193 Incredible Travel Books – Counting Countries

193 Incredible Travel Books Counting Countries.  The UN states that there are 193 countries in the world.  I am on a quest to travel to every country in the world.  You can see where I have been so far.  An important part of travel for me is reading.  I try to read one book (sometimes two or even three if I am lucky) pertaining to each country (and also some non-official countries as well) I visit.  Reading a book can provide so much more context for your travels.

During my first visit to Russia, I read Peter The Great, a fantastic biography of this historical leader.  When I visited St. Petersburg, the city came alive as I continually referenced his biography as I explored this former capital.

And yes, this list is not literally a list of 193 books, but an ongoing series of great books (which will eventually have a representative book for each country at some point) that I have read and which have enriched my travels.  These are all Amazon affiliates, meaning I earn a fee if you make a purchase. 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

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193 Incredible Travel Books Counting Countries
from Gambia to New Zealand.

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193 Incredible Travel Books Counting Countries
from Nicaragua to Zimbabwe.

Abkhazia is a region of Georgia in the north-west on the Black Sea.  In 2008, Russia and Georgia entered into a brief war, with the result of two new de facto states being created, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  Read the account from a US diplomat who witnessed the march to war.

This true account reads better than any film.  Well, they actually made a movie about this amazing group of special forces soldiers who arrived in Afghanistan shortly after 9/11.  These soldiers teamed up with the Northern Alliance, rode horses, and called in close air support to defeat the Taliban.

This is a story of real life meeting real life. Shortly after 9/11 a Norwegian journalist embeds herself with an Afghan family. The protagonist/antagonist is a prominent bookseller who has both prospered in Kabul as well as been jailed. During my visit to Kabul, I went to the book store and met the main character, Sultan.

There are tourists, travelers, explorers, and then there is Rory Stewart. Stewart walked across Afghanistan in 2002, surviving on his language skills and knowledge of Muslim culture. Stewart overcomes everything from encounters with Taliban soldiers to hiking through snow covered mountains. He is comforted and cared for by complete strangers and the culture of hospitality during his journey.

broken april

This novel traces the lives of families in the northern rugged mountains of Albania.  The lands are governed by generation old customs (the Kanon) that result in a viscous cycle of blood feuds capped by murder.

France invaded Algeria in 1830 and at one time had one million colonizers in its North African neighbor. It was also a difficult and challenging relationship at best. Outright and sustained conflict took place between 1954-1962, with Algerians eventually winning their freedom against the French. At times, this can be a slow read but provides a comprehensive overview of a tragic relationship.

Andorra

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This petro state is not high on the list for tourists. Considered one of the most expensive countries in the world, limited tourist infrastructure, and a history of violence, turn off many travelers. This book traces the brutal and long civil war that took place after Angola’s independence from Portugal. Multiple players vow for power backed by a series of outside powers from the Soviet Union and the US to Cuba to South Africa.

Antigua and Barbuda

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santa evita

This is a fictionalized account of Eva Peron, the First Lady of Argentina from 1946-1952.  Her story is told in reverse from her death to her childhood, where she grew up in poverty.

The Crossing Place

Armenia has withstood centuries of attacks and destruction, yet generation after generation the country and its people continue to survive and prosper.  The author travels to diasporan communities throughout the world as well as Armenia to track their progress and success.

Monte Melkonian grew up playing baseball in California, but died in the battlefields in a distant war of freedom in Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh). Artsakh was formally an enclave within Azerbaijan but has historically always been part of Armenia. This book shares Monte’s fight for his historical homeland.

This book traces the founding of Australia when England transported 160,000 Brits during the 18th and 19th century. Many of the original colonizers were convicts who were provided a second chance with their move to this foreign land.

Austria

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Azerbaijan

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Bahamas

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Bahrain

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Mohammed Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and author of this book describes his efforts and success of building Grameen Bank. Grameen Bank innovated and specialized in micro-lending with a emphasis on lending and empowering women. His efforts made a substantial impact on Bangladesh as well as the world.

Barbados

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193 incredible travel books

Belarus is relegated as an afterthought for many when creating their favorite European country lists. Until recently it was one of the most difficult visas to get, limiting tourism. Arthur Chichester takes us on a low-grade adventure to the Chernobyl irradiated corners of Belarus. Along his way he meets locals and is often embraced with hospitality in these unvisited corners. The author is better known as his Youtube persona, the Bald and Bankrupt.

Little Cyclone

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This is another true story that reads better than any novel. Sharon Matola, an American woman, ends up settling in Belize. She starts a zoo, caring for orphaned animals. Big business comes to Belize in the form of building a dam that would flood the last nesting ground of the brilliant scarlet macaws of Belize. This begins a multi-year, international fight, where Sharon and her allies, battle government forces and corporate giants who are intent on focusing on profits and not this precious natural resource.

Benin

The Viceroy Of Ouidah. By Bruce Chatwin.

193 Incredible Travel Books

This novel traces 19th century Brazilian sharecropper who travels to the Kingdom of Dahomey found in present day Benin.  The Brazilian, Francisco Manoel de Silva, surprisingly finds himself as member of the royal Dahomey court.  The book recounts de Silva trials and tribulations as well as his role in the cross-Atlantic slave trade.  The book ends as all of de Silva’s ancestors gather to celebrate and reminisce of their former patriarch.

A fish out of water story of a woman who moves to Bhutan, falls in love with a local, and gets married. The author recounts the cultural nuances and differences of the different lifestyles of the American wife and Bhutanese husband. She also weaves in interesting and novel Bhutanese history in this remote country.

The title sums up the book quite aptly. An American spends time traveling through Bolivia learning and encountering the peculiarities and culture of Bolivia. The author eats at Nazi Klaus Barbie’s favorite restaurant, spends time exploring dark and dank mines, learns about the 19th century war with Chile, partakes in Carnival and of course much more. A very readable travelogue of his adventures in landlocked Bolivia.

My War Gone By, I Miss It So

The author in his mid-20s jets to the former Yugoslavia for a three year period to witness the war with his own eyes.  He travels more like a local than a western journalist to provide a gripping account of the brutal violence.

Botswana

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Brazil

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193 incredible travel books

Sultan of Brunei is one of the richest persons in the world lives in a 1,788 room palace in this oil rich nation.  The author, a model, is recruited to attend a party for $20,000 for two weeks in South East Asia.  She ends up spending 18 months in Brunei providing insights into this secretive family.

This falls squarely in the genre of “fish out of water”. A Midwestern American travels to Sofia for his first time to coach and teach at the American high school. The author shares his trials and tribulations as he attempts to understand the unique psyche of the average Bulgarian. The book is filled with humor, sadness, and hope. I caught myself laughing out loud numerous time as the author tries to navigate and understand the high school players on his basketball team. The author also weaves in the history of this country on the edge of Europe. This book is a must read for anyone visiting Bulgaria.

Burkina Faso is a little-known country in West Africa. This book traces the history of this landlocked country that was a former colony of France. This book is somewhat of a dry account but provides you with an understanding of its challenging and chaotic history.

193 incredible travel books

The Glass Palace begins in 1885, the year the British invaded Burma.  Burma’s last king and his family who are based in the fabled city of Mandalay, are sent off into exile in a small town in India.  The book traces over a 100 years of history visiting some of Burma’s most important times in history.

Burundi

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This is a first person account of a young girl’s experience growing up under the Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge vicious regime in Cambodia. At the age of five she is cleaved from her family and begins her horrific existence under this genocidal regime. This non-fiction account is a testament to the immense courage in the face of horrific brutality. This genocide touched every single family in Cambodia and will engender greater respect and understanding during your visit.

Cameroon

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The author provides a humorous and illuminating account of his travels in Central Asia. He shares with us amusing and frustrating accounts one comes to expect when exploring in Central Asia. This is a great first hand account and introduction to the Stans.

Things changed dramatically as five new countries were born after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan gained their independence in 1991. And over time Russia, China, and the USA began a dance of influence and power over these five states. This book provides an over view of the last two decades of a very complicated and nuanced geopolitical struggle.

Canada

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Cape Verde

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Central African Republic

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Chad

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I have been fascinated with Easter Island, the remote Pacific island which is part of Chile, since I was a kid. The island is populated with stone Moai statues. The book analyzes the competing theories of how the islanders came to populate the island and how the Moai were constructed.

A three generation account of 20th century life in China proves once again that true life is grander than fiction. The author begins with her grandmother whose feet were bound as a child, and who was sold as a concubine to a warlord. Her mother lived through Mao’s revolution and was later denounced during the Cultural Revolution. This book traces the jarring vicissitudes of China during the last century prior to launching their economic rocket ship. Reading this book prior to your trip, you will appreciate the magnitude of changes through the eyes of the author.

A three generation account of 20th century life in China proves once again that true life is grander than fiction. The author begins with her grandmother whose feet were bound as a child, and who was sold as a concubine to a warlord. Her mother lived through Mao’s revolution and was later denounced during the Cultural Revolution. This book traces the jarring vicissitudes of China during the last century prior to launching their economic rocket ship. Reading this book prior to your trip, you will appreciate the magnitude of changes through the eyes of the author.

193 incredible travel books

Before there was Narcos there was Killing Pablo. Pablo Escobar was the most powerful and richest drug kingpin in the world.  His outsized presence, wealth, and predilection for violence altered the course of Colombia.  While Escobar had his passionate supporters, eventually the country and the people turned on him, he was hunted down and killed.  True life is better than fiction.

Comoros

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Over 80 million people live in the DRC, formally known as Zaire. The country is a smorgasbord of ethnicities, religions and languages. It is a country of amazing natural beauty but unfortunately poverty, war, and violence. The author attempts to explain it all in this daunting tomb. This is a bit of a slog to get through, trying to keep all the names and places straight, but a fantastic overview of the country.

Costa Rica

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Croatia

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Through Bacardi, the bat-famous rum, serves as a lens to trace the volatile Cuban history. The multi-generation Bacardi family has its hand in many aspects of Cuban history. Spanish colonization. The fight for freedom. US influence. Castro’s revolution. And life in exile. A great overview and introduction into Cuba’s amazing history and culture.

Cyprus

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193 incredible travel books

Alexander Dubcek was a long time politician from Czechoslovakia who attempted to marry communism with “socialism with a human face”. Reforms were instituted in the country until the 1968 invasion led by the Soviet Union, which firmly placed the country back under communism.  During the 1989Velvet Revolution he sided with the pro-democracy forces and entered government again after being forced out in the 1970s.

Greenland is part of Denmark and is not an officially recognized country by the UN, hence the categorization under Denmark. The author share with us a true account of an air force plane that crashes in icy, formidable Greenland. This is an epic tale of survival, and an intense display of courage by the rescuers.

Djibouti

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Dominica

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East Timor

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panama hat trail

Part travelogue and part economic treatise, this book traces the creation of the Panama Hat through its journey to the end user.  First thing you ill be surprised at, is the Panama Hat comes from Ecuador not Panama.  Enjoy this fast paced and light read.

Egypt

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This is another one of those ugly wars fought in Central America. El Salvador was part of the great game of democracy verse communism. US trained, El Salvadoran troops stormed into the village of El Mozote, hundreds of locals were brutally wiped out.

Equatorial Guinea

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There is not a vast choice of books in regard to Eritrea, but this book provides a highly readable account of Eritrea. Eritrea rests on the Red Sea next to Ethiopia and just gained its independence in the early 1990s. The book recounts a long and brutal history of wars, colonization, civil wars, and now a one-party dictatorship. Its nickname today is the “North Korea of Africa”.

193 incredible travel books

These three Baltic countries were independent before WWII, but were incorporated into the Soviet Union against their will after the war.  This book details the machinations of 1991, when the people of these three countries finally were able to declare independence from the Soviet Union.    

There is not a vast choice of books in regard to Eritrea, but this book provides a highly readable account of Eritrea. Eritrea rests on the Red Sea next to Ethiopia and just gained its independence in the early 1990s. The book recounts a long and brutal history of wars, colonization, civil wars, and now a one-party dictatorship. Its nickname today is the “North Korea of Africa”.

193 Incredible Travel Books Counting Countries

The author, Will Lutwick, is plopped down in Fiji in the late 1960s while Fiji is preparing for independence and America is in the throes of the Vietnam War. Luttwick a Peace Corp Volunteer falls in love with a local Indian girl and clashes with the forces of the island’s conservatism. Light and interesting read to prepare you for Fiji.

Finland

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193 Incredible Travel Books Counting Countries

Of course, I could have placed this book under the US heading, but I feel this is still an excellent option for those visiting France, even more so if visiting the Normandy area.  This epic account follows the soldiers of Easy Company, 506th Airborne Division, U.S. Army, from training camp to their historic landing on D-Day to their march on Germany.

Gabon

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