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Nothing can transform your life quite like an inspirational book.
No wonder, so many of us tend to dive into books for a bit of self-discovery. And in a world where not everyone can afford to travel as much as they would want to, books offer a great way to imagine new places and seek new perspectives.
There are many books about travel, romance, love, adventure, and discovery. Many of them are remarkably well-written and beloved that they have even been adapted to the Hollywood screen. If you’re looking for your next page-turner, this list will show you the best books about self-discovery, travel, and love.
Best Books About Self-Discovery, Travel, and Love
Here is our list in no particular order.
1. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
One of the most popular books on this list is Eat, Pray, Love, a book that was turned into a movie starring Julia Roberts.
Elizabeth Gilbert wrote Eat, Pray, Love as a memoir capturing her pursuit of everything she really wanted out of life. At thirty, Elizabeth experienced an early onset mid-life crisis. Despite having ‘everything’ — a successful career, a house, a husband — she found herself depressed, anxious, and confused.
After a divorce and a crushing depression, Elizabeth sold her belongings, quit her job, and went off to travel the world all alone for a year. This book about self-discovery is also a story about travel bringing new experiences that provide fresh perspectives. Join Elizabeth as she journeys to Italy, India, and Bali (Indonesia) to find herself.
2. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Alchemist is another book about travel and discovery with a massive following around the world. This book by Paulo Coelho is currently being adapted into a movie and is already in pre-production.
The book is a simple yet powerful story about Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who travels from Spain (his homeland) to Egypt’s deserts to search for buried treasure.
Along the way, he meets a gypsy, a self-proclaimed king, and finally, an alchemist, who all point him towards his quest. But despite the story starting as a search for worldly treasures, it, later on, becomes a story about self-discovery full of soul-stirring wisdom and wonder.
3. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Winner of the Booker Prize, Life of Pi is a notably popular book by Yann Martel, also released as a blockbuster film in 2012. It is a fantasy novel full of adventure where “Pi” (Piscine Molitor Patel), a young boy from Pondicherry, finds himself exploring spirituality and practicality. Stranded on a boat following a shipwreck, Pi survives at sea for 227 days with a Bengal Tiger he calls Richard Parker as his companion.
4. Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes by Robert Louis Stevenson
This book by Robert Louis Stevenson is less-known in comparison to the other books on this list. However, it still offers a good read as a story about travel — specifically, Robert’s travels through the Cévennes in France, with only his donkey Modestine as company.
The book is a raw and candid account of the 12-day journey, detailing everything from RLS’s enjoyment of sleeping under the stars and his sorrow from selling Modestine after his trip.
5. Travel as Transformation: Conquer the Limits of Culture to Discover Your Own Identity by Gregory V. Diehl
Travel as Transformation explores how traveling can influence your perspective of the world — and yourself — in a truly profound way. Gregory also shares his experiences from traveling 45 countries by the time he reached 28 years old. Travel as Transformation is a book that teaches you what can happen when you travel with an open mind.
6. 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
Cien Años De Soledad, or 100 Years of Solitude, is a book written by one of the most influential Spanish writers: Noble laureate Gabriel García Márquez. It follows the triumphs and tribulations of the Buendía family in the fictional town of Macondo.
This story stands as one of the best Spanish works from the 20th century, translated into as many as 37 languages. Reading this story will lead you through a journey with many twists and turns. Some readers may suggest picking up a guide or analysis to go along with it, to make it easier to understand.
7. Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer
Adapted into a film in 1997, Seven Years in Tibet is a book about discovery infused with adventure. Whether or not you’ve seen the movie starring Brad Pitt, it’s still a great read. The book details the protagonist’s escape from an internment camp held by the British in India back in the 1940s. He and his companion then traveled to Tibet, where they spent the next seven years.
During their travels, they observed and learned the ways of life in the country, met the Dalai Lama, and documenting the last few years of independent Tibetan life before China invaded.
8. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
Cheryl Strayed’s 2012 memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, describes her self-discovery journey during her travels on her 1,100-mile hike. This book about adventure and self-discovery made it to the New York Times Best Seller List and was also selected for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. The book was also adapted into a film in 2014, with Reese Witherspoon portraying Cheryl on the silver screen.
9. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
In 1996, Jon Krakauer expanded upon his 9,000-word article called “Death of an Innocent.” Into The Wild is a non-fiction book that is the result of that expansion. The book was adapted into a movie in 2007, with famous names such as Sean Penn and Emile Hirsch in the titular cast. An international bestseller, Into The Wild, has been translated into 30 languages and has been printed in over 173 editions. In fact, it’s often included in reading curriculums in both high school and college.
Into The Wild is a story about Christopher McCandless, the son of wealthy parents who graduates as a top student from Emory University. Rather than beginning his prestigious career, Christopher chose to give all his money to charity and get rid of all his possessions. Into The Wild is a book about travel and discovery in the Alaskan Wilderness.
10. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Written by Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner is a story of friendship. This book tells two boys’ stories as they grow up in Afghanistan and how their relationship continues to shape their lives. The novel follows Amir through his self-discovery journey as he recounts his childhood and prepares to atone for his past.
11. Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road by Kate Harris
Lands of Lost Borders was Kate Harris’ first book published in 2019. Although this book is newer than all the others on this list, that doesn’t mean it’s any less of a good read.
This non-fiction book describes her thoughts and experiences during her 14-month bicycling trip in 2011 as she traversed the 10,000 kilometer Silk Road in Asia. A story about travel and adventure, Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road has won several awards.
12. Love with a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche
Torre DeRoche adds another memoir to this list with Love with a Chance of Drowning, a story about love and adventure out in the world’s seas and oceans.
In her memoir, she details how she meets a handsome Argentinian named Ivan and joins him sailing the waters. She makes a difficult choice by leaving her city life and facing her fear of deep waters. She joins her new lover, voyaging through the Pacific for a year-long adventure filled with romance.
13. Worldwalk by Steven M. Newman
Worldwalk by Steven M. Newman is another story about travel and discovery. At the age of 28 years old, the author undertakes a journey from Ohio.
On a shoestring budget — without a sponsorship — he travels with his luggage on his back and walks through 20 countries for the next four years. A unique story about a journey on foot, Worldwalk is a fantastic read for a sweeping new perspective.
14. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
If you’d instead read a work of fiction than a memoir or account of real events, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts is a great choice.
Shantaram, a novel released in 2003, is supposedly based on true events. However, many dispute the accounts written in the book.
The story is about an Australian bank robber (who also happens to be a heroin addict) that escapes from prison, fleeing to India. Shantaram is often praised by many for being a vivid and accurate portrayal of life in the city of Bombay (now Mumbai).
15. The Beach by Alex Garland
Written by Alex Garland in 1996, The Beach is a book that has also been adapted into a film in 2000. The book and the film starring Leonardo DiCaprio caused a boom in Thailand’s tourism at the time, and it’s easy to see why.
The Beach is a story of travel and discovery set in Thailand, where a young backpacker sets out searching for a legendary beach that is idyllic and completely isolated. The beach and its pure shores were host to a small community of international backpackers untouched by tourists.
16. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
This book by Mark Twain is easily one of the greatest works of literature of all time. A classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was first published in 1884. Although this book is frequently found in reading and literature curriculums worldwide, it’s still a worthy read. The book has also been adapted into a film starring Elijah Wood (Frodo from Lord of the Rings) and Ron Perlman.
17. The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne
The Mysterious Island is an even older book published back in 1875. Another classic, this story follows five castaways. The men do their best to survive in the South Pacific, where they are marooned on an uncharted island. They find themselves in this situation after attempting to escape from a Civil War POW camp.
18. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit, also known as There and Back Again, is a fantasy novel by J.R.R. Tolkien. Yes, the very same author who created the Lord of the Rings.
In fact, this widely acclaimed book published in 1937 is set within the Lord of the Rings’ universe. It follows Bilbo Baggins on his quest to share the treasure guarded by the dragon, Smaug.
Undoubtedly an adventure story, The Hobbit will take you through a magical journey. If you’d like to see the adventures visualized, you can also watch The Hobbit Trilogy, directed by Peter Jackson.
19. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Published in 1903, The Call of the Wild is another classic work on this list. This adventure novel, short as it may be, is set in Yukon, Canada. The story centers around Buck, a dog stolen from his owners and sold as a sled dog during the Klondike Gold Rush.
20. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
As the title might suggest, Anna and the French Kiss is a love story.
Anna finds herself uprooted from her fabulous life in Atlanta when she is shipped off to Paris to attend boarding school there during her senior year. However, it’s in Paris that she meets her new love interest, Etienne St. Clair. The problem is, he has a serious girlfriend.
21. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
Another memoir to add to this list, Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, is a beautiful story about Mayle’s first year with his wife in Provence. Unlike some of the other books on this list, A Year in Provence was instead adapted into a TV series.
22. Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
Love and Gelato follows Lina, the protagonist, in Tuscany to spend her summer there. But despite all the beauty Tuscany has to offer, Lina isn’t quite in the mood for it — the only reason she was there was because it was her mom’s final dying wish.
Her mom wanted her to get to know her father, who was absent from her life for 16 years. But when Lina is given her mom’s journal, which she kept while living in Italy, it all changes. Lina begins exploring the magical world of Tuscany, experiencing adventures and romances along with art and charming little bakeries. And she even finds out a secret that changes everything.
23. The Rings of Saturn by WG Sebald
Last but certainly not least, The Rings of Saturn is a book that includes an archive of photos recording a walking tour going along England’s East Coast. The book explores the stream-of-consciousness associations triggered by walks. In the book, you’ll read about everything that crosses WG Sebald’s mind during his exploratory walk.
There are countless books about self-discovery, travel, and love — this list is only a sampling of what many consider the best. The books on this list are meant to be an exceptional read, many of them award-winning. Many have also been adapted into movies and TV shows. No matter which book you choose, you’ll find yourself immersed in a page-turner.