Books that will make you fall in love with the world

These travel reads inspire serious wanderlust.

By Don George
Published 13 Feb 2019, 14:47 GMT
Buddhist prayer flags wave at the top of a high pass in western Nepal.

Buddhist prayer flags wave at the top of a high pass in western Nepal.

Photograph by ANDREW WRIGHTING, Alamy Stock Photo

Those of us who follow the way of wanderlust are wild romantics. When we encounter the pheromone of the unfamiliar, we feel, see, touch, taste, and smell more keenly. Our minds are on high alert, noticing and processing everything—from the geometry of cobbled paths and thatched roofs to the tones of stray dogs and wild birds to the smell of new flowers and old dust.

We fall in love with the world.

Here are four books that capture wanderlust:

A Moveable Feast (1964) is Ernest Hemingway’s nostalgic remembrance of his days as a struggling young writer in the heady expat world of Paris in the 1920s. It’s a tender portrait of a time and place that had a lasting impact on his life. As he famously said, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974), Annie Dillard eloquently employs the flora and fauna of the Blue Ridge Mountains as a springboard for wide-ranging ruminations on solitude, writing, faith, the wonders of the natural world, and the interconnectedness of everyday life, from a tiny patch of Virginia earth to the edges of the cosmos.

Pico Iyer moved to Kyoto with the goal of studying to become a monk. He quickly abandoned that dream but stayed in the ancient capital and became a student of Japan instead, falling in love with the culture and with a Japanese woman. He enchantingly unfolds the tale of this dual romance in The Lady and the Monk (1991).

My life was changed by Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard (1978). Matthiessen exquisitely interweaves three threads: an account of his expedition to Nepal to find the elusive snow leopard; a personal elucidation of Buddhism’s history, principles, and practices; and poignant reflections on the unravelling relationships in his own family. This is a book about making leaps in the world, and the rewards that can ensue.

Don George is an editor at large at National Geographic Traveler (US) and the author of The Way of Wanderlust and Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing. Follow Don on Twitter @don_george.

This story was originally published on March 2, 2016, and was last updated on February 12, 2019.


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