Wild, as seen from above the cover
Books,  USA

Must-Read USA Travel Books

When going on your first trip to or through the USA, or the millionth one, USA travel books are always a good idea to read before or during your trip. From autobiographic books to fiction and non-fiction books. We’ve covered the best Road Trips Books, now it’s the time for travel books on the USA.

I’ve asked my fellow travel bloggers what they think are the best US travel books. I of course added some of my recommendations.

USA Travel Books Autobiographic

Let’s start with two autobiographic books written by Americans and situated in the US.

Wild, Cheryl Strayed

Wild, as seen from above the cover

Contributed by Amber from Amber Everywhere.

Wild is a memoir that details author Cheryl Strayed’s experience thru-hiking during a period of profound loss and grief following her mother’s death. In an attempt to find herself and heal, she sets off to hike the Pacific Coast Trail from Mexico to the Canadian border. She’s underprepared and inexperienced, but she hits the trail anyway with her massive pack she nicknamed Monster. 

Strayed’s telling of personal transformation is beautifully told, bringing in the elements of humor, humility, and triumph. Wild will remind you of the goodness and kindness of strangers, many of whom helped her in large and small ways during her journey on the PCT. While reading Wild, I often found myself thinking, “Wow, if Cheryl can do that, I probably could, too”. Her compassion for herself is infectious, often choosing to simply wish she’d done things differently instead of berating herself for her mistakes. 

Wild is the perfect read (or listen) for a road trip in the US because it captures the essential feelings of being alive and of learning to enjoy the journey. You’ll also get a first person account of the special and unique culture of thru-hiking in the US, where people called “Trail Angels” spend their time making life a little easier for the adventurous souls who travel along America’s longest trails. This book will remind you that you can, in fact, do hard things, and that it’s up to you to make the most of your circumstances – a perfect accompaniment to an exploration of the open road in the US.

Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer

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

Contributed by Victoria from Guide your Travel.

Into the Wild is a must-read classic which features Christopher McCandless who despite coming from a wealthy background and being a successful athlete and great student, decides to leave his old life behind to explore Alaska. He gives away his savings and most of his possessions to truly be immersed in nature and discover Alaska from a fresh perspective. 

Into the Wild is the ideal read for anyone who’s ever considered going on a once in a lifetime adventure, changing their entire life. Whether your life changing decision involves hiking through Alaska or just moving to another place, this book will inspire you to think outside the box and of course consider all perspectives.

Into the Wild will make you excited for your trip to the US, especially if you’re travelling to Alaska. However, any trip to a national park is a great occasion to read this fantastic book.


Here are 4 fiction books that are well worth your time. 3 of them are situated in the US, one isn’t. Read on to know why these books are must reads.

Anyone that loves a good detective story must add this one to their list because not only is it considered the first detective story, but it is also very noticeable where writers like Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie got their inspiration for characters like Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. 

The Murders in the Rue Morgue, Edgar Allan Poe

Contributed by Haley from Fernweh Foreigner.

The story takes place in Paris during the mid 1800s. It follows the highly observant and deductively skilled Parisian, C. Auguste Dupin. When the police falsely arrest a friend of Dupin’s for an inexplicable crime where two women were brutally killed, he decides to step in. With details of the crime scene like a completely locked room on the fourth floor of a house, broken furniture thrown about the room, blood spread everywhere even up and down the walls, valuable’s sitting out in the open, one woman shoved up the flue of the fireplace, the other laying nearly headless in the backyard and no one in sight, only Dupin can make sense and catch the true killer.  

Anyone that loves a good detective story must add this one to their list because not only is it considered the first detective story, but it is also very noticeable where writers like Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie got their inspiration for characters like Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. 

Although this story takes place in Paris, it is still a perfect read before visiting the Washington DC area, specifically Baltimore because like his inexplicable story, this is where Poe met his mysterious end and remains buried. There are plenty of theories out there about what really happened to Poe but I’m more convinced by either the beating, murder or brain tumor theories.

The Four Winds, Kristin Hannah

The Four Winds by Coaching Evie, as seen from above, being held by a hand
The Four Winds by Coaching Evie

Contributed by Amanda from Coaching Evie.

Dust storms and drought decimate Elsa’s livelihood, forcing her to find a new means for her and her two children to survive. Abandoned by her husband, she travels with her children from the Great Plains to California seeking fresh air and a better life. There, like millions of other unemployed and unwanted migrants, she is met with an even grimmer reality.

Kristin Hannah, a #1 New York Times Best Selling Author, enthralls her audience once more with this compelling historical fiction. She manages to tell a story of survival, hope, and the ties between women while also bringing to life the Great Depression, American dream, Dust Bowl, unionization, and largest migration to California in history. 

Never again will I travel through the Great Plains of the United States without reflecting on this harrowing story. Although the characters are fictional, the hardships that were endured in the United States when both economic and environmental disasters collided were quite real. This novel leaves you to question the extent you would be willing to go to fight for the survival of the ones you love. As well as, the lessons we have learned as a nation on farming, land protection, and the abuse of those in need. 

The Kent Family Chronicles, John Jakes

The Bastard, the first part in the Kent family chronicles, as seen teh cover of the book on the e-reader
The Bastard, the first part in the Kent family chronicles

Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels

A series of books that follows different members of the Kent family from 1770 till 1890. They’re present at most turning points in American history. In the first novel we follow Philip Kent who travels from France to England to the New World, on the brink of the American Revolution. Later books have members of the Kent family playing a role or witnessing historical events in American history. The books end with the death of Gideon Kent in 1890, just before the beginning of the 20th century.

John Jakes wrote the books to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence of the US. Each book you get swept away by the characters of the books. You get sucked in with the story on how each member tries to survive and thrive admit the turbulent American history. It’s compelling historical fiction, that captions you from start to finish.

When reading these great books, you’ll get a feeling for the turbulent history of the US. What has shaped present day people and the country. The first 3 novels have been turned into a tv-series.

The Color Purple, Alice Walker

The Color Purple, as seen from above the cover
The Color Purple

Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.

The book centers around Celie, an African American girl that grows up in rural Georgia. She has a hardscrabble upbringing and life. While experiencing her hardship you’ll see the landscape around her. Celie narrates her life through letters she writes to God.

The book is written in a different style than most novels, making it not one of the easiest books to read. The hardships Celie endures are not easy to read about.

The book will give you the feeling as if you’ve taken a trip to the South in the early 20th century. Alice Walker won a Pulitzer Price for this classic novel in 1983. The book was adopted into a movie and a musical.


There are several useful non-fiction books that can inspire you for your journey or help you during your trip.

Revealed Travel Guides, Andrew Doughty

Hawaii The Big Island Revealed by Travel Compositions, as seen from above the cover
Hawaii The Big Island Revealed by Travel Compositions

Contributed by Tabitha from Travel Compositions.

The Revealed Travel Guides are in-depth but easy to read books on each of the main Hawaiian Islands: Oahu Revealed, Maui Revealed, Hawaii the Big Island Revealed, and Kauai Revealed. The books are thoughtfully written and detail oriented, exploring every nook and cranny of the islands. The author writes in a light-hearted way and shares pieces of information that are “secret” but not illegal (technically); he lets you use your best judgement calls. 

I consider these guides as “the Bible” of Hawaii travel. I have used them on my trips to Maui and the Big Island, lovingly marking them up, and found them to be indispensable. Some of my favorite finds on the islands are because the books brought them to attention when other travel guidebooks kept silent. 

Besides sharing hidden gems, the Revealed Travel Guides do a great and honest job of offering their opinions on restaurants and tours to help you narrow down your options. They are great to keep in the rental car as they provide specific directions to hard-to-find locations and are full of facts and history to help you appreciate the sites you visit.

1000 Places to See in the United States & Canada Before You Die, Patricia Schultz

1000 Places to See in the United States & Canada Before You Die by Wacky Wine Girl, as seen from above the cover
1000 Places to See in the United States & Canada Before You Die by Wacky Wine Girl

Contributed by Donna from Wacky Wine Girl.

This book is a follow up to the original 1000 Places to See Before You Die, which encompasses must see attractions across the globe. This book, which focuses on the United States and Canada, has a cornucopia of bucket list travel venues, from where to touch elbows with the rich and famous to natural wonders. The book also includes special events such as the Orange Bowl or Calle Ocho, in Florida. Plus it points out famous resorts like the Hotel del Coronado in California.

I love the way the book is broken up into geographic regions, and then by state. This format makes it easy to find places to see in the area you will be visiting, rather than if it was designed alphabetically. This format is also helpful when planning a road trip, where you will be crossing several states. 

Whether you are visiting the U.S. for the first time or are planning a vacation right in your own backyard, this book makes a useful tool to help plan once in a lifetime experiences.

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 of the USA. From Shenandoah to American Samoa to Everglades and Kamai, they’re all covered. Each park receives 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 USA trip to get the most out of your visit to any national park. National parks are an integral part of the US, and you should visit at least one national park on your trip.

I love browsing through the book before going, to see which national parks are in the area. During our trips I use it to see which national parks can be included best with the amount of time we have available at that area.

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 with a beautiful drawing and a few lines on the park. You’ll find drawings from parks such as Great Smoky Mountains, Olympic, Valley Forge, Arches and Denali.

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 USA Travel Books List

Hope these books help you prepare for your trip through or to the USA.   

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  • Russ

    A new memoir and travelogue entitled Retire and Go provides insights and information for seniors traveling and living in Rome, Florence and Paris, on a budget. A relaxing and enjoyable read

  • Terri

    I absolutely love Wild and I think about on every 10 mile+ hike In a National Park. It is incredible what your body can survive if you just put one foot in front of the other. It is an inspiring story.

  • Katelynn Kellogg

    This post really got my attention because 1) I love to read and 2) I love to mix reading and travel! I loved both WILD and INTO THE WILD and would agree with those picks. I’d also include:
    A Walk in The Woods – by Bill Bryson,
    WILL by Will Smith,
    Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
    Educated by Tara Westover
    and a classic! 1984!
    I also love that this post was a collaboration. Thanks for putting it together.

  • Kitty

    Thanks for this list! I am especially interested in the non-fiction books, specifically for Hawaii. I will definitely pick up Doughty’s Hawaii guide before finally making it there.
    My personal fiction taste is unfortunately a bit more on the trashy side…

  • Kendra

    It’s always great to have a list of good travel books to read for a long flight or even for chilling by the pool. I look forward to check out these for sure!

  • Taylor

    The Four Winds is a great book. Krisitin Hannah’s The Great Alone is another great USA travel book. If you like Wild, you might also enjoy A Walk in the Woods.

  • Linda (LD Holland)

    I am always amazed at the great books that spur the urge to travel. So many great new spots first explored in books and open to explore in person. I typically look for fiction books to get a story and see a place through the eyes of the characters. But you included some good ones as reference guides for National Park visits.

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