5 Travel memoirs to add to your winter reading list

 In Books and Movies


Up here in the northern hemisphere we are adding on extra layers, turning up the heat and grabbing a cup of tea to drink while we read our books by the fire. Through reading we can escape the winter blues until Spring Break and summer holidays, but these trips are months away. Some days it feels like winter will never end.

If you don’t have a trip planned and you need a little travel boost, why not pick up a travel memoir. Escape to the beaches of the Caribbean, the back streets of Paris or a noodle shop in Tokyo. You may not get to hop on a plane anytime soon, but you can get inspired by travel today.

Honeymoon-with-My-BrotherHoneymoon with My Brother: A Memoir

Author: Frank Wisner
Recommended by Trish McCloy at TripStyler.com

Why Trish loves it: I’m kind of obsessed with books. Not novels on a screen, but words printed on paper. Even though it takes up a tad more space, whenever I travel, I always take the newest paperback in my ever-evolving collection. Looking back, one of my favorite reads of 2013 was Honeymoon with My Brother: A Memoir by Frank Wisner, which speaks to a left-at-the-altar epiphany, time-tested relationships, and continents of travel in between. Think of it like that movie you hope never ends. Let’s just say I hope the author comes out with a follow-up!

Publisher summary: This is the true story of Franz Wisner, a man who thought he had it all- a high profile career and the fiancée of his dreams- when suddenly, his life turned upside down. Just days before they were to be married, his fiancée called off the wedding. Luckily, his large support network of family and friends wouldn’t let him succumb to his misery. They decided Franz should have a wedding and a honeymoon anyway- there just wouldn’t be a bride at the ceremony, and Franz’ travel companion would be his brother, Kurt.

During the “honeymoon,” Franz reconnected with his brother and began to look at his life with newfound perspective. The brothers decided to leave their old lives behind them. They quit their jobs, sold all their possessions, and traveled around the world, visiting fifty-three countries for the next two years. In Honeymoon With My Brother, Franz recounts this remarkable journey, during which he turned his heartbreak into an opportunity to learn about himself, the world, and the brother he hardly knew.

The-Sweet-Life-in-ParisThe Sweet Life in Paris

Author: David Lebovitz
Recommended by Lisa Goodmurphy at GoneWithTheFamily.com

Why Lisa loves it: I love reading fiction and non-fiction when preparing for an upcoming trip and one of my favourite reads prior to our family trip to Paris was The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz. I loved his truthful and humorous accounts of what it was like for a North American trying to fit into French society – most likely because I long to live in Paris myself! The best part about the book though is the recipes at the end of each chapter. I have never actually attempted any of them but it was fun imagining that I would at the same time as I was imagining my life in my own little pied-à-terre in Paris.

Book Description: Like so many others, David Lebovitz dreamed about living in Paris ever since he first visited the city in the 1980s. Finally, after a nearly two-decade career as a pastry chef and cookbook author, he moved to Paris to start a new life. Having crammed all his worldly belongings into three suitcases, he arrived, hopes high, at his new apartment in the lively Bastille neighborhood.

But he soon discovered it’s a different world in France.

From learning the ironclad rules of social conduct to the mysteries of men’s footwear, from shopkeepers who work so hard not to sell you anything to the etiquette of working the right way around the cheese plate, here is David’s story of how he came to fall in love with—and even understand—this glorious, yet sometimes maddening, city.

Pretty-Good-Number-ONePretty Good Number One: An American Family Eats Tokyo

Author: Matthew Amster-Burton
Recommended by Keryn Means at WalkingOnTravels.com

Why Keryn loves it: If you have been watching my Facebook feed you know how much I love this book. It is not just because the author is a Seattle writer. No, it is because I love to torture myself by reading about delicious food at night. Japanese cuisine has always excited me, but I never knew just how deep it went. Oh sure we eat sushi, teriyaki and hot stone grilled meats, but the way Amster-Burton describes his daughter’s love for mackerel, dumplings, and the art of matcha is devilishly divine. Every time I read a new chapter I would laugh out loud before turning to to my husband to say, “we have to go to Tokyo. I just read about the perfect spot for noodles!” Thankfully my husband is always game to go back to Japan and test out his language skills some more. Now to start planning our trip.

Book Description: Everyone knows how to live the good life in Paris, Provence, or Tuscany. Now, Matthew Amster-Burton makes you fall in love with Tokyo. Experience this exciting and misunderstood city through the eyes of three Americans vacationing in a tiny Tokyo apartment. Follow 8-year-old Iris on a solo errand to the world’s greatest supermarket, picnic on the bullet train, and eat a staggering array of great, inexpensive foods, from eel to udon. A humorous travel memoir in the tradition of Peter Mayle and Bill Bryson, Pretty Good Number One is the next best thing to a ticket to Tokyo.

A-Trip-to-the-BeachA Trip to the Beach: Living on Island Time in the Caribbean

Author: Melinda Blanchards
Recommended by Tara Cannon at PintSizePilot.com

Why Tara loves it:  Trying to beat the winter blues, I decided to escape to the Caribbean island of Anguilla through Melinda Blanchards A Trip to the Beach. In this true story, the Blanchard’s recount their trials and tribulations as they move from their Vermont home to the island of Anguilla to open a restaurant.  I enjoyed the book so much that 6 months later I found myself enjoying a candlelit dinner with my husband, toes in the sand, at that very restaurant they started.  I even had the chance to swap cooking tips with Melinda herself, returning home with a cookbook in hand.

Book Description: This is the true story of a trip to the beach that never ends. It’s about a husband and wife who escape civilization to build a small restaurant on an island paradise — and discover that even paradise has its pitfalls. It’s a story filled with calamities and comedy, culinary disasters and triumphs, and indelible portraits of people who live and work on a sliver of beauty set in the Caribbean Sea. It’s about the maddening, exhausting, outlandish complications of trying to live the simple life — and the joy that comes when you somehow pull it off.

WanderlustWanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents

Author: Elisabeth Eaves
Recommended by Jenna Francisco at ThisIsMyHappiness.com

Why Jenna loves it: Even though Wanderlust certainly is not a perfect book, I thoroughly enjoyed it because I identified with Elisabeth. Her tales of finding adventure and never wanting to be tied down reminded me of my own feelings from my early 20s when I didn’t want to stop traveling and became an expat. She delves into her own fears and hopes through her travels, challenges, and relationships; in a later New York Times piece called “A Place to Lay My Heart,” we find out that she eventually finds contentment in settling down.

Book Description: Spanning fifteen years of travel, beginning when she is a sophomore in college, Wanderlust documents Elisabeth Eaves’s insatiable hunger for the rush of the unfamiliar and the experience of encountering new people and cultures. Young and independent, she crisscrosses five continents and chases the exotic, both in culture and in romance. In the jungles of Papua New Guinea, she loses herself—literally—to an Australian tour guide; in Cairo, she reconnects with her high school sweetheart, only to discover the beginning of a pattern that will characterize her life over the long-term: while long-distance relationships work well for her, traditional relationships do not.

Wanderlust, however, is more than a chronological conquest of men and countries: at its core, it’s a journey of self-discovery. In the course of her travels, Eaves finds herself and the sense of home she’s been lacking since childhood—and she sheds light on a growing culture of young women who have the freedom and inclination to define their own, increasingly global, lifestyles, unfettered by traditional roles and conventions of past generations of women.

What travel-related books have you read lately that transported you to a far off place? 

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Showing 11 comments
  • Anuja De Silva

    I really enjoyed adventure capitalist by Jim Rogers and Almost french by Sarah Turnbull.

  • Lisa Goodmurphy

    More great books to add to my reading list – thanks!!

  • Camels & Chocolate

    I’ve never read any of these–must check them out! Though it’s not strictly travel, he does move all over the globe in the span of 30+ years, and thus I also suggest The Wolf and the Watchman by my good friend Scott Johnson, who grew up the son of a CIA spy then became a Newsweek war correspondent in his adult life.

  • Samantha @mytanfeet

    I just started getting into reading travel books so this list is great! Always looking for more inspiration

  • tripsbylance

    I second Camels and Chocolate’s recommendation, although I haven’t yet read it. I heard Scott Johnson speak at the KEEN Digital Summit and loved his story.

  • Penny Sadler

    Great list as I haven’t read any of them! I wish I had more time to read! I need a beach, a palapa, and a stack of books!

  • Steph | DiscoveringIce.com

    These all sound great! Was just looking for some travel related books lately! 🙂

  • Terumi

    Great list:) I love Pretty Good Number one and now I’ve bought the Sweet Life in Paris, thanks!

  • Sarah Stewart

    I loved A Trip to the Beach: Living on Island Time in the Caribbean!!! This is a great list 😀 😀 Also for all you true travel story lovers out there, I just bought this book yesterday, “Following My TUG… All the way to Costa Rica!” and I’m almost finished because I can’t put it down!! I don’t read as often as some, maybe one book over two or three months, but something about this authors writing style just drew me in. It’s a completely true story of this woman who picked up her whole suburbanized life and moved to the mountains of Costa Rica with her husband. It’s REALLY interesting, and sort of a dream of mine.. to just travel and change my life just like that (hense why I love A Trip to the Beach and Following My TUG by Anne Lawrence) Anyways, Following my TUG is SO inspiring, and hilarious so if you’re interested in a good read/true story of travel and adventure that’s relatable and inspiring I would highly recommend this book! Plus its cheap, you can grab a copy off Kobo books for like 8 bucks,

  • Jenna

    I’m reading Travels with Epicurus right now. It’s about the slow life in Greece. Very well written.

  • Savvy Working Gal

    I read A Trip to the Beach while on vacation in Anguilla. It was the perfect book/vacation pairing and sparked my interest in reading a book about the place I’m visiting while there. Another pretty good match-up was ‘The House of Mondavi’ by Julia Flynn Siler which I read while visiting California’s wine country.