One of the things we find most disappointing about the “digital nomad book lists” we find online is the complete absence of travel books. Travel is half the digital nomad life and yet, it appears to account for about 0% of the average digital nomad bloggers’ attention.
So, we intend to rectify that. We’ve got 10 business books and 10 travel books that every digital nomad ought to read.
Spoiler alert: The 4-Hour Workweek is not on our list. It’s an outdated marketing text which never actually got anyone to the point of making 6 figures and working 4 hours a week.
The 10 Business Books Every Digital Nomad Should Read
For business books, we wanted to select books that have wide appeal and actionable insights. The theory is all well and good but if you can’t put it into practice it’s more of a novelty and when you’re trying to run your own business overseas – you probably need practical help more than airy-fairy ideas.
Number 10: How To Win Friends And Influence People – Dale Carnegie
OK, there are times when this book can feel a little insincere, but the techniques don’t have to be applied with insincerity and they do work. Many nomads say that they struggle with connecting to others on the road and making friends. Dale Carnegie can help.
You’ll learn how to make people like you, how to win people over to the way you think and how to change people’s minds without becoming an annoying pain in the bum. We think that’s worth it in its own right.
Number 9: The Lean Startup – Eric Ries
This is widely considered to be one of the strongest business books of recent years. If you’re starting a business on the other side of the world from home with a shoestring budget; it is essential reading. The idea is very simple – start a business with the minimum effort possible and then iterate as you become successful.
Our only note of caution is this – you can be too lean. There’s a growing movement pushing back against concepts like the “minimum viable product” because it often isn’t enough. Nonetheless, there’s a lot more good than bad in The Lean Startup.
Number 8: The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F**k – Mark Manson
OK, this book is a bit of a one-trick pony. It has a single main idea which it then tries to illustrate over and over again. This isn’t a bad way to go. Sometimes, it’s the most basic ideas that need repeating because clever people are too busy trying to be cleverer than that.
At its core, the concept is “focus on things that matter, ignore everything else”. It’s not as easy to do as it sounds – which is why the book and its practical advice on how to get where you need to be.
Number 7: You Are A Badass – Jen Sincero
This one’s on our list as much because it’s an enjoyable read as much as because it has something of value. Being an entrepreneur can be something of a lonely road at times, we think it helps to have a fallback text which reminds you how awesome you are when things get tough.
That text, for us, is You Are A Badass, you’re not going to find anything groundbreaking in here, but it may just be what you need to get out of a rut.
Number 6: The Richest Man in Babylon – George Clason
Short, to the point and very easy to read – The Richest Man in Babylon is a reminder of how to make money work for you, rather than you working for money. There are a ton of books on this subject such as Think and Grow Rich or Rich Dad, Poor Dad but they’re all longer and more tedious than this one.
It’s worth revisiting The Richest Man in Babylon occasionally to get a reminder of why you started out and where you want to be.
Number 5: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – Robert Cialdini
Cialdini is a heavyweight and this book is backed with some excellent and up to date psychological research. If you want to influence people with sales and marketing, this is where you ought to begin with an understanding of what makes people tick and what makes them want things.
Some people say there’s potential to abuse these techniques, but we’d disagree. Part of success is repeat business and that means that there’s a natural restraint on the urge to sell dishonestly – in the long run, you lose your influence. Cialdini should be essential reading for all business people and any digital nomad entrepreneur.
Number 4: Never Split The Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It – Chris Voss
In Chris Voss’s old job as an FBI negotiator – people’s lives did depend on his negotiation skills. This is one of the most accessible and sensible texts ever written to examine the joys of negotiation.
In it, you’ll learn to stop thinking in the classic “win-win” framework and develop a much more nuanced toolkit that lets you get what you want when you need to. This is one of our all-time favorite books, it’s genius.
Number 3: The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg
It’s fairly obvious that if you want to build a business; you need to build good habits to ensure that you’re consistent in the way you work and that you’re maximizing your own potential while you work.
Charles Duhigg helps those who lack the self-discipline and/or knowledge to build those habits intuitively. He offers a supportive framework for every entrepreneur to learn to design habits that deliver the results they need. It’s powerful stuff and it’s based on science.
Number 2: Reclaiming Conversation – Sherry Turkle
You may be very surprised to see this on our list, but we think it ought to be mandatory reading for all digital nomads everywhere. Why? Because it acknowledges the importance of conversation in business. It shows conclusively that e-mail, Slack, Twitter, etc. are not fit substitutes for talk.
If you want to build a business that truly works, it requires you to stop hiding behind the screen and interact with your people, your customers, etc. Sherry Turkle makes this case eloquently and in a way that will make you want to read this book in a single sitting.
Number 1: Thinking Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman
It’s quite amazing how many business book lists ignore this text – particularly given that it won Daniel a Nobel Prize for Economics. If you want to understand how market psychology works and why human beings are absolutely not rational in the way they interact in business and with the market – you must read this book.
Better still, it’s not a dry, tedious textbook that drains your mental life as you go; it’s funny, erudite and exciting. This is the best business book of all time and you can seriously steal a march on your fellow digital nomads wasting their time with Tim Ferris by learning about Thinking Fast and Slow.
Most of all, Thinking Fast and Slow will help you better understand yourself. It can help you make smarter decisions in every aspect of your life and recognize when you’re not acting rationally and helps you change the path you are on. It’s worth it for this alone.
The 10 Travel Books Every Digital Nomad Should Read
When it came to picking travel books, we wanted to pick books that show how different the world can be from our own. Many of these books could not have been written by digital nomads unless they were taking a break from “digital”, we don’t think that matters – travel ought to be exciting and living vicariously can at least prompt you to step off the beaten path and see the wider world.
A notable absence from this list is probably Vagabonding by Ralph Potts a text which wasn’t all that great when it came out and has become progressively more dated as the years go by. For some reason, it’s on almost every “digital nomad essential reading list” even though it doesn’t belong there.
Number 10: Danziger’s Travels – Nick Danziger
Nick Danziger is a nutcase. He disguised himself as an itinerant Muslim and then hitch-hiked through Turkey and Iran before sneaking into Afghanistan illegally, when the country was under Russian occupation, before becoming the first foreigner to cross from Pakistan into China since 1949 and the Chinese revolution.
Danziger’s writing is not the greatest but if you’re not moved by the audacity of his adventures; I really don’t know what will move you. Sadly, it’s not available in e-book format which means paperback is the only way to go. Which is why I no longer have my copy.
Number 9: The Travels of Marco Polo – Marco Polo
It’s an original travel record from a period a long time ago. Marco Polo’s account of his travels in the East is exciting, thrilling and fantastical. Fantastical because the man was also a bit of an inveterate liar and some of his “encounters” are purely from his own imagination.
This doesn’t change that he was one of the first people from the West to go where no-one had really gone before. It makes me jealous just to write that – the best of modern travel is we can go anywhere but it’s also the worst of it too, finding a unique experience is almost impossible now.
Number 8: Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
England may not seem like a particularly exotic locale but for a would-be writer from Iowa in the 1970s, it certainly felt like one. Notes from a Small Island is the story of my nation viewed through the eyes of an outsider it is warm, funny and not a little sarcastic about things.
Bill Bryson is now considered something of a British national treasure thanks to this book and alongside his other most excellent work Neither Here Nor There (about traveling Europe) this is his best travel work.
Number 7: In Trouble Again – Redmond O’Hanlon
Without a doubt, the most insane thing anyone could do was head into the Amazon jungle with the intention of hooking up with the most violent people on earth. Those people are the Yanomami and Redmond O’Hanlon is the nutcase who decided to go and shake their hands.
All of O’Hanlon’s travel books involve journeys that would break most of us but In Trouble Again is possibly the harshest of them all. He spends forever trying to find a companion for the trip, nearly gets them both killed before they even meet the violent chappies, his companion desserts him, so he shrugs his shoulders and does it anyway. Redmond O’Hanlon is a god amongst travelers.
Number 6: Bali and Angkor – Geoffrey Gorer
We’re heading back to the 1930s with Geoffrey Gorer. It’s hard to track down a copy of Bali and Angkor but it’s very much worth the effort to do so. A rich spoiled man travels in South East Asia, he acknowledges this from the beginning. He’s often “racist” (for today’s perspective) but in reality, for his time he was very much a progressive.
His account is funny, touching and scathing when it comes to the impact of colonialism on the countries that he visits. It’s also a journey that many modern digital nomads will ape, at least in part. Gorer’s writing isn’t always easy but it is charming.
Number 5: Blood River: A Journey To Africa’s Broken Heart – Tim Butcher
You have to admire a man who decides that modern travel just isn’t challenging enough. So, he decides to paddle down the Congo. In essence, undertaking the journey that killed Dr. Livingstone by himself.
Incredibly, much of the Congo is a lawless war zone but somehow, he manages to get the entire length of the river without being shot, killed, or even mugged (though occasionally it came pretty close). Tim’s passion for the land he travels and the people he meets is clear throughout.
This is a journey of champions and one that we wish we had the courage to undertake ourselves.
Number 4: The Happy Isles Of Oceania: Paddling The Pacific – Paul Theroux
You can’t go wrong with Paul Theroux’s travelogues. We’re not huge fans of his literary fiction but there are very few people in the world who tell the story of travel better than he does. This is our favorite, it’s funny and so tightly written.
Theroux decides to visit Oceania, the area of islands in the Pacific, and in the main to travel between them by canoe. It’s a clever idea which he executes nearly perfectly. He doesn’t come into contact with many other travelers and thus his usual cantankerous responses to these people don’t come into play.
Number 3: Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist In Andalucia – Chris Stewart
This is the only travel book on our list which is also an account of moving overseas to live and work. Chris is a farmer, not a digital nomad (though the sheer volume of books he’s pumped out suggests that he’s certainly “digital”) and this is a delicate book of negotiating your place in a new culture.
It’s sweet and shows a much gentler side of travel than many of the other travel books on our list. You could happily curl up with this one on a beach in Thailand and let the warmth of the sun complement the warmth of the words.
Number 2: In Patagonia – Bruce Chatwin
The top destination still remaining on my bucket list is Patagonia, the Southernmost tip of Argentina, and it’s mainly because of this novel by Bruce Chatwin. Chatwin’s writing is very different from a style-perspective to nearly all writers (whether travel-oriented or not). His prose is blunt, terse and punchy. It’s also quite brilliant.
It was a very difficult decision to place this book at Number 2 on our list rather than Number 1.
Number 1: Arabian Sands – Wilfred Thesiger
Wilfred Thesiger was schooled at Eton. He grew up in Ethiopia. He served in the SAS. He was also gay in a time when it was simply not done to be gay. Possibly to hide his sexuality and possibly to satisfy his curiosity, he threw himself into exploring parts of the world that had never been touched before.
Arabian Sands is the story of his long journeys with the Bedouin in the largest sand desert in the world, known as The Empty Quarter. It is a tale of near-endless misery for our hero and you can catch glimpses of his frustrated sexuality, but it is also the most inspiring travel tale that we’ve ever read.
Even if you skip the rest of this list, read Arabian Sands. You won’t be sorry. It will stay with you forever.
It’s worth noting that we’ve left a ton of great books off both these lists. This is the nature of Top 10s, Top 20s, and even Top 100s. We’re aware that we’re a bit short on female authors and authors of other nationalities, for that we apologize but we stand by our choices – we chose these books on their merits rather than based on the author’s gender or nationality.
Digital nomad life is awesome, and it can be truly enhanced by reading. The business books are essential if you want to grow as a businessperson but for us, it’s the travel books that are the heart of what it means to be nomad. Whenever we visit somewhere new, we try to read up on it online and in every book, we can lay our hands on – travel is best when you have some idea of the lay of the land.