All aboard! I love reading train journey books because it is my favourite way to travel. Train journeys have a unique way of capturing our imaginations, providing a sense of adventure, and connecting us with the world around us. Whether you’re a seasoned traveller or an armchair explorer, these ten train journey books will transport you to far-off destinations, both real and imagined.
Train Journey Books
The Great Railway Bazaar – Paul Theroux
A must-read among train journey books. The Great Railway Bazaar is Paul Theroux’s account of his epic journey by rail through Asia. Filled with evocative names of legendary train routes – the Direct-Orient Express, the Khyber Pass Local, the Delhi Mail from Jaipur, the Golden Arrow to Kuala Lumpur, the Hikari Super Express to Kyoto and the Trans-Siberian Express – it describes the many places, cultures, sights and sounds he experienced and the fascinating people he met.
Here he overhears snippets of chat and occasional monologues, and is drawn into conversation with fellow passengers, from Molesworth, a British theatrical agent, and Sadik, a shabby Turkish tycoon, while avoiding the forceful approaches of pimps and drug dealers. This wonderfully entertaining travelogue pays loving tribute to the romantic joys of railways and train travel among train journey books.
Train Dreams – Denis Johnson
Robert Grainier is a day labourer in the American West, felling the trees that feed the railways. It is the start of the twentieth century, and the world is changing at a rapid pace. Life is fragile in the wilds of the frontier; disease and forest fires are rife. Buffeted by the loss of his family, Grainier journeys, struggling to make sense of the bewildering changes transforming the nation.
Rich and muscular, sweeping and incantatory, Train Dreams is an epic in miniature: an elegy to the ravaged beauty of a lost landscape, and a haunting indictment of the cost of our modern way of life among train journey books.
The Trans-Siberian Express – Warren Adler
American cancer specialist Dr. Alex Cousins is on a covert mission to the USSR. His task: to save the life of Soviet Politburo Chief Viktor Moiseyevich Dimitrov.
But the tenuous alliance between the two crumbles one night. Alex stumbles upon Dimitrov’s sinister plans for a nuclear strike on China. The Russians dispatch Alex on a six-thousand-mile journey aboard the infamous Trans-Siberian Express – thus ensuring he won’t get home in time to warn the US of the imminent attack.
As the train lumbers east across snow-cloaked mountains, watchful eyes rest on the American doctor. Surrounding him are people beaten and broken by life, each drawn to this emperor of trains in search of a brighter future. But most curious is Anna Petrovna Valentinova, the hauntingly beautiful history professor. A classic thriller among train journey books.
Trains and Lovers – Alexander McCall Smith
A delightful one among train journey books. Imagine you’re on a train. Think about all the other people on the train with you, what their lives are or have been, and the different experiences you’ve all had. But there is one more thing that you undoubtedly all share: you have all been in love at one time or another. In this surprising and poignant story, four strangers meet on a journey from Edinburgh to London.
Each has a tale of love and of railways: for Mark, a brief encounter on a railway platform leads to an impulsive and possibly dangerous decision; Kay recounts the long journey back to her childhood home in Australia and the love that was there; David remembers a teenage friendship that faded into love; and Michael makes a discovery that art and people may not be what they seem to be at first glance.
These are very different experiences, but throughout them all runs a deep current of love. And loving others, as one of the characters observes, is the good thing we do in our lives. Might be a good choice if you have a light train travel among train journey books.
The Last Train to Zona Verde – Paul Theroux
Heading north from Cape Town, through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Angola, Paul Theroux makes a final journey along Africa’s western edge among train journey books. The end of the line is the Congo but Theroux discovers that his trip’s pleasures are tempered by a growing sense that the Africa which so long ago helped form him has vanished, along with the hopes of many of its people. Yet after 2,500 miles Theroux finds that though this will be his ultimate African adventure there are still surprises to be found by the traveller prepared to step off the beaten track.
Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie
A classic thriller among train journey books. Just after midnight, a snowdrift stops the famous Orient Express in its tracks as it travels through the mountainous Balkans. The luxurious train is surprisingly full for the time of the year but, by the morning, it is one passenger fewer. An American tycoon lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside.
One of the passengers is none other than detective Hercule Poirot. On vacation.
Isolated and with a killer on board, Poirot must identify the murderer—in case he or she decides to strike again.
Night Trains: The Rise and Fall of the Sleeper – Andrew Martin
An excellent one among train journey books. In Night Trains, Andrew Martin attempts to relive the golden age of the great European sleeper trains by using their modern-day equivalents. This is no simple matter. The night trains have fallen on hard times, and the services are disappearing one by one.
But if the Orient Express experience can only be recreated by taking three separate sleepers, the intriguing characters and exotic atmospheres have survived. Whether the backdrop is 3 a.m. at a Turkish customs post, the sun rising over the Riviera, or the constant twilight of a Norwegian summer night, Martin rediscovers the pleasures of a continent connected by rail among train journey books.
By tracing the history of the sleeper trains, he reveals much of the recent history of Europe itself. The original sleepers helped break down national barriers and unify the continent. Martin uncovers modern instances of European unity – and otherwise – as he traverses the continent during ‘interesting times’, with Brexit looming. Against this tumultuous backdrop, he experiences his own smaller dramas, as he fails to find crucial connecting stations, ponders the mystery of the compartment dog, and becomes embroiled in his very own night train whodunit. A good choice among train journey books.
Ticket to Ride: Around the World on 49 Unusual Train Journeys – Tom Chesshyre
Why do people love trains so much?
Tom Chesshyre is on a mission to find the answer by experiencing the world through train travel – on both epic and everyday rail routes, aboard every type of ride, from steam locomotives to bullet trains, meeting a cast of memorable characters who share a passion for train travel.
Join him on the rails and off the beaten track as he embarks on an exhilarating whistle-stop tour around the globe, on journeys on celebrated trains and railways including:
- India’s famed toy train
- Sri Lanka’s Reunification Express
- The Indian Pacific across the Australian outback
- The Shanghai maglev
- And the picturesque rail journeys of the Scottish Highlands
Plus trains through Kosovo, North Macedonia, Turkey, Iran, Finland, Russia, America and France, with short interludes in North Korea, Italy, Poland, Peru, Switzerland, England and Lithuania. All aboard!
Around the World in 80 Trains – Monisha Rajesh
An excellent one among train journey books. From the cloud-skimming heights of Tibet’s Qinghai railway to silk-sheeted splendour on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, Around the World in 80 Trains is a celebration of the glory of train travel and a witty and irreverent look at the world.
Packing up her rucksack – and her fiancé, Jem – Monisha Rajesh embarks on an unforgettable adventure that takes her from London’s St Pancras station to the vast expanses of Russia and Mongolia, North Korea, Canada, Kazakhstan, and beyond. The journey is one of constant movement and mayhem, as the pair strike up friendships and swap stories with the hilarious, irksome and ultimately endearing travellers they meet on board, all while taking in some of the earth’s most breathtaking views. Going to read only one? Choose this one among train journey books.
The Man in Seat 61 Worldwide – Mark Smith
Mark Smith is the Man in Seat Sixty-One. Although this might make him sound like a fictional spy, he is in fact the man behind the massively popular www.seat61.com website, which offers invaluable advice on worldwide train travel. Following on from the success of The Man in Seat 61, which took travellers around Europe by train, this book covers international train travel around Africa, Asia, the Americas and Australasia among train journey books.
Focusing on affordable international travel by scheduled trains, not just deluxe tourist services, this books is packed with insider knowledge and top tips on the best routes and cheapest fares; travelling with children and changing trains; timetables and maps; essential items to travel with; and everything in between. More and more people are choosing to avoid air travel and seek alternatives, and this is the only book they need for environmentally friendly journeys around the world.
These ten train journey books offer a diverse range of perspectives on train journeys, from thrilling mysteries and adventurous travelogues to heartwarming tales of human connection. So, if you’re ready to embark on a literary locomotive adventure, pick up one of these train journey books and let your imagination ride the rails to exciting new destinations.
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Are there any train journey books you’d like to add to this list? Would you please share in the comments section below?