The best books for the intelligent traveller

Who am I?

I am an author and natural navigator. I set up my natural navigation school in 2008 and am the author of award-winning and internationally bestselling books, including The Natural Navigator (2010) The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs (2014), How to Read Water (2016), and The Secret World of Weather (2021), some of the world’s only books covering natural navigation. I have spent decades hunting for clues and signs in nature, across the globe, which may be why I am sometimes nicknamed: “The Sherlock Holmes of Nature”.


I wrote...

The Lost Art of Reading Nature's Signs: Use Outdoor Clues to Find Your Way, Predict the Weather, Locate Water, Track Animals--And Other Forgotten Skil

By Tristan Gooley,

Book cover of The Lost Art of Reading Nature's Signs: Use Outdoor Clues to Find Your Way, Predict the Weather, Locate Water, Track Animals--And Other Forgotten Skil

What is my book about?

The natural world is filled with clues. The roots of a tree indicate direction; the Big Dipper tells the time; a passing butterfly hints at the weather; a sand dune reveals prevailing wind; the scent of cinnamon suggests altitude; a budding flower points south. To help you understand nature as he does, Gooley shares more than 850 tips for navigation, forecasting, tracking, and more, gathered from decades spent walking the landscape around his home and around the world.

Whether you’re walking in the country or city, along a coastline, or by night, this is the ultimate resource on what the land, sun, moon, stars, plants, animals, and clouds can reveal—if you only know how to look!

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Old Indian Trails of the Canadian Rockies

Why did I love this book?

The best travel writing allows us to explore a place vicariously and this book certainly does that. But it also gives a sense of what it is like to explore as a woman and on horseback, two things I cannot claim to have ever done. It is rich with insights into the nature of the land and people. And it is sensitive without being sentimental. Schaffer was a true pioneer and the book gives a sense she would have been good company too. 

By Mary T.S. Schaffer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Old Indian Trails of the Canadian Rockies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“We seemed to have reached that horizon, and the limit of all endurance, to sit with folded hands and listen calmly to the stories of the hills we so longed to see, the hills which had lured and beckoned us for years before this long list of men had ever set foot in the country.” —Mary T.S. Schäffer


Mary T.S. Schäffer was an avid explorer and one of the first non-Native women to venture into the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, where few women—or men—had gone before.


First published in 1911, Old Indian Trails of the Canadian Rockies is…


In Patagonia

By Bruce Chatwin,

Book cover of In Patagonia

Why did I love this book?

I've picked In Patagonia, his first book, but I can honestly recommend anything written by Chatwin. Long after his death in middle age, he remains one of the best in the world for balancing fine writing with a sense of place. We have all read those authors who can't help reveal that they think the places they visit ought to come second to their waxy words. And we've all read books where the journey is truly extraordinary but the writer is not up to the task of sharing it. Chatwin always finds that sweet spot where the writing elevates the places he visits, but never overrides them. 

By Bruce Chatwin,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked In Patagonia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The book that redefined travel writing' Guardian

Bruce Chatwin sets off on a journey through South America in this wistful classic travel book

With its unique, roving structure and beautiful descriptions, In Patagonia offers an original take on the age-old adventure tale. Bruce Chatwin's journey to a remote country in search of a strange beast brings along with it a cast of fascinating characters. Their stories delay him on the road, but will have you tearing through to the book's end.

'It is hard to pin down what makes In Patagonia so unique, but, in the end, it is Chatwin's…


Book cover of Personal Narrative of a Journey to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent

Why did I love this book?

Humboldt is the Godfather of so many fascinating areas of natural history. His mind unravels mysteries for breakfast. The book is a great travel story in its own right, but this tale envelopes countless examples of groundbreaking discovery. 

Personally, I find his work inspiring because he excelled at revealing how nature and place reflect each other. The plants and animals we encounter change with latitude, altitude, and a dozen other variables. This is the science that allows us to start making maps from plants and animals. We are all indebted to Humboldt and I feel it strongly. 

By Alexander von Humboldt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Personal Narrative of a Journey to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the greatest nineteenth-century scientist-explorers, Alexander von Humboldt traversed the tropical Spanish Americas between 1799 and 1804. By the time of his death in 1859, he had won international fame for his scientific discoveries, his observations of Native American peoples and his detailed descriptions of the flora and fauna of the 'new continent'. The first to draw and speculate on Aztec art, to observe reverse polarity in magnetism and to discover why America is called America, his writings profoundly influenced the course of Victorian culture, causing Darwin to reflect: 'He alone gives any notion of the feelings which are…


Book cover of Along the Enchanted Way: A Story of Love and Life in Romania

Why did I love this book?

A unique book. Read this and you'll find yourself in a disappearing world. Northern Romania eschewed the modern conveniences and less delicate touches of capitalism for most of the twentieth century. Blacker shares a life wholly dictated by the rhythms of nature. This is a world where the locals recognise someone visiting from another village at a distance, not by their face or their clothes, but by the horse they are riding.

By William Blacker,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Along the Enchanted Way as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Chosen for the Duchess of Cornwall's online book club The Reading Room by HRH The Prince of Wales

When William Blacker first crossed the snow-bound passes of northern Romania, he stumbled upon an almost medieval world.

There, for many years he lived side by side with the country people, a life ruled by the slow cycle of the seasons, far away from the frantic rush of the modern world. In spring as the pear trees blossomed he ploughed with horses, in summer he scythed the hay meadows and in the freezing winters gathered wood by sleigh from the forest. From…


A Year in Provence

By Peter Mayle,

Book cover of A Year in Provence

Why did I love this book?

I love all of Bill Bryson's books, especially his travel literature. He retired recently, but he is still too well known for me to include his work here. Instead, I'm going for an old favourite in a similar genre. A Year in Provence was very well known in its day, 1989, so much so that waves of tourist fans forced the author to emigrate. But it's been a few years and it's possibly not so widely read now. 

Mayle's writing is funny, economical and so readable. If you fancy the idea of spending a glutinous, hilarious time in rural Provence without moving or suffering any gastric consequences then this is the book for you. Mayle's fond telling brings a cast of eccentric local characters to vivid life. If you can turn a page without smiling or finish a chapter without laughing, you're made of sterner stuff than I. Mayle was a highly intelligent writer, so clever that he knew how and when to hide it. 

By Peter Mayle,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked A Year in Provence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A personal description of Provencal life as seen through the eyes of the author and his wife when they move into an old farmhouse at the foot of the Luberon mountains between Avignon and Aix. The bestselling work of non-fiction in paperback of 1991 in the UK.


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Interested in Provence, Patagonia, and naturalists?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Provence, Patagonia, and naturalists.

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