Skip to content

List of popular books carried by backpackers. Check, check and check. Wait a minute… Backpackers can’t read!

BookRide came up with a great collection (casually compiled) of the books most often read by the world’s backpackers. Many of our treasured copies now sit at home, having made the journey duct taped and waterlogged. Many more of these great books have been scattered to the wind via the world’s coffee houses, net cafes, pubs and hostels- breadcrumbs from a good life lived.

It’s a collection that pairs well with adventure… harrowing road trips, epic travels, and fantastic scenarios. These are the tomes we’ve carried around for miles on our backs, in dusty bags where every inch and every ounce makes a world of difference.

From BookRide-

“The concept of backpacker books goes back to the days of the hippy trail when travelers would carry such classics as the I Ching, the Tibetan Book of the Dead or anything by Herman Hesse. A backpacker classic should have an element of profundity, preferably mystical -if not it should have cult status or be a statement about who you really are. There is an element of self discovery in setting off – the path to enlightenment, the journey inwards…”

My copy of Zen Flesh, Zen Bones made its way from my father’s backpack to mine, and across several continents before it finally fell apart into little fragments of brittle paper. Somewhere in the UK Lake District is a copy of Total Recall (yes, that Total Recall) which I used, abused and left for some other traveler. My copy of Dune has made it back to my living room shelf, and certainly looks as though its been buried in sand for 2 or 300 hundred years.

As wonderful as BookRide’s list is, it’s incomplete. I know there are more travel classics out there.  I want the full index!  Backpackers of the world unite. I want google analytics from the blog posts, travel logs and diaries from the past 70 years.

I want to know what you people get into when you head out for the long haul… I want your favorites!

Jack Kerouac. On the Road
Peter Mathiessen. Snow Leopard (essential reading in the high deserts of Nepal)
Joseph Heller. Catch 22
Herman Hesse. Siddhartha (also Glass Bead Game, Magister Ludi, and Steppenwolf)
Yann Martel. Life of Pi
Pirsig- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

J. D. Salinger. Catcher in the Rye
Thomas Pynchon. Gravity’s Rainbow
Zafon. The Shadow of the Wind. (’full of cheesy splendour’ Stephen King)
Ken Kesey. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest
John Fowles. The Magus.
Vikram Seth- A Suitable Boy (for a very long journey)
Milton. Paradise Lost
The Holy Bible (King James version)
Paulo Coelho. The Alchemist
Alex Garland. The Beach (backpacker’s novel about backpacking– a great read)


Posted in Travel.

Tagged with .

7 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. Rachel says

    Desert Solitare was one that kept me pretty good company while traveling in Utah. That’s the only one that strikes me at the moment. What a great list!

  2. Rachel says

    Oh yes, and the Alchemist.

  3. Jason says

    Abby’s desert adventure is definitely backpack friendly! As far as heading through the US southwest state parks, that may be the all-time tops!
    I had it with me last time I was in Oaxaca, and Abbey’s same issues of Conservation vs. Use are facing the communities there now!
    Big points for universal appeal + functional application + BookRides standard “element of profundity”

  4. Christina says

    Damn, I was about to comment on the surprising lack of Abbey representation but looks like several already beat me to it! Abbey’s Road is my favorite of the bunch…and for a little HA-hah at the expense of the religious fanatic, “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins.
    If for once, we want to take things East coast, “Swampwalkers Journal” or “Self-Portrait with Turtles” by David M. Carroll contains both poetic short essays on the natural world and artistic renderings by the author of creatures native to the Eastern U.S.

  5. Hannah says

    I tend to pick a theme for my trips. My favorite being a sea theme, because at any given time, I want to go to the beach. Here are my top 5:

    The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson
    Seduction of the Minotaur by Anias Nin
    A Year in the World by Frances Mayes
    Until I Find You by John Irving
    Tarantula by Bob Dylan
    Any collection of Lorca’s poetry because that shit NEVER gets old.

  6. Jason says

    Hannah- no doubt people are drawn to themes reflective of where they’re going… For you I recommend just keeping a good selection of beach books in your beach gear closet!

    I remember first reading The Old Man and the Sea when I was staying down in the Florida Keys as a kid… made for some wicked dreams with all waves rolling in through the night…

    And it’s always curious when you see people reading city stories in the jungle… or beach stories while traveling in the mountains… Duo-layered escapism?

  7. Tessa Hall says

    The Dhammapada kept me good company in Mexico. I don’t remember which translation it was. Also, any book of poetry makes for good travel reading I’d say.

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.