The first official day of summer is just weeks away, and for some people, those long days of warm weather mean just one thing: that the season of wanderlust is in full swing, and it’s time to hit the road. Or the air! Or the sea! (Or, whatever else you hit as soon as your bags are packed and sunscreen is applied.) I, for one, am a total sucker for an epic road trip — the open-road tunes, the strange billboards, the roadside snacks and attractions. I love it all. But let’s face it: sometimes in life, you can’t just drop everything and take off into the wild unknown at a moment’s notice. And that’s where epic travel books come in.
Since well before we all ate, prayed, and loved together, I have been a reader of travel novels and memoirs. And as most book lovers know, many first journeys started between the pages of books, rather than the pages of passports. So, whether you’re armchair traveling or looking for some books to stuff into that duffle you’re taking with you on your wanderings, here are nine new books guaranteed to spark your summer wanderlust.
‘Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World’ by M. R. O’Connor
When you think “summer wanderlust,” I’m betting neuroscience isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. And yet, neuroscience (and biology, and anthropology) are key disciplines in determining why humans wander and how that wandering has come to define our humanity. In Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World, writer M. R. O’Connor looks at not only how mastering navigation is integral to the human race, but also how cognitive mapping skills are actually good for our health. To do this, she travels the Arctic, the Australian bush and the South Pacific — no GPS required.
‘Wild Horses of the Summer Sun: A Memoir of Iceland’ by Tory Bilski
When you’ve got friendship, a must-see global destination, and wild horses, what more is there to ask for? When Tory Bilski first traveled to Reykjavik, Iceland, she was a stranger to the women she gathered with there. Now, that journey is an annual event — as she and her fellow female travelers take a respite from their regular lives to live on a horse farm at the top of the world. Wild Horses of the Summer Sun is the story of not only how and why these women continue to come together, but also what they leave behind.
‘Departures: A Guide to Letting Go, One Adventure at a Time’ by Anna Hart
Writing about travel and international culture has defined Anna Hart’s life — and along the way, it also started to define her personal one. In Departures: A Guide to Letting Go, One Adventure at a Time, Hart shares her epic (and, sure, sometimes not-so-epic) adventures trotting the globe while on assignment for publications likeVogue, Elle, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, and more.
‘The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts’ by Tessa Fontaine
The magic of travel, as any traveler knows, isn’t just in the specific place you stay, the sights you see, or the food you enjoy (although, the food is definitely key) — the magic is in the way a place you travel changes you, alters your life perspective, and can sometimes define the rest of your life. That’s the kind of adventure Tessa Fontaine took in The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts. Hitting the road with America’s last traveling sideshow, Fontaine became an escape artist, a snake charmer, and more, as she discovered what it means not only to journey, but to take on the impossible.
‘The Salt Path’ by Raynor Winn
Newly-homeless and facing a terminal illness, Raynor Winn and her husband decided to follow a sudden impulse and hit the road — literally. By foot, the couple took on the 630-mile South West Coast Path, England’s longest footpath, which runs along the English Channel from Somerset to Dorset. Carrying the entirety of their belongings on their back and living on the land, Winn and her husband learned the challenging, life-affirming, transformative power of losing and finding yourself in the natural world.
‘To Shake the Sleeping Self’ by Jedidiah Jenkins
Sixteen months and 14,000 miles is what it took to change Jedidiah Jenkins’s life. After quitting his job, Jenkins decided to cycle from North America to South, starting in Oregon and ending in Patagonia, the southernmost tip of Argentina and Chile. He chronicles that life-altering journey in To Shake the Sleeping Self: awakening to adulthood, his sexual identity, and the peace he needed to make with his past.
‘The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables: The Enchanting Island That Inspired L. M. Montgomery’ by Catherine Reid
Anyone who loved Anne of Green Gables as a child (or heck, who still loves it now) knows how influenced Anne was by the natural world — the Lake of Shining Waters, the White Way of Delight. Her author, L.M. Montgomery, was similarly inspired by the Canadian landscape that defined her novel. Catherine Reid explores that influence in her mesmerizing book, The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables: The Enchanting Island that Inspired L. M. Montgomery. It’ll make you want to pack your bags and head to PEI stat.
‘Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road’ by Kate Harris
Kate Harris wanted to map Mars. What she got instead, was a life-changing bicycle journey down the Silk Road. Traveling with her childhood friend Mel, Harris discovered that what she was looking for was a sense of getting lost and found, living outside borders, discovering life outside predictable lines. She explores this in her book, Lands of Lost Borders, alongside a history of science and adventure, the philosophy of travel, and the human impulse towards wildness.
‘The Art of the Wasted Day’ by Patricia Hampl
Written like a love letter to solitude and the people who can’t get enough of it, writer Patricia Hampl explores the history of relaxation, repose, and retirement. From the slow discovery of lifelong pilgrimages to childhood days spent staring at nature, Hampl celebrates the adventure that can be discovered in stillness, and the art of “wasting” days.