There are many ways I get ready to travel to a new place: I study up on the local language, pore over travel guides, read relevant blogs, canvass friends who’ve been there, and scour the internet for information. But another way I prep for a journey is to read books, particularly ones that will give me a sense of the culture I’m about to encounter or an education in the major historical events and people that shaped the area. Some of these books have been so good that I just have to share.  A few notes about the list:

  • In some cases I’ve read a book about a country but have not yet been to that country.
  • A laughing emoji 🤣 indicates just what you would expect—that I chuckled, snorted, or guffawed my way through the book.
  • If I didn’t like a book, it’s not on this list.
  • All the titles are either nonfiction or historical fiction.  In most cases they’re travel memoirs.
  • With time and travel I’ll be adding to the list, so check back periodically.
Photo by Berkalp Turper on


In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson 🤣

CENTRAL ASIA (The 5 Stans)

Stans By Me—A Whirlwind Tour of Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan by Ged Gillmore 🤣

Sovietistan: Travels in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan by Erika Fatland


Lost on Planet China: The Strange and True Story of One Man’s Attempt to Understand the World’s Most Mystifying Nation, or How He Became Comfortable Eating Live Squid by J. Maarten Troost 🤣


The Year of Living Danishly—Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell


Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson 🤣

Philippa Gregory’s historical fiction series on the six wives of Henry VIII (read in this order):

  • The Constant Princess
  • The Other Boleyn Girl
  • The Boleyn Inheritance
  • The Taming of the Queen


French Like Moi – A Midwesterner in Paris by Scott Carpenter 🤣

Almost French – Love and a New Life in Paris by Sarah Turnbull

Bringing Up Bebe – One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman


Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji – On Finding Myself in Japan by Cathy Davidson


Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time by Mark Adams


Charles Kuralt’s America by the late Charles Kuralt (best listened to on unabridged audiobook narrated by the dearly departed himself)


Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road by Kate Harris

If you’ve read any of these titles, what did you think?  If you have a book you’d recommend for this list, let me know. Bonus points if you recommend a 🤣 book.

8 thoughts

  1. I just finished Meet Me in Paradise and it’s set in Saba! Beach Read is another one and that’s set in the midwest. People You Meet On Vacation is set in a bunch of places. All three are fun reads, but the second two are the funniest. Second First Impressions is a good one for Australia!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Since you liked a year of living Danishly, you might enjoy The Geography of Bliss. The author explores happiness in 10 different countries. My all time favorite travel book remains a Walk in the Woods.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That sounds right up my alley – I love books about sociology. I’ll look it up. I honestly can’t remember if I read A Walk in the Woods or not. I know I thought the movie was just ok, but if I did read the book, memories of it are being obscured by the movie. Now I gotta go check my bookshelf… 🙂


  3. Bill Bryson is a prolific writer, isn’t he? It seems like he’s written so many books about everything! I myself have been told to read Burmese Days by George Orwell before my month-long trip there, but I didn’t have time for that, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He is prolific. I’ve read a couple by him about America but I haven’t put them on the list yet because they’re running together in my head and I don’t remember if I liked any of them enough to put them on the list. I guess I’ll have to reread them. I’ve never read any George Orwell, so I can’t comment on that, but a month in Burma sounds amazing!


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