The World's Most Scenic Drives, a photo of a copy of the book, magazine style
Books,  Road Trips

Must-Read Road Trip Books to Fuel Your Wanderlust

When you’re going on your first road trip but also if you’re already a pro, road trip books are always a good idea. Classic books on road trips, books about traveling, non-fiction or fiction they’re perfect for preparation or to have with you on the trip.

I’ve asked my fellow travel bloggers what they think the best road trip books are, which books everyone should read before or during their road trip. I of course added some books I think are a must.

Road Trip Books

First the books about road trips. The ones where the main characters are on a road trip.

Motorcycle Diaries, Ernesto “Che” Guevara

Contributed by Carley from Home to Havana

The personal diaries of Ernesto “Che” Guevara as he traveled by motorcycle from Argentina all the way North through South America. Motorcycle Diaries is one of history’s great road trip stories. 

In addition to reading about Guevara’s incredible travel experiences as he encountered some of South America’s great destinations, like Patagonia, Machu Picchu, and the Amazon Rainforest, you’ll also learn of the impact of travel on the author’s spirit. It’s a poignant reminder of how travel, especially road trip travel, can change us through what we see and the people we meet along the way.

Despite not taking place there, Motorcycle Diaries is a perfect read before you travel to Cuba. You’ll see pictures of and see the impact of Che Guevara and the Cuban Revolution that he was so integral in helping achieve everywhere you turn in Cuba. Having read a bit more about his travels and how they inspired the revolution will make all the difference in your travel experience.

On the Road, Jack Kerouac

On the Road, seen from above the cover
On the Road

Contributed by Natalie from Cosmos Mariners.

In this piece of classic American literature, we follow the fictional adventures of Sal Paradise as he criss-crosses the United States in the post-World War II years. Along with his friends Neal Moriarty, Carlo Marx, and others, Sal road trips and hitchhikes across the country as he seeks romance, purpose, and writing inspiration. 

Before you dismiss this as something for an American lit classroom (and this 1957 text is something I teach in that exact class!), let me assure you that Kerouac’s attitude, writing style, and countercultural lifestyle still feel extremely contemporary.

This is THE original road trip book as author Jack Kerouac single handedly defined and described a carefree, rebellious alternative to the expected standard of marriage, a house with a picket fence and 2 kids. The book is a thinly veiled autobiography: Kerouac is front and center as Sal Paradise with other Beat poets making appearances as Sal’s friends, and the book is based on Kerouac’s own cross country wanderings in the late 1940s.

I recommend this book because it was the one that started it all: the idea that travel was both an escape and a state of mind, and the belief that happiness wasn’t a one size fits all situation. It’s impossible to read contemporary road trip musings and memoirs like Wild by Cheryl Strayed or Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer without reading On the Road first as it was the blueprint that gave us the concept of the Great American Road Trip.

On Traveling

These books aren’t on road trips, but they’re about traveling or on finding yourself.

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding, Kristin Newman

Contributed by Rachel Grenis from Caribbean Uncovered.

Kristin Newman, a TV writer and producer for shows like That 70s Show and How I Met Your Mother, writes an incredible memoir of how she spent most of her life traveling opting to not settle down until later in life. She takes you through her adventures, challenges, and lessons learned along the way.

I would recommend this book to anyone with a passion for traveling or anyone who may feel guilty about prioritizing travel and adventure. Kristin didn’t wait for the “right person” to travel with or the “right time” to travel. She took her passion and never let anyone or anything get in the way.

I love this book because her initiative to always put her happiness first is inspiring. While you’re traveling, it will remind you to take chances. It will remind you to be grateful and take full advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, even if it sounds crazy! Like uber on the Virgin Islands.

Talking to Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell

Talking to Strangers by The World By Hege
Talking to Strangers by The World By Hege

Contributed by Hege from Epic Nomad Life.

In Talking to Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on a fascinating journey into our minds, by investigating how and why people see what we see, and do what we do in encounters with strangers. Through stories and recounts from actual events, he explores the reasons for our biased perceptions of the people we encounter, and how these affect our reactions and behavior. 

Because we don’t know how to talk to strangers, we can easily prey on misunderstandings and conflict, sometimes in ways that make things go very wrong, and ways that have a profound impact on people’s lives!

In each story, Gladwell has looked deep into what actually happened, and explores the reasons why it happened just like that. And then he looks into how things might have happened differently. If the subconscious of the people involved were wired in a different way, or if their conscious minds had been looking for a different explanation than the one their personal biases immediately showed them. 

Gladwell writes in a curious, open, and entertaining way, making you stop and gaze into the distance from time to time. Thinking about your own mind and how it evaluates the strangers that you meet. Friend or foe? How can you know if your truth is the truth?

Talking to Strangers is an amazing book to read before a road trip, or while you are traveling in estranged places. Despite the profound subject, the book is written in a captivating, page-turning, and holiday-friendly way. It may teach you something about yourself (and others), and maybe make you pause and think a little the next time you meet a stranger? What you see might not be what you get at all! 

Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer

Into the Wild, seen from above the cover
Into the Wild

Contributed by Amber from Amber Everywhere

Into the Wild follows the true and fascinating story of Christopher McCandless, a young man who fatefully voyaged into the wilderness in the early 1990s. After donating his college fund and cutting all communication with his family, McCandless travels through the Western United States until he reaches the Stampede Trail in Alaska. Driven by a need for belonging, healing, and self-discovery, he attempts to survive mainly on his wits and the land. After surviving for approximately 113 days, he succumbed to the elements and his body was found in an abandoned bus.

I loved Into the Wild because the author, Jon Krakauer, is able to empathize so directly and completely with McCandless. Ultimately, McCandless was a young man who was trying to make sense of his own existence; he wanted to forge an identity that was separate from his privileged upbringing. McCandless’ journey as a woefully unprepared and arrogant young man is as enraging as it is endearing.

We all deserve to write our own stories, and there’s something about the open road that calls us to do just that. With the road stretched out before you, your troubles behind you, and nothing but miles to go, you’ll want a book that captures that sense of freedom for your next road trip. Into the Wild is, at its core, a story about the innately human need for adventure, identity, and purpose. As a reader, you’ll feel like you are along for the ride with McCandless and Krakauer on their quest to make sense of the great unknown.

Hunt, Gather, Parent, Dr. Michaeleen Doucleff

Hunt, Gather, Parent by Babies and Beaches, you see the book on a telephone screen, with ears for listening and car keys next to it
Hunt, Gather, Parent by Babies and Beaches

Contributed by Aimee from Babies & Beaches.

Dr. Michaeleen Doucleff visits ancient cultures to see how parenting is different in other parts of the world. After not getting results from western parenting advice, she sets out with her 3-year old daughter to interview families in Mexico, Tanzania and the Arctic Circle. This non-fiction read shares relatable stories of the author’s parenting journey along with what she learned by witnessing various families during her travels.

The ideas presented in Hunt, Gather, Parent are eye-opening for parents of young children. Are other parts of the world raising kids to be more autonomous, healthy adults? Are we able to trade raising our kids with anger and punishments for patience and understanding? I love that the author gives parents actionable tools so that you have an opportunity to practice these parenting concepts with your own kids.  

Road trips can be fun and exciting, but they are also overwhelming for parents of young children. It can be easy to lose patience and direct anger towards your children. As a parent of 4 kids, it is difficult to stay level headed and understanding all the time. I like to use these long trips as a way to learn and implement new ideas to make myself a better person and parent. Hunt, Gather, Parent will keep you engaged, laughing and hopeful for a positive relationship with your child.

Wild, Cheryl Strayed

Wild, as seen from above the cover

Contributed by Erika from Erika’s Travelventures

Wild is a true story based on the author’s own experiences hiking 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, a remote wilderness trail that spans across California, Oregon, and Washington states. She made the impulsive decision to hike this trail solo when her life was turned upside down by personal tragedies. Although she had no backpacking experience, Cheryl Strayed showed how determination, a sense of humor, and an adventurous spirit can take you very far. 

I love this book and recommend it for road trips because of the sense of adventure it evokes, while also describing how travel, challenging yourself, and getting out of your comfort zone can give you a sense of meaning and be a spiritual experience as well. 

Reading this book will enhance the reader’s road trip, especially if they are traveling to experience the natural beauty of the western USA, but also if they are on a road trip to overcome a personal challenge. Because Wild describes such an extraordinary personal journey, readers will be inspired to embark on their own incredible journeys too.

The book was also adapted into a movie in 2014, with Reese Witherspoon playing Cheryl Strayed. A perfect, adventure-filled movie to watch before your next road trip! 

A walk in the woods, Bill Bryson

A Walk in the Woods, seen from above the cover
A Walk in the Woods

Contributed by Melissa from Mexico Travel Secrets.

A walk in the woods is a comedic true-story account of two men’s attempt to conquer the Appalachian Trail. It is one of several travel memoirs written by American Travel Writer Bill Bryson.

You have probably heard of the Appalachian trail. This is a sprawling 3,500km hiking trail that runs through no less than fourteen US states and poses a tough physical challenge to even the most well-seasoned hikers. 

In fact, only 25% of those that attempt the trail manage to complete it. The trail begins at Spring Mountain, Georgia, and ends in Maine.

Bryson and his companion are out of shape, out of practice, and totally unprepared for what awaits them in the wilderness. As two overweight, middle-aged men armed with a backpack full of chocolate and snacks, they are the most unlikely duo for a long-distance hike. 

The book provides a comedic approach to all the trials and tribulations that they face – encounters with bears, meeting irritating, overly chatty hikers, dealing with an overpacked backpack, and minor accidents. This is a light-hearted read that guarantees big belly laughs and is perfect for preparing for any adventure, particularly if your road trip incorporates a lot of hikes and National Parks.

Best of all, it provides a realistic look at travel and asserts that it is okay if you cannot finish every trail, or if there are aspects of traveling that stress you out. At the very least, you gave a new experience a try, which is what traveling is all about. The book will help you reflect more positively on any of your own mishaps that you may experience while road-tripping. 

To Shake the Sleeping Self: A Journey from Oregon to Patagonia, and a Quest for a Life with No Regret, Jedidiah Jenkins

Contributed by Jess from Uprooted Traveler.

To Shake the Sleeping Self  is a memoir. Written by Jedidiah Jenkins in 2018. That follows his journey from bicycling from the Oregon coast, over 10,000 miles to Patagonia. With absolutely no previous experience biking. Along the way, he explores Latin and South America. From scoping out the best tacos in Mexico City to climbing the Inca Trail in Peru and standing at the “edge of the world” in Argentina. Of course, his journey is also one of self- discovery, as he reconciles his deeply conservative upbringing with being gay. 

Jenkins is an incredible narrator, whisking away the reader to the colorful stops along his journey with his honest and engaging prose. His obvious adoration- and occasional annoyance- of travel will strike a chord with any person with incessant wanderlust.

Best of all, the book is an excellent reminder that the best adventures, whether it’s a multiyear biking trip to Patagonia or a road trip to Yellowstone, are all about the journey and how they transform you along the way.

Wonders of the World, National Geographic

Wonders of the World, the book seen from above the cover
Wonders of the World

Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.

This book has the most beautiful pictures in it. That isn’t a surprise, since it’s a book published by National Geographic and they’re known for their high-quality photos. I loved reading the shorts and enjoyed the amazing photography. National Geographic highlights 25 of Earth’s most awesome places. The wonders are divided into three chapters: Sky, Land and Water.

These wonders inspire to explore and go out on your own. To see them for yourself. Make them the center of your road trip. Whether this is a winter road trip to see the Northern Lights or a national parks road trip which includes the amazing Yellowstone National Park. On 2 Days in Iceland we got to see one of the wonders, namely the Blue Lagoon.

Road Trips

If you have trouble deciding on which road trip to go on, then here are some books that can help you. They have the most beautiful road trips to take all over the world. However if it’s really going to help? Me, these books give only more idea on road trips I want to take.

Drives of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Greatest Road Trips, National Geographic

Drives of a Lifetime (Dutch version), as seen from the front, the cover
Drives of a Lifetime (Dutch version)

Contributed by Jillian from Adventure Dragon.

There’s no better book to bring on a road trip than a book that’s specifically about road trips themselves. Drives of a Lifetime contains 500 total road trip ideas from all around the world. Ranging in scale from short-distance trips that can be completed in a day. To cross-country road trips that require an extended vacation. The page dimensions are oversized as well, measuring 9.75 by 12.3 inches. Making this one of the best coffee table travel books to keep on display in your living room. Instead of putting away to be forgotten on a shelf.

This is a great book to read when you’re at the beginning of your planning process and still looking for inspiration on specific roads, highways, or types of journeys to take. The book is categorized by type of drive, so it’s easy to browse through ideas that best interest you. If you’re a lover of the ocean, for example, you can navigate to the “Sea and Shore” chapter to get ideas for road trips that run alongside the coast or provide breathtaking views of the water. If mountains or castles are more your style, there’s chapters for each of those drives as well.

Reading Drives of a Lifetime will enhance your road trip because there’s likely to be many suggestions contained within its pages that you’ve never even heard of before picking up this book. In addition to breathtaking photos curated by National Geographic, this book also contains full-color maps, planning tips, and details on distance and required driving time for the suggested trips. 

Toeristische Autoroutes Nederland, ANWB

Toeristische Autoroutes Nederland, seen from above the cover
Toeristische Autoroutes Nederland

Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.

A book with 30 one-day road trips in the Netherlands, ranging from 62 kilometers/39 miles to 380 kilometers/236 miles. The routes are well described, with maps and GPX files. Each route has several points of interest and places to sit down at. I find it really inspiring and we’ve already driven a lot of the routes. Such as the Flower Route and the Groningen Road Trip.

This book is perfect for people wanting to get acquainted with road trips. However don’t want to immediately go on a multi-day road trip. It’s also perfect if you only have half a day or the weekend available for a road trip.

Through these routes we also discovered so much more of our home country. The diversity in landscapes, despite the Netherlands being a flat country. It’s been really amazing to see my country this way.

The only downside? As far as I know the book is only available in Dutch. But every route I drive I will turn into a blog post.

The World’s Most Scenic Drives, National Geographic

The World's Most Scenic Drives, a photo of a copy of the book, magazine style
The World’s Most Scenic Drives

Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.

This book describes shortly 101 scenic drives. They’re all wonderful and they range from one day to several days. The routes range from the Great Ocean Road in Australia to a Serengeti Safari in Tanzania. And from the Pan-Am Highway in Peru to the Icefields Parkway in Canada and The Old Silk Road in Uzbekistan. The most routes are centered in Europe. Such as The Ring Road which we drove on our 14-Day Ring Road Iceland trip.

The book has such beautiful pictures and good descriptions, that I wanted to drive them all right away. This book makes you dream about taking your own road trips. And there are ideas in it for every continent, except Antarctica. So read this book so you get inspired and include one or more of the routes in your vacation.

National Parks

National parks are perfect to include in road trips. So here are some books on national parks perfect to browse through for inspiration.

Guide to the National Parks of the United States, National Geographic

Guide to the National Parks of the United States, seen from above the cover
Guide to the National Parks of the United States

Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.

A thorough guide that covers all the national parks in the USA. From the Petrified Forest to American Samoa to Everglades and Kamai, they’re all covered. Each park has an introduction, some general information on the park, sections on how to get there, when to go and how to visit, a map and there are one or more itineraries or sight-by-sight tours covered on which you see every highlight of the park.

Take this book with you on your road trip in the USA to get the most out of your visit to any national park. I love browsing through the book before going to see which national parks are on our way. During the trips I use it to see which national parks can be included best with the amount of time we have available at that area.

The National Parks and other Wild Places of Canada, Blake Maybank

The National Parks and other Wild Places of Canada, seen from above the cover
The National Parks and other Wild Places of Canada

Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.

The book covers a lot of the national parks in Canada and a few provincial parks. On each park 3 or more pages of information are given. Those pages feature beautiful pictures of the park, a small map, general information on the park and a story about what to see and do in the park and threats to the park. The book covers famous parks such as Banff National Park and Jasper National Park, but also Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve. We visited several national parks and provincial parks on our Toronto to Halifax road trip, such as Algonquin Provincial Park and Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

This book is perfect to read in before going on your Canadian road trip and to see which national parks or provincial parks are on your route.

Meet Us at the National Parks, Andrew F. Johnson

Meet Us at the National Parks, seen from above the cover
Meet Us at the National Parks

Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.

A lot of national parks, national historic parks and national monuments of the USA are covered in this book. Each with a beautiful drawing and a few lines on the park. You’ll find drawings from parks such as Olympic, Arches, Denali, Valley Forge and Great Smoky Mountains.

We bought this book for our son. To get him acquainted with the national parks at home in a fun way. It’s a perfect way to prepare your kid on a road trip with national park stops in it.

That Concludes Our Road Trip Books List

Hope the first books will help you get enthusiastic on road trips, so much that you plan one or more. The latter books on the list can help you with planning them.  

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  • Leila

    Love this post, I am always looking for books to read… especially when I’m on vacation! I have bookmarked this for later, but definitely adding Hunt, Gather, Parent to my must read list. Thanks for sharing.

  • Michelle

    I am happy to see that I have read a few of the books on your list. I am in the market for a new travel book, and A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson fits the bill. Thanks for the recommendation.

  • Kim

    What a great list. I’ve read A Walk in the Woods, love all of Bill Bryson’s books, and seen the movie as well as the movie Wild. I’ve also read Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild and Into Thin Air, which I also recommend.


    I have been longing to read the book Wild. Will read it soon. You could also consider reading this book called – Seven Years in Tibet, and consider adding that to this list. It has been an inspiring book for me.

  • Han

    Into the wild is one of my favourite books! I really enjoyed reading the other recommendations for future reads 🙂

  • Shalini

    Oh I have seen the movie and read the book and am absolutely in love with the depiction – Wild is a must read/watch book/movie for travel buffs and beyond. What an absolutely fabulous idea for a travel post Cossette – I just loved this.

    When I Pin, it takes me to pinterest website reducing time on your website – did you know that?

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