Top travel books of 2017

These are some of our favourite travel books from the past year

By National Geographic Traveller (UK)
Published 23 Dec 2017, 15:00 GMT, Updated 12 Jul 2021, 15:03 BST
Top travel books of 2017

Each month we round up a carefully curated selection of travel books for the issue. Our bookshelves are heaving — here's our favourites reads of 2017.

Journey: An Illustrated History of Travel
RRP: £25 (Dorling Kindersley)

Why do we roam? How — and where — did we first holiday? What motivates great explorers, from Columbus and Hiram Bingham to Roy 'Indiana Jones' Chapman Andrews? These and even more ambitious questions are addressed in this lively, visual account of travel and discovery, charting how our worldwide wanderings have changed over the centuries. With a foreword from travel broadcasting royalty, Simon Reeve, and packed with the kind of glorious photographs, illustrations and historic maps you'd expect from DK, this is a very pretty Christmas prezzie indeed. 
From the December 2017 issue

Mexico: A Culinary Quest
RRP: £45 (Thames & Hudson / TransGlobe Publishing)
A quest to find the heart and soul of this vast country and its people through the medium of food takes writer and documentary filmmaker Hossein Amirsadeghi through Mexico's most picturesque states. With no real recipes but plenty of frontline travelogue, he offers vivid flavours, images and tales from the road. 
From the December 2017 issue

Hamlet: Globe to Globe. Taking Shakespeare to Every Country in the World
RRP: £16.99 (Canongate Books)
To mark last year's 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, the artistic director of The Globe theatre, Dominic Dromgoole, decided to share his beloved playwright with the world. Virtually the entire world. And what better work to choose than the Bard's best-known play, Hamlet? Of course, what with life tending to imitate art, some might say Dromgoole's obsession with touring the world with a play about, er, an obsessed man's descent into madness was tempting fate. But, when all the world's a stage…So, on 23 April 2014, 16 members of the Globe theatre set off on a two-year tour taking in 190 countries. There are trials — food poisoning in Mexico City almost wipes out the entire cast, a biblical-scale sandstorm in a refugee camp in Jordan — but perhaps the most compelling part of this story (recounted in gripping detail in this book) isn't the hardships, but the way the play itself travels. You'd be forgiven for thinking a wordy 16th-century play about a Danish price may not speak to a desert-dwelling Sudanese village, or that the plight of Ophelia wouldn't move a contemporary Costa Rican. But it did, proving, as Dromgoole had hoped, that this powerful tragedy not only has the ability to transcend time but to cross borders as well. And for die-hard literary travellers, there are Hamlet quotes aplenty, reeled off with the assuredness of a man as at ease with the world of Tarantino as that of the Bard.
From the May 2017 issue

The Secret Life of Cows
RRP: £9.99 (Faber & Faber)
A humane, humorous look at the complex characters behind 'livestock' in this heart-warming book about free-range farming in the Cotswolds, with a foreword by Alan Bennett.
From the October 2017 issue

Magnum Atlas: Around the World in 365 Photos from The Magnum Archive
RRP: £22.50 (Prestel)
Celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Magnum Photos agency, this is a world tour via 365 images from such stellar snappers as Robert Capa, Bruce Davidson and Martin Parr. Co-founded in 1947 by Henri-Cartier Bresson, Magnum is a photographic cooperative that's long celebrated diversity and the shared human experience. Some images, such as Trent Parke's Australian street scene, are a picture of playfulness, while others, like Raymond Depardon's Cartagena barbershop, are vivid life studies. It's not just the mega Magnum names that shine, as Alessandra Sanguinetti shows in her shot from Uripiv Island in Vanuatu, which has an almost surreal serenity. Each country is represented by images from a photographer, and with 84 Magnum masters featured in total, this is armchair travel through a rich and unique prism. 
From the November 2017 issue

Revolutionary Ride, On The Road In Search Of The Real Iran, by Lois Price
RRP: £14.99 (Nicholas Brealey)
'When other road users in Iran appear to be trying to kill you, rob you or kidnap you, normally they just want to feed you.' Such is the no-nonsense tone of this Iranian travelogue, painting a vivid picture of an otherwise much maligned country as a nation not of terrorists, but of partiers, poets and dedicated picnickers. That's not to say it's preachy — it's rather a self-motivating pep talk by Lois, the motorbike-riding author of this book, about her overland adventure across Iran. This is a proper travelogue. It's the sort of story that, had she been in possession of a motorbike licence, Freya Stark may have written on her 19th century travels through Iran. Lois follows the legendary lady traveller's path across mountains and cities, small scruffy towns and magnificent Silk Road settlements. She encounters the sort of shining hospitality, cultural inclusion and inspirational joie de vivre that Stark famously found here as a lone female traveller well over a century ago. It's a very Iranian human spirit — all the more humbling in today's age of fearsome Islamic Republic repression.Our biker has to contend with riding in hijab and helmet, going off-road, off-map and repeatedly ploughing into the unknown. Lois simply gets on with things and the result is a joyful, moving and stereotype-busting travel tale.
From the April 2017 issue

1500 Hotel Nights
RRP: £9.99 (Troubador)
'Pure frustration' was the motivation for this book, penned by Daniel Tabbush who spent four years living in hotels worldwide, and found their design flaws to be so myriad and mind-boggling that he saw fit to catalogue them. A black comedy of errors. 
From the May 2017 issue

The Best American Travel Writing
Edited by Bill Bryson (Marina Books)
Which travel book expanded your mind and inspired your adventures? The 2016 edition in this annual series was edited by travel writing royalty, Bill Bryson, who collated the best itinerant stories from such stellar Stateside writers as Michael Chabon, Paul Theroux and Dave Eggers, each aiming to answer the question 'why do I travel?'
Winner of the 'Bookworm' category in our Reader Awards 2017

What have you read this year? Share your favourites with us on Twitter


Explore Nat Geo

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • History & Culture
  • Science
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Space
  • Adventure
  • Video

About us


  • Magazines
  • Disney+

Follow us

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society. Copyright © 2015-2023 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved