Posted: 12/17/2019 | December 17th, 2019

Another year is almost over, which means it’s again time for my annual best books of the year list! This year, I sort of fell off the book-reading wagon. Writing my own book, moving to Paris and then Austin, and running a conference was exhausting and, by the end of the day, I was often too tired to read.

But, while Netflix often whisked me away to dreamland, I did manage to read a lot of great books this year. It may not have been as many as I would have liked but one can still not be mad at averaging two books a month.

So, as we come to end of 2019, here are my favorite travel and non-travel books I think you should pick up to consume:

Ten Years a Nomad, by me!

This is my new(ish) book!!! Unlike my previous books, this is not a “how to” guide but a collection of insights and stories from the road. It’s a memoir of my ten years backpacking the world and the lessons I learned along the way. This book gets to the heart of wanderlust and what extended travel can teach us about life, ourselves, and our place in the world. It’s available as an audiobook too!

I think it makes for the BEST Christmas gift and it would mean a lot if you picked it up! Gift it to a friend! Leave it in hostels! Whatever you want! Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop

River Town, by Peter Hessler

This book is about American writer and journalist Peter Hessler’s time living in Fuling, China, in the 1990s as one of the first Peace Corp volunteers allowed into the country. I loved his book Oracle Bones, so I was excited to read this one. While I don’t think it’s as good, it’s nevertheless an insightful, fascinating, well-written account of what living as an expat during a time of great change was like.
Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop

Lands of Lost Borders, by Kate Harris

I read this right after I handed in the final draft of my book and was blown away by Kate Harris’s magical prose. Kate writes the way I would love to be gifted enough to write. The book follows her journey cycling the Silk Road from Turkey to Tibet and is filled with vivid descriptions of the people and places she encountered. It’s one of the best books I read all year. Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop

The Joys of Travel, by Thomas Swick

Thomas Swick has been a travel writer and editor for decades and is one of the giants in the industry (it’s been fun to get to know him over the years; I only regret not finding his work sooner). The book is a quick but thoughtful read on the emotions we feel as travelers and is filled with lovely stories from his time living abroad in Poland and how mass communication has changed travel. It’s a book that will surely inspire you to see more. Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop

Here Lies America, by Jason Cochran

This book examines death tourism in America and the forgotten history that comes along with it. My friend Jason Cochran spent time roaming the country exploring the secret past of America’s greatest memorials through the lens of his family’s history. It’s an intriguing and absorbing look at the history of the US (I learned a lot I didn’t know) and how we remember our history (and what we choose to forget). Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop

The Atlas of Happiness, by Helen Russell

Written by best-selling author Helen Russell (who also wrote the amazing and entertaining book The Year of Living Danishly), this book examines what makes certain cultures happy and others not. (In many ways, it’s like The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner.) The book’s writing style makes it an easy read that will give you tips and insight you can implement in your own life. Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop

Stillness Is the Key, by Ryan Holiday

Written by best-selling author and modern-day philosopher Ryan Holiday, this book is a short and easy (but insightful) read about the need for stillness in your life. In this fast-paced world, we forget that slowing down can provide us with calmness, thoughtfulness, and help us lead a happier life. As someone who has gone through a lot of change this year, I found a lot of wisdom in the book. It’s his best writing to date. Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop

Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker

As an insomniac, I was hoping this book would help me learn how to sleep better. It didn’t. But what it did do was show me just how important sleep really is and why I need to try to get a lot more of it. “Sleep when you’re dead” is a common phrase, but reading this taught me that if I don’t try to sleep more, I’ll be dead quicker. Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop

Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch

Without giving too much away, this sci-fi book by Blake Crouch revolves around the idea of an infinite multiverse where every possible outcome of a decision plays out — and each decision thereafter creates another split, and so forth and so forth. It made me really think about regret and the decisions we make in our lives in a way I never thought about before. I couldn’t put the book down and found it a profoundly impactful book. It changed how I view regret. Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop

Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me), by Carol Tavris

I know that I’m raving about a lot of books on this list, but this is hands-down the best I read all year, one that made me look at people differently. We have a hard time saying, “I was wrong” (even when presented with facts that show 100% we were wrong). This book delves into why people double down on false information. In an age of “fake news,” it was an eye-opening look into how people reduce cognitive dissonance. Everyone should read this book! Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop


So there you have it! My favorite books of 2019. I wish the list was longer so I could say I kept my promise to read more, but all you can do is pick up and keep going! I have a pile of books on my coffee table I’m getting through quicker, now that I’m at home more.

Regardless, if you’re looking for some good books this holiday season, pick one of these up (especially mine, because, hey, let’s be real, I’d appreciate the support!).

If you have any suggestions on what to read, leave them in the comments.

If you’d like to see some of the other books I’ve recommended (or are currently reading), check out this page I created on Amazon that lists them all!


Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

  • World Nomads (for everyone below 70)
  • Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
  • Medjet (for additional repatriation coverage)

Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.

17.12.2019 / books / travel books
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