Published on August 24, 2015

10 eye-opening books that all world travelers must read

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Here are our top 10 book recommendations for world travelers. Reading really is the best way to gain gain a deeper understanding of a country's society, culture and history.

1. As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee (London, Spain)

Laurie Lee’s autobiographical tale centers around the author’s journey from a tiny village in Gloucestershire, to London and then Spain, where civil war is looming. Readers will be transported to the Spain of the 1930s, following a 19-year-old Lee navigating the Spanish countryside on foot, violin in hand. The second book of a well-known trilogy, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning offers traveling readers a blend of history, adventure and whimsy.

2. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Colombia)

Using magical realism to paint a colorful portrait of a fictional Colombian family, Gabriel Garcia Marquez illuminates the human side of the region’s bloody history. Blending fact with fantasy, Marquez tells the story of six generations of the Buendia family and their life in the fictional town Macondo. This Nobel-prize-winning novel is a must-read for anyone traveling to Latin America, as it is written by one of the region's most celebrated authors.

3. Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie Chang (China)

Once rural farm workers, many Chinese people have made their way into cities to work in factories under backbreaking conditions. In fact, China boasts the largest migrant worker population in human history (130 million). In her book Factory Girls, Leslie Chang follows these migrant workers to the large factories and compounds where they work, unveiling a changing Chinese society.

 

4. Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson (UK)

A Midwesterner’s take on Britain would be an appropriate alternative title for Bill Bryson's book about his travels across England. Notes From a Small Island is full of witty observations of English society by Bill Bryson, an American journalist who has lived in the UK for 20 years. Prepare yourself to laugh at Bryson’s comical observations and experiences “across the pond".

 

book recommendations for world travelers

 

5. In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson (Australia)

From 12-foot-long earthworms in southwest Gippsland to the Great Barrier Reef, Bill Bryson explores Australia’s most compelling features. With great wit and whimsical humor, Bryson unveils the diversity and wonder of “down under”. Readers will not only learn a great deal of what Australia has to offer the world, but they’ll also find themselves laughing along the way.

 

6. Radical Melbourne: A Secret History by Jeff Sparrow, Jill Sparrow (Melbourne)

History buffs will enjoy getting to know Melbourne’s past with the help of social activists Jeff and Jill Sparrow. The brother and sister have compiled a pictorial guide through Melbourne’s last 100 years of radical politics. As a special treat, the book also offers maps and photos of the city’s landmarks that chronicle the city’s political past.

 

7. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (Spain)

Hemingway’s classic novel explores British and US expatriate life in Pamplona, Spain with a focus on Spanish bullfighting. This well-known piece explores masculinity, love, death and life in the 1920s.

 

8. Ghosts of Spain by Giles Tremlett (Spain)

This portrait of modern Spanish life and culture will help its readers understand the country's underlying societal issues. This book is ideal for foreigners living in Spain who want to get beyond a surface level understanding of local politics, modern history and the Spanish psyche.

 

book recommendations for world travelers

 

9. Country Driving: A Chinese Road Trip by Peter Hessler (China)

The third of Peter Hessler’s series on China, Country Driving illuminates the human impact of China’s economic revolution. The book both informs and entertains, with commentary on and explanations of Chinese industrialization. Readers will appreciate Hessler’s keen (and funny) rendering of modern-day China.

 

10. Short Walks from Bogotá: Journeys in the New Colombia by Tom Feiling (Colombia)

Anyone traveling to Colombia should read Tom Feiling’s Short Walks from Bogotá. Reflecting on a country once pinned a “narcostate”, Feiling’s book explores Colombia’s violent past and viable economic future while introducing readers to some of the country’s most compelling characters. Welding together a bloody history and the promise of a better tomorrow, Short Walks from Bogotá tells a complex, human story of a country in transition.

 

Apply today for an international internship in London, Spain, Hong Kong, Australia, Latin America or New York to explore the lands that inspired these mind-blowing books.

 

Sources: Telegraph, Budget Travel, Amazon.com, Goodreads.com, Fortune, The Guardian, The Local, Wikipedia

 

Photo 1. Based on Cartagena, by Kevin Dooley, CC-by-2.0

Photo 2. Based on Bay of Islands (Australia), by PAk DocK , CC-by ND 2.0

Photo 3. Based on rows and rows, by Steve Jurvetson, CC-by-2.0

The author
Elizabeth Trovall
After short stints in Argentina and Belize, Elizabeth is finishing up her third year in Santiago, Chile. Elizabeth writes about international internships, life abroad and professional development for The Intern Group. She also reports on politics, business and culture in Latin America for public radio and print media. An Austin, Texas native, Elizabeth first left home to earn her journalism degree from the Reynolds Institute of Journalism at the University of Missouri. Besides her friends and family, she misses live music and Mexican food the most.

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