The best books that inspired us to go travelling

The Books I Picked & Why

A Year in the Merde

By Stephen Clarke

Book cover of A Year in the Merde

Why this book?

In A Year in the Merde, Stephen Clarke walks the line perfectly between berating the country he's in and making it clear he is, in truth, really enjoying himself. When I discovered the book, I (a Brit) was living in Grenoble in France so it was particularly relevant. At the time, I was desperately trying to complete my Masters - in engineering! - but Clarke's book opened my eyes to a world where you can earn a living by documenting your travel experiences. 

Within six months, I had completed my Masters (by the skin of my teeth), turned my back on engineering, and enrolled in a post-graduate course in journalism. 11 years later, I've worked on books of my own, including guides to Malaysia, India, Spain, and France - returning to Grenoble, the place where it all began.

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Explore Australia: The Complete Touring Companion

By Celia Pollock, Sue Donovan

Book cover of Explore Australia: The Complete Touring Companion

Why this book?

Back in the early ‘90s in Melbourne, I talked my way into a temporary job typesetting Explore Australia, a mammoth full-colour guidebook. I ended up staying several years, undertaking desk-based research, managing the photo library, and editing text and maps. I spent my days poring over cartographic proofs, sifting through glorious photos of rust-red mountain ranges, cobalt-blue skies, and dense tropical rainforest abutting white-sand beaches. I spoke to those manning the tourist information offices around the country: at Coral Bay, where the Ningaloo Reef is just a metre from the beach, at Healesville, when the cackle of a kookaburra interrupted my call, and at Cossack, a gold-rush-era ghost town with a population of one man and one dog. Some years later I sold my home, bought a 4x4, and set off to see all those places that I had visited vicariously…

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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

By Hunter S. Thompson

Book cover of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Why this book?

The world was panicking about the unknown effects of a calendar rolling over from 1999 to a new century, when all electrical capabilities could disintegrate, plunging us into digital darkness. Immune to the Y2K bug, I headed to Nevada, determined to experience my own Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. The Raoul Duke to my Dr. Gonzo, was a bad-ass drummer: part Native American, part black American, 100% goth and rocking a lime-green mohawk. We stumbled through the casinos with their vibrant décor - swirling carpets that seemed determined to trip us up – and out into the cool night…

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Northern Lights: A Practical Travel Guide

By Polly Evans

Book cover of Northern Lights: A Practical Travel Guide

Why this book?

I’d been working at Bradt Guides for about three years when we commissioned Polly Evans to write the first edition of Northern Lights: A practical travel guide, and I’ve been fascinated by this natural phenomenon ever since.  Fast forward five years and I finally booked a dream trip to Swedish Lapland in celebration of a milestone birthday, armed with the 2nd edition containing all the information needed to have the most incredible few days. It snowed a lot whilst we were there creating a stunning winter wonderland, and although the Aurora Borealis didn’t make an appearance we packed in so many other adventures that made it memorable for all.

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Homage to Catalonia

By George Orwell

Book cover of Homage to Catalonia

Why this book?

I was forced to read this at school, but it immediately made me want to visit Barcelona. I first went when I was 19 and have been back several times subsequently, re-reading the book on each visit. Part travel narrative, part history, part polemic, part love story, part gripping adventure yarn – you get something different out of Homage to Catalonia each time you read it. Here is Orwell on the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona’s great landmark, still unfinished 85 years later and now the city’s principal tourist attraction: “A modern cathedral, and one of the most hideous buildings in the world. It has four crenellated spires exactly the shape of hock bottles. Unlike most of the churches in Barcelona it was not damaged during the revolution – it was spared because of its ‘artistic value’, people said. I think the Anarchists showed bad taste in not blowing it up when they had the chance.”

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