20 travel books to take a globe-trotting voyage without ever leaving home, including coffee table books, fiction and nonfiction reads, cookbooks, and coloring books

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  • Although states are continuing phased reopenings, many travelers aren't ready to hop on a plane just yet as the novel coronavirus continues to spread throughout the US. Additionally, Americans are currently banned from traveling to a lengthy list of countries. 
  • To help satisfy wanderlust, we've rounded up 20 of the best travel books that will help whisk you away to the far corners of the globe from the comfort of your couch.
  • Our book selections span varied categories for readers of all types, including coffee table books, fiction, nonfiction, cookbooks, and coloring books.
  • Read all Business Insider travel reviews here.

Due to the effects of the novel coronavirus, the travel industry continues to experience massive disruptions. Many states are continuing phased reopenings and some travelers are tentatively planning domestic trips. However, COVID-19 is still spreading across the US, making any unnecessary travel risky. Additionally, Americans are currently banned from traveling to a long list of countries.  

If you are considering planning a trip, we always encourage following precautions outlined by the CDC and WHO, which means practicing safe social distancing, wearing masks, and assessing your own health risks. 

However, if you're seeking to fulfill your wanderlust from the comforts of your living room, look no further. We've rounded up the best travel books that are sure to inspire new spots to add to your bucket list and head out on page-turning journeys. We chose these books based on reader reviews from Amazon and Goodreads, and also included some of our own personal favorites and top picks from fellow travelers.

Our list of the best travel books is broken down by category to help inspire readers of all types, including coffee table glossies with gorgeous images, scintillating fiction, nonfiction epics, cookbooks to eat your way around the world, and coloring books that will help ease anxiety while bringing famous spots to life. 

And don't worry, if you're looking for more traditional travel guidebooks, we have a list of those for you, too. 

Here are 20 books to satiate wanderlust and take you around the world without leaving your couch:

  • Coffee table books
  • Nonfiction books
  • Fiction books
  • Cookbooks
  • Coloring books

ITALY by Gray Malin

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Escape to the Italian Riviera with the photographer and bestselling author behind the wildly popular books "Beaches" and "Escape." This time, Gray Malin takes you on a cheerful journey from the colorful cliffside houses of Cinque Terre to the umbrella-studded beaches of the Amalfi Coast.

Following in the footsteps of his popular collection "La Dolce Vita," full-page photographs highlight the glamour of the region along with its timeless quality. Turquoise waters, bright blooms, plates of mouthwatering pasta, and golden sands dotted with beachgoers instantly take readers on a sunny getaway.

The Bucket List: 1,000 Adventures Big & Small by Kath Stathers

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Aptly named, this transportive tome will no doubt lead to discovering a few new "someday" adventures across the globe. Stathers' book is intriguingly divided into sections by longitude rather than the usual country or region designations. Some suggested ventures are predictably big travel goals, like skydiving over Hawaii or sleeping high up in the canopies of Sweden's Treehotel. But others are smaller, but no less meaningful adventures, like making your own Christmas tree ornament or taking a digital detox to reset mind and body.

"The Bucket List" is a worthy page-turner for creating a life full of wonder and learning.

Dame Traveler: Live the Spirit of Adventure by Nastasia Yakoub

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Turning the popular @dametraveler Instagram account into tangible pages, Nastasia Yakoub features 200 women and their globe-trotting stories and photographs. The curated selections celebrate solo female travelers of all types including backpackers trekking across South America, bloggers in flowy dresses in the lavender fields of Provence, and artists exploring singular Asian landscapes.

The book is divided into four sections: Architecture, Nature, Culture, and Water. Beyond the stunning, take-me-there-now photos, entries also include useful insider tips ranging from hotel recommendations to historical facts about the destination, and practical safety tips for women traveling alone.  

Four Seasons: The Art of Hospitality by Ignasi Monreal

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This book from iconic luxury hotel chain Four Seasons aims to capture the little human touches that ultimately make up their renowned and impeccable service. Through a collection of 125 paintings by the talented artist Ignasi Monreal, the book cleverly captures the fun, thoughtful, and sometimes whimsical moments that make a stay truly great.

Some illustrations are clearly meant to get the reader to chuckle (a waiter going the most above-and-beyond by parachuting in to deliver champagne on the beach), while others invoke wanderlust (a lone island in a sea of blue with a Google Maps pin hovering over it). Flipping through this book will surely have you ready to book your next hotel stay.

Overview: A New Perspective of Earth by Benjamin Grant

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Named for the effect astronauts often experience when looking down on Earth from space, "Overview" features masterfully artistic satellite images that show a sometimes jarring view of the planet. 

Images include rippling fields that appear like the swirls of a fingerprint, cargo ships so small they could be toys in a bathtub, and cityscapes highlighting complex urban design. The unique images shine a spotlight on patterns and forms that can only be spotted when viewing our world from above and at a distance. You might not be able to travel to these vantage points, but you'll likely never look at the world around you the same way again either. 

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The Lost City of Z by David Grann

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A riveting gem of narrative nonfiction, "The Lost City of Z" chronicles centuries of history and mystery set in the Amazon jungle. 

Inspired after uncovering a series of diaries, "New Yorker" writer David Grann set out to explore, and hopefully solve, the mystery of what happened to British explorer Percy Fawcett who disappeared while roaming the rainforest in search of the titular and mythical City of Z.

The book not only delves into Fawcett's fateful vanishing but also explores the lives of those who subsequently became obsessed with Fawcett's work and disappearance in the hundreds of years that followed. Grann himself can't help but be pulled down the rabbit hole, and neither will readers.

In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

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It's tough to go wrong with Bill Bryson — all of his books take readers along winding, delightfully comical adventures. This one is set in Australia, home of strange and often deadly animals, varied climates, and cheerful locals. 

Bryson peppers his wacky anecdotes with fascinating facts and stats he's gathered throughout his multiple trips to the country/continent. From the Gold Coast to the Outback, tales of poisonous snakes and spiders are woven alongside descriptions of awe-spiring landscapes, and spontaneous meetups with newfound friends. It makes for a frank and funny guide to the Land Down Under. 

Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux

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Years ago, before you could easily access Goodreads from remote and far-flung places, "Dark Star Safari" was a cult hit on the hostel circuit the world over, passed from backpacker to backpacker. At the furthest end of the adventure travel spectrum, Theroux goes on a journey across some of the most mysterious (and often uninviting) places you've likely never heard of. He invites you along for the bumpy ride as he travels across Africa by bus, canoe, train, and nearly every other method imaginable while also detailing much of the continent's history and politics. Along the way, he encounters extreme danger from a highway robbery and becoming stranded multiple times. But he also finds kindness, purpose, and a new outlook on life.

While it doesn't exactly inspire a spontaneous flight to Addis Ababa to hit the ground running, it's still a spirited view of an ambitious traveler's overland journey through Africa when he's deep into adulthood — and what those types of journeys ultimately teach us about ourselves.

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Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique

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Magical realism lovers will surely enjoy this enchanting novel with the turquoise waters of Saint Thomas and the Virgin Islands as the backdrop. 

Spanning over 50 years, the novel deftly follows three generations of a family. It begins in the early 20th century when the Virgin Islands are just transferring from Danish to American rule. The family's layered history is intertwined with the islands' lore, and along the way there are love stories, curses, social changes, and much more.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

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Now a classic, "The Alchemist" tells the story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who travels from his home in Spain to the Egyptian desert on a quest to find buried treasure. 

The eccentric cast of characters he meets along the way include a Gypsy, a man who fancies himself royalty, a crystal merchant, and, of course, an alchemist. Far more than just an adventure tale, Santiago's story morphs into a lesson about human nature and the importance of trusting your heart. 

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

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Set in the underbelly of Bombay, the narrator Lin is an escaped convict from a maximum-security prison who fled to India to disappear among its bustling streets. What follows is a wild and passionate story that includes nefarious mafia gangsters, murder, slums, deep love, spiritual gurus, and more.

Adding to the intrigue is the author's own past. Though the novel is billed as fiction, Roberts is actually a former convicted bank robber who escaped from prison and fled to India — just like his main character. His personal journey lends credibility to the details and calls into question just how much is fact and how much is fiction.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

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Patchett is well known for her deft ability to blend realistic characters and plots with beautiful, lyrical writing and "State of Wonder" is no exception. 

Unlike most explorer tales, this one is distinctly feminine. The protagonist is Dr. Marina Singh, a research scientist sent to Brazil to find her lab mate's remains. And at the center of their research is a quest to find and bottle the secret to prolonged fertility through the study of an isolated Amazonian tribe. A gripping journey unfolds that skillfully explores themes of isolation, love, discovery, and living with difficult choices.      

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My Lisbon: A Cookbook from Portugal's City of Lights by Nuno Mendes

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The Executive Chef of London's revered Chiltern Firehouse restaurant puts the spotlight on his home country of Portugal and its capital city, Lisbon. The book is loaded with much more than just recipes — Lisbon's long history, the role of different restaurant styles and types, and details about ingredients are all thoughtfully explained.

The book is divided into sections based on time of day. Pastry recipes make an appearance for breakfast, small snacks for sharing come into play in the late afternoon, and mouthwatering desserts follow evening dinner recipes. Dishes include everything from clams with chouriço garlic and cilantro to marinated mushrooms with bacon, and doughnuts filled with egg custard.

Cooking South of the Clouds: Recipes and Stories from China's Yunnan Province by Georgia Freedman

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This is a far cry from your typical Chinese takeout. The rich dishes of China's Yunnan province take center stage in this cookbook that's also an intimate portrait of the region's culture and way of life. Colorful photographs highlight the area's landscapes, houses, markets, and local people to accompany recipes like Kunming-style cold noodle salad, tilapia stuffed with herbs and chiles, and squash blossoms two ways.

Interspersed between dishes are anecdotes and tips from the province's locals that are both informative and moving. Examples include lessons from a master ham maker and the story of a widowed member of the Jingpo minority who started her own restaurant.

Made in Mexico: The Cookbook by Danny Mena

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Celebrated chef Danny Mena has penned an ode to Mexico City's vast and varied restaurant scene, from street tacos to home-style fondas and fine dining. Over 100 recipes cover breakfast, antojitos (snacks), ceviches, salsas, main dishes, and more sit beside captivating photographs of the dishes and the city's diverse markets, squares, and restaurants.

The book also doubles as an excellent guide to Mexico City's best culinary spots since each recipe is based on a dish from a different restaurant. Helpful sidebars add context and highlight details of Mexican food culture.   

Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

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Two acclaimed restaurateurs both from Jerusalem (and coincidentally even born the same year) come together to create flavorful recipes that highlight the cuisines of their home city. Tamimi is from the Arab east, while Ottolenghi is from the Jewish west, and their cookbook delves into the rich diversity of foods and cultures found in Israel's capital. 

The 120 colorful recipes include traditional favorites cooked the way they have been for centuries, alongside modern plates only loosely based on the city's beloved flavors. Recipes range from light and simple dishes like roasted sweet potatoes and fresh figs to heartier options like chicken with caramelized onion and cardamom rice.        

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Splendid Cities: Color Your Way to Calm by Rosie Goodwin

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Appropriately named, color your way to serenity while exploring the streets, storefronts, and landmarks of famous cities. Jump between architecture and cityscapes from Moscow's famed domes, to San Francisco's townhouses on these captivating two-page designs. While many of the cities are real, some are also imagined.

One note: the pages are printed front and back so this is best suited for use with colored pencils rather than markers, which might bleed through.

Lonely Planet Ultimate Travel Coloring Book by Lonely Planet

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The spirit of adventure bursts off the pages in this Lonely Planet coloring book that features the world's 100 greatest places, according to travel experts. Discover new places to add to your travel bucket list while bringing them to life in vivid color. The Taj Mahal, Great Barrier Reef, Machu Picchu, and many more iconic landmarks are all included. The book also has a section at the back with descriptions and additional information about each place.

Coloring the West: An Adult Coloring Book for Travelers by Donna Hull

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Bring the great American West and its rugged landscapes to life with 35 images recreated from photos of real US destinations. They vary from historical buildings to wildlife close-ups, and hot air balloons rising over meandering landscapes. The book also includes further explanations of each photo to add helpful context that feels truly immersive.  

Creative Haven American Landscapes Color by Number Coloring Book by Diego Jourdan Pereira

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Inspire your inner traveler and hiker with over 45 images of rugged American landscapes including  Yosemite's waterfalls and Monument Valley's red rock mesas. The color-by-number format makes it easy to bring detailed, shaded masterpieces to life. A well thought out bonus of this coloring book is that illustrations are only printed on one side and the pages are perforated so they can be easily torn out and displayed. 

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