The first exploring I did was discovering new worlds through books and movies. As an adult, much of my travel is inspired by places I first knew about in stories. Before I travel to a place, I search out books or stories about the place, often historical fiction or stories about people. These books have enhanced my trips, as they give me an idea of the culture of the place. Historical spots come to life as I have already learned about the people and events that happened in them. Enjoy my favorite stories that have inspired my journeys or have me excited to visit new places. Included are some of the best travel memoirs, but sometimes the books that make you want to travel are about events in a place. I often read stories before I arrive in a place, but books about locations are also the best books to read while traveling. What all the stories have in common is that I love them and they have helped me understand the cultures and history of people around the world and have made my travels better for it.
Table of Contents
- 1 Stories to Inspire Travel to Asia
- 1.1 Books About China
- 1.2 Best Travel Books India
- 1.3 Books About Japan
- 1.4 Books About Korea
- 2 Stories to Inspire Travel to Europe
- 2.1 Stories to Inspire Travel to England
- 2.2 Inspiring Stories about France
- 2.3 Books to Inspire Travel to Italy
- 2.4 Stories About Scotland
- 2.5 Stories to Inspire Travel to Sweden
- 2.6 Stories to Inspire Travel to Ireland
- 3 Stories to Inspire Travel to South America
- 4 Stories to Inspire Travel to North America
- 4.1 Books about Maine
- 4.2 Books about Boston, Massachusetts
- 4.3 Books about New York State
- 4.4 Books About South Carolina
Stories to Inspire Travel to Asia
Books About China
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
This story is set in turn of the century China. It explores class relations, the movement from an agricultural society and family. It reminded me that no matter the time or place people have a lot more in common than we think.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
This is definitely one of my absolute favorites of any story I have read. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is the story of a life-long friendship of two females in the time of foot binding in China. The history of foot binding is something I knew nothing about. Looking at it in relation to feminism today is quite illuminating.
The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall
I know that the title implies the book is about Russia, but it is about a mother and daughter who escape Russia into an international settlement in China from the Bolshevik Revolution. The characters are strong and complex, the descriptions magical and the action quick. This book is an intriguing look at China’s relationship with communism around the time of Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek.
Best Travel Books India
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Fiction loosely based on the author’s life
First of all, Roberts’ writing style is beautiful. I love the characters and colorful descriptions of the city of Bombay. The whole story is pretty incredible if it’s close to being true. The last portion of the book moves out of India and I didn’t like it as much, but still found the whole book a delight.
Books About Japan
Shogun: A Novel of Japan by James Clavell
This is a complex, epic novel about a ship-wrecked Englishman in Japan in the 1600s. It is an interesting study of the time of Shoguns and Japanese culture.
Books About Korea
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
This book follows three generations of a family beginning in rural Korea and following their immigration to Japan. It is an intriguing look at the strength and experience of Koreans as their country was splitting. I have not spoken to a person who didn’t enjoy this book.
Stories to Inspire Travel to Europe
The Century Trilogy by Ken Follett
This fabulous series is an engaging way to learn about the relationships of European countries during the world wars. You can read a more complete review here.
Stories to Inspire Travel to England
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
If you are going to England you will see at least one looming cathedral. The churches will come to life with this book’s epic story of a cathedral’s creation.
And Follett wrote a follow-up book, so you can be involved in the world for quite a long time…
World Without End by Ken Follett
Set 200 years after Pillars of the Earth, but in the same town, World Without End will introduce you to the feud between Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth and the religious struggles of the time.
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
Any of Phillipa Gregory’s novels about English royalty will help you appreciate all the castles and grand homes. When you visit the Tower of London you will be able to picture Anne Boleyn walking proudly onto the green to meet her fate.
The Crown on Netflix
An intriguing look at the life of Queen Elizabeth, as a person, not just royalty.
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
The story of Merlin told from a female perspective. This is one of my favorite books, ever.
Inspiring Stories about France
How to Eat a Small Country: A Family’s Pursuit of Happiness, One Meal at a Time by Amy Finley
When things aren’t going too well for a US family, they decide to spend the year road-tripping France and eating dishes representative of the regions they visit. The author is a chef and her descriptions of French food make me want to repeat her journey without the angst… then head to Italy to do the same thing.
Buy your copy of How to Eat a Small Country.
Books to Inspire Travel to Italy
The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
Many books about Italy are inspired by Italy’s art scene, including this story set in Florence in the 15th century.
Stories About Scotland
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Historical fiction and fantasy
An English woman travels back in time through standing stones into Scotland during the Jacobite rebellion. The result is an epic romance which travels through time. The series on Netflix perfectly portrays the books and the casting is dreamy. And if you love it, there are many books that follow in the series!
Stories to Inspire Travel to Sweden
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
This book is the story of Ove and his relationships. His history is told through flashbacks and the story moves deftly through the present and the past. This book is a perfect lesson on the adage that you can’t understand someone unless you walk a day in their shoes. I think it is easy to quickly judge people for many things, like being mean or curt. We may not realize the havoc that today or life has played on them. Although you won’t imagine it from the beginning, Ove is a character you will fall in love with and, hopefully, you can take that empathy with you into life for other people.
This book is set in Sweden, but that really is irrelevant to the story. I went to Sweden to pick up a Volvo. Ove wouldn’t love me for that, he would rather I go get a Saab. But in the end, we may still be friends. Especially since I have a cat… But I digress.
The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson
The other books I have read set in Sweden and loved is the Stieg Larsson’s trilogy that begins with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This thriller will keep you interested in spite of the originally daunting list of characters. This series will not leave you with a positive view of the world but is a very worthwhile series to read. What this book has in common with A Man Called Ove are wounded black-and-white thinkers as main characters.
Stories to Inspire Travel to Ireland
The Heart’s Invisible Furies: A Novel by John Boyne
The story of a gay man’s life in the 1960s to 1980s moves from Ireland to Amsterdam and finally New York City. It is more a depiction of time and character than place, but will be worthwhile novel before you head to Ireland.
Stories to Inspire Travel to South America
The House of the Spirits by Isabelle Allende
A beautifully written novel about three generations exemplifying the very South American concept of magical realism, exploring politics and family relationships.
Stories to Inspire Travel to North America
Books about Maine
A Piece of the World: A Novel by Christina Baker Kline
This fictional book is about a famous painting set in northern Maine, Andrew Wyatt’s Christina’s World. Not only do you learn about the life of one of Maine’s most famous painters, but it provides a picture of family life in the coastal wilds of Maine.
Books about Boston, Massachusetts
The Boston Girl by Anita Diamont
Reading The Boston Girl will allow the history of Boston to come alive in your mind. The book is the simple, but beautiful story of Addie Baum, a Jewish immigrant growing up in 1920s Boston. Her story is told through an interview by Ava, Addie’s spirited granddaughter. The Boston Girl explores how women’s roles have changed throughout the last hundred years. It reminded me of Brooklyn, another story of an immigrant’s life in its complicated simplicity. The theme of how life’s routine happenings can shape a person or a generation is one of my favorites in literature.
Like most US cities, Boston was shaped by the immigrants who first visited it. Our old cities are a wonderful mix of old and new and The Boston Girl will allow you to picture days gone by in this beautiful, old city. When you walk by the Old Trinity Church now or through the Boston Gardens you will be able to picture Addie’s world.
Books about New York State
Fool on the Hill by Matt Ruff
When I was in college, I was first delighted by this fantastically silly and mythical book about magical happenings on the Cornell University campus in the town of Ithaca.
Books About South Carolina
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Set in Charleston, South Carolina around the time of the abolition of slavery, this novel explores slavery and women’s rights.
Beach Music by Pat Conroy
I have not read a book by Pat Conroy that I didn’t absolutely love, even when the description sounds like something I wouldn’t like. This is my favorite of his books and it doesn’t only stay in the south, but travels to Rome and Vietnam. I feel like I have lived a life in the south with Pat. I am so sad that he passed recently.
Keep checking back as I read more and add more to this post.
Also, you can find more travel-related books in Books That Inspire Travel: Travel Blogger’s Favorite Books.
Happy reading and exploring!
Have you been inspired to travel by a story? Please let me know about it in the comments.