Travel book reviews help us expand our understanding of places we visit. Yes, we can read a travel guidebook, and they’re essential when we’re researching a destination, but there’s nothing like travel literature to get us under the skin of a place.
Travelogue books allow us to live a place through its character, its dialogue. While there are plenty of book review blogs out there – our purpose is not to compete – this section specializes in the best travel inspiration books, the ones that will make you sigh and swoon and wish you were on the plane, ready to come face to face with all those colorful characters you’re seeing in print.
And the books are (at least the vast majority) written either by or for women, in keeping with the spirit of this website.
Suroor Alikhan, whose love of reading and international background makes her the perfect choice to review women’s travel books, was born in India and started traveling as a one-year-old. Parts of her childhood were spent in Baghdad, Ankara, Santiago de Chile, and Kabul (long before some of these places became trouble spots). She now lives in Geneva.
Reading has always been one of her passions. “Ever since I realized that words opened up pathways to different worlds, I have been an avid and voracious reader,” Suroor said. “It’s like having my own collection of magic carpets.”
Suroor is very much old school – she won’t read books electronically and as a result, the walls of her home are hidden by years of collecting good travel books.
Her tastes are eclectic but in our case, she’s focused on women’s travel, anywhere, everywhere. We’ve divided up her reviews into continents to make them easier to find and who knows, you may uncover the best travel book within these lines.
The tradition of women’s travel writing on the continent is venerable and mature, dating back centuries when few women traveled independently. Some of the best European travel books took root in the 17th and 18th centuries, and European writers – and topics – are among the most plentiful.
Here are some of the best books for travel lovers about Europe and its countries.
While there are plenty of English-language travel books regaling us with tales of North America and the Caribbean, there are fewer about Latin America by Latin Americans, in large part due to the language. Many English-language writers do visit other parts of the Americas, and an increasing number of Spanish-language writers are seeing their works in translation.
What follows are some of the more popular travel books about the region of the Americas, both north and south.
by Ann Vanderhoof
Imagine giving up your everyday life—the constant running against the clock, crazy working hours, cold grey winters—and sailing to the Caribbean. Read more…
by Kate McCahill
African travel writers are always a delight, especially when they write about culture and society through a travel lens. Many African writers are bi-cultural, having been born in Africa or from African parents, and brought up in different cultures. I remember thinking the best travel book I’d ever read about Nigeria was Half a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which finally explained the Biafra conflict to me in a way no history book had managed to – and did it through fiction. Not quite a travel book in the traditional sense, it was nonetheless firmly a book about the place.
Some of the following are perhaps more traditional examples of the travel book genre, but each is fascinating and enlightening.
Some of the latest travel books to come out are about Asia, especially the sub-continent, where Indian women are spearheading the next wave of solo travel. There are plenty of Asia general travel books on the market; while some deal with journeys, a popular theme in Asia, others are about specific countries or regions.
Journeys don’t always fit into specific geographies. Some cross regions and continents, while others are more inspirational, are simply the best books to travel with if you’re trying to slake your wanderlust. We look at some of these best world travel books, along with others that piggy-back between places or themes, or that don’t fit into any other region.
We know that travel writing has long been a genre dominated by male writers, usually white, in spite of the fact that there have always been women travelers and women travel writers, diverse and from many parts of the world. This is an attempt to raise their profile and show off some of the wonderful work being undertaken by us women (although on a few rare occasions, male writers do make a rare appearance). Women’s travel writing can be inspirational and open a path for others to follow.
Suroor Alikhan, the official travel book reviewer for Women on the Road, publishes the book blog Talking about Books. She also enjoys good food, music, movies and of course travel.