The 100 Most Celebrated Travel Books of All Time

Lists: The definitive list of travel books that travel writers, editors, bloggers and readers love best

06.15.10 | 9:07 AM ET


How did we come up with our list? We scoured the web and dug up every “best travel books” list we could find, from writers, bloggers and publications like Salon, Conde Nast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler and Transitions Abroad. (Naturally, we consulted our own top 30 list, too). Then we pulled out the books that were cited most often and added a few bestsellers.

You’ll find that a few books don’t fit the most rigid definition of travel memoir; we didn’t want our list to be too narrow or fussy. Rather, we wanted it to be broad and inclusive. Also, although we numbered the books from 1 to 100, we didn’t rank them; they appear here in alphabetical order. (You can find the 10 most celebrated books here.) The lists we drew from are noted below the book titles. The numbers in brackets after each book title on the list correspond to the source lists on which that title appears; a dollar sign in brackets indicates that a book was included based on extremely high sales. (Read the fine print for more detail on how we determined the 100 most celebrated travel books of all time.)

1) A Dragon Apparent, by Norman Lewis (5, 7)
2) A House in Bali, by Colin McPhee (4, 11)
3) A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway (4, 6)
4) A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, by Eric Newby (1, 2, 3, 8, 10, 11, 12, 15)
5) A Time of Gifts, by Patrick Leigh Fermor (1, 2, 7, 8, 12)
6) A Turn in the South, by V.S. Naipaul (1)
7) A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson ($)
8) A Winter in Arabia, by Freya Stark (5)
9) Among the Russians, by Colin Thubron (3, 7)
10) An Area of Darkness, by V.S. Naipaul (2, 7, 8)
11) Arabian Sands, by Wilfred Thesiger (1, 2, 3, 4)
12) Arctic Dreams, by Barry Lopez (4, 11)
13) The Art of Travel, by Alain de Botton (5, 12)
14) As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, by Laurie Lee (3, 5)
15) Baghdad Without a Map, by Tony Horwitz (1)
16) Balkan Ghosts, by Robert D. Kaplan (4, 6)
17) Beyond Euphrates, by Freya Stark (7)
18) The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer, by Eric Hansen (2)
19) Bitter Lemons of Cyprus, by Lawrence Durrell (2, 7)
20) Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, by Rebecca West (2)
21) Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin (13)
22) Blue Highways, by William Least Heat-Moon (2, 4, 8, 11, 12, 13)
23) Brazilian Adventure, by Peter Fleming (4, 5, 8)
24) Chasing the Sea, by Tom Bissell (2)
25) City of Djinns, by William Dalrymple (1, 4)
26) Coasting, by Jonathan Raban (3)
27) Coming Into the Country, by John McPhee (4, 9, 10, 11)
28) Dark Star Safari, by Paul Theroux (2, 11)
29) Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey (4, 11, 12)
30) Down the Nile, by Rosemary Mahoney (2)
31) Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert ($)
32) The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, by Tom Wolfe (13)
33) Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing (2, 11)
34) Facing the Congo, by Jeffrey Tayler (1)
35) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson (2, 3, 6, 13)
36) Four Corners, by Kira Salak (6)
37) Full Circle, by Michael Palin (4, 11)
38) Full Tilt: Ireland to India With a Bicycle, by Dervla Murphy (5)
39) Golden Earth, by Norman Lewis (1)
40) Great Plains, by Ian Frazier (2, 11)
41) The Great Railway Bazaar, by Paul Theroux (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
42) Holidays in Hell, by P.J. O’Rourke (12)
43) Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell (3, 4)
44) Hunting Mister Heartbreak, by Jonathan Raban (1, 7)
45) In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson (1, 2, 4, 11, 14)
46) In Patagonia, by Bruce Chatwin (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11)
47) In Siberia, by Colin Thubron (4, 12)
48) In Trouble Again, by Redmond O’Hanlon (2, 4)
49) The Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain (1, 2, 6)
50) Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer (6, 11)
51) Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer ($)
52) Iron and Silk, by Mark Salzman (2, 4)
53) Kon-Tiki, by Thor Heyerdahl (15)
54) The Lady and the Monk, by Pico Iyer (12)
55) Life on the Mississippi, by Mark Twain (2, 13)
56) The Log From the Sea of Cortez, by John Steinbeck (11)
57) The Long Walk, by Slavomir Rawicz (2, 11)
58) The Lost Continent, by Bill Bryson (4, 8, 12, 13)
59) Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, by Suketu Mehta (2, 6)
60) The Motorcycle Diaries, by Ernesto “Che” Guevara (14)
61) The Muses Are Heard, by Truman Capote (2)
62) No Mercy, by Redmond O’Hanlon (1, 2, 10, 12)
63) Notes From a Small Island, by Bill Bryson (3, 5)
64) Nothing to Declare, by Mary Morris (4, 8)
65) Old Glory, by Jonathan Raban (2, 4, 7)
66) The Old Patagonian Express, by Paul Theroux (4, 12)
67) Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen (4, 7, 11)
68) Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard (9, 12)
69) The Pillars of Hercules, by Paul Theroux (2, 11)
70) The Places in Between, by Rory Stewart (2, 11, 15)
71) Riding to the Tigris, by Freya Stark (1)
72) The Rings of Saturn, by W.G. Sebald (2, 15)
73) The River at the Center of the World, by Simon Winchester (4)
74) River Town, by Peter Hessler (1)
75) Road Fever, by Tim Cahill (1, 4, 12)
76) The Road to Oxiana, by Robert Byron (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7)
77) Roughing It, by Mark Twain (2, 4, 11, 13)
78) Sea and Sardinia, by D.H. Lawrence (2, 4)
79) Seven Years in Tibet, by Heinrich Harrer (4, 6, 11, 14)
80) The Sex Lives of Cannibals, by J. Maarten Troost (6, 12)
81) The Size of the World, by Jeff Greenwald (1, 6, 12)
82) Slowly Down the Ganges, by Eric Newby (2, 4)
83) The Snow Leopard, by Peter Matthiessen (1, 4, 9, 10, 11)
84) The Soccer War, by Ryszard Kapuscinski (1)
85) The Songlines, by Bruce Chatwin (1, 2, 4, 12)
86) Terra Incognita, by Sara Wheeler (4, 11)
87) Their Heads are Green and Their Hands are Blue, by Paul Bowles (2)
88) Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson (11)
89) Travels With Charley, by John Steinbeck (1, 3, 4, 6, 11, 12, 13)
90) Travels With Myself and Another, by Martha Gellhorn (2, 15)
91) Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere, by Jan Morris (1, 5)
92) Two Towns in Provence, by M.F.K. Fisher (2, 4, 7, 10)
93) Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes (6)
94) Video Night in Kathmandu, by Pico Iyer (1, 4, 6, 10, 12)
95) West With the Night, by Beryl Markham (2, 4)
96) When the Going was Good, by Evelyn Waugh (1, 7)
97) The World of Venice, by Jan Morris (3)
98) The Worst Journey in the World, by Apsley Cherry-Garrard (2, 5, 11)
99) Wrong About Japan, by Peter Carey (2)
100) Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsig (10, 13)

MORE: The 100 Most Celebrated Travel Books of All Time: By the Numbers | The Fine Print | Mapped | Five Great Covers

Source Lists

1) World Hum’s Top 30 Travel Books
2) Conde Nast Traveler’s 86 Greatest Travel Books of All Time
3) The Telegraph’s 20 Best Travel Books of All Time
4) National Geographic Traveler’s Ultimate Travel Library
5) The Times Online’s 20 Best Travel Books of the Past Century
6) Brave New Traveler’s 50 Greatest Travel Books of All Time
7) From Salon, Tom Swick’s Top 20 Travel Books of the 20th Century
8) The International Society of Travel Writers’ Top 10 Best Travel Books of the 20th Century
9) From Salon, Don George’s Favorite Travel Books
10) Salon’s Top 10 Travel Books of the 20th Century
11) NileGuide’s Top 50 Adventure Books of All Time
12) From Transitions Abroad, Top 10 Travel Books lists from a variety of travel writers: Jim Benning, Michael Shapiro, Rolf Potts, Ron Mader, Rory MacLean, Tim Leffel and Ayun Halliday.
13) Smithsonian’s Great Road Trips in American Literature
14) Nomadic Matt’s Best Travel Books
15) The Travel Bookshop’s Top 10 Travel Books