ISA’s Recommended Reading List for College Students & World Travelers

By Kaitlyn Webster, Marketing Associate

In honor of National Book Month, the team at ISA has rounded-up some of their favorite reads for college students and world travelers. From award-winners, to travel memoirs turned major motion pictures, there’s something for everyone on this reading list. Here are 15 of ISA’s favorite books to read – whether you’re already abroad, or just dreaming about going.

In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

“The way that Bill talks to his audience is fresh, and while reading this book, I felt like we became close friends.. His chapters flow with personal stories and experiences throughout his travels to Australia, while also presenting fun facts about the niche places he visits.” – Brittany Araujo, Regional Director

The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner

“Part travel memoir, part humor, and part twisted self-help guide, The Geography of Bliss takes the reader across the globe to investigate not what happiness is, but WHERE it is. Are people in Switzerland happier because it is considered to be the most democratic country in the world? Do citizens of Qatar, awash in petrodollars, find joy in all that cash? Is the King of Bhutan a visionary for his initiative to calculate Gross National Happiness? Why is Asheville, North Carolina so happy? In a unique mix of travel, psychology, science and humor, Eric Weiner answers those questions and many others, offering travelers of all moods some interesting new ideas for sunnier destinations and dispositions.” – Patrick Barker, Coordinator of Health Safety and Security

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

“This book offers great insights into South African culture from the point of view of someone who never quite fit in with the divisions the apartheid laid out. It provides a glimpse into a side of South Africa that many study abroad students don’t see, and when they do, often makes them uncomfortable having to reflect on race and privilege. It is a fascinating story of coming-of-age, tragedy, and triumph.”– Laura Archambault, Program Manager

“One of my favorite books! Not only it is a phenomenal look at apartheid in South Africa, but Trevor’s story and his relationship with his mother is so heartwarming.” – Caroline Ickes, Associate VP of University Partnerships

El Ateneo Grand Splendid in Argentina, considered one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world. (Photo by Victoria Lynde)

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

“This is such a great book about finding yourself. Cheryl hiked the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) after a long battle with drug addiction and feeling like a lost member of society. The book details her life as she makes the treacherous 2,650 mile hike.” – Sarah Kosid, Program Development Specialist

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

“The Alchemist is my all-time favorite book. It will give our students a new way of looking at things, a sense of hope, and an appreciation for adventure. It is extremely thought provoking and will hopefully help our students think about questions that will lead them to reflect on their time spent abroad. It also takes place in/near some of our study abroad locations (Southern Spain & Morocco).” – Megan Schwartz, Site Specialist

Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War by Peter Maass

“A really great firsthand perspective of the Bosnian war in the 90’s. I read this book before traveling to Sarajevo, and it gave me an entirely different perspective on the culture, the people, and the city itself. It helped me see the places I had visited in an entirely different light. ” – Troy Stiles, Marketing Communications Manager

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

“All the Light We Cannot See is set in occupied France during WWII. It centers around a blind French girl and a German boy who eventually cross paths. Because one of the main characters is blind, Doerr does a fantastic job of describing everything in her chapters without talking about what they look like.”– Megan Schwartz, Site Specialist

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

“The Shadow of the Wind takes place in Barcelona following the Spanish Civil War. In its pages, students will find mystery, romance, family drama, a story within a story, plot twists, fascinating characters, and a memorable ending that I won’t give away here.” – Megan Schwartz, Site Specialist

Busts and books in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Zahra Khan)

The Power of One by Bryce Courtnay

“Outstanding writing by a South African born author who lived much of his life in Australia. The characters are beautiful and the story – and the settings – are powerful. One of my top five books.” – Eric Anderson, Associate Vice President

Travels by Michael Crichton

“This book was given to me before I embarked on my Peace Corps journey in Peru, and I highly recommend it. The events described in the book are actual scenarios that Crichton experienced as a student and a curious worldly traveler. He decided to travel after having an epiphany – he realized that his knowledge was largely centered only in Western – American and European history, and he needed to broaden his knowledge base. As a reader, you will take a journey with him and visit places you never dreamed of. Truly remarkable.” – Rachel Rogers, Director, Enrollment Management and EuroScholars

Jupiter’s Travels by Ted Simon

“One of my favorite books, it’s an account of the author’s journey, over the course a several years, as he travels around the world on his motorcycle. It’s been the inspiration for numerous documentaries and travelers since. It offers incredible insight into many local cultures.” – Troy Stiles, Marketing Communications Manager

1,000 Places to See Before You Die: A Traveler’s Life List by Patricia Schultz

“This book ignited my passion for travel in the form of a checklist. It reminded me that the world is incredible and huge, and there are many places worth visiting. It’s not a traditional book you read from cover to cover, it’s more like a guide for planning your next trip.” – Ben Chinisci, Site Specialist

A Geek in Thailand by Jody HoutonA Geek in Korea by Daniel TudorA Geek in Japan by Hector Garcia

“These books are fun and comprehensive introductions to the culture and life in a country. It gives readers insights and tips on living, studying, or working in Japan, Korea, and Thailand.” -Katya Kuhns, Site Specialist

Have a book to add to our list? Share it with us in the comment section below! 

Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.

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