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson
This captivating translation of Homer’s epic poem from 8th century BCE follows Odysseus on his decade-long endeavor to make it back home to his wife, Penelope, and son, Telemachus, after the Trojan War. He meets many challenges along the way—a cyclops; storms at sea, invoked by Poseidon; intense fights; y’know, the usual offenders. You’ll be immersed in a world of cinematic drama and nail-biting suspense unlike—and perhaps more beautiful than—any other.
2. Mileage Maniac: My Genius, Madness And A Touch Of Evil To Amass 40 Million Frequent Flyer Miles by Steve Belkin
Published in June 2021, Steve Belkin paints an amusing (and, at times, wince-worthy) portrait of his endeavor to rack up a gluttonous amount of airline miles. You’ll be enthralled by the bizarre and dark world as Belkin chronicles how he transformed underemployed improv actors and disabled Thai masseuses into “mileage mules.” It doesn’t stop there: He manages to convert hair transplant consultations, Jaguar test drives, thousands of magazine subscriptions, and phantom trips to Cameroon into airline mileage points, too.
3. The Passenger: How a Travel Writer Learned to Love Cruises & Other Lies from a Sinking Ship by Chaney Kwak
Kwan is an emerging Korean-American writer to watch—and his journey on the ill-fated Viking Sky cruise ship in March 2019 (it was hit by a bomb cyclone off Norway’s shoreline) is a must-read. Sure, there were 60-foot swells, 87-mile-per-hour gales, and a power outage as the ship floats right toward the perilous Hustadvika coast. But the real gripping nuts and bolts here is Kwan’s evocative writing that seamlessly swings from humorous to elegiac to reflective (especially as he thinks about his own mortality). With interludes to the South China Sea, Korea in the aftermath of World War II, and San Francisco in these pandemic times, good luck putting this page-turner down. You’ll never step on a cruise ship again without recalling this action-packed tale—if you ever step on a cruise ship again…
4. Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads by Paul Theroux
As any avid reader of travel tomes knows, the next best thing to getting on the road yourself is sitting in the backseat with Theroux, perhaps the most renowned travel writer of our time. Here, you’ll venture to dusty back roads, storied local watering holes, and awe-inspiring attractions all over the South. It’s a meandering road trip that reads like an adult lullaby. Illuminating the strengths and foibles of the Bible Belt with his signature wry observations.
5. All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes by Maya Angelou
Angelou captures that innermost desire to truly know ourselves in this moving 1986 autobiography. It’s peppered with lines that halt you in your tracks (“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”) as you shadow Angelou on her move to Ghana, where she becomes part of the American ex-pat group, “Revolutionist Returnees.” While many have read Angelou’s better-known 1969 autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, this book gives you new insight into the African-American experience, as well as the pan-African movement.
6. March On: A Veterans Travel Guide by Michael Embrich
Travel the world with U.S. Navy veteran, writer, and military researcher Michael Embrich in this summer 2021 debut. The book is part travel guide, part personal narrative. Along the way, you’ll visit private officers’ clubs in NYC, journey to Paris to visit veteran expats, and more. We particularly like the resources it provides to help you plan actual travel. The book spotlights veteran-owned businesses around the U.S. and Europe, and provides detailed historical anecdotes.
7. The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America by Bill Bryson
This 1989 Bryson classic is the kind of travelogue you want to return to again and again. This book brings on big, hearty laughs, so proceed with caution while in public. You’ll get to know the unending beauty and tragedy of the grand ‘ole US of A, whether Bryson plops you into the Big Apple or the vastness of California. If you can’t put this one down, be sure to pick up Bryson’s memoir The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. It tells more about his Des Moines, Iowa, upbringing and what makes this beloved travel writer tick.
8. The Girl Explorers: The Untold Story of the Globetrotting Women Who Trekked, Flew, and Fought Their Way Around the World by Jayne Zanglein
Get a glimpse at the early members of the International Society of Women Geographers. The group was established in 1925 by—as PW deftly sums it up— “explorers, artists, scientists, and writers who shared a common love for travel and exploration in an era when women were told their place was in the home.” Zanglein’s recounting of their tales takes you from the mountains of Peru to flying across the Atlantic Ocean.
9. 1000 Perfect Weekends by Allyson Johnson
Preorder this hardcover beaut (out October 19, 2021) to indulge in a couch-side escape to more than 40 countries. Whether you journey to adult space camp in Huntsville, Alabama or hit the slopes in Stowe, Vermont, you’ll be sure to learn something new on these 700+ pages. You may even bookmark your next getaway and get to planning, too.
10. Meeting Faith: The Forest Journals of a Black Buddhist Nun by Faith Adiele
If the past year has made you contemplate giving up all your worldly belongings and becoming a Buddhist, A) we don’t blame you and B) you should probably read this book. Published in 2005, the memoir feels particularly relevant in these tumultuous times. You feel inspired by Adiele’s journey to shed her Harvard-bred ego and embrace life in a forest temple in Thailand. P.S. If you thought your 15-minute Simple Habit sessions were tough, try 19 hours of meditation a day.
11. The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors by James Mills
Buckle up for an adventure, but also a thought-provoking exploration about the racism inherent in America’s great outdoors. In this 2014 nonfiction book, Mills documents the first all-African American team of climbers on their attempt to summit Denali. North America’s highest peak, the mountain stands 20,310 feet above sea level. Along the way, Mills shares his critique about minority group’s exclusion from outdoor spaces. He also focuses on what we can do to forge a better path ahead for all.
12. 50 Ways to Cycle the World by Tristan Bogaard and Belén Castelló
If a coffee table book is what you crave, this superb photography book quite literally spins you around the globe. It features cycling adventures in 23 countries by 75 individuals and groups. Unveiled in June 2021, this will get you antsing to knock a few pedal dreams off your bucket list. However, preferably not on a tandem bike, on a lengthy solo ride, or with a cat, as the book depicts.
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