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Whether you like to travel solo, in groups, backpack, or want indulgence all the way, some elements remain constant through the journey. One of those is carrying books. If you’re an avid reader, consider this list is an essential reckoner of travel books you must read before embarking on (or during) those travels.

My Life in France, Penguin Random House

books to read when travelling. my life in france

Julia Child’s autobiography written with Alex Prud’homme chronicles her struggles and wins through life. From coming to France with her husband not knowing the country, language, food, to becoming the master chef and celebrated author that she was. Compiled in the last eight months of her life, it talks of her life in France, a loving marriage that took her across the world, the initial rejections by publishers for her now-famous cook book, hurdles with the head of Cordon Bleu, and more.

One Special Summer, Rizzoli

Two sisters traversing the lanes of Europe. And when those girls are Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Lee Bouvier Radziwill, the story evokes even more intrigue. The illustrated memoir was a present by the sisters to their parents for making their dream of a Europe trip come true. A spirited summer in the continent and a peek into the girl that was Jackie O before she became the First Lady of the US, this book is a fun carry-along for your travels.

The Vacationers, Penguin Random House

books to read when travelling. the vacationers

The good, the bad, the ugly – the dynamics of a family holiday are explored in this book by Emma Straub. Secrets, rivalries, old wounds, revelations, they all comes pouring out during an American family’s two-week vacation in Mallorca. A keenly observed play of family dynamics, this one is bound to touch a cord.

The City of Djinns, Penguin Random House

William Dalrymple’s account of his year spent in Delhi explores the ancient city’s many births, deaths, and resurrections. Adventure at every other corner of the city, magic hidden within the walled Old Delhi, stories emanating from each person, native or emigrant – the book is focused on Delhi, but goes on to show the innumerable stories hidden in each place one may go to, and the unending mysteries of the world that can only be felt, not always logically explained.

Marching Powder, St. Martin’s Griffin

books to read when travelling. marching powder

A tale of how a backpacker in South America gets introduced to the atypical ways of a Bolivian prison, this one’s a gripping book. Written by Rusty Young and Thomas McFadden, it traverses the time when Young, an Australian journalist, was in San Pedro and heard of McFadden, a convicted English drug trafficker running tours inside the prison. Their instant connect led to them chronicling McFadden’s life inside the prison – which includes convicts buying cells from real estate agents, families of prisoners living with them, the rich and famous criminals setting up luxury cells for themselves, and one of Bolivia’s most active cocaine labs; hence the name ‘Marching Powder’. The real-life story that feels like fiction and makes for a prime example of travel being a teacher. This is a must-read when hitting the road next.

All images: Courtesy Publishers

Megha Uppal
Associate Editor
An innate love for travel and food has translated into many a trips since childhood for Megha; it also fed her curiosity to know about local cultures. When not writing, she is on the lookout for three things: A great dark chocolate dessert, a beautiful pool where she can practice her backstroke, and art that she can save up for.