Open City , Teju Cole
Open City is one of the most realistic portraits of modern wanderlust — there’s this guy, and he’s wandering around New York relatively aimlessly, thinking about stuff, sometimes interacting with people, mostly just walking until his feet hurt. Sure, he branches out a little more than your average bear, but that just gives us something to aspire to.
The Hobbit , J.R.R. Tolkien
Sure, the oft-recited phrase “not all those who wander are lost” comes from The Fellowship of the Ring, but we always found The Hobbit to be a purer kind of adventure novel — there’s no quest to save the world, no sinister force tugging at everyone’s morality, just Bilbo Baggins looking for treasure and, despite himself, a little excitement. And hey –aren’t we all?
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail , Cheryl Strayed
A wonderful story of self-discovery and perseverance, this memoir made us feel both inspired to hike the PCT (or some other trail) ourselves and desperate not to ever have to go through that. Strayed’s transformation, however, will inspire you — we could all use a reminder of the incredible power and flexibility of our own bodies and minds.
Invisible Cities , Italo Calvino
Calvino’s beautiful book, wherein Marco Polo, one of the most famous wanderlust-afflicted explorers in history, describes 55 imaginary cities to Kublai Khan, always sets our hearts aflutter. We dream of happening upon one of these — or a city as strange and lovely — in any of our travels. We have to say: Venice is close.
The Rings of Saturn , W.G. Sebald
In his stunning chronicle of journeying through Suffolk on foot, Sebald plunges us into a strange and fragmented meditation on the past, the present and the nature of decay. Brooding, complex and completely exquisite, we recommend this book for solo voyages only.
Away , Amy Bloom
When her daughter is taken and her husband and parents are killed in a Russian pogrom, 22-year-old Lillian travels to America alone. Her journey, which takes her to New York’s Lower East Side, to the underbelly of Seattle, to the frigid Alaskan wilderness, is not one you’d likely enjoy repeating, but the story, rendered with Bloom’s trademark wit and irreverence, just might light a fire beneath you.
Oh! The Places You’ll Go! , Dr. Seuss
It’s corny, we know, but the classic graduation gift still makes us want to get out in the world and do some kooky stuff — even at the risk of spraining both our elbow and chin. Kind of like these people.
Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Not Visited and Never Will , Judith Schalansky
For those who think the world has been full mapped, fully explored, fully exposed, we suggest the Atlas of Remote Islands, which aims to insert atlases into the literary canon — and, at least for itself, achieves its goal. Gorgeous and mysterious, the book is filled with maps of isolated islands bobbing in the Arctic, Atlantic, Indian, Pacific, and Antarctic Oceans, each one accompanied by a compelling narrative of history, lore and population, every story stranger than the last.
The Great Railway Bazaar , Paul Theroux
Theroux’s famous 1975 travelogue is still one of the pillars of travel writing. His wildly entertaining journey takes him by train from London to Paris to Istanbul to Delhi to Bangkok to Tokyo to Moscow and back again, plus a hundred places in between, meeting a host of strange and ridiculous characters along the way. It’s enough to inspire even the laziest armchair traveller to head out into the world.
On the Road , Jack Kerouac
Well, we couldn’t do a list about wanderlust without including the American classic of the genre. Nothing made our teenage selves want to hop trains and road trip with our feet on the dash more than this novel — and we think it’s sure to continue inspiring the young to hit the road for years to come.