Summer is the ideal time for an escape. But escapes take plenty of different forms. You could pack a bag, get on a plane, and explore an exciting new destination. Or you could open a new book and get lost in a whole new world. Preferably while sitting by the pool. For that, all you need are the best travel books to inspire your summer reading. And a pool. And sunscreen.
The power of storytelling doesn’t just immediately transport you to a whole new setting. It inspires you to visit new places and create stories all your own. Books are also just the thing for ramping up excitement for trips you’ve already got planned. With summer practically in full swing, teachers and students will have a little extra free time on their hands. What better way to pass that time than sinking into a good book that gets you dreaming about travel?
We asked EF Group Leaders for the best travel books to inspire your summer reading. These are the books they recommend their students read before departing on tour (and, often, read themselves for the exact same reason). Check out their picks below, then build your own globetrotting reading list for the summer.
Few people were as well traveled as Anthony Bourdain. And fewer still were able to cut right to heart of what makes each corner of the world special, unique, and enchanting. He was just as excited to explore the cracks and crevices of his hometown as he was a bustling city on the other side of the world. In World Travel, not only does he take you along on unique adventures to his favorite places, he offers tips on what to do (and what to avoid) on your own journey.
Simultaneously set in World War II-era France and Germany, this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel follows the lives of two children trying to survive the devastation of war. With a stunning sense of detail and place, Doerr interweaves the lives of Marie-Laure, a French girl living in the walled city of Saint-Malo, and Werner, a German boy from a mining town, to show that, even in the worst of times, people try to be good to one another.
Region: Costa Rica
Let’s be honest: We’ve all thought about what it would be like. Visiting a dream destination and, when the time comes to depart for home, saying, “No, thanks, I think I’ll stay forever instead.” Well, Nadine Hays Pisani and her husband actually did it. In this memoir, she recounts what it was like to leave her old life behind, dive headlong into an entirely different culture, and build a new life from the ground up. Once you finish, you’ll understand why Costa Rica was the right choice.
You can always go home again. Sometimes that’s one of the biggest travel adventures you can embark on. After moving to America with her parents in 2003, Christine Mari Inzer returns to her native Tokyo ten years later, on the precipice of her 16th birthday. Diary of a Tokyo Teen details her journey as she explores her birthplace with fresh eyes. The result is a unique (and hilarious) look at one of the most vibrant cities in the world.
Region: Washington, D.C.
The first president of the United States having a whole secret identity as a colonial-era James Bond sounds like a great premise for some historical fiction. But there’s nothing fictitious about it. With double agents, covert operations, and ciphers to crack, George Washington, Spymaster shows a different side of history and turns it into an enthralling page turner. Complete with Washington’s own secret codebook, this book showcases many of our founding fathers in roles you never could have imagined.
We all want to see and experience as much of the world as we possibly can. But to keep doing that, we each have to do our part to protect the earth. As a teenager, Greta Thunburg has spurred governments into action and inspired people across the world with her impassioned rallying cries on the climate crisis. This collection of speeches is a moving reminder that each of us, in our own small ways, can make a big difference in protecting our planet.
Jane Austen may have done all her writing 200 years ago, but her stories have never been more relevant. A never-ending stream of Hollywood proves that. Despite all those interpretations and reimagining, the source text never goes out of style. Take her most popular book, Pride and Prejudice, an AP English book of literary merit if there ever was one. With an unsparing wit, Austen sets this romance amidst all the costume-drama opulence of 19th-century English aristocracy. It won’t take long before you realize she has no patience for the pretense of it all.
Region: New York City
Every kid thinks about running away. It’s practically a rite of passage to at least flirt with the idea. But not too many end up camping out in an iconic museum in the heart of one of the world’s busiest cities. This coming-of-age classic paints New York City through the eyes of a child, as Claudia Kincaid tries to solve a perplexing mystery alongside her brother and a remarkable old woman.
Sometimes you want real, historical insight into what Michelangelo was feeling in his soul as he created masterpiece after masterpiece. And other times you want a fast-moving mystery with shadow societies and cryptic symbols that just so happens to be set amongst those masterpieces. Dan Brown’s crowd-pleaser uses Italy and Rome as a backdrop for his high-wire plot, and, oh, what a background it is.
As it turns out, we’ve got it all wrong. That’s what Hans Rosling is out to prove anyway. Our ways of perceiving the world are unconsciously—and unavoidably—impacted by a variety of biases. But that’s good news. Because the world is actually in a much better spot than many of us would believe. Rosling strips away the bias and presents the facts in ways that will blow your mind, upend the way you think about the world, and, just maybe, change the way you think in general.
And if you fly through all those page-turners, we’ve got even more books that will inspire you to travel the world. Or, if you get tired of reading, you can always try out some travel immersion in film. After you immerse yourself in that pool, of course.