Books, in particular travel memoirs, always go well with travel. You can read when you’re on a plane, train, or simply sitting on the beach. Ironically, I haven’t used to read travel books, like most travelers do. I was always reading classics, especially loving Russian and French literature.
I went through Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Guy de Maupassant, Flaubert, and others, but never read a typical travel book per se. Or at least I haven’t considered some a travel book.
Once I joined blogging groups, I realized that travelers are obsessed with reading books that fuel the wanderlust for another destination. Travel books are dominating bestseller lists and being made into star-studded Hollywood films. Fair enough. As a traveler who was also buried in work, last year I decided to make time and read some of best rated female travel memoirs. But the more I read the more confused I become about what exactly is a travel book…
As to my understanding, inspiring memoirs should be able to bring the reader into the scene and introduce him to the some of the country’s culture and learn from it.
Here are my honest reviews of the best female oriented travel books…
1. Travels with Myself and Another by Martha Gellhorn
2. The Taliban Shuffle by Kim Barker
I discovered Barker’s book after Tina Fey’s movie based on it, titled Whisky Tango Foxtrot. To my surprise the book was totally different than the movie. Probably that’s why many readers got disappointed by the book if they saw the movie first. While the movie is simply hilarious, it doesn’t tell people’s stories that Barker’s told in the book. Instead it focuses on Kim’s sexual relationships of the author, which in the book hardly happen at all.
The Taliban Shuffle is memoir of her time working as a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. She’s blunt, she’s funny and it feels like a report of things a journalist should write in order to make sure the world doesn’t ignore what’s important, but can’t in an official newspaper. If you just don’t understand these countries and that whole neighborhood, this is the book for you.
3. Without Reservation by Alice Steinback
I liked the she writes about not only personal triumphs, but also her fears and doubts. I’m sure you’ll love it Without Reservations.
4. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
The book follows a female character who arrives to London and struggles with love and her status, as she tries to fit into the society. It’s already a travel book! The story also moves further to Germany and India.
All right, this isn’t a female travel memoir, but I think it deserves an honorable mention. I didn’t mention this book just because I’m a huge cat lover. But I admit that my affection for furry friends might have influenced my choice to read it at the first place. The Cat Who Went to Paris is a first part of a saga written from a perspective of Norton the cat. I guess it makes it sort of a memoir.
He’s roaming through strange cities alone, being left unattended in airports, falling from high places, and the list goes on. Some might say that it makes his owner irresponsible, but I’d say that the story was slightly adjusted for the purpose of this book. Even if you’re more of a dog person this would be a good read for you.
6. Girls Who Travel by Nicole Trilivas
I was originally scared that the book was going to be mostly about guys, but the author quickly proved me wrong. The characters are vibrant and I could definitely see it being made into a movie one day. And while this book is less about new places, more about the idea of being a traveler. Plus if you’ve ever visited London you’ll recognize some places mentioned.
7. How Not to Travel the World by Lauren Juliff
Some might say this book is about finding yourself (similar to Eat Pray Love and many others). But I think it’s more about not giving up and her horrifying travel experiences.
8. The Lonely War by Nazila Fathi
Don’t expect funny love story, but more of an informative piece on Iran and how oppressive the Islamic regime is. Also, what it has done to bring many people into the middle class. The Lonely War is incredibly well written.
9. Graduates in Wonderland by Rachel Kapelke & Jessica Pan
Jessica and Rachel compiled their emails to each other in one book. They swap tales of teaching classes of military men, running a magazine, and flirting in foreign languages and go through breakups and breakdowns. But overall it’s a very humorous tale. Something similar to a TV show Girls on HBO.
Graduates in Wonderland is a good book for recent graduates. Anyone over 30 years old would enjoy it as it would make them nostalgic about their own self discovery as a recent graduate. It’s an easy read with tone is always fresh and authentic.
10. Tracks by Robyn Davidson
While it’s a journey of self-discovery and human’s connection with nature, her recollections of her times with Aboriginals and station people were the most interesting to me. And the fact that Robyn is scathingly honest about herself, no matter how off-putting it might be.
11. What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman
The entire plot is about Kristin going on escapades to have some fun with foreign guys. Sometimes ‘dating’ two or three at once. When she isn’t sharing details about her travels and international boyfriends, she tells the reader about her career as a comedy writer in Hollywood. And while she might be describing everything in a funny way, I kept thinking that it was often too much information for me.
12. Paris was Ours by Penelope Rowlands
The essays are funny, sad, informative, but most importantly honest. If you’ve ever been an expat in any country, you’ll enjoy this book!
Have you read any of these books? Which books have I missed?