1. The Art of Travel, by Alain de Botton
A reader recommendation that should be on your must-read list, this book examines the why of travel. What compels us to see the world? From the anticipation of a trip to the act of getting there, being there, and the return, Alain de Botton discusses it all. It was the most thought-provoking travel book that you will read all year. It really makes you think about why you travel and what you want to get out of it. The authorâ€™s incredibly sophisticated and vivid use of language and imagery sucks you in, and his discussions of beauty, travel, and the mundane are all equally engaging and thought provoking.
2. Turn Right at Machu Picchu, by Mark Adams
This book recounts Mark Adamsâ€™s tale of roughing it through Peru in search of little-visited Inca ruins and ancient cities while following archaeologist Hiram Binghamâ€™s original route. In a country filled with Inca ruins, many are still unexcavated and see few tourists. The book teaches you a lot about Peru, and inspires you to visit a lot of the sites Adams explored. Like him, you will fully plan to turn right. It is the best travelogue you will read this year and inspires you to visit a lot of the places he did in the book.
3. The Lost City of Z, by David Grann
Another book about another South American explorer, this book seeks to find out what happened to explorer Percy Fawcett when he trekked through the Amazon jungle in search of the fabled lost city of Z. Blending history, biography, and travelogue, author David Grann intermingles information about Percyâ€™s life and expeditions with the science behind the myth of Z and the possibility that there could have been vast advanced civilizations in the Amazon. The book reminds you of Turn Right at Machu Picchu: modern writer follows fabled explorer through the jungle. And it is equally good. One can learn a lot about the region and the history of the cultures and civilizations that inhabited the land long before Westerners came stomping about killing people.
4. Marching Powder, by Rusty Young
This book by Rusty Young tells the true story of Thomas McFadden, an English drug trafficker who ended up in Boliviaâ€™s San Pedro prison after an official double-crossed him. While it isnâ€™t one of the most well-written book youâ€™ll read, the story sucks you in and is a page-turner. You learn about life in a prison, where inmates bought their own cells (which created a huge class system), made their own drugs (to be sold on the Streets), bribed cops, and developed an economy filled with shops, elected officials, and neighborhoods. This is not a story of redemption. Itâ€™s one about life in one of the most corrupt prisons in the worldâ€¦and the weird tourist attraction it and the prisoners came to be.
5. Amsterdam: A History of the Worldâ€™s Most Liberal City, by Russell Shorto
Written by Russell Shorto, this book will cover one of most travelersâ€™ favorite cities in the world. Shorto moved to Amsterdam with his wife and children and â€” as he did in his book on Manhattan â€” has written a phenomenal tale of the cityâ€™s history, starting from its founding until modern times. You will read a lot of books about Amsterdam, and this book is by far one of the best, providing a wonderful overview of the city and its culture as told through the stories of its famous and not-so-famous residents.