10 classic novels that also happen to be travel books

Although traveling and reading are too major interests of mine, I’ve never got inspired to read anything promoted as “travel books”. It’s not that I didn’t try reading recent bestsellers, many of which have been also made into ripping Hollywood movies.  And it’s not that I don’t admit their value. I’m perfectly willing to acknowledge the value of “Shantaram” for inspiring so many people to visit India and explore the most incredible country in the world (there, I’ve said it!). Or the power of “Into the Wild” for making career oriented college graduates reconsider the meaning of life. Or the strong influence of “Eat Pray Love” for encouraging women to set off on a journey of self-discovery. However, this blog is my voice and I feel it’s right to recommend only something I thoroughly liked and enjoyed. Something that gave me a deep aesthetic pleasure, nurtured my thoughts and perhaps even made me a better person. And yes, something that  fueled my wanderlust.

I’ve been always keen on classic literature, and it’s no surprise that my list of inspiring travel books consists entirely of classic novels. Here they are:

  1. Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome
    This was one of the first books I read when learning English. In spite of the plethora  of unfamiliar words I had to find in a dictionary, I couldn’t help enjoying the excellent writing style and fresh, witty jokes. English humor at its best! Three gentlemen go on a boating trip up the river Thames, and a number of incidents occurs on the way. Although being a comic novel, Three Men in a Boat was originally intended to be a detailed guidebook and so contains a lot of landmark descriptions.

2. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.

It’s amazing how updated this book, written in the beginning of the 18th century, appears to the readers of today. The targets of the author’s satire are still in full bloom nowadays – bureaucracy, greed, cruelty, ignorance, vulgar sexuality and so on. But in spite of bitterness and blatant criticism throughout the story, Gulliver’s Travels is primarily known as a brilliant adventure book.

3. A Room with a View by E. M. Forster

Once you travel, your world will never be the same. Ask any travel enthusiast and they’ll confirm that. Or read A Room with a View – a story of a young Englishwoman who visits Florence only to realize that her well ordered middle-class existence has no sense and she wants so much more from life.

4. A Passage to India by E. M. Forster

One more Forster’s novel about a young woman setting off on an adventure in a foreign land. This time it’s in India, and in many episodes the book was really speaking to me. However, Adela’s experience in India is way too extraordinary to stand in her shoes. A Passage to India was made into a wonderful movie by David Lean, and of course I’ve included it into the list of travel movies to boost one’s wanderlust.

5. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

This book  needs no introduction. No matter how perfect, organized and meaningful our every day life is, a personal growth is impossible without exploring new horizons. The Little Prince is a little boy’s quest for life, love and friendship, and each of us relates to his story in so many ways.

6. Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
A rich Englishman Phileas Fogg intends to make a round-the-world trip in 80 days for a bet. A rather daring task in the end of the 19th century, eh? Needless to say, one couldn’t avoid a great deal of alarms and surprises on that intense of a journey. The Indian part of Around the World in Eighty Days was particularly interesting:)

7. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
During the Great Depression in the USA a family of unfortunate farmers is moving from Oklahoma to California is searches of means to sustain. Driven by hope alone, they reach their destination only to know it was a false promise. Having to leave your homeland and sett off on a journey for the unknown is a daunting task for so many politically and economically deprived people of today, and Grapes of Wrath is a great reminder of that.

8. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Who hasn’t read this book as a kid, refusing to go to bed until finishing one more chapter? Follow the adventures of Huck and his friend Jim, a runaway slave, as they go down the Mississippi river on a raft. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is also a great journey down history lane for those interested in America’s eventful past. The story is spiced up with witty jokes and satirical remarks.

9. The Painted Veil by Somerset Maugham

Go on a trip together in order to repair your broken relationship. To be honest, I always found this piece of advice ridiculous. However, The Painted Veil proves the opposite. Vindictive bacteriologist Walter takes his unfaithful wife Kitty to a distant region in China suffering from a severe outbreak of cholera. Eventually Kitty finds a new appreciation for Walter, but a happy end would be too much to expect from a misanthropic author like Maugham.

10. Don Quixote by Cervantes
Where the travel aspect is concerned, the masterpiece of Miguel de Cervantes demonstrates the importance not only of “where” and “how”, but also “who”. Send a colorless person around the world, and it will hardly make a difference to anyone’s life, including their own. Send a dreamer to the most ordinary countryside, and it will be an epic adventure 🙂

Happy reading!

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**There are affiliate links in  this articles, and if you buy some of these books I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you – this helps running this site. If you’re not comfortable with this idea, please ignore the links.

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7 thoughts on “10 classic novels that also happen to be travel books

  1. Such a great collection. Probably my favorite would be Passage to India as I saw the movie and would love to read the book. So much travel energy in all these selections. Nice creative post.

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