Whether you are an intrepid traveler or enjoy your adventures from the relative safety of your armchair, here’s an updated list of our Favorite Travel Books for 2023.
Enjoy this list of some of the books we’ve read and enjoyed recently and a few all-time favorites.
Click on each book image to go to the Amazon page for ordering. You can also get these books from your local library or your independent bookstore down the street. The book descriptions are excerpts from Amazon except for the red remarks which are our own.
by Bernard Ollivier
This is the first book in a series of three which Jim loved.
Acclaimed journalist Bernard Ollivier begins his epic journey on foot across the Silk Road. Out of Istanbul is Ollivier’s stunning account of the first part of that 7,200-mile journey. The longest and perhaps most mythical trade route of all time, the Silk Road is in fact a network of routes across Europe and Asia, some going back to prehistoric times. During the Middle Ages, the transcribed travelogue of one Silk Road explorer, Marco Polo, helped spread the fame of the Orient throughout Europe.
The next two books in the series are:
Walking to Samarkand: The Great Silk Road from Persia to Central Asia
Walking to Samarkand is journalist Bernard Ollivier’s stunning account of the second leg of his 7,200-mile walk from Istanbul, Turkey, to Xi’an, China, along the Silk Road–the longest and perhaps most mythical trade route of all time.
Winds of the Steppe: Walking the Great Silk Road from Central Asia to China
Bernard Ollivier pushes onward in his attempt to become the first person to walk the entire length of the Great Silk Road. “A gripping account. More than just a travel story—this is a quest for the Other.”—Alexis Liebaert, L’Événement
And as if this were not enough, Bernard Ollivier rides again :
Back to Istanbul: On Foot across Europe to the Great Silk Road
After trekking nearly 7,500 miles, from Istanbul, Turkey to Xi’an, China, French travel writer Bernard Ollivier thought he had put the Silk Road behind him—enough for a retiree to rest on his laurels! But that was before meeting his now-partner-in-life Bénédicte Flatet. Why, she asked, hadn’t he set out from France? After all, the city of Lyon was once Europe’s silk capital. And so the adventure continues.
The true story of an ordinary woman living an extraordinary existence all over the world.
“Gelman doesn’t just observe the cultures she visits, she participates in them, becoming emotionally involved in the people’s lives. This is an amazing travelogue.” —Booklist
At the age of forty-eight, on the verge of a divorce, Rita Golden Gelman left an elegant life in L.A. to follow her dream of traveling the world and connecting with people in cultures all over the globe.
by Lynda Rutledge
A different kind of travel — back in history and across the United States. Who would have thought that a true story about transporting two giraffes across the country could be so immensely charming as well as heartbreaking? We loved it.
An emotional, rousing novel inspired by the incredible true story of two giraffes who made headlines and won the hearts of Depression-era America. “Few true friends have I known and two were giraffes…”
By Ben Coates
We love The Netherlands and feel right at home there. The people are friendly and practical and the countryside is very intriguing, especially for photographers.
Stranded at Schiphol airport, Ben Coates called up a friendly Dutch girl he’d met some months earlier. He stayed for dinner. He stayed for good.
A personal portrait of a fascinating people, a sideways history, and an entertaining travelogue, Why the Dutch are Different is the story of an Englishman who went Dutch. And loved it.
By Kim Dinan
After Kim and her husband decide to quit their jobs to travel around the world, they’re given a yellow envelope containing a check and instructions to give the money away. The only three rules for the envelope: Don’t overthink it; share your experiences; don’t feel pressured to give it all away.
Through Ecuador, Peru, Nepal, and beyond, Kim and Brian face obstacles, including major challenges to their relationship. As she distributes the gift to people she encounters along the way she learns that money does not have a thing to do with the capacity to give, but that giving―of ourselves―is transformational.
By Peter Hessler
This is still one of Jim’s all-time favorite authors. A lifelong traveler with a curious mind, an open heart, and a delightful way with words — equal amounts of daring and humility.
From the bestselling author of Oracle Bones and River Town comes the final book in his award-winning trilogy on the human side of the economic revolution in China.
Peter Hessler, whom the Wall Street Journal calls “one of the Western world’s most thoughtful writers on modern China,” deftly illuminates the vast, shifting landscape of a traditionally rural nation that, having once built walls against foreigners, is now building roads and factory towns that look to the outside world.
By Dan Kois
Inspiration and fun for every family that longs for more real “face time.” An “Eat, Pray, Love” family-style.
In this “refreshingly relatable” (Outside) memoir, perfect for the self-isolating family, Slate editor Dan Kois sets out with his family on a journey around the world to change their lives together.
In this eye-opening, heartwarming, and very funny family memoir, the fractious, loving Kois’ go in search of other places on the map that might offer them the chance to live away from home-but closer together. Over a year the family lands in New Zealand, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, and small-town Kansas. The goal? To get out of their rut of busyness and distractedness and to see how other families live outside the East Coast parenting bubble.
By Helen Russell
Supposedly the happiest people on earth. What’s their secret?
When she was suddenly given the opportunity of a new life in rural Jutland, journalist and archetypal Londoner Helen Russell discovered a startling statistic: the happiest place on earth isn’t Disneyland, but Denmark, a land often thought of by foreigners as consisting entirely of long dark winters, cured herring, Lego and pastries.
By Seth Kugel
An indispensable companion for rookie and veteran travelers alike that promises to revolutionize both how and why we vacation.
By captivating millions during his six-year, fifty-country tenure as the New York Times’s “Frugal Traveler,” Seth Kugel has become one of our most internationally beloved travel writers.
By Rick Steves
Beloved travel writer and TV personality who single-handedly has introduced the American public to the possibility and joys of travel and happens to live in our hometown of Edmonds, just north of Seattle. What a guy!
After 40+ years of writing about Europe, Rick Steves has gathered 100 of his favorite memories together into one inspiring collection: For the Love of Europe: My Favorite Places, People, and Stories.
With a brand-new, original introduction from Rick reflecting on his decades of travel, For the Love of Europe features 100 of the best stories published throughout his career. Covering his adventures through England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and more, these are stories only Rick Steves could tell.
By Donna Leon
This is the first book in a series of 29 and each year, we eagerly await Commissario Brunetti’s new adventures. Venice provides the backdrop for the lush film versions of these bestselling novels with excellent German actors and English subtitles. Look for them at your library or stream them on YouTube. The books are best read in order.
Beautiful and serene Venice is a city almost devoid of crime. But that is little comfort to Maestro Helmut Wellauer, a world-renowned conductor whose intermission refreshment comes one night with a little something extra in it–cyanide. For Guido Brunetti, vice-commissario of police and genius detective, finding a suspect isn’t a problem; narrowing the large and unconventional group of enemies down to one is. As the suave and pithy Brunetti pieces together clues, a shocking picture of depravity and revenge emerges, leaving him torn between what is and what should be right–and questioning what the law can do, and what needs to be done.
In the meantime, Donna Leon has crafted 32 books and we have read and loved them all. Her writing is great and the cases are pulled from the local news. Plus after many years of visiting “La Serenissima, we know almost all the places in Guido’s beloved Venice. Here’s the latest book in the series:
In the thirty-second installment of Donna Leon’s bestselling series, a connection to Guido Brunetti’s own youthful past helps solve a mysterious murder
By Martin Walker
Another favorite series that allows us to experience life (and culinary delights) in a small village in the Périgord, part of the Aquitaine region in southwest France.
Meet Benoît Courrèges, aka Bruno, a policeman in a small village in the South of France. He’s a former soldier who has embraced the pleasures and slow rhythms of country life. He has a gun but never wears it; he has the power to arrest but never uses it. But then the murder of an elderly North African who fought in the French army changes all that. Now Bruno must balance his beloved routines—living in his restored shepherd’s cottage, shopping at the local market, drinking wine, strolling the countryside—with a politically delicate investigation.
Martin Walker’s latest novel is number 16 in the series:
When an actor in a local play is attacked during a performance, Bruno must learn whether it was an accident, a crime of passion, or an assassination attempt with implications far beyond the small French village.
By Ferenc Máté
Any of Máté’s books about starting a new life and crafting world-renowned wines in Tuscany are wonderful. Check out his story and wines here. »
In this laugh-out-loud tale, two adventurers discover that rare combination: joy and success. Candace, a painter, and Ferenc, a writer, begin a new life near the hill town of Montalcino. They restore a thirteenth-century friary, plant fifteen acres of vines, build a winery, tame a runaway tractor, excavate an Etruscan village, and battle volcanic fermenting vats while learning from famous vintner neighbor Angelo Gaja the secrets of growing the best grapes and making superb, award-winning wine. This extraordinary tale will enrich the lives of travelers and wine lovers alike.
By Sarah Macdonald
India was hands down the most magical and wonderful place for us to visit (not the least for the loveliness of its people), but also the most challenging. What a kaleidoscope of experiences!
Holy Cow is Macdonald’s often hilarious chronicle of her adventures in a land of chaos and contradiction, of encounters with Hinduism, Islam and Jainism, Sufis, Sikhs, Parsis and Christians, and a kaleidoscope of yogis, swamis, and Bollywood stars. From spiritual retreats to war zones and New Delhi nightclubs, it is a journey that only a woman on a mission to save her soul, her love life—and her sanity—can survive.
By Bill Bryson
The first time I heard a friend laugh roaringly while reading this Bryson book, I was hooked on this irreverent traveler. Read all of his books!
In the early seventies, Bill Bryson backpacked across Europe—in search of enlightenment, beer, and women. He was accompanied by an unforgettable sidekick named Stephen Katz (who will be gloriously familiar to readers of Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods). Twenty years later, he decided to retrace his journey. The result is the affectionate and riotously funny Neither Here Nor There.