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10 Best Books For Backpackers

The best books for backpackers capture the essence of a profound expedition, weaving tales of self-discovery, cultural immersion, and the world’s untamed beauty.

From gripping true stories that unfold in the heart of the wilderness to fictional narratives that transport readers to distant and exotic realms, these books serve as literary companions for the intrepid traveller, offering a unique blend of adventure, inspiration, and the sheer joy of exploration.

Books For Backpackers

Embarking on a backpacking journey is not merely about navigating diverse landscapes and distant cultures; it’s a transformative odyssey extending beyond physical miles.

These books for backpackers are based around the term “backpacking” in the hiking sense but also in the travel sense. A journey is a journey and I’ve found that when hiking I love to read travel-related books and also when travelling love to read hiking books.

So this is a good mash-up of both choices.

“Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer

“Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer is an absorbing narrative that delves into the captivating yet tragic journey of Christopher McCandless, a young man who forsakes conventional life and ventures into the Alaskan wilderness in pursuit of a raw and unfiltered existence.

Krakauer, drawing on his own experiences as an outdoor enthusiast, weaves a compelling story that explores McCandless’s motivations, challenges, and the philosophical underpinnings of his wilderness odyssey.

The book not only chronicles the physical trials of McCandless’s Alaskan sojourn but also raises profound questions about the nature of freedom, the allure of the unknown, and the delicate balance between human autonomy and the unforgiving forces of nature.

“Wild” by Cheryl Strayed

“Wild” by Cheryl Strayed is a powerful memoir that unfolds as a journey of both physical and emotional transformation. At the core of the narrative is Strayed’s decision to hike over 1,000 miles alone on the Pacific Crest Trail, seeking solace and self-discovery after a series of personal tragedies and life setbacks.

With raw honesty, Strayed shares the challenges, triumphs, and reflections that accompany her arduous trek through the rugged terrain of the West Coast. The trail becomes a metaphorical path to healing as Strayed grapples with grief, confronts her own vulnerabilities, and finds strength in the midst of solitude and nature’s relentless beauty.

“Wild” is not just a chronicle of a long-distance hike; it’s a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the cathartic power of embracing the unknown in the pursuit of personal redemption.

“A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson

“A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson is a delightful and humorous account of the author’s attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail, one of the longest continuous footpaths in the world. Bryson, with his characteristic wit and keen observations, takes readers on a journey through the challenging and scenic landscapes of the Appalachian Mountains.

Alongside his friend Stephen Katz, Bryson navigates the ups and downs of the trail, encountering quirky characters, wildlife, and the unpredictable elements of nature.

Beyond the physical challenges of the trail, Bryson weaves in fascinating historical and environmental insights, offering a rich tapestry of information about the Appalachian region. The book provides a balance of adventure, humour, and reflection, making it an engaging read for both seasoned hikers and armchair travellers.

“The Beach” by Alex Garland

“The Beach” by Alex Garland is a gripping and psychologically intense novel that immerses readers in the dark allure of a hidden paradise. The story follows Richard, a backpacker travelling through Thailand, who stumbles upon a mysterious map that supposedly leads to an untouched and idyllic beach.

Intrigued by the promise of an undiscovered utopia, Richard sets out on a perilous journey with fellow adventurers in search of this mythical paradise.

As they reach their destination, the beach reveals itself as a self-contained community with its own rules and secrets. Garland masterfully explores themes of utopia, isolation, and the consequences of seeking a perfect world.

The novel delves into the human psyche, examining the impact of the pursuit of paradise on individuals and the dynamics of a secluded society.

This is one of the best books for backpackers that I recommend to those travellers going to Thailand and Southeast Asia.

“Tracks” by Robyn Davidson

“Tracks” by Robyn Davidson is a captivating and inspiring memoir that recounts the author’s remarkable journey across the Australian desert with her dog and four camels.

In the late 1970s, Davidson embarked on a 1,700-mile trek from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean, seeking solitude and a deeper connection with the harsh yet beautiful Australian landscape.

The narrative beautifully captures the challenges and triumphs of Davidson’s solo expedition, highlighting the physical and emotional demands of her epic journey. Throughout the book, you witness the bond that develops between Davidson and her camels, as well as her interactions with the indigenous people she encounters along the way.

“Tracks” is not merely an adventure tale but also a reflection on solitude, self-discovery, and the relationship between humans and the natural world. Davidson’s writing is evocative and honest, providing readers with a visceral experience of the vast and unforgiving Australian outback.

“The Roads to Sata” by Alan Booth

“The Roads to Sata” is a travelogue written by Alan Booth. The book documents Booth’s journey on foot from the northernmost point of Japan, Cape Soya, to the southernmost point, Cape Sata.

The journey covered a distance of over 2,000 miles and took place in the late 1970s. Booth provides a vivid and detailed account of his experiences during the trek, capturing the landscapes, people, and culture of Japan.

Published in 1985, “The Roads to Sata” is not only a travel narrative but also a reflection on the changing face of Japan as it modernized in the post-war era. Booth’s observations and interactions with the locals offer insights into the diverse aspects of Japanese life, ranging from rural traditions to the impact of urbanization.

The book has engaging storytelling, humour, and the author’s ability to convey the essence of the places he visited. It gives you a unique perspective on Japan, its people, and its culture.

I have read many books about Japan and this is my overall favourite for an in-depth look into everyday Japanese life.

“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho is a philosophical and allegorical novel that follows the journey of Santiago, a shepherd boy, as he embarks on a quest to discover his personal legend.

Set against the backdrop of the mystical and symbolic landscapes of Egypt and the Sahara Desert, the novel explores themes of destiny, spirituality, and the pursuit of one’s dreams.

Central to the narrative is Santiago’s encounter with various characters who guide him on his journey, including Melchizedek, the king of Salem, and the alchemist. Through these encounters and his experiences, Santiago learns profound lessons about the importance of listening to one’s heart, recognizing omens, and understanding the interconnectedness of the universe.

“The Alchemist” is celebrated for its simplicity, wisdom, and inspirational messages. Coelho’s prose is lyrical and reflective, inviting readers to contemplate the deeper meaning of their own life journeys. The novel encourages self-discovery and the pursuit of one’s dreams with a sense of purpose and perseverance.

I spent a lot of time in Morocco and also lived in Cairo for a while in the late 90s and reading this book made me want to go on a journey back there again, with its vivid descriptions of the places.

Also, whether you’re on a physical journey or an inner quest for meaning, this novel has the power to inspire and uplift with its timeless lessons and spiritual insights.

“In Patagonia” by Bruce Chatwin

“In Patagonia” by Bruce Chatwin is a travel narrative that captures the essence of the remote and enigmatic region of Patagonia, spanning the southernmost parts of Argentina and Chile. Chatwin’s book is a blend of travelogue, history, and personal reflection as he recounts his journey through this vast and captivating landscape.

The narrative is filled with vivid descriptions of the Patagonian people, wildlife, and landscapes. Chatwin weaves together tales of explorers, settlers, and the indigenous Tehuelche people, creating a mosaic of stories that contribute to the mystique of Patagonia.

The book is not just a physical journey across the region but also an exploration of the cultural and historical layers that shape its identity.

Chatwin’s writing style is evocative and poetic, capturing the sense of adventure and the lure of the unknown that defines Patagonia. “In Patagonia” is a celebration of the nomadic spirit and the timeless allure of the wilderness.

The book has become a classic in travel literature, admired for its rich storytelling, cultural insights, and the author’s ability to convey the magic and mystery of this remote corner of the world.

If you’re thinking of going to Patagonia then this is one of the best books for backpackers for you. Although I have visited Argentina and Chile I never made it to Patagonia due to time constraints with work. This book inspired me to go someday.

“The Art of Travel” by Alain de Botton

“The Art of Travel” by Alain de Botton is a philosophical exploration of the nature of travel and its impact on the human experience. De Botton combines insights from literature, art, and philosophy with personal reflections to create a contemplative and thought-provoking narrative.

The book is structured as a series of essays, each focusing on different aspects of travel, from the anticipation of a journey to the actual experience and the return home.

De Botton draws on the works of famous artists and writers, historical figures, and his own travel experiences to examine the ways in which travel can shape our perspectives, influence our emotions, and offer opportunities for self-discovery.

“The Art of Travel” encourages you to appreciate the beauty in ordinary details, cultivate a sense of wonder, and find meaning in the encounters and landscapes encountered while travelling. De Botton’s writing is reflective, eloquent, and filled with a deep appreciation for the transformative power of travel.

This book is not a traditional travel guide but rather an exploration of the philosophical dimensions of the journey. It invites readers to consider the art of seeing, the role of expectation and disappointment, and the ways in which travel can become a means of understanding ourselves and the world around us.

“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert M. Pirsig

“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert M. Pirsig is a philosophical novel that combines elements of a road trip narrative with an exploration of the author’s philosophical musings.

The story follows a father and son on a motorcycle journey from Minneapolis to San Francisco, interspersed with the narrator’s philosophical reflections on the concept of “quality.”

At its core, the book is a philosophical inquiry into the nature of quality and the divide between classical and romantic modes of thought. Pirsig uses the motorcycle journey as a backdrop to discuss his ideas about the metaphysics of “quality” and the relationship between the rational and the romantic aspects of human experience.

The novel weaves together themes of technology, philosophy, and personal reflection, offering readers a unique blend of narrative storytelling and philosophical exploration. Pirsig challenges traditional ways of thinking and encourages readers to consider the importance of quality in both the products we create and the lives we lead.

“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” has become a cult classic, celebrated for its unconventional approach to philosophy and its profound insights into the nature of human experience.


Through the pages of these stories, may you find inspiration, resilience, and a connection to the vast tapestry of humanity that spans continents.

So, fold the corners of the pages that resonate, let the words become your compass, and may the stories within these books for backpackers linger in your heart long after the backpack is unpacked.

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