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The 2020 Travel Reading List Challenge: Where the Road Meets a Good Read

In addition to being a travel fanatic, I am an unrepentant book nerd and recovering bookseller. I believe strongly that books and travel go together. Books inspire travel and travel encourages reading.

Reading an atmospheric book invokes an acute sense of place, which can inspire travel. Conversely, traveling somewhere will give you that special insider knowledge about the place which is later rewarded when reading a book set there. It’s for that reason that I’m co-hosting the Travel Reading List Challenge and inviting you to participate.

Travel Reading List challenge 2020

I’m joined in this challenge by fellow travel blogger Mary Jo at Traveling with MJ and a crew of intrepid readers from our Travel Reading List Facebook Community.

We’ve designed this challenge to encourage you to read more…and read more widely. The basic challenge has 24 book prompts and the advanced challenge adds another six for thirty total.

Just for kicks, you can also check out the 2019 challenge.

Salt Lake City bookstores: King's English bookshop. Woman in chair reading a book
This is me, loading up on some great reads at the King’s English Bookstore in Salt Lake City. And yes, those are dolphin socks.

Join the Travel Reading List Challenge

Are you up for the challenge? Great! Here are four easy actions that you can take right now.

  1. Check out the challenges below. I’ve listed all thirty challenges with two suggestions for each.
  2. Download this printable copy of the challenge. It’s designed as a check list with space for you to keep track of the books you’ve read.
  3. Join our Travel Reading List Facebook group where you can engage with other book nerds and get book ideas for your challenges.
  4. Subscribe to the Wayfaring Views newsletter. Each missive contains at least one book recommendation as well as rad travel tips and inspiration.
Cool libraries: Austin Texas Central Library interior with chairs, stairs and shelves
This library in downtown Austin is a book nerd’s dream.

Read More: Find more beautiful libraries around the world.

2020 Reading Challenge: Basic List

Get started with the following basics.

1. A book with a destination in the title

Cool Grey City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco, Gary Kamiya

Round Ireland with a Fridge, Tony Hawks

2. A book published in 2020

American Dirt, Jeanine Cummins

Weather, Jenny Offill

3. A book with a white cover

The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas

The Nanny Diaries, Emma McLaughlin, Nicola Kraus

4. A book with an animal on the cover

The Tusk that Did the Damage, Tania James

White Fang, Jack London

5. A book with the word “travel” in the title

The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton

Travel as Transformation: Conquer the Limits of Culture to Discover Your Own Identity, Gregory V. Diehl

Also, some of these great travel books also feature other “travel” titles.

6. A book set in South America

The Gods of Tango, Carolina De Robertis

Also, anything from this list of books set in Colombia.

7. A fiction book based upon a real person

A Brief History of Seven Killings, Marlon James

Salvage the Bones, Jesmyn Ward

8. A book with a two-word title

The Nest, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

The Dry, Jane Harper

9. A book with a subtitle

Beyond the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, Katherine Boo

Let’s Pretend this Never Happened: A Mostly True Memior, Jenny Lawson

10. A book with a number in the title

Nine Kinds of Naked, Tony Vigorito

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan

11. A book set in a destination that you haven’t visited

Sicily: The Inspector Montalbano series, Andrea Camilleri. (Going there in March.)

Any of these books set in Jordan, which I will be visiting in April.

12. A book that takes place in the winter

The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman

Snow Falling on Ceders, David Guterson

13. A YA book

The Serpent King, Jeff Zentner

Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi

14. An alternative history novel

Dread Nation, Justina Ireland

The Underground Railroad, Colsen Whitehead

15. A book about politics or politicians

Becoming, Michelle Obama

Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth, Rachel Maddow

16. A banned book

A Lesson Before Dying, Ernest Gaines

A Separate Peace, John Knowles

Find more challenged books on the American Library Associate banned books lists by decade. You’ll be surprised to find Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary on the list. Seriously– who are these people who hate knowledge?

17. A book that takes place on an island

Anything from this list of books set in Ireland or this list of books set in Iceland.

18. A book with a badass chick as the lead character

The Power, Naomi Alderman

Akata Witch, Nnedi Okorafor

19. A book recommended by a local bookstore or librarian

Burial Rites, Hannah Kent

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman

20. A book set in Eastern Europe

The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine, Alina Bronsky (Moscow)

The Man Who Spoke Snakish, Andrus Kivirahk, Christopher Moseley (Estonia)

21. A book set in Scandinavia

The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia, Michael Booth

22. A book written by one of your fave authors from 2019

The Overstory, Richard Powers

The Empire of Gold, S.A Chakraborty

23. A book with magic

Rivers of London Series, Ben Aaronovitch

Shades of Magic Series, V.E Schwab

24. A bestseller from 2019

Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens

The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead

Hay on Wye Bookshop- honor system
Did you know that there’s a town in Wales that is totally stuffed with bookstores? It’s called Hay on Wye.

2020 Reading Challenge: Advanced List

25. A book in a genre that you usually don’t read

The Happiness of Pursuit, Chris Guillebeau

The Vagina Bible: The Vulva and the Vagina- Separating the Myth from the Medicine, Jennifer Gunter

26. A book featuring climate change

Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver

California, Edan Lepucki

27. A book set in India

Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie

The Inheritance of Loss, Kiran Desai

28. An Essay Anthology

The Best American Travel Writing 2019, Jason Wilson, Alexandra Fuller

The Best American Food Writing 2019, Samin Nosrat, Silvia Killingsworth

29. A book written by someone over 60

The Testaments, Margaret Atwood

The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chandler

30. A book recommended in the TRL Facebook Group

The Secrets We Kept, Lara Prescott (recommended by Annette)

Secret Daughter, Shilpi Somaya Gowda (recommended by Mickey)

Cool libraries: Manchester Chethems library bookshelves and reading desk
This 600 year old library in Manchester, England is like a Harry Potter set.


Start with this list of the very best travel books. It includes great reads about how travel is transformative, offering wacky tales of derring do, epic quests and stories of authentic travel.

You should also check out the following series of book lists for specific destinations:

Paris | Ireland | Iceland | Cuba | Scotland | Camino de Santiago | Sri Lanka | Australia | Jordan | Colombia | Spain | San Francisco

Challenge your friends on Pinterest to join the Travel Reading List: