Kate J Hollingsworth

art + travel + photography

10 Travel Books to Read in Quarantine

Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world. -Voltaire

While we keep social isolating, I’m turning to movies, podcasts, and books for a little escapism without leaving home. Thought I’d put together 10 Travel Books to Read in Quarantine – a mix of some of my current reads and trusty faves. In no particular order, here are some travel-themed books I am loving.

All links below will take you to IndieBound.org – a site that will help you order a book from either your local bookseller or via Bookshop.org, where your purchase will help independent booksellers. Stay healthy, read local.

1. She Explores: Stories of Life-Changing Adventures on the Road and in the Wild by Gale Straub

A collection of inspiring female stories

Currently reading and enjoying this compilation of stories from over 40 woman who each, in their own way, are explorers. I love the chance to read vignettes from many different lives, and each story along the way is accompanied by amazing photography. And since this is a collection of stories, photography, and practical outdoor adventure advice – it feels like the kind of book I can put down and pick back up without feeling like I’ve lost my place. Plus, it seems like something I can keep for years and enjoy coming back to occasionally.

And did I mention the amazing photography? 🙂

2. Dishoom: From Bombay with Love by Shamil Thakrar

Part cook book, part love letter

Dishoom is technically a cookbook and full of recipes, but I’m including it on this list because it is organized as though you are taking a tour of Bombay (as the author says). My husband picked up this book in London after dinner at a Dishoom restaurant location there. The dinner was incredible, and the one recipe he’s cooked for us at home so far was also great. If you (like me) have never been to India, this cookbook/tour/history guide/love letter will make you want to go.

3. I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America after 20 Years by Bill Bryson

Who says you can’t go home?

Of course, there are lots of choices of Bill Bryson works that could go on a travel reading list. I chose this one because I think it is fascinating to see the USA through the eyes of someone who knows it well, but at the same time hasn’t lived there day-to-day for 20 years. It’s a fish-out-of-water story, but where the water is actually home.

4. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

Classic adventure tale

This classic is a quick read adventure story that is still fun to read over 100 years after it was published. It definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat, reading through each scene and cliffhanger quickly to find out what will happen next.

5. Paris I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down by Rosecrans Baldwin

Travelogue with a dose of realism

Baldwin’s book is a travelogue of a different flavor – that is, a heavy dose of reality. In this story, we get deep insight into the office culture of Balwin’s work in France, the logistic trials that come with moving abroad, and his struggle to find the joy in the city as he adjusts to his new life. In between the beautiful sights and experiences of Paris, Baldwin shows us life – real life – in a way that feels familiar.

6. Dinner with Persephone: Travels in Greece by Patricia Storace

Travelogue with a dose of history

This book was my gateway into falling in love with travel writing. I first read as part of a required reading list when I studied abroad in Greece back in 2009 (more than 10 years ago!) and it felt like finding an old friend I had forgotten I knew. While this book is set is Greece and frames itself around Storace’s time there, it weaves in a lot of Greece’s history throughout the ages. If you love history, you’ll love the exposition, but if history isn’t your thing, you might find yourself skipping ahead.

7. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Travelogue with a dose of hobbits

Ok, I had to include this one. What better way to mentally escape than to immerse yourself in the great fantasy epic that is Lord of the Rings?

And bonus: once you’ve finished reading, you can marathon the movies. 😉

8. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Multi-generational tale of a Korean family

I will always recommend this book.

This is a long-read saga that traces several generations of a Korean family that finds itself in Japan in the early 20th century. I’m including it on this travel books list due to the beautiful prose describing the land, people, and places that form the settings of the family’s world. Lee paints an intimate portrait of the era.

9. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by CS Lewis

A quest through Narnia

As a kid, Dawn Treader was my favorite of the Narnia adventures. Re-reading this romp from childhood is a particular kind of nostalgic escapism, and so it is quick and satisfying to read as an adult.

Island-hopping through Narnia is a great way to spend a couple of afternoons.

10. The Odyssey by Homer

Old school cool

Thought I would include one of the original travelogues, Homer’s The Odyssey. If you’ve never read it, or if you haven’t read it since a school assignment ages ago – it might be time to give it another try. Reading The Odyssey for fun is surprisingly rewarding. It might be just the hint of a classicist in me, but I love following along with the trials and triumphs of Odysseus and his crew.

If you are looking for something with a more modern spin to try after The Odyssey – I love both Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad and Madeline Miller’s Circe as fresh takes on these other characters from The Odyssey.