Yes! While traveling we finally have the time to read those books we’ve always wanted to read! Bunch of Backpackers selected the best travel books out there. All perfect books to read while you’re traveling alone. A 10-hour bus ride is no longer boring with these best backpacker reads in your backpack. 

This article was updated in December 2018. 

My top 10 of best backpacker reads

1. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

A convicted Australian bank robber and heroin addict (Lin) escapes from prison and flees to India where he falls in love, works for the Mumbai underworld, acts in Bollywood movies, lives in the slums and is locked up in prison again.

A travel book especially recommended for India

Shantaram. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers.
2. Motorcycle diaries by Ernesto ‘ Che’ Guevara

The epic motorcycle journey of the young revolutionary Che Guevara.

A travel book especially recommended for Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chili, Colombia & Venezuela.

3. Mr. Nice by Howard Marks

The (partly) autobiographic story of Mr. Howard Marks, one of the greatest drugs smugglers in the world

4. Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy by Douglas Adams

A five book ‘trilogy’ about the adventures of Arthur Dent in space. (A BoB’s favorite!)

5. Lord of the rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

The fantastic fantasy novel about a young hobbit and his quest to destroy the ‘One ring’ (A BoB’s favorite!)

Reading Lord of the Rings in Laos.
6. 1984 by George Orwell

Your daily portion of dystopian fiction in this novel about a world that is governed by Big Brother and the Party.

7. Marching powder by Rusty Young

The amazing story of Thomas Mc Fadden who was thrown in the notorious and bizarre San Pedro prison in La Paz. A prison where prisoners live with their family, cells are ‘private’ property,  coca cola is the main sponsor and  prisoners have to find and keep jobs (most often in cocaine manufacturing).

A travel book especially recommended for Bolivia

8. Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig

The popular philosophical novel in which Pirsig describes a 17-day journey on a motorcycle of a father and his son.

A travel book especially recommended for the United States! Read here about an ultimate road trip in the Southwest USA by car! 

9. A short history of nearly everything by Bill Bryson

All there is to know about science (and its background) written in an unique, readable and funny way

10. ???

What is your favorite? Let me know! 

You may have noticed that you always see the same titles in the secondhand bookshops, the book-swab areas of the hostel and in the hands of other travelers. The books listed below are some other titles of popular travel reads, which are perfect to read while traveling alone. So join the backpacker book club and start reading!

Other popular travel books / best backpacker reads that you ALWAYS come across are:

– The Beach by Alex Garland
– The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
– Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
– Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
– The Naked traveller by Trinity
– Life of Pi by Yann Martel
– Backpack by Emily Barr
– The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson
– The Jack Reacher series bij Lee Child
– Seven years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer
– The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling
– The Dan Brown books (by Dan Brown)
– The Twilight books Stephenie Meyer
– The Hunger games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
– The Theroux books
– The Circle & What is the What by Dave Eggers
– On the road by Jack Kerouac
– A thousand splendid suns and the Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
– The great railway bazaar by Paul Theroux

Recommended further reading
The ultimate guide to backpacker jargon
Best places to travel when solo and on a budget
6 Ethical travel dilemma’s I encountered as a traveler

Best backpacker booksCurious to hear what’s your favorite? Please post your best backpacker reads in the comments!


  1. Excellent list! Glad to see that Lord of the Rings made it on there – such a great travel book from a man with an incredible imagination. I would add pretty much all of Bill Bryson’s books to the list. They are a great source of inspiration for travel.

  2. What a great list! I’ve read five of the ten and am going to La Paz next week so will pick up a copy of Marching Powder. Just finishing Bill Bryson’s Made in America first!

  3. I finished Wild recently by Cheryl Strayed and thought it was a great travel book. Another fantastic one is Little Bee. It’s not specifically travel related, but touches on the harsh realities of oil rich areas in Africa and cultural differences.

  4. Nice list you’ve got there, have read some and have watched some :) One more from my suggestion – The Lost Horizon.

  5. Oh my goodness! I have read them all, as well as most on the long list. Does it make me a literate backpacker? My own personal favourite is Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie. Great post!

  6. Good list. My two most recent were an easy to read novel by John Grisham and “Bandits” by Elmore Leonard. I like something that helps me unwind, is easy to digest and understand as I fall asleep after a great day of adventure. I don’t tend to gravitate to source material type works when on the road, just something to help my mind shut off and rest for the night.

  7. There’s a new book out in the backpacker fiction genre: Down and Out in Kathmandu: adventures in backpacking. “An idealistic backpacker volunteering as an English teacher in Nepal finds herself entangled with an international gang of smugglers who think she’s stolen their diamonds.” Fun read, especially if you’re interested in, or about to travel to, Nepal or Thailand! Looking forward to reading about your Epic Adventure!

  8. The appearance of Ayn Rand on a backpackers reading list is a little odd. Her selfish cod-philosophy doesn’t exacfly meld well with the other books on show. Perhaps at heart us backpackers are rather selfish beings though.. I’d argue for reading material that will make you more understanding of others that you meet rather than wallowing in the anti altruism rantings of Rand.

    • It is sad to see an uneducated comment about Ayn Rand in connection with the very individual, individualized communion with nature that is the Appalachian Trail. The AT is only possible in a capitalist country where our general level of prosperity allows us to set aside land and other resources simply for recreation. Everything you take on the AT was the product of capitalism and capitalists, looking out for their own interests, not yours. At best, they took into account what they think you’d want, because that’s the best way to be able to sell to you, but they didn’t wake up every day eager to Make Harry Happy. They have bills to pay, food to eat, kids to clothe, etc. Yeah, it’s possible to wake up once in a while and do it for others, but the continued pursuit of profit by every employee, every company, is what gives us the BOUNTY that we all enjoy.

      Now, Rand is also known for her individualist views. One cannot be “one with nature” without first being “one”. A purely social creature, devoid of individuality and self-interest, is lemming, at best, and a tool in the hands of totalitarians at worst. Can you imagine the bursting out laughing if Russia tried to invade us? Nobody can govern us. We are 350 Million individuals, every one of which is USED TO being his or her own man. And this is one of the lessons of the AT … you can go out, in the woods, and cook and sleep and pee, all in nature, without your Mommy, without your Big Brother, and without your Uncle Sam.

      Why not start with the Rand short story, Anthem? A basic, easy-to-understand bite of rational self-interest. Hope to see you on the trail … all self-assured and confident and content. Not the way you wrote about Rand, above.

  9. I can’t believe you put Lord of the Rings on the list! :D I’m not sure I would take this brick with me when backpacking! :p On the other hand, long live the e-book! (and what is the story about if not an endless road trip, right?)

    • Haha why not? Because of the weight? I once carried around a hard copy of Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela AND a Game of Thrones hard copy. Books are important ;)

  10. Great list. For anyone who wants something light and silly while in South East Asia, I recommend Dork Whore: My Travels Through Asia as a Twenty-Year-Old Pseudo Virgin by Iris Bahr.

    Anyone going to Jericoacoara in Brazil could read Vagabundo.


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