Ahead of a trip, many of us gravitate toward books that depict the history and culture of our travel destination. But it can work the other way around, too. Sometimes a book provides such a powerful sense of place that we find ourselves longing to visit the area we read about. Some of us even act on this urge. Here are the books that inspired us to pack our bags and explore someplace new.
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Bound for Glory
by Woody Guthrie
I read Bound for Glory
, Woody Guthrie's autobiography, when I was 15 or 16. It filled me with such an intense longing to travel that I actually dropped out of high school, specifically to become a vagabond, and, at 18, bought a plane ticket to Europe. I called my mom from Amsterdam to let her know where I was and that I had no actual money. I stayed with a friend's family in Germany till she could wire some cash to me, and I spent three months drifting around. I'm still amazed that my mom never said a word about it.
The Bone People
by Keri Hulme
I have never been so affected by a book as I was by The Bone People
. Author Keri Hulme draws you into the life of Kerewin, a reclusive, eccentric, and deeply rooted New Zealand woman, and the unusual and shattering friendship she develops with a young boy and his father. This story wrung out my heart, stole my breath, and ultimately led me to fly to New Zealand, where I spent three unforgettable months immersed in the land from which Hulme drew her inspiration.
On the Road
by Jack Kerouac
I was never much of a traveler until I read Kerouac's classic. Soon after reading On the Road
, I took my first solo road trip from St. Paul to San Diego. It wasn't long after that I was driving all around the states, and my travel itch did not go away. I eventually joined the Peace Corps and spent over two years living aboard. I believe it all began with On the Road
– Jeff J.
A Thief of Time
by Tony Hillerman
Though fiction, Hillerman's books are woven with notes of true Navajo history. In this book, sacred ground is ravaged. A noted anthropologist vanishes. Two corpses are discovered, and Navajo Tribal Policemen Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee unearth an astonishing truth. This was the first book of many of Hillerman's I read. They apparently seeped into these Northwest bones. Several years later, I was compelled to move to dry New Mexico, where the surroundings felt familiar, and I met Navajo friends on the terrain that Hillerman had incorporated into his writing.
by Jean-Claude Izzo
While living in Spain, I happened to pick up Total Chaos
and was immediately transported to the crime-ridden backstreets of Marseilles, so much so that I convinced a couple friends that we had to visit. A short while later, there we were, following Detective Fabio Montale's footsteps through the labyrinthine Arab quarter, getting blitzed on pastis, and wondering if the little man with the moustache was an assassin.
– Peter N.
The Sun Also Rises
by Ernest Hemingway
I read this book during my senior year of college to take a break from my business reading requirements. It inspired me to buy a plane ticket to Spain as a graduation present to myself. I went and ran with the bulls in Pamplona and felt like I was living out a story. I will always remember this exciting time in my life that was inspired by great literature.
Into Thin Air
by Jon Krakauer
A deadly storm striking tragedy on unsuspecting climbers isn't subject matter I would typically expect to inspire adventure. Yet Jon Krakauer's riveting account of a disastrous 1999 ascent of Mt. Everest did just that. At its heart, this outstanding book thrillingly recounts an ill-fated and deadly climb. But the remarkable reportage also captures the striking landscape of the Himalayas, and the excitement of the sport of climbing — two compelling seeds for adventure. While I didn't attempt to bag any mountain peaks, Krakauer's tale led me to trek the Annapurnas to personally experience the adventure and beauty of the region.
The Power of One
by Bryce Courtenay
This book had a huge impact on me. I read it when I was in middle school and was completely hypnotized by the descriptions of South Africa and the people who lived there. A couple of years later, in high school, I decided to become an exchange student and when one of the options of places to go was South Africa, I remembered the quality of the air and the landscape and the magic that Bryce Courtenay created and decided that's where I needed to go. Ultimately I lived in Johannesburg for eight months and had a totally life-altering time, probably in large part because of this book.
by Jeff Johnson
I was living in Southern California, working at Borders and trying to decide if my husband and I should take a friend up on his offer to move to Portland. Then this book came into my store and I knew the universe was telling us to get out of Dodge. Within a few weeks, we had packed up our 1964 Dodge Dart with all our belongings and were on the road. We've never been happier living anywhere than we've been in Portland.
– Linda C.