This post may contain affiliate links, which help us generate revenue so that we can keep producing awesome content for you. We want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for using our links and giving us the opportunity to share a sliver of this great big world with you.
As a full time attorney, I spend my days reading contracts and legal documents, so my idea of a relaxing evening does not consist of reading. However, the one time I do get through my reading lists is when I travel. Long flights are the best time for me to get through a good book, especially when there is no in seat entertainment on a 10 hour flight (yes, this is actually a thing – shout out to American Airlines). If you’re like me and are constantly on the hunt for good books for long flights, this list of Amazon’s top 10 bestselling travel books is exactly what you need. Whether you buy these books for yourself or gift them to a jetsetting friend for the holidays, this is your ultimate travel books list for December 2016. Happy Friday, and get your reading (shopping) on!
1. Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders
Atlas Obscura contains over 700 of the world’s most obscure places, including the dazzling caves in New Zealand and the baobob tree in South Africa so large that it houses a pub that comfortably seats 15 people. This book also includes bizarre events, such as the Baby Jumping Festival in Spain. Talk about getting off the beaten path and opening your eyes to the bizarre!
I would love to know how Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton came to discover these bizarre places and activities from around the world. As the #1 bestselling travel book on Amazon right now, it’s an easy sell for me to purchase this and give it a good read on my flight to St. Thomas in a few weeks.
2. National Parks of America: Experience America’s 59 National Parks (Lonely Planet)
Did you know that the United States has 59 national parks? Lonely Planet’s compilation of all the national parks in the U.S. is packed with beautiful photos, interesting statistics, and useful travel tips.
I’ve become somewhat of a hiking fanatic after Hope and I hiked Trolltunga in Norway this summer, and I would love to hike my way around these national parks in 2017. This book sounds like the perfect gift for any travelers in your life who love to hike and spend time outdoors.
3. Humans of New York: Stories
I actually purchased the book for Hope for Christmas a couple of years ago, and she loved it. Hope and I have both been following Humans of New York on Instagram for years and love reading their stories. This book is the perfect gift for someone who is curious about the way other people live, the different backgrounds that people come from, and the real struggles people living in their own neighborhood face daily. It is a truly inspirational book.
Another reason I really like this book is that it’s relatable. Regardless of where you come from or what stage of life you’re in, there will be stories you can relate to, either from your own life or from the lives of those around you.
4. Sextant: A Young Man’s Daring Sea Voyage and the Men Who Mapped the World’s Oceans
A sextant is a tool used to measure the angular distances between objects and especially for taking altitudes in navigation. I must admit I’ve never heard of this instrument before, but sailing expert David Barrie chronicles the history of the sextant and how it has saved the lives of many travelers over the years. The sextant also played a pivotal role in navigators’ ability to map the globe.
I think any traveler would find relevance and interest in this book, but it may be of special interest to those who regularly travel via sea, live by the sea, or enjoy water activities. I am quite fascinated by this tool after reading a brief description and would love to learn about its more detailed history and impact on travel.
5. The Christmas Wish
The Christmas Wish is a Nordic children’s book perfect for all ages. It’s a New York Times bestseller and has been compared to books such as The Polar Express and The Snowman.
The storyline revolves around a brave little girl named Anja who wanted to be one of Santa’s elves. She sets out to find Santa and meets a hodgepodge of animals along the way who all help her in one way or another to reach Santa. While this book may leave you bored quite quickly on a 10 hour flight, it is the perfect book to read by the fireplace during the holidays or to gift to a child who likes to travel.
6. Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the World’s Most Amazing Places
This compilation by National Geographic contains hundreds of the most breathtaking photos from around the world. The sights come from a variety of categories, including ancient monoliths, scenic islands, stunning artwork, electric cityscapes, white-sand seashores, rain forests, ancient cobbled streets, and both classic and innovative architecture. Each destinations comes with a full description including when to visit, what to eat, where to stay, what to do, etc.
Hope and I are longtime fans of National Geographic photography, as these world class photographers always manage to capture the most awe-inspiring shots. My backup dream job (second to becoming a musician in a band) is to become a photographer for National Geographic.
7. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
I’ve yet to read this book, but I have seen the movie, and it is incredibly inspiring. This autobiography chronicles Cheryl Strayed’s solo journey through over 1,000 miles of trails along the western coast of the U.S. After losing her mother to illness and ruining her marriage, Cheryl figured she had nothing to lose. So with no experience at all, she decided she would set out on this journey to clear her head and find herself.
Anyone who has traveled extensively at a younger age has experienced the feeling of trying to find yourself on your travels. Whether it’s running away from your problems at home or trying to reinvent yourself in a community where no one knows you, whether consciously or subconsciously, we all have in one way or another “found ourselves” through our travels. Cheryl takes it to the next level by hiking 1,000 miles alone to find herself. Her story is both thrilling and emotional, and it is no surprise that this book is an Amazon bestseller.
8. Won for the Ages: How the Chicago Cubs Became the 2016 World Series Champions
As someone who has called Chicago home for the last 5+ years, this book is near and dear to my heart. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the reason behind the biggest celebration in Chicago this year, the Chicago Cubs (baseball) won the World Series for the first time this year since 1908. Cubs fans have been waiting for this moment for a lifetime, and no Cubs fan alive today has witnessed a prior World Series win in their lifetime.
Whether you’re a Cubs fan, baseball enthusiast, or someone living abroad who’s never heard of the sport before, this is bound to be an interesting and exciting read for you.
9. The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain
In 1995, Bill Bryson took a trip to the UK, and 20 years later, he is a British citizen. Bill takes his readers on a journey to discover the UK and learn about how this small town Midwestern boy from the U.S. fell in love with his adopted country.
Many of us who’ve traveled have at least attempted to envision a life as an expat somewhere else. I know I certainly have. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be an expat in Scandinavia or practice law in Germany or spend a year hiking around Iceland. For Bill, his paradise was the UK, and in this book, he highlights all his favorite little places around the UK, including every hidden pub and village along the way.
10. Off the Beaten Path: A Travel Guide to More Than 1000 Scenic and Interesting Places Still Uncrowded and Inviting
If you’ve read some of our other blog posts, you know how we feel about large crowds in touristy places – we dread going anywhere near them! That’s why we try to incorporate at least one remote and unknown destination in our travels each year. This year it was the Faroe Islands.
This book is full of remote, off the beaten path destinations that are full of natural beauty and not boring at all! If you’re anything like us, this book will inspire major wanderlust in you and give you plenty of “secret” destinations to add to your travel itinerary in 2017.
Oh how cool! I will definetiley put a few on them on my wishlist for christmas! they all look so great and seem interesting! 🙂
Hope you get a few of them for Christmas! You’ll have to let me know how you like them if you do. 🙂
Great list for inspiration! I always start with the Rick Steves series, too. Love his twist and simple way of explaining the difficult. 🙂 That is partly what I do….research and then write travel guides for kids so the trip can be educational and they will remember it more!
We saw the movie based on the book Wild and it was really interesting. I definitely want to read the book now – the book is always better!! We always read kids’ books about our destination, too!
Rick Stieves is always a great place to start, Natalie! Glad you’re inspiring your kids’ wanderlust through reading! It’s so much more interesting traveling to a new place when you know some facts about it already. I really want to read Wild too – I’ve seen the movie probably 10 times now but also heard the book is better (as it normally is). If you get to the book before I do, you’ll have to let me know how you think it compares to the movie!
Thanks for sharing these ideas. I’ll definitely take some notes and look up these books 🙂 Humans of New York, I love the Facebook page and reading the stories told by the people photographed, so I’m sure I’ll love the book too 🙂
Aren’t those stories great?? I’m sure you’ll love the book as well, Kristine. It’s like having their whole facebook timeline in a tangible collection right in front of you. Thanks for reading. 🙂
Humans of New York is a great choice – and love the 1000 places that are uncrowded & inviting. I bet it is full of inspiration that would be super costly to my wallet but oh so worth it for the experience 🙂
Haha yes, that’s the trouble with reading books like that is it makes me want to book trips everywhere! Really great for my wanderlust but horrible for my wallet. But like you said, so worth it for the experience! 🙂
These are some great recommendations. They all seem like interesting reads. I may need to check some of these out.
I hope you do! Would love to hear how you like them.
Some of these looks great! I love #10 in particular! I need to start getting into e-books but there’s something I love so much about “proper books” – the only thing when travelling long term is it gets heavy to carry more than a few of them! 🙂 Happy travels, Ellie
I am all about finding off the beaten path places, so #10 is perfect! I agree with you about having traditional hardcopy books, and I usually do carry those when I travel, but it probably is easier to have an e-reader when you’re trying to carry more than one book. Happy travels Ellie!
Ah, books are so bad for my wallet, especially travel books! There are some great choices on this list. I love the HoNY books and the Atlas Obscura. Definitely going to check out the list of off the beaten path destinations as well.
Haha I can totally relate to that, Theresa. Would love to hear how you like the off the beaten path book & if that inspires you to book any trips to obscure destinations!
Great list of books there! I should set up some targets for reading travel books next year.
My favourite ones are On the Road – Jack Keruoac, The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton. Also Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and Chronicles of Narnia. The can be considered travel books, right? 😉
With their beautiful destinations (whether real or not) – why yes, of course! Will have to check out On the Road as I’ve heard great things about that. Hope you get through some of these books in 2017!
Love this post! I jotted down a couple titles to track down on Amazon. thanks. and– our family were expats in Spain for 12 years when our children were small. It was an amazing time, now back in California, we miss our friends and the unrushed life there. Fun to find your blog Diana!
Wow, that’s so great that you got to spend 12 years in Spain, Rhonda! Hope you do get to go back and experience the laid back lifestyle at some point, although California is pretty chill as well. Glad you found our blog, and thanks for reading! 🙂
Like you, travel is often the only time I get to read, that’s if so don’t count copious amount of Facebook post on my iPhone lol. Bill Bryson would be my pick out of these. I have read some of his other books and I love his humour.
The no. 10 would be my most favourite. Gonna check that out! 😀