We Asked Independent Bookstores Across the US for Their Favorite Travel-Inspired Reads—Here are 19 Books They Recommended

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Indie booksellers have the best recs.

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Our real-life escapes may have slowed down temporarily, but our sense of adventure doesn’t have to—thanks to the globe-traipsing lens of literature. Reading offers the possibility to carry us around the world in one sitting—all sans passport and magnificently illuminated by our living room lamp. Here, the nation’s top independent booksellers share their favorite travel-inspired reads, stories landing us in time zones (and periods) far and wide, be it the 1960s Italian Coast or 19th-century France. 

Related: 9 Coffee Table Books to Whisk You Away to Far-Off Destinations

Book Recommendations From Titcomb’s Bookshop in Sandwich, Massachusetts

Courtesy Titcomb’s Bookshop


Less by Andrew Sean Greer

“Join Arthur Less, 50-year-old-writer, while he escapes heartbreak by running away on a wild trip around the globe. His only problem: his baggage is mostly emotional. Funny and engaging—a great escape.”—Ellen Speers, manager at Titcomb’s Bookshop

To buy: $16, titcombsbookshop.com

Calypso by David Sedaris 

“Dark and hilarious at once. David Sedaris takes us everywhere, from his vacation home, to his book tour, to inside his family memories. Twenty-one essays that take you on the ups and downs of life.”—ES

To buy: $18, titcombsbookshop.com

The Outer Beach by Robert Finch 

“Cape Cod essayist Robert Finch warmly invites the reader on a soulful walk along the beach. This tapestry of 50 years and over a thousand miles of walking on Cape Cod’s coast is provocative, invigorating, charming, and Thoreau-esque.”— Rae Titcomb, communications director at Titcomb’s Bookshop

To buy: $17, titcombsbookshop.com

Travel-Inspired Reads Courtesy of Women & Children First in Chicago

Courtesy Women & Children First


Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

This is an immersive and unnerving page-turner that opens with a family arriving at an idyllic vacation house far away from their NYC apartment. Late one night, a knock at the door catapults the story into an unexpected direction that brims with suspense along with meditations on race, privilege, and what we owe one another.”—Sarah Hollenbeck, co-owner of Women & Children First

To buy: $28, womenandchildrenfirst.com

The Cold Millions by Jess Walter

“A propulsive, richly entertaining novel about two adventure-seeking brothers, the enemies who threaten them, and the women they love (namely, Ursula the Great, a vaudeville singer who performs with a live cougar, and the real-life union organizer and firebrand Elizabeth Gurley Flynn). Set in 1909 Spokane, this is a powerful and moving tour de force!”—Lynn Mooney, co-owner of Women & Children First

To buy: $29, womenandchildrenfirst.com

Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore 

“This is a travel read in that she travels out of time to the various years of her life without a linear connection. These characters and the astonishingly inventive plot captivated me. I would have spent another 200 pages with Oona, another 20 years, another lifetime out of order.”—Jamie Thomas, director of operations at Women & Children First

To buy: $27, womenandchildrenfirst.com

Favorite Reads for 2021 From Book Passage in San Francisco and Corte Madera, California

Courtesy Book Passage


The Seine: The River That Made Paris by Elaine Sciolino 

“With a reporter’s eye and a love of Paris, Sciolino brings us the history, romance, and reality of the Seine. As we follow the river’s path through the city and the countryside, we meet the people who live along its banks, and we dream of what our lives might be if we could live there, too.”—Elaine Petrocelli, co-owner of Book Passage

To buy: $18, bookpassage.com

The Same River Twice: A Memoir of Dirt Bag Back Packers, Bomb Shelters and Bad Travel by Pam Mandel 

“If you are longing for adventure, danger, and romance, this book may make you happy to stay home. As Pam Mandel gets involved in bad relationships and unfortunate decisions, we also experience the changes that travel can bring.”—EP

To buy: $25, bookpassage.com

Autumn Light Season of Fire and Farewells by Pico Iyer 

“We all know the ideal time to visit Japan is spring, when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. Iyer says fall is the time. As he writes about Japanese customs, the beauty of the dying year, and even about ping pong, we are treated to a journey that is both profound and delightful.”—EP

To buy: $16, bookpassage.com

Books for Travelers at Heart, Recommended by Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, New York

Courtesy Books Are Magic


Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

“If I could travel anywhere in the world right now, I would zip myself right into the gorgeous Italian coastline in Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins, which is in part about the filming of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton's Cleopatra, in the 1960s. Sun, water, glamour—take me there now!”— Emma Straub, owner of Books are Magic

To buy: $17, booksaremagic.net

Travelers by Helon Habila

“This gorgeously-crafted novel-in-stories follows several diasporic Africans in various European countries. Habila’s evocative, rich, and deeply observed storytelling will both transport and transform you, as it makes you think about travel and migration through a completely different lens.”—Serena Morales, internal relations manager at Books are Magic

To buy: $16, booksaremagic.net

Journey to Portugal: In Pursuit of Portugal's History and Culture by José Saramago

“In an attempt to understand and appreciate his country fully, Nobel Laureate José Saramago journeys around his native Portugal. There is no other travelogue like it. His attention to detail, and of course the brilliant writing to convey those details, makes this one of the most fascinating and insightful books I have ever read.”—Nick Buzanski, general manager at Books are Magic

To buy: $19, booksaremagic.net

On Lighthouses by Jazmina Barrera, translated by Christina MacSweeney

“Moving between various coastlands, these essays explore lighthouses in all their complexity: beacon, myth, warning, metaphor. Barrera’s precision and lyricism give On Lighthouses a hypnotic quality while her careful observations conjure vivid landscapes that transport and captivate.”—Nika Jonas, events and blog coordinator at Books are Magic

To buy: $20, booksaremagic.net

Incredible Book Recs From the Staff of Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C.

Courtesy Politics and Prose


Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America by James Fallows and Deborah Fallows 

“An encouraging portrait by two veteran writers of a country animated at the local level by a spirit of community renewal, resilience, and adaptability, while political paralysis persists at the national level.”— Bradley Graham, co-owner of Politics and Prose

To buy: $17, politics-prose.com

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson 

“An account of a 2,100-mile hike that’s filled with adventure, keen insights, and much humor and that bears entertaining and informed witness to a stretch of American wilderness rich in beauty and history.”—BG

To buy: $17, politics-prose.com

The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane 

“A sequence of travel essays by a talented naturalist who takes readers on not only a geographical journey across remote British landscapes but also on a philosophical examination of what wildness means.”—BG

To buy: $16, politics-prose.com

Armchair Travel with Recs From The Book Stall in Winnetka, Illinois

Courtesy The Book Stall


The Queen’s Fortune: A Novel of Desiree, Napoleon and the Dynasty That Outlasted the Empire by Allison Pataki

“This is armchair traveling, historical exploration, and juicy novel all in one. Allison Pataki is known for her meticulous research and her ability to vividly bring history to life, and she has done just that with this story of Desiree Clary, Napoleon Bonaparte’s mistress. An excellent way to spend some time in Paris and the French Riviera without ever leaving your home!”— Stephanie Hochschild, owner of The Book Stall

To buy: $28, thebookstall.com

The Museum of Whales You Will Never See: And Other Excursions to Iceland’s Most Unusual Museums by A. Kendra Greene 

“Greene has written a smart, funny book about just a few of the 265 museums that can be found in this island nation of only 330,000 people. There is Sigurgeir’s Bird Museum full of taxidermied native birds, the Icelandic Phallological Museum, home to the male reproductive organs of every mammal known to exist in Iceland, and the Skógar Museum, which is the largest containing 15,000 objects and is located in a town of 21 people.”—SH

To buy: $22, thebookstall.com

Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings by Neil Price

“When we think of Vikings, most of us envision large, brutish men in horned helmets swooping down on unsuspecting villages to rape and pillage. Viking women are viewed as Brunhilda-esque counterparts. But, as is often the case, the truth is more interesting. Price, a scholar at Uppsala University in Sweden, describes the Viking world in all its aspects, from religion, warfare, exploration, to domestic customs, sexual mores, and personal grooming. An engaging read.”—SH

To buy: $35, thebookstall.com