14 books directly related to circumnavigation 📚

All 14 circumnavigation books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Sailing Alone Around the World

By Joshua Slocum,

Book cover of Sailing Alone Around the World

Why this book?

One of the great pure sailors of all time was Joshua Slocum. Born in 1844 in eastern Canada he remains one of the most renowned sailors of all time—deservedly, because he completed the first documented circumnavigation of the world alone in a sailboat. A severe-looking man in maturity with a completely bald head and a very full goatee. His four children were born at sea on his ships. And his adventures literally around the world are too numerous to enumerate here. Suffice to say, this was a man “rocked in the cradle of the deep,” with saltwater in his veins.

Toward the turn of the century, in his early fifties, he decided to build a small sailing vessel and sail alone around the world. It was the seminal moment in his life, and he’d describe it beautifully in this marvelous tale. Slocum faced all the perils one would expect: terrible weather, near collisions, piracy, sheer loneliness, mediocre food, near shipwreck, and plenty more. Joshua Slocum quite modestly makes Spray the real hero of the book, and by the end, the reader loves that little boat too, along with learning a great deal about life at sea.


1421: The Year China Discovered America

By Gavin Menzies,

Book cover of 1421: The Year China Discovered America

Why this book?

Long subject to debate due to its assertion that China discovered America, this book remains an astounding Ming dynasty source that should not be overlooked based on a single controversial claim. It has a decidedly maritime, diplomatic, and economic focus, offering a comprehensive – often technical – account of the 1421 Ming fleet’s expedition with attention to historical figures like Admiral Zheng He. It vividly paints Ming dynasty China as an economic might that traded extensively for various world products and received tributes and envoys from places as far as Malindi in southeast Africa. Published in 2002, the book has a certain prophetic quality: it highlights early Ming China’s trade dominance on the world stage as though Menzies sensed that history could repeat itself. Today, China is once again seen as an economic superpower.


Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World

By Matthew Goodman,

Book cover of Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World

Why this book?

Eighty Days takes readers behind the scenes of the lives of Bly and Bisland, two successful women who made a name for themselves during the late 1800s. It reveals the private women behind the public personas during an era when women were expected to mind house and home.


Around the World in Eighty Days

By Jules Verne,

Book cover of Around the World in Eighty Days

Why this book?

A classic. A roadmap for anyone who wants to pack up and take on the world. It has everything: planes and ships and elephants, a hot air balloon, an eccentric Englishman with a valet and top hat! Also, it made me laugh, and gave me courage on my own adventures; if Phileas Fogg can escape enraged priests, storms, robbers, Sioux Indians...nothing that happens to me can be as bad as all that.


How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World

By Marjorie Priceman,

Book cover of How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World

Why this book?

How To Make an Apple Pie and See The World is a whimsical book that starts by asserting that making apple pie is the easiest thing in the world. All you do is get the ingredients at the market then mix, bake, and serve… But what if the market is closed? In that case, adventure ensues! One travels the world to procure the ingredients—Italy, France, Sri Lanka, England, Jamaica, Vermont—and then you mix, bake, and serve.

The last spread of this wonderful picturebook features a round table and a gathering of friends eating apple pie—is there anything better?


Girl on a Motorcycle

By Amy Novesky, Julie Morstad (illustrator),

Book cover of Girl on a Motorcycle

Why this book?

I relished this chic, wondrous, adventuresome story of journalist and author Anne-France Dautheville's solo motorcycle ride around the world in the 1970s. As a longtime fan of Amy Novesky’s work, I learned about the project as Amy was developing it, and waited years for the book, which did not disappoint. Amy’s spare, inventive, and poetic prose takes readers on a vivid journey, with distinct, cinematic scenes that make you feel like you’ve taken the trip with Anne-France. 

As creators, we must sometimes seek to know the world in deeper, more intimate ways. My girls were, interestingly, shocked and amazed at Anne-France’s boldness. Although fifty years have passed, Anne-France’s trip seems as intrepid as ever.


The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe

By Glynis Ridley,

Book cover of The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe

Why this book?

Another engrossing book that I’ve read several times, by a professor of English at the University of Louisville. Ridley relates the amazing true – but little knownstory of Jeanne Baret, the first woman to sail around the world. She did it disguised as a man in order to accompany her lover, a botanist called Philibert Commerson on a plant collecting expedition back in the 18th century. When they got to Brazil, Baret discovered the vine bougainvillea, which the pair named after the expedition leader, Count de Bougainville (with Commerson, of course, taking all the credit) and she endured incredible hardships keeping her identity secret from the male crew during the arduous voyage. Dried specimens of her finds can still be seen today at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris.


Dove

By Robin L. Graham,

Book cover of Dove

Why this book?

Dove chronicles the story of a 16-year-old who sets off around the world on a tiny sailboat. For 5 years, while also covered by National Geographic, Robin tells his story of fighting storms, discovering new lands, and finding love. It’s an ultimate coming-of-age manifesto, full of inspiration and guts.


Through Sand & Snow: a man, a bicycle, and a 43,000-mile journey to adulthood via the ends of the Earth

By Charlie Walker,

Book cover of Through Sand & Snow: a man, a bicycle, and a 43,000-mile journey to adulthood via the ends of the Earth

Why this book?

Also very well written. Charlie chooses the roads less travelled and he meanders for nearly 4 years from the UK to Singapore then back and down through Africa to Cape Town before turning around and cycling back up Africa to the UK. He got arrested in Tibet. Had a pony stolen in Mongolia and nearly got killed by a drunken mob in Ethiopia. Gripping throughout.


Nala's World: One Man, His Rescue Cat, and a Bike Ride Around the Globe

By Dean Nicholson, Garry Jenkins,

Book cover of Nala's World: One Man, His Rescue Cat, and a Bike Ride Around the Globe

Why this book?

Nala's adventure shows how the love of an animal can change the trajectory of a man's life. Dean set out to explore the world on his bike. Along the way he met and fell head over wheels (!) with a kitten, whom he named Nala. Something about the piercing eyes and plaintive meowing of the bedraggled little cat proved irresistible. He couldn't leave her to her fate, so he put her on his bike and then, with the help of local vets, nursed her back to health. Soon on his travels, they forged an unbreakable bond -- both curious, independent, resilient and adventurous.


Around the World in 80 Trains: A 45,000-Mile Adventure

By Monisha Rajesh,

Book cover of Around the World in 80 Trains: A 45,000-Mile Adventure

Why this book?

I read Monisha Rajesh’s earlier travel memoir, Around India in 80 Trains, while planning my own train journey in India. In this one, she circumvents the entire globe (technically more than once in terms of mileage). It’s the kind of book I wish I’d written myself because I would love to do a train journey like this! I love Rajesh’s descriptions of the places she passes through and the people she meets along the way, and of course, how it changes her to see the world through this lens.


Taiwanese Feet: My walk around Taiwan

By John Groot,

Book cover of Taiwanese Feet: My walk around Taiwan

Why this book?

A down-to-earth account of Canadian ex-pat John Groot’s circumnavigation, on foot and in stages, around the island’s entire 1,200 kilometers of coastline. Looking for a big adventure and also hoping to connect more deeply to the land and its people, he set off from his home in Danshui in late 2006. He walked on weekends and other days off, a total of 83 walking days spread out over eight years.

Groot’s epic trek is related with good humor, whether highlights like exploring the majestic East Coast, with its sea cliffs and soaring backdrop of mountains, or low points such as trudging through ugly west coast wastelands.


Trim: The Story Of A Brave, Seafaring Cat

By Matthew Flinders,

Book cover of Trim: The Story Of A Brave, Seafaring Cat

Why this book?

Trim was the ultimate ‘adventure cat’. Matthew Flinders was the ultimate navigator and cartographer. Together they circumnavigated the globe 1799-1804 and shared many daring and dangerous sea voyages. If you love both history and cats, I can highly recommend this book which celebrates the bond between a remarkable man and his equally remarkable feline companion.


Around the World in Seventy-Two Days

By Nellie Bly,

Book cover of Around the World in Seventy-Two Days

Why this book?

Bly was a brilliant investigative journalist best known in the United States for her exposé of the Women’s Lunatic Asylum based on her feigning of insanity as an undercover patient … until she became even more famous for her circumnavigation of the globe, inspired by Jules Verne’s fictional Around the World in 80 Days. Sponsored and encouraged by Joseph Pulitzer (editor of the tabloid newspaper, The New York World) and written in a witty, breezy style, Bly’s pithily-told tale upends every stereotype of fragile Victorian womanhood; her gutsy candor about her madcap race around what was supposed to be a wholly man’s world still stuns and delights!