woman holding book while standing beside window blinds

The Best Books to Read While Backpacking

There’s no better way to escape everyday life than by travelling, but reading a great book comes close. So, we’ve compiled a list of the best books to read while backpacking. Books make lovely travel companions – they can help you see the world around you differently, or take you on an entire journey that you didn’t plan for in your itinerary.

Packing light for your backpacking trip shouldn’t mean going without great reading material. Invest in a good e-reader and load it up with books before you head out, or better yet, participate in book swaps at the hostels you stay at. Most hostels will have bookshelves where you can exchange a book that you’ve finished reading for one that someone else has left behind – a great way to expand your reading preferences, and make discoveries. So, while you narrow down the essentials that will take up precious real estate in your backpack, don’t forget to take a couple of these books with you. Here are the best books to read while backpacking.

Woman reading a book
Let books take you on another journey altogether while travelling | © Rahul Shah/Pexels

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

After losing her mother to lung cancer and watching her family and marriage fall apart, Cheryl Strayed decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail solo, with no prior hiking experience. Her transformative journey of self-discovery is by turns harrowing and heartening, and her story is a riveting read about persistence, healing, and bravery. If you love books about hiking adventures, Wild is an inspiring read that you won’t want to put down.

Buy it here.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin spends a year testing out different theories of happiness, from the ancient to modern science. She records her findings in this book and draws conclusions from her discoveries about what makes people truly happy. Following along with Rubin’s musings might prompt you to zero in on what makes you happy, and help you make the most of your trip.

Buy it here.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

This book might sound like an obvious title for a travel memoir, but it’s not what you expect. Looking for Alaska tells the story of Miles Halter and his year at Culver Creek Boarding School in Alabama, where he becomes enamoured with his classmate Alaska Young. Filled with crushes, pranks, and other high school shenanigans, Miles’ coming-of-age story might resonate with any travellers who are also going to seek a Great Perhaps.

Buy it here.

man on red hammock surrounded by trees during daytime
Books make wonderful travel companions | © Kornél Máhl/Unsplash

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

In David Arnold’s Mosquitoland, Mim Malone hops on a bus that she’s hoping will take her across the country and back to her mother. She meets a slew of eclectic characters along her journey that help her grow, and her hilarious descriptions of them will make you laugh out loud. This fictional account of a young girl’s cross-country expedition makes for an interesting parallel to any backpacking journey and might make you think differently about the people that you encounter along the way.

Buy it here.

The Invisible Circus by Jennifer Egan

In her first novel, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jennifer Egan tells the heartbreaking story of a young girl’s quest to retrace her older sister’s footsteps to discover the circumstances of her death on a trip to Europe. The book’s descriptions of European settings are evocative and realistic, and its haunting story will stay with you throughout your travels.

Buy it here.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Sometimes, you need a gripping, suspenseful thriller to get you through the all the waiting that comes with travel, and Paula Hawkin’s The Girl on the Train is perfect for that. While commuting, Rachel imagines the ideal life for a couple who live inside a house that her train passes by every day. Soon, Rachel’s story becomes entangled with the couple’s, and her life is upturned.  This enthralling story will have you compulsively turning the pages to find out what happens next and will help to pass any long travel delays.

Buy it here.

man submerged in the sea reading a book
Leave some room in that backpack for a book or two | © Toa Heftiba/Splash

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

A prominent author of the Lost Generation, Hemingway wrote the bulk of his novels during his time as an expatriate in Europe, and The Sun Also Rises is one of them. Considered his greatest work, the book tells the story of American and British expats who travel from Paris to Pamplona to watch the bullfights. Largely based on real people and events within Hemingway’s social circle, the book is a lasting example of twentieth-century modernist literature and epitomises the post-war expatriate generation. For more insight into post-war expatriate life, Hemingway’s posthumous memoir A Moveable Feast details the trials and tribulations of his life as a migrant author in Paris and features a star-studded ensemble of big literary names like F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and Sylvia Beach.

Buy it here.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

If your backpacking journey takes you anywhere in Europe, you’re undoubtedly going to hear a lot about World War II and how it’s shaped the landscape you now see. All The Light We Cannot See is the story of how Marie-Laure, a blind French girl, crosses paths with Werner, a German boy, in occupied France during World War II.  Their stories are intricately woven together by Anthony Doerr, and it’s a beautifully written page-turner that will undoubtedly prompt you to look at the places and people you see around you differently.

Buy it here.

Take Me With You by Andrea Gibson

This collection of poetry is so poignant that you’ll be tempted to do as the title says and bring it along on your travels. Andrea Gibson is a poet and activist, and their slam poetry will move you to tears. This pocket-sized poetry collection has bite-sized poems on the subjects of love, the world, and becoming, and is packed with whimsical, yet powerful sentiments that will keep you company throughout your trip.

Buy it here.

woman holding book standing on terrace during daytime
Books will make your travels even better | © Kinga Cichewicz/Unsplash

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

Call Me By Your Name is the beautifully told story of the love between Elio, the young son of an archaeology professor, and Oliver, a visiting graduate student. Set in the Italian Riviera, Aciman’s depiction of the setting enhances Elio and Oliver’s summer romance, making for an unforgettable read while you’re abroad.

Buy it here.

Which books have you taken with you on your travels, and which ones were your favourite?

Melanie is a Toronto-based writer and editor who loves experiencing new things in new places. In between adventures, you can find her with her nose in a book, re-watching episodes of Friends, or on the lookout for her next favourite brunch spot.

man standing on cliff under white clouds
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