The Best Travel Books of 2020
Recapping the best travel books of 2020 from authors around the globe.
2020 was a long year but one silver lining was the incredible amount of travel books published. This reading list features 15 of the best travel books and my reviews to help expand my mind and transport you to new places, all from the comfort and safety of your own home. There are page-turners and beach reads, books that will tingle your tastebuds, and books that will take you to alternate universes. If you are in the mood to delve into some somber essays or looking for US road trip inspiration, this is the spot for you. For more book recommendations, check out my 2020 Unique Christmas Gifts for Travelers shopping guide featuring the much-talked-about “Accidentally Wes Anderson” chronicles. In an effort to diversify my media consumption, I have identified which books on this list are written by BIPOC authors, distinguished by a “⭐” emoji.
Two lucky readers will receive any book of their choice off this reading list. Contest ends Sunday, January 24 at 10 PM PST. Winners will be announced Monday, January 25 at 9AM PST. Enter today!
Open to all residents worldwide. Winner receives either a hard copy or an electronic edition of book, subject to availability, their preferred reading format, and the postal conditions in their respective countries. Multiple entries encouraged. Must be willing to offer valid mailing address to receive hard copy. Prize is transferable. Cannot be exchanged for cash money. For any questions, please contact me here.
The Girl with the Louding Voice ⭐
by Abi Daré
Born into poverty, 14-year-old Adunni wants nothing more than to go to school so she can find her “louding voice,” the voice that she believes will help her fill up a room and be seen for who she truly is. This story will uplift you, deflate you, and then piece you back together with an unshakeable promise of hope in the face of adversity.
For those interested in: Nigeria’s socioeconomic climate, coming-of-age stories, and inspirational fiction.
The City We Became ⭐
by N.K. Jemsin
The first of the Great Cities trilogy, this urban fantasy tells the tale of New York City’s five protectors who must band together to defend their beloved home from an ancient, stirring evil.
For those interested in: New York City, cities personified, and strangers coming together.
Mexican Gothic ⭐
by Silvia Morena-Garcia
A chilling tale about a young woman, Noemi, whose trip to her cousin’s new home in the countryside takes a terrifying turn when the mansion, and the secrets it keeps, begin terrorizing her every waking moment.
For those interested in: The allure of 1950s Mexico, gothic horror subgenre, retro fiction.
The Midnight Library
by Matt Haig
Discouraged by her failed existence, Nora is ready to be done with living. But as her planned death draws near, she stumbles upon a magical library with books that are portals to different lives she could have led on earth.
For those interested in: Existential crisis, inspirational pep talks, and alternate universes.
Chinatown Pretty ⭐
by Andria Lo and Valerie Lu
What started out as a featured one-page story on The Bold Italic morphed into a six-years-in-the-making pictorial portfolio of senior citizen street-style in San Francisco, Vancouver, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Oakland’s Chinatowns. Bucket hats never looked so good.
For those interested in: Chinatown neighborhoods, elderly wisdom, and OOTD fashion instagrams.
by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Loosely based on historical events, The Mercies is a vivid reimagining of a small hamlet sitting on the edge of the world, ruled by women after all their men drown in a horrific storm. But the matriarchy is threatened by the arrival of a well-known witch hunter who is hellbent on crushing Vardø and its liberated citizens.
For those interested in: Norway’s remote towns, 1620 witch trials, and feminist societies.
Year of the Rabbit ⭐
by Tian Veasna
The horrors of genocide are illustrated artist Tian Veasna’s secondhand history as he recounts the hardships his parents faced in the wake of the Khmer Rouge takeover, first as laborers in work camps, and then as unwilling refugees fleeing their beloved homeland.
For those interested in: Cambodian history, graphic novels, and refugee stories.
Forest feast Mediterranean: Simple Vegetarian Recipes Inspired by My Travels
by Erin Gleeson
The next entry in Erin Gleeson’s stunning “Forest Feast” franchise, Gleeson’s cookbook brings the bright and sunny flavors of Mediterranean coast to your dinner menu. Your eyes will thank you for the visual feast, demonstrated in her food styling and watercolor page spreads.
For those interested in: Cooking Mediterranean cuisine, vegetarian/vegan meal prep, and hosting banquets.
by Charlotte McConaghy
In a near-imagined future, researcher Franny Stone sets off to Greenland to follow the last migration of the world’s sole flock of Arctic terns. The imminent extinction sets in motion a series of self-destructive events, unveiling the equally fragile inner worlds of our very beings.
For those interested in: Expeditions to Greenland, nature conservation, and science fiction.
InstaTravel: Discover Breathtaking Destinations
by Aggie Lal
This reads like a blog come to life. Get ready for bucket list ideas by the dozen and comprehensive travel guides accompanying each recommendation. Discover breathtaking destinations, experience amazing adventures, and capture stunning photos.
For those interested in: Global experiences, creating bucket lists, and travel photography.
A True Good Thai ⭐
by Sunisa Manning
Thai-American writer Sunisa Manning spotlights the little-known Thai student uprising through a fictionalized tale of three collegiates who find themselves in the passionate and turbulent throes of political activism and young love.
For those interested in: Thai history, youth-led revolutions, and nationalism.
Grieving: Dispatches from a Wounded Country ⭐
by Cristina Rivera Garza, translated by Sarah Booker
A catalog of essays, firsthand accounts, and testimonials of the violence experienced by those living along the US-Mexico border and the humanity lost —and found— in wake of media sensationalism. This is a showcase of the power of words and the forms grief takes on as a means to empower and make reparations.
For those interested in: The U.S.-Mexico Border Region, contemporary politics, and journalism.
The Guest List
by Lucy Foley
A wedding weekend on a haunted Irish island gone awry. This murder mystery is told from the viewpoint of five characters—The Bride, The Bride’s Sister, The Groom’s Best Friend, The Wedding Coordinator, and The Wife of the Bride’s Closest Friend. The past and present collide in bloodshed… but the burning question is, who did it?
For those interested in: Destination weddings, remote places, and beach reads.
50 Adventures in 50 States
by Lydia Hill and Kate Siber
From digging crystals in Oklahoma to exploring an active volcano in Hawaii, this illustrated treasury is a prescription of all the family-friendly adventures in the great outdoors. A perfect companion for keeping children engaged on long car rides.
For those interested in: USA travel, road trips, and family adventures.
Latitudes of Longing ⭐
by Shubhangi Swarup
A lyrical portrait about the sacred relationship between humanity and nature, sweeping across the vast nation of India, and told across the series of four interconnected tales.
For those interested in: The vastness of India and the connection between humans and nature.
If you couldn’t get enough of the list, here are more books that were published in 2020.
- The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal (India)
- Scorpionfish by Natalie Bakopoulos (Greece)
- Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemie (Japan)
- The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones (Indigenous Literature)
- Miss Iceland by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir (Iceland)
- A Burning by Megha Majumdar (India)
- The Disaster Tourist by Yun Ko-Eun (Korea)
- Bestiary by K-Ming Chang (Taiwan)
- The Searcher by Tana French (Ireland)
- Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger (Indigenous Literature)
- If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha (Korea)
- 500 Miles From You by Jenny Colgan (United Kingdom)
DISCLAIMER: This blog does not receive any commission for Amazon links shared with you in the post. I hope that you support local, independent book retailers at this time.
More Reading Lists:
👉 If you have any other travel books from 2019 to discover, I’d love to hear your book recommendations in the comments section!
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