People love to read on vacation. All of those long flights, lazy afternoons on the beach and languorous days are perfect for stretching out with a book. It’s the best time for light, escapist reading. During the winter I immerse myself in serious novels and long reads but when it gets super hot out I want something fun and maybe a little exotic.
I’ve had a handful of people ask me for my summer travel reading recommendations. Which is a little ironic because I haven’t been on an actual vacation where you just sit around and relax in years. I do read pretty obsessively all year round though, so I still feel qualified to recommend some of my very favorite travel memoirs.
I’m actually quite picky about travel writing. No endless floral descriptions of distant lands and beautiful souls, I need personality and a little bit of realism to keep me interested. I like books with concrete story lines, strong personalities and a sense of humor. I think all of these fit the bill:
Love With a Chance of Drowning– Torre DeRoche
Torre is a fellow travel blogger who is a legend (in my mind at least) for turning her self-published memoir into a major book and movie deal. I’ve been wanting to read her book for awhile and really enjoyed it.
This painfully honest and often funny memoir chronicles Torre’s decision to sail halfway around the world with a handsome Argentinean man she barely knew (despite a deathly fear of water). It’s got romance, adventure and only a few sharks.
Wild– Cheryl Strayed
I already reviewed this book in my last reading round-up but I honestly can’t recommend it enough. If you thought Eat Pray Love was too navel-gazing (I personally liked it but I’m a pretty sappy, navel-gazing kind of gal) then you’ll enjoy Strayed’s no-nonsense writing style. Definitely one of the best books I read last year, and one of my favorite pieces of autobiographical writing of all time.
Marco Polo Didn’t Go There– Rolf Potts
This isn’t so much a memoir as a collection of some of Potts most interesting articles, but I’m including it because when it comes to telling interesting, humorous and insightful travel stories Potts is the best. He’s a pre-cursor to the modern travel blogger, but probably a lot more talented than most of us.
My favorite story in the collection is about Potts trying to sneak onto the set of The Beach in Thailand, but he also tries to pick up girls at a tantric sex course in India, is drugged and robbed in Turkey and more. All of the stories are coupled with endnotes that explain the reality behind the writing. A must for all aspiring travel writers.
The Lost Girls– Jennifer Bagget, Holly C Corbett, Amanda Pressner
Another book by travel bloggers gone good, I actually reviewed this book in the very early months of my website. Unlike a lot of straight around-the-world travel narratives, this one is actually personal and interesting.
The Lost Girls chronicles a year long round the world trip taken by three girl friends and the romantic, thought-provoking and life-altering things that happen to them along the way. Told from varying perspectives this is a really inspiring read.
A Year in the World– Frances Mayes
Personally I prefer the movie version of Under the Tuscan Sun, but I found a lot of inspiration in the follow up book. After settling in Tuscany with her cute Italian husband, Mayes spends a month each in a variety of dream destinations: Portugal, Northern Africa, Greece etc. The result is some really sumptuous travel writing that will have you dying to move to Europe.
A Year Without Make-Up– Stephanie Yoder
Shameless self-promotion, I’m not above it. I won’t even begin to act like I can compete with the talented authors listed above, but I am pretty proud of my first major writing effort. It follows the story of how I decided to quit my job and travel the world, accidentally fell in love and explored Asia.
Do You Have a Favorite Travel Memoir?
Note: These links are affiliate links, so if you buy one of these books it probably won’t make me rich but it will help me feed my growing ebook addiction.