Some say that the best books to take on your travels are light, easy reads that don’t require much brain power.
While it’s definitely easier to concentrate on the latest crime thriller while waiting for a train, there is also a place in your backpack for more meditative or reflective books that can stimulate the inner journey.
1. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainance By Robert M. Pirsig
This 1974 book became a bestseller in its day and has remained a cult classic. Pirsig gives an account of a 17 day motorcycle trip across America, interspersed with reflections on Western philosophy and Zen Buddhism.
Because of the sense of movement and adventure in the book, as well as deeper reflections, I recently found it an especially good read while enjoying slow afternoons in Southeast Asia.
2. The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches By Matsuo Basho
Basho was a brilliant haiku poet from 17th century Japan. He spent his time wandering around meeting locals, seeking enlightenment, and having a good time.
Even though his books are hundreds of years old, his detailed and often hilarious tales of adventures provide inspiration for, and often outdo, any modern traveler.
3. Walden By Henry David Thoreau
This classic of American literature has inspired many to live a simpler life, or head out into the wilderness to commune with nature. Thoreau wrote the book after he decided to ditch civilization for awhile and build a hut near Concord where he experimented in living simply.
His reflections on nature, society and simplicity resonate with many travelers who enjoy the less complicated lifestyle of backpacking.
4. Tao Te Ching By Lao Tzu
In this classic text of Taoist spirituality, Lao Tzo presents 81 segments of philosophical explorations. It contains insights into human relationships, leadership, and how to coexist with nature.
The Tao Te Ching is great to travel with, as its short aphorisms are grounded in the present, challenging our perceptions and encouraging a sense of mindfulness about how we interact with new cultures and environments.
5. The Art of Travel By Alain De Botton
This recent work by the prolific English writer deals with some deeper philosophical issues of travel. Drawing on the ideas of previous travelers and explorers, De Botton investigates concepts such as anticipation, the exotic, and possession of beauty.
It might sound dense, but he’s able to write about philosophical issues in a way that is easy to digest, especially during quiet moments on a train or a flight.
6. Siddhartha By Hermann Hesse
Hermann Hesse’s short novel describes an Indian boy’s spiritual journey and is renowned for its allegorical exploration of Buddhist ideas and teachings.
An underlying message is the importance of experience for spiritual and personal growth. check sp of book title and author name.
7. Moby Dick By Herman Melville
Despite its hefty size, this modern classic is worth including in your backpack. A legendary story about inner travel accompanying outward adventures, the colorful characters are memorable and may well be reflected in those you meet on your own trip.
8. The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
Supposedly one the twentieth century’s most significant books of spiritual inspiration, and a classic of 1960’s counter culture. With links to the Ba’hai faith, as well as Christian mysticism, Kahlil’s beautiful prose covers diverse topics and issues of the human condition.
9.The Chronicles of Narnia By C.S. Lewis
This classic is addictive to read, and the perfect thing to absorb you during the down times of travel. While having a gripping narrative, C.S. Lewis also delivers insights into Christian spirituality.
10. Book of Haikus By Jack Kerouac
The famous beat generation traveler experimented extensively with the haiku form. Like his predecessors, including Basho, Kerourac added playfulness as well as a spiritual astuteness to his poetry, often in the context of travel.
Why take Kerouac’s haiku in your backpack? Because they’re short and palatable to read.
Also, by describing in detail a moment or place in time, haikus encourage us to do the same within our new surroundings.