10 Outstanding Travel Memoirs to Read on Vacation

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Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had my nose in a book. I remember the summer I turned nine my school had a summer reading challenge and the goal was to read 10 books. I read 78. (Neeeerd.)

And while I read lots of genres, nothing enthralls me like a good travel memoir.

Summer is coming, the season of languid poolside reading sessions, so I wanted to provide some reading material for my fellow bookworms. More specifically, I wanted to share my favorite travel memoirs.

Travel Memoirs

Mother Tongue: My Family’s Globe-Trotting Quest to Dream in Mandarin, Laugh in Arabic, and Sing in Spanish

Into Thin Air: My Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding (sooo funny!)

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

A House in the Sky

A Year in Provence

Notes from a Small Island

In a Sunburned Country

Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe

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Other Incredible Memoirs:

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

Call the Midwife (a three-part series and also a fantastic BBC show available on Netflix!)

The Year of Magical Thinking

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Also I recommend almost anything by Bill Bryson, Joan Didion, David Sedaris, or Cheryl Strayed – they’re all incredible memoirists.

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On My List!

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls

At the Crossroads of Should and Must

Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City one Step at a Time

Epilogue

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace

Braving It: A Father, a Daughter, and an Unforgettable Journey Into the Alaskan Wild

What’s on your summer reading list? Are you a memoir fan or more of a fiction reader?

Fellow bookworms/francophiles – check out this post, too! The 10 Best Books to Read Before Visiting Paris

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

20 thoughts on “10 Outstanding Travel Memoirs to Read on Vacation”

  1. Great list! I also appreciate a good memoir! Always looking for new reads! I’ve never been able to get myself to like Bill Bryson’s stuff, I just don’t care for his writing style but there are some other really interesting reads here! Thanks!

  2. Ah so much good stuff here! My goodreads list just grew by a bunch of books. Thanks for the recommendations! I read Bill Bryson’s book about the Appalachian Trail and it just did not catch my attention. I might have to try with another one of his. I know you’ve got a couple on here, which would you recommend to really fall in love with his writing?

  3. a few of these were already on my list, and i’ve now added even more! i listened to “let’s explore diabetes with owls” during a road trip a few summers ago, and it was amazing. i’m a huge fan of david sedaris, and it was great having him read the stories. also, i just picked up don george’s “the way of wanderlust” a few days ago and am excited to crack it open!

  4. Loved “What I was Doing While You Were Breeding!” Such a funny read and it went by so quickly. As I’m writing this I’m realizing I actually let a friend borrow my copy and haven’t seen it since!

    Love these recommendations. What in particular do you recommend from Joan Didion? Was looking for something from her the other day.

    Cheers,

    Nikki
    http://www.thepinthemapproject.com

    • What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding was hilarious – I would love to befriend the author. I really loved The Year of Magical Thinking – it was a sad but moving and beautiful memoir.

  5. If you are traveling to Italy this summer, why not a short “Just the Phrases” type book that’s got fun comments and tips about travel? Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases is small and lightweight and fits easily into a pocket or purse. http://www.amazon.com/Conversational-Italian-Travelers-Restaurant-Expressions/dp/0990383423?ie=UTF8&keywords=Cionversational%20Italian%20Just%20the%20Important%20Phrases&qid=1464611610&ref_=sr_1_sc_1&sr=8-1-spell

  6. As a librarian, I wholeheartedly approve of said list :) I’ll generally alternate between reading serious, dry historical nonfiction and then more fun travel and food narratives :)

    Turn Right at Machu Picchu was fabulous (I read it before I visited there so should definitely read it again sometime). I’m not sure if you’re familiar with her and they’re not necessarily memoirs, but Polly Evans has some great travel narratives (It’s Not About the Tapas and On a Hoof and a Prayer are my favorites).

    I also loved these two more traditional memoirs-Es Cuba by Lea Aschkenas and Kinky Gazapacho by Lori Tharps. Happy reading!

  7. Thanks for this list! There are quite a few travel memoirs I haven’t heard of, and some that I really want to read – like What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding! I’m doing a project this year where I’m reading twelve different travel memoirs… but they’re all older ones, like I Married Adventure or Innocents Abroad. Maybe next year I’ll have to do it again, with newer ones like these!

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