It’s that time of the year again. Every December I write an article about my favorite books of the year and this year is no different. Most of these books are travel related, although there are a few “not-so-travel-related” books just to keep things interesting.
If you are looking for a good read or a gift for a friend and family member, here are some great books to add to the list! Enjoy!
Favorite Books of 2018
A Gentleman in Moscow
A Gentleman in Moscow transports you back in time to Moscow, Russia in 1922. Count Alexander Rostov is placed under house arrest by the Bolsheviks at the Metropol Hotel. For years he lives here, never stepping foot outside. During this time, he forms relationships with the staff and guests of the hotel and still manages to live a fulfilling life.
This is a book to be savored. The writing is beautiful and it has a wonderful ending.
The Happiness of Pursuit
Chris Guillebeau set out on a “quest” to visit every country in the world by the age of 35. He succeeded, and while he was on the road, he learned that there are a lot of other people out there on a their own personal quests.
Chris compiled The Happiness of Pursuit, Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life, a memoir of his experiences and a collection of these stories. It’s a dangerously inspiring book, especially if you have a “crazy” idea in your head that just won’t go away.
In preparation for our trip to Poland, I read this book. This was my first James Michener, who is famous for writing lengthy historical fiction books that take place in locales around the world.
Poland spans eight centuries, told from the perspective of three Polish families. There is a lot of information in this book, and at times it can feel a bit slow and tedious, but overall it’s a fascinating history lesson about Poland. Kara also read this book and loved it.
This is a great book to read if you are planning a trip to Poland or you just want to learn more about this fascinating country.
Kitchen Confidential, Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, is a memoir that takes us from Bourdain’s childhood years up until he traveled abroad as an adult for the first time. It’s a wild ride, filled with drugs, sex, and lots of shocking content. Never will you eat fish on Monday again. And since many people know of Anthony Bourdain as an experienced world traveler, it’s refreshing to hear just how lost and intimidated he felt his first time in Tokyo.
A Land so Strange
In 1528, a Spanish mission to colonize Florida went terribly wrong. Of the 400 people in the mission, only 4 survived. These four people survived a journey by raft from the coast of Florida to the coast of Texas, enslavement by native Indians, and a trek across Texas and Mexico that lasted for years.
A Land So Strange: The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca is a true story, although you will probably never hear it mentioned in history books. This small group of explorers encountered lands and people never seen by Europeans before their incredible saga.
It’s a fascinating story, and I enjoyed it, but give it time because it is a bit slow to get going. But what an interesting look into the first contact between this small group of Europeans and the native Americans.
If you love wine, if you travel for food, or if you just have an interest in learning more about wine, check out The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil. This is a comprehensive, easy to read guide that teaches you all about wine. It starts with the basics and then takes you through the different wine regions around the world.
For each country, Karen includes maps, information on how the wine is made (there can be big differences in how each country produces and labels its wines), and at the end of each section she gives a list of recommended wines. For each area, she also writes about the cuisine and things to do if you are planning a visit here.
I learned so much. It’s fun to pick a region, learn about it, visit your local wine shop, pick out a few bottles of wine, and drink them at home. Tim and I have been trying wines that we haven’t heard of until I read this book, like Nebbiolos from Piedmont, Italy and Gerwurztraminers from the Alsace region of France.
This book is packed with information, so I am not reading it word for word, but it is a book that I know I will refer back to on a regular basis.
If you plan on taking it with you when you travel, I recommend purchasing the Kindle version because the paperback version is large and surprisingly heavy.
The Art of Hearing Heartbeats
The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is a love story that takes place in Burma. The story starts in New York when Julia’s father, Tin Win, disappears. Julia finds a love letter that was written many years ago and she goes on a journey to Kalaw, Burma to find her father. She learns about Tin Win’s life in Burma and the young woman, Mi Mi, whom he fell in love with.
This book is slow at first and then it gradually builds. Towards the end, I really enjoyed it and had a hard time putting it down. The ending is a bit abrupt and left me questioning Tin Win’s decisions.
This is a story about love (women will find this more interesting than men, in my opinion). It’s beautifully written with wonderful imagery from Myanmar. If you like love stories or want to read a story that takes place in Myanmar, I recommend this book.
You Are a Badass
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I really enjoyed this book. Yes, it’s a self-help book. And yes, it gets very mixed reviews by other readers. But its bright, bold cover and catchy title caught my eye.
Once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop.
Whether or not you agree with Jen Sincero’s message, her writing is hysterical and very motivating. Her basic message in You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life is that if you want something badly enough, you will find the way to go out there and make it happen. This, I agree with. However, her talk about “Source Energy” and loving yourself and wishful thinking for the future turned me off a little bit. Even so, I really enjoyed it, and if you want to read a quick, entertaining book with lots of positive energy, check this one out.
Where the Magic Happens
The Craven family spent close to two years circumnavigating the globe in a sailboat. During their journey around the world, this family of five sailed 35,000 miles, visited 26 countries, and went on a life changing adventure.
Since the completion of their journey in 2016, Caspar Craven wrote a book called Where the Magic Happens, How a Young Family Changed Their Lives and Sailed Around the World.
His book begins long before they sailed away from land. For me, the most amazing part of their story is what it took for them to plan and prepare and save enough money in order to make this happen. It’s crazy and hectic and very inspirational.
The second half of the book is about their journey around the world…the difficulties they faced, the places they visited, and what it was like to be together as a family 24/7 on a sailboat.
If you are curious about what it would be like to sail around the world or you are contemplating doing something similar, add this book to your reading list.
I loved this book. Pachinko is a family saga set in Korea and Japan in the 20th century. The story follows four generations of a poor Korean family as they face exile from Korea and then near poverty conditions in Japan. This is the type of book that transports you to a different time and place. Not only do you learn about the hardships that immigrants go through to make a new life for themselves, but you also learn a lot about the dynamic between Koreans and Japanese in the 20th century.
Born to Run
Then comes this book.
It’s fascinating. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen journeys to Mexico to uncover the secrets of the Tarahumara people, a small group of men and women who run 50+ miles a day for the fun of it. And they never deal with running injuries. Christopher McDougall proposes that humans are designed to run far and can do this well into their 60’s and 70’s, as long as we run with the correct mechanics. And that would be barefoot running.
So, I gave it a try. Prior to reading this book I had been dealing with a chronic hamstring strain. Even so, I went for a run without shoes…and did it pain free! Now, 6 months later, I am running multiple days a week without any issues (and in my shoes…but with the barefoot running technique). It’s been years since I’ve done this (even with my Ironman training, believe it or not).
If you enjoy running, even if it is only a few miles here and there, check out this book. It may change the way you think about long distance running and what you are capable of.
John Hodgman is an author, a humorist, and a contributor to the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He is hysterical. This short, easy to read book is filled with musings about life, anecdotes, and what it means to be a white, privileged man in American society. I connected with this book in ways I was not expecting. Vacationland: Stories from Painful Beaches really is laugh-out-loud funny and a pleasure to read.
Looking for More Great Books? Here are more of my favorites:
You May Also Like:
- Movies: Best Travel Movies to Inspire the Wanderer in You
- For the Fun of it: 10 Things We Love that Have (Almost) Nothing to do with Travel
- Inspiration: Find Your Next Adventure
- Travel Ideas: 10 Winter Vacation Ideas Perfect for the Holiday Season
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