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Women's Best Travel Book Reviews from Around the World

by Suroor Alikhan

Women on the Road
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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.

travel book review writer Suroor AlikhanWomen on the Road's book reviewer, Suroor Alikhan, with Geneva as backdrop

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 travelling 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.

best travel books: europe

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 Europe 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.

One More Croissant for the Road
by Felicity Cloake

Felicity Cloake, inspired by the Tour de France, decides to tour  with a difference: She would cycle around France and eat a croissant a day, searching for the perfect one.  Read more...

Explore Europe on Foot
by Cassandra Overby

This book is about slow travel, an alternative to rushing around and trying to see everything in a rush. This is all about taking the time to savour the experience. Read more...

BEST TRAVEL BOOKS: THE AMERICAS

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.

An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude
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...

Patagonian Road: A Year Alone through Latin America
by Kate McCahill

Inspired by Paul Theroux’s travel book, The Old Patagonian Express, Kate McCahill decides to take a year off and travel through Latin America. Read more...

middle east and AFRICA TRAVEL BOOK REVIEWS

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 place.

Some of the following are perhaps more traditional examples of the travel book genre, but each is fascinating and enlightening.

All Strangers are Kin: Adventures in Arabic and the Arab World
by Zora O’Neill

With media coverage of the region full of images of war and repression, and Arabic increasingly equated with terrorists, Zora O’Neill provides another perspective. Read more...

The Imported Ghanaian
by Alba Kunadu Sumprim

Alba Kunadu Sumprim’s parents are Ghanaian, but she was born and raised in London. By moving back to Ghana she thought she would fit in - reality is never that simple. Read more...

ASIA TRAVEL BOOK REVIEWS

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.

Land of the Dawn-Lit Mountains
by Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent

Researching a BBC documentary in India, Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent meets someone whose stories of the Seven Sisters—the lesser-known Indian northeast—fascinate her. Read more...

Wild by Nature: From Siberia to Australia
by Sarah Maquis

“Put on your shoes. We’re going walking.” And walk she does, through Mongolia, Siberia, southern Australia... For three years, with only maps — no GPS! Read more...

BEST BOOK REVIEWS FROM THE REST OF THE WORLD

Journeys don't always fit into specific geographies. Some cross regions and continents, while others are more inspirational, 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.

The Travel Gods Must Be Crazy
by Sudha Mahalingam

“How did I turn into that unwonted specimen—a middle-aged, middle-class mother of two… travelling solo, long before solo travel became fashionable among Indian women?” Read more...

Zaatar Days, Henna Nights
by Maliha Masood

Fed up with her tech job, Maliha Masood decides travel will bring some colour into her monochrome life. A mix of Pakistani and US cultures, a journey might help her self discovery. Read more...

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 travellers 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.

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