A good story – whether fiction or non – has the power to deepen our understanding, broaden our horizons, and inspire us. Time and again during my travels I’ve found that reading a book set in the country I’m visiting heightens my appreciation for the culture and land I see around me. The list below is not a comprehensive guide to books about any one location but hopefully it will inspire you. Some of these are suggestions I’ve received from trusted sources that I haven’t had an opportunity to read yet. If you have other recommendations, please get in touch!


Africa

Non-Fiction

Dark Star Safari: Overland From Cairo to Cape Town by Paul Theroux

Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa by Dambisa Moyo

All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes by Maya Angelou (Ghana)

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen, a/k/a Karen Blixen (Kenya)

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer (Malawi)

The Sheltering Desert by Henno Martin (Namibia)

The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony (South Africa)

Invictus by John Carlin (South Africa)

Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela (South Africa)

South From the Limpopo by Dervla Murphy (South Africa)

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah (South Africa)

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller (Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi)

Fiction

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (Congo)

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (Ethiopia)

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson (South Africa, Sweden)

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain (Kenya)


Americas

Non-Fiction

A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid (Antigua)

Wild by Cheryl Strayed (USA)

On the Water: Discovering America by Rowboat by Nathaniel Stone (USA)

Fiction

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (Canada, Japan)

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (Cuba)

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (Dominican Republic, USA)

Elsewhere in the Land of Parrots by Jim Paul (Ecuador, USA)

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (USA, Antarctica)

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson (USA)

 


Asia

Non-Fiction

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung (Cambodia)

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (India, Indonesia)

Bali Daze by Cat Wheeler (Indonesia)

The Secrets of Mariko: A Year in the Life of a Japanese Woman and Her Family by Elisabeth Bumiller (Japan)

Lost Japan by Alex Kerr (Japan)

The River of Lost Footsteps by Thant Myint-U (Myanmar)

Burmese Days by George Orwell (Myanmar)

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (Nepal)

Fiction

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (Afghanistan)

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (Afghanistan)

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner (Cambodia)

The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay (Cambodia)

A Cup of Light by Nicole Mones (China)

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda (India)

Lost Horizon by James Hilton (India but really Shangri-La)

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (Japan)

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (Japan)

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami (Japan) (I recommend just about anything by Murakami)

Across the Mekong River by Elaine Russell (Laos)

The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng (Malaysia)

The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh (Myanmar, Malaysia, India)

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker (Myanmar)

A Well-Tempered Heart by Jan-Philipp Sendker (Myanmar)

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (North Korea)

Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving (Philippines, Mexico)

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (Philippines)

Soy Sauce for Beginners by Kristin Chen (Singapore)

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (Singapore)

China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan (Singapore, Hong Kong, China)

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan (Singapore, Hong Kong)

The Beach by Alex Garland (Thailand)


Europe

Non-Fiction

Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard (France)

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway (France)

McCarthy’s Bar: A Journey of Discovery in Ireland by Pete McCarthy (Ireland)

Extra Virgin: A Young Woman Discovers the Italian Riviera, Where Every Month is Enchanted by Annie Hawes (Italy)

Fiction

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (Italy)

The Expats by Chris Pavone (Luxembourg)

Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (Netherlands)

Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson (Norway)

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (Sweden)

 


Oceania

Non-Fiction

The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling the Pacific by Paul Theroux (South Pacific)

In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson (Australia)

Fiction

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (French Polynesia)

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (New Zealand)


General Travel Reading

How to Shit Around the World: The Art of Staying Clean and Healthy While Traveling by Jane Wilson-Howarth

Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World by Rita Golden Gelman

The Longest Way Home: One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down by Andrew McCarthy

How Not to Travel the World by Lauren Juliff

Love With a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche

The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner

 


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