illustration collage of the best travel books to inspire your summer reading list

For students

The 10 best travel books to inspire your summer reading

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.

World Travel by Anthony Bourdain, one of the best travel books to inspire your summer reading list

01 / World Travel by Anthony Bourdain

Region: World

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.

Recommended by: Samuel H., History/Social Studies teacher, TX

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, one of the best travel books to inspire your summer reading list

02 / All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Region: France & Germany

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.

Recommended by: Cynthia W., Economics teacher, TN

“This book is historical fiction set in St. Malo and helps explain the concept of a walled city and the Nazi occupation of France. Plus, it’s just the BEST BOOK!” -Cynthia
Happier than a Billionarie by Nadine Hays Pisani, one of the best travel books to inspire your summer reading list

03 / Happier than a Billionaire by Nadine Hays Pisani

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.

Recommended by: Kay K., Foreign Language teacher, CO

Diary of a Tokyo Teen by Christin Mari Inzer, one of the best travel books to inspire your summer reading list

04 / Diary of a Tokyo Teen by Christine Mari Inzer

Region: Japan

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.

Recommended by: Kristen W., English teacher, MA

George Washington, Spymaster by Thomas B. Allen, one of the best travel books to inspire your summer reading list

05 / George Washington, Spymaster: How the Americans Outspied the British and Won the Revolutionary War by Thomas B. Allen

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.

Recommended by: Renee M., Computer Science teacher, IA

“My students love the unit we do on the Washington Spy Ring. This is a fun way to get students excited about visiting Mt. Vernon.” -Renee
No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunburg, one of the best travel books to inspire your summer reading list

06 / No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunburg

Region: World

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.

Recommended by: Stefanie L., College and Career Readiness, NJ

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, one of the best travel books to inspire your summer reading list

07 / Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Region: England

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.

Recommended by: Greta Z., English, GA

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg, one of the best travel books to inspire your summer reading list

08 / From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

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.

Recommended by: Erin R., English, CA

“It’s an oldie, but I always suggest my kids read it for insight into NYC and the Met.” -Erin
Angels & Demons by Dan Brown, one of the best travel books to inspire your summer reading list

09 / Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

Region: Italy

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.

Recommended by: Christopher S., History/Social Studies, PA

Factfulness by Hans Rosling, one of the best travel books to inspire your summer reading list

10 / Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—And Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling

Region: World

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.

Recommended by: Matthew P., History/Social Studies, FL

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.

Jake Minton

Jake is a copywriter at EF. His bucket list includes (but is by no means limited to) snowboarding in Japan, exploring the streets of Nairobi, and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef.

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