13 books directly related to nomads 📚

All 13 nomad books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

The Hungry Steppe: Famine, Violence, and the Making of Soviet Kazakhstan

By Sarah Cameron,

Book cover of The Hungry Steppe: Famine, Violence, and the Making of Soviet Kazakhstan

Why this book?

The Kazakhs suffered a devastating famine 1928–1932 that was caused by Stalin’s collectivization campaign. Because the Kazakhs were nomadic herders, the first step was to “modernize” them by forcing them to become settled farmers. Cameron uses Russian- and Kazakh-language sources to show how Soviet communism’s obsession with creating modern nations led to near-genocide.


Ghost Riders: Travels with American Nomads

By Richard Grant,

Book cover of Ghost Riders: Travels with American Nomads

Why this book?

The first line of the description roused my curiosity with this one: "Richard Grant has never spent more than twenty-two consecutive nights under the same roof." Curious about his own wanderlust, and theorising that America is full of wanderers, he went out to prove it. Delving into the whys of nomads and travellers, I now understand my own nomadic tendencies.


Stand on the Sky

By Erin Bow,

Book cover of Stand on the Sky

Why this book?

This story of a young girl, Aisulu, who bucks tradition to become an eagle hunter is simply heart-wrenching and a fabulous read. The research is thorough, and I was steeped in the Kazakh (a nomadic tribe in the mountains of Mongolia), even as the plot advanced with emotional twists and turns for the main characters. The voice of Aisulu is spot on. All the supporting characters but especially her brother Serik, and her aunt and uncle are richly drawn. 

Erin spent a summer with the Kazakh eagle hunters and had sensitivity readers review her work for authenticity. This book won the Governor General Award (the highest in Canada) in 2019 and totally deserves it! 


Thinking on My Feet: The Small Joy of Putting One Foot in Front of Another

By Kate Humble,

Book cover of Thinking on My Feet: The Small Joy of Putting One Foot in Front of Another

Why this book?

This is a book for people who like to come home to a steaming mug of tea after a long walk in the countryside – rain or shine. Kate Humble takes us with her on her walks through the year, both at home and abroad. Her descriptions of the Wye Valley make you want to put on your wellies and walk out the door, dogs in tow, ready to splash through puddles, hop styles, and walk beneath the trees and the clouds. It is a lovely reminder that it is so often the little things in life that can bring us the most happiness: muddy walks in the woods, chatting to friends over a pot of coffee, watching the sky change as the sun rises. I love this book so much: it’s a lesson in the benefits of learning to live in the moment and to not take the simple things in life for granted.


Travelogue From an Unruly Youth

By D.C. Jesse Burkhardt,

Book cover of Travelogue From an Unruly Youth

Why this book?

All of us who survived our own version of an Unruly Youth will find much to admire, and much that resonates, in this riveting account of one young man’s quest for identity, and for answers to his fundamental questions about life. He journeys along a “pipeline to freedom" on a bed of steel, ties, and gravel, never sure where his path will carry him from day-to-day. Travelogue From an Unruly Youth carries us into a hidden and unconventional world, weaving a romantic tale of roadside mystery and the universe-altering power of love.


The Gaslight Dogs

By Karin Lowachee,

Book cover of The Gaslight Dogs

Why this book?

The Gaslight Dogs is a powerful story with expert prose and characters that moved into my heart. Their troubles, their reluctant unions, how human and authentic they feel... despite at times not being very human at all... built such sympathy I had to take breaks from this book just to breathe. This is not a romance, but a different kind of human relationship—one of the most interesting I’ve ever read. The characters’ journey from the comfort of their known worlds into each other's moved me deeply. The blend of adventure in this very unique fantasy world, with these two amazing characters, makes this one of my favorite books of all time.


The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker's Guide to Making Travel Sacred

By Phil Cousineau,

Book cover of The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker's Guide to Making Travel Sacred

Why this book?

For many, travel reaches a point where it becomes something more than a moveable buffet and checks off a bucket-list. The Art of Pilgrimage helps you make this transition and realize you’re not alone. It traces the history of pilgrimage or mindful journeys with stories and anecdotes from past sojourners to a wide variety of locations for equally diverse reasons.


Star Of Gypsies

By Robert Silverberg,

Book cover of Star Of Gypsies

Why this book?

I'd never known anything about Gypsy culture (except cinematic stereotypes) until I read Silverberg's Star of Gypsies. Even though this book takes place on other worlds, centuries into the future, the traditions and the society of Gypsies survives. These nomadic spacefarers have evolved into important pieces of a galactic empire – an empire upon which the protagonist will have a profound effect. I loved the inventive world building and the complex yet often humorous main character, Yakoub. The tale fully engaged me from the very beginning and is one of those books I give my highest compliment – a page-turner you don't want to put down.


Distant Skies: An American Journey on Horseback

By Melissa A. Priblo Chapman,

Book cover of Distant Skies: An American Journey on Horseback

Why this book?

Travel memoirs can be fun to read, but this one is riveting. Melissa Chapman and her horse Rainy traveled nearly 3,000 miles across America when the writer was in her early twenties. Before cell phones and GPS devices, “Missy” and Rainy trekked through backwoods and on state routes, rarely knowing where they would spend the night. Without faltering, Rainy helps Missy see America in ways most of us never do.


The Silent Steppe: The Story of a Kazakh Nomad Under Stalin

By Mukhamet Shayakhmetov, Jan Butler (translator),

Book cover of The Silent Steppe: The Story of a Kazakh Nomad Under Stalin

Why this book?

This beautifully-crafted memoir beginning in 1930s Soviet-ruled Kazakhstan inspired me to seek out a survivor of the famine that tore through the land and left over a million Kazakhs dead during that traumatic decade. I found a feisty nonagenarian who recounted how she walked from Kazakhstan to China at the age of six to find food. Shayakhmetov’s book charts the famine and the accompanying destruction of the nomadic lifestyle the Kazakhs had led for generations until the iron fist of Soviet rule came crashing down. He lyrically evokes his carefree childhood as the son of nomadic herders, which came to an abrupt end when the Soviets seized their herds, corralled them into collective farms, and shot his father. Harrowing, but uplifting too – a story of survival against the odds.


Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World

By Rita Golden Gelman,

Book cover of Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World

Why this book?

Rita knew her marriage was struggling, but was shocked and hurt when her husband asked for a two-month break to see other people. But she agreed, and saw as many people as she could. She saw shoppers bustling through outdoor markets, past vendors hawking tropical fruits and mountains of spices. She saw children playing in hillside villages. She saw kindred spirits, traveling with no plan other than to experience the world.

Rita became a nomad with few possessions, but countless experiences. As I read Rita’s memoir, I found myself nodding in understanding as she described her infinite curiosity, and her fascination with beautiful places, and myriad ways of life. As Rita’s marriage ended, she discovered there’s more than one way to have passion in your life.


Caravans

By James A. Michener,

Book cover of Caravans

Why this book?

The story is set in Afghanistan, just after the end of World War 2, and takes the reader on a journey that would be virtually impossible for a westerner today. I love its authenticity—Michener travelled the country extensively in the sixties—and the combination of brutality and humour make this a unique adventure. There’s also a handful of characters who could have come straight out of Game of Thrones. It’s not one of Michener’s usual house brick size novels—this is less intimidating, more like a roofing tile. I’ve read it many times over the years. For me it remains his best work. A great story combined with a breathtaking insight into the culture, history, and geography of a forbidding and fascinating country. 


Spirit Legacy: Book 1 of the Gateway Trilogy

By E.E. Holmes,

Book cover of Spirit Legacy: Book 1 of the Gateway Trilogy

Why this book?

It was Spirit Legacy’s cover that drew me in, but it was the ghosts that kept me reading. I love the paranormal and I especially enjoy unique stories with strong characters. Holmes created both with this series. Her pairing of the protagonist, free-spirited Jess Ballard, with Tia, an ultra-organized and grounded roommate, makes for some hilarious situations. I love these two together. As the story progresses, intrigue builds, strange phenomena occur, and motives are questioned. Someone has deadly intentions, but who? No one’s beyond suspicion. Not even Jess’s friends or her family. Holmes kept me guessing right to the end. Thankfully, this is a series, so I have more books to enjoy.