Every time I open Instagram it seems like 10 more of my friends have booked Eurotrips or backpacking excursions through Southeast Asia. As much as I’m happy and excited for all of the people I know who are off on amazing holidays, it can be disheartening to know that I probably won’t be able to jet off anywhere anytime soon because of work commitments, financial restrictions, and other responsibilities.
As the colder months approach, I’ve taken to using books as my escape. Since I can’t book a flight to a tropical destination, I read novels and non-fiction about adventure, travel, and self-discovery. I wanted to compile a list of books that might make you feel a bit better as you settle in for a cold winter (if you’re in Canada like me) or just a long span of time where you won’t be able to travel or explore.
Here are my top ten recommendations for treating wanderlust:
1. It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario – Award-winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario chronicles her life of shooting in war zones in this incredible book about hard work, relationships, and motherhood. From Mexico City to Istanbul to Afghanistan, Addario will take you on an unbelievable reading journey. The real magic of It’s What I Do is that, while it will definitely spark the travel bug inside of you, it will also remind you of the comforts and happiness of being home. Read my full review here.
2. The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston – In one of the most breathtaking modern adventure stories, Douglas Preston takes us inside his trip to the Amazon to help a team of archeologists and documentarians find a mythical lost city. The Lost City of the Monkey God is a harrowing story of survival, disease, and scientific discovery. You’ll be both motivated to head into the outdoors and terrified to leave your house by the end. Read my full review here.
3. The Glass Castle & Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls – In her memoir of an unconventional childhood, successful journalist and writer Jeanette Walls takes readers on an adventure like no other. Moving across the United States with her parents and siblings, Jeanette gets to experience different ways of life and new places, but misses out on the happiness and comfort of having a place to consistently call home. Her second book — a “true life novel” called Half Broke Horses — focuses on her grandmothers’ life as a school teacher, wife, and mother. It reads like an adventure-filled western.
4. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter – In his epic, cinematic novel about a tiny town on the Amalfi Coast in Italy, Jess Walter tells the story of a young actress whose dreams went up in flames and the young Italian man who loved her. Crossing continents and decades, Beautiful Ruins is a heartfelt novel about Old Hollywood, romance, and the realities of being alive. You’ll be on the internet booking tickets to Italy by the time you’re through with this novel. Read my full review here.
5. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple – This cute, quirky and absolutely original novel about the disappearance of an eccentric Seattle mother made me eager to see the world. The book is told by Bee Branch, daughter of reclusive matriarch Bernadette who one day up and disappears from their West Coast home. With much of the novel revolving around the family’s planned trip to Antarctica, Where’d You Go Bernadette will feed your traveling fire and make you curious about a corner of the world most people don’t think of as a travel destination. Read my full review here.
6. Wild by Cheryl Strayed – Mourning the death of her mother and the dissolution of her marriage to a man she genuinely loves, Cheryl Strayed sets off to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s a brutal and physically gruelling journey, and a potentially dangerous one for a woman doing it alone. Alternating between her present-day journey and the events that led up to her departure, Cheryl Strayed paints a startlingly honest portrait of grief, addiction, and healing. While it’s a book filled with adventure and travel, Wild is also a well-written and inspiring story. Read my full review here.
7. On The Road by Jack Kerouac. Kerouac’s famed Roman a Clef about a road trip across America is the ultimate treatment for wanderlust. From San Francisco to New York City to Chicago, you’ll get to know the United States in a way you never knew was possible. On The Road is one of the most prolific and popular road trip stories of all time.
8. Alice Isn’t Dead by Joseph Fink. In the wonderfully weird and completely kooky novel adaptation of his hit podcast, Joseph Fink takes us on a trip across America with a long haul truck driver searching for her missing wife. The novel’s main character Keisha visits so many cities and towns throughout her journey that you’ll be frantically Googling all of the settings, desperate to know more about historic cities like Savannah, Georgia. Read my full review here.
9. The Little Books of Hygge & The Little Book of Lykke. Bring the cozy culture of Copenhagen and other Danish cities to your home with these how-to manuals from the happiest countries on earth. Written by the CEO of the Happiness Institute, there is no one on earth who could provide a better interpretation of what it means to be Danish and enjoy cozy, comfortable things like candles, warm blankets and weekend cottage getaways. Even if you can’t get on a plane and go to Scandinavia, these books will at least let you recreate it in your everyday life.
10. The Honey Farm by Harriet Alida Lye. Being the proud Canadian that I am, I wouldn’t have been able to complete this list without adding a little bit of my homeland into it. In Harriet Alida Lye’s stunning debut novel, her main character travels from Halifax, Nova Scotia to the beautiful and somewhat barren lands of Northern Ontario to live at an artists’ retreat. Set on a beautiful honey farm in the countryside, this thrilling literary novel will make you desperate for a cottage weekend. See my full review here.
BONUS: My favourite adventure writer is JON KRAKAUER.
Krakauer is the authoritative figure on all things adventure-related. He is the author behind Into The Wild, which tells the story of a young man who packs up and leaves behind his structured life for one of adventure, uncertainty and spontaneity. Krakauer also wrote Into Thin Air about his experience climbing Mount Everest and the tragic accident that befell his climbing partners on that trip. His book Where Men Win Glory tells the harrowing tale of an NFL player who quit the sport to join the military after 9/11.