14 Best Travel Books For 2023 – Fantastic Adventures and Memoirs
A good travel book should make you feel like you're right there with the author. And this journey starts when you read the first line of the book.
It could be your desire to see the world or perhaps the will to see things from a black person’s point of view. Perhaps you are black and you want to support black authors. Whatever your reason is, travel books will most likely take you on a journey that will not just cross borders and countries, but also different cultures.
What Kind of Traveling Books Do We Know?
- Traveling memoir
- Traveling and adventure fiction books
- History and culture focused travel books
There are the ones that tell you about the history and culture of the place. Then there are the guidebooks, they give you all the information you need to know about where you're going and what to do when you get there. Sometimes they can be a little dry, but they're definitely helpful.
Where Would you like to Travel?
Grabbing a backpack, jumping on a plane or in your car are not the only ways to travel. Sometimes, you can travel through someone else’s experiences. These famous books by black authors will show you a different way to travel to new places.
Here are a few good travel book titles that will satisfy your hunger for adventure, as well as what you should expect from them.
What Are The Best Travel Books?
SOLO: What running across mountains taught me about life, by Jenny Tough (2022)
Jenny is an endurance athlete known for cycling and running in some of the most challenging events. She has achieved accolades that are an inspiration to many outdoor adventurers.
In this book, she tells her story as more of a personal project for self-help and adventure. Her quest helps her come to terms with emotions and feelings that have been holding her back. Like every runner, she knows that running makes her feel better; like most of us, she knows that independently completing goals is empowering.
That’s why she sets an audacious objective- to run alone across mountain ranges on different continents. She chronicles her journey across South America, Asia, Africa, Oceania, North America, and Europe. She learns about resilience, self-esteem, bravery, and a lot more.
Through Jenny, you will see that setting out to do things solo can be encouraging, refreshing, and joyful for you to find confidence, inspiration, strength, and self-belief.
Jalan-Jalan, by Margo Weinstein (2022)
Margo Weinstein combined wanderlust and motherhood. For decades, she took time to escape her demanding legal practice by whitewater rafting, kayaking, climbing, and trekking in different regions. She got a son only to find herself on a Disney cruise in the kiddie pool. She was looking for a new path, a jalan-jalan, to help herself accommodate motherhood and appease her wanderlust. Margo dragged her son to a different side of the world and moved to Shanghai, then to Bali.
This travel book will have you relish her exploits as she surfaces under a capsized raft in Pakistan and battles baboons in Zimbabwe. As a parent, you will appreciate her efforts in exploring the world with a young son and be amazed by her expatriate life in a villa with harsh daily realities.
Jalan-Jalan is a travel book that will inspire you to start a journey of finding your path and taking a lifetime trip.
Riverman, by Ben McGrath (2022)
Riverman is a true story about Dick Conant, a hero who canoed American rivers for over two decades and vanished near the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Dick paddled and covered rivers like the Mississippi, Hudson, Ohio, Yellowstone, and countless smaller tributaries. These excursions were epic deeds of perseverance, planning, and physical courage.
During his travels, Dick collected people and created a vast network of acquaintances and friends. These people would forever remember how brilliant and charming Dick was even after one encounter. Ben was one of them. When Dick’s canoe washed up after their meet-up, Ben set out to look for the people Dick had touched.
This travel book is a moving portrait of a fascinating and complex man who was charismatic and troubled at similar levels. Dick struggled with self-doubt and mental illness and couldn’t find himself a stable life. He traveled alone but thrived on connections.
Bowing to Elephants, by Mag Dimond (2019)
Bowing to Elephants is Mag’s travel memoir as she looks for love and authenticity. She eventually understands herself as a world citizen by wandering the globe. As Mag travels, she sees herself more clearly while gazing into the feathery eyes of an African elephant. She looks for answers to some of her old questions about Vietnam and Cambodia's landscape.
Mag hails from San Francisco, and she becomes a travel junkie since she feels unloved. She is on a journey to find herself and avoid the tragic fate of her alcoholic and narcissistic mother. Images of her childhood loneliness and the need to learn more about her world haunt her.
Mag journeys to far-flung places in chaotic India, nostalgic Paris streets, cold Venice, the silent Bhutan mountains, and the temples of Burma. Eventually, she comes to terms with the death of her absent mother and finds peace and her authentic self in Buddhist practice.
Lost in the Valley of Death, by Harley Rustad (2022)
India enthralls westerners as an exotic getaway and, at times, a true pilgrimage for finding spiritual revelation. Justin Shetler was one of them.
He quit his job to go on a global journey across the US, South America, the Philippines, Nepal, and Thailand, looking for meaningful encounters and authentic experiences. All the while, he documented his travels on Instagram.
He got a massive following due to his magnetic personality and enigmatic character; many even began to live imaginatively through his adventures. Justin never rested in his pursuit of exploration, and his experiences drove him to pursue more significant risks and challenges.
In 2016 he went to the Parvati Valley in the Indian Himalayas- a remote place with the people highly involved in the mystical tradition but obscured by danger and darkness. Justin spent time studying under an Indian holy man and lived while meditating in a cave. He later started a “spiritual journey,” one he would never return from to find himself.
This story illustrates how we sometimes indulge in the most extreme ways to look for fulfillment and authenticity.
Trailblasian, by T.K. McLennon (2014)
This book takes adventure to another level. It is not necessarily a travel guide, but a real life journey. From many points of view, this is the experience of a black woman living in the eastern part of Asia. It is an anthology that will open your eyes and help you see things from a completely different point of view.
There are no doubts about it. Asia is a political power. It has a powerful economic influence. All these things push the continent forward and its popularity keeps going up. It is an attractive market as well, so there is something for everyone in there. However, it is not the usual suspect making it happen though.
This travel memoir tells the story of 17 different women – 17 women of color who have decided to stand out in the crowd and establish a new world in East Asia. Their stories are well detailed and provide insights that most people would not even think about – a new culture, a travel story and a struggle to survive.
Behind the Mountains, by Edwidge Danticat (2002)
YA Travel Fiction
This is one of the most successful black travel books out there and for some good reason. It is a first-person book targeting the immigrant lifestyle in the USA. The book tells Celiane’s story. Her family’s struggles are explained in the small details and not just in New York, but also in Haiti.
The action begins around the election time. Haiti is not the safest place in the world and bombs are suddenly going off in the capital. Celiane and her family live in the rural area of Haiti. Visiting the capital, they are almost killed. They see everything with new eyes then and decide to reunite with the head of the family in New York.
New York is a shock for Celiane. There is concrete everywhere. Winters are cold and harsh. But she is reunited with her father. From this point on, the struggle is about survival in a completely different society – school violence, learning problems, an unusual culture and social difficulties.
Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah (2016)
This is a black man’s memoir and takes place throughout the apartheid age in South Africa, as well as the struggle that followed a new sense of freedom. Trevor came from a mixed family – a white father and a black mother. Back then, this act was punishable – about five years in prison. He was born in crime.
During his childhood, he was often kept indoors. His mother did her best to keep him hidden. Once the tyrannical government reached to an end, the two embarked upon a new adventure – an adventure that changed their lives forever. This was the adventure associated with freedom and liberty.
Dealing with a problematic childhood due to the harsh government, the hidden boy grew into a restless teenager. He knew that he lived in a world where he was not supposed to be. The story also tells the relationship with a mother who would do anything for her child, as well as their ride to freedom.
Stay With Me, by Ayobami Adebayo (2018)
Travel Adventure Fiction
Stay With Me is one of the most famous travel books by black authors and tells the story from two different points of view. The story follows a marriage set in Nigeria. Both the husband and the wife get to express their ideas and opinions in order to keep their marriage going.
Akin and Yejide fell in love while pursuing education in university. They got married straight away. During those times, Akin was supposed to get a few different wives. However, the couple agreed that polygamy is not something they might be interested in, so they completely left the idea behind.
Years later, Yejide was still struggling to get pregnant. She thought that there is still plenty of time, until one day… Her family turned to her door with a woman. They introduced her as Akin’s second wife. Furious about it, Yejide knew that she had to get pregnant to keep her husband – a story of emotion and sacrifice.
Here Comes the Sun, by Nicole Dennis-Benn (2017)
This is the type of book that will make you want to travel to Jamaica and not necessarily for the beautiful beaches and clear waters, but also for the unique lifestyle and culture. This book captures the unique dialect of Jamaicans and brings a unique story enhanced with pristine beaches and turquoise waters.
Margot is pushing hard to get her younger sister into school. Both girls were taught to trade their sexuality for money. However, Margot tries to protect her sister Thandi from this fate. Things change one day, when plans for a new hotel hit the community. For Margot, this is an opportunity to start a career, but also to admit her love for another woman.
The story becomes more emotional as you go through it, but it also underlines the struggles of a different world. To most people out there, Jamaica is a paradise. To locals, it brings in a series of burdens that people most confront in order to survive and hide their scars.
Ghana Must Go, by Taiye Selasi (2013)
Kweky Sai used to be a reputable surgeon, but also a failed husband. One evening, he dies just in front of his home in Accra. The news changed a lot of people’s lives – including the life of his family members, who he abandoned years ago. The family must come together and deal with an unexpected tragedy.
From some points of view, Ghana Must Go is a story of love – unconditional love and its power over those involved. From other points of view, it is a testament to a beautiful and electric country. The family takes a circuitous journey from one point to another. The surgeon’s children also need to gather together at their mother’s new, yet enigmatic home.
Each family member has some secrets. Everyone has scars and everyone needs to hide a few things. While the story shows how families are scattered all over the world, it also shows that people are less likely to ever forget where they come from and who they truly are.
In Pursuit of Jefferson, by Derek Baxter (2022)
If you fancy travel books with a fusion of historical nonfiction, you will greatly enjoy In Pursuit of Jefferson. This travel memoir is rich with historical detail, a boundless heart, and a sense of humor.
Thomas Jefferson was once a broken man after losing his wife and being stung by a political scandal. All he wanted was to redeem and remake himself. To do that, Thomas chose to travel. He wandered through Europe, where he learned and saw much. That is how he brought his knowledge back home, rose to power, and shaped a nation.
More than twenty decades later, Derek stumbled on Jefferson’s travel guide- Hints for Americans Traveling Through Europe, while navigating a personal crisis. According to Derek, no one else would offer good advice like an American founding father. He used the hints of Jefferson’s travel guide and followed Jefferson through different countries learning innumerable lessons. He came to understand Thomas better through his life-changing Europe trip.
Derek explores how moving forward starts by first looking back. He confronts some of the uncomfortable and relevant issues about Jefferson’s slavery involvement and his flaws with honesty.
From Scratch, by Tembi Locke (2019)
From Scratch is a memoir about love, starting a family and finding home. To many others, it is a story about Sicily – it is the type of book that will make you want to travel to Sicily and simply wander around those cobbled narrow streets in the attempt to discover long lost secrets.
This is one of those travel books that will give you good vibes, but also make you share a tear. Tembi and Saro fell in love the moment they saw each other in Florence, but his family would never approve a black American woman – especially an actress.
The two move on and begin a new life in Los Angeles. Everything is perfect until Saro is diagnosed with cancer – that was the moment his family turned back to him. In Sicily, things begin with a death or a marriage. For Tembi, she had both. Her story is about travel, love and loss in an emotional manner.
The Woman Next Door, by Yewande Omotoso (2017)
Travel Adventure Fiction
Marion and Hortensia are neighbors. They have many things in common, but they disagree on pretty much everything. One of them is white and the other one is black. They are both widows, but they are also successful – impressive careers for both of them.
More importantly, they are both sworn enemies. They attack each other whenever they have the opportunity. Sure, they are both over 80 years old, but they still share the same hatred – things are never going to work out.
One day, something happens and the two women are forced together. Are they going to change at all? Will they develop an unusual friendship after so many years of hatred? Is it too late to change anything? There is only one way to find out.
Final Thoughts on the Best Travel Books
Bottom line, these travel books and memoirs will give you a more detailed insight into different cultures out there, circumstances and countries. They will show you life through a traveler’s eyes in a different society, but they may also trigger your thirst for a travel adventure.
Check out our favorite memoirs of all time!
My profession is online marketing and development (10+ years experience), check my latest mobile app called Upcoming or my Chrome extensions for ChatGPT. But my real passion is reading books both fiction and non-fiction. I have several favorite authors like James Redfield or Daniel Keyes. If I read a book I always want to find the best part of it, every book has it's unique value.