10 Best Authors Like Bill Bryson to Explore the World With

Discover our list of the best authors like Bill Bryson. If you’re a fan of humor and travel, you’ll want to explore every one.

American-British journalist and author Bill Bryson is well-known for his nonfiction books. Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, where he attended high school before Drake University. He never finished school but chose to backpack around Europe as a young adult. These adventures became the fodder for his book, Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe, published in 1992.

Over time, he established himself as a travel writer with a touch of humor in his books. He also wrote books on language, including Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words, initially published in 1984, and Made in America, published in 1994. Many of his books were written alongside his high school friend Matt Angerer, who writes under the pen name Stephen Katz. For more, read our guide to the best Bill Bryson books.

Throughout his travels, Bryson fell in love with the world of Europe and eventually moved to England. Notes from a Small Island, published in 1996, and I’m a Stranger Here Myself, published in 1999, talk about his life as an ex-pat. Bryson also wrote A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail in 1997 and At Home: A Short History on Private Life. 

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, his memoir, which spoke of his life growing up in Des Moines, caused the city’s mayor to name a day after him. If you’re interested in this topic, you’ll love our round-up with the best Serbian authors!

1. Douglas Adams, 1952 – 2001

Portrait of Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams is most known for his fiction works, including The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but he does have one nonfiction work in his bibliography. Together with Mark Carwardwen, he wrote Last Chance to See. This 1990 book chronicles his search around the world for endangered species.

This bestselling British author brings his signature sarcastic style to this nonfiction work, just like his fiction books. Adams was born in Cambridge and lived much of his life in London before settling in Santa Barbara. If you like reading more adventure books, you might want to explore our round-up of the best adventure books.

“We are not an endangered species ourselves yet, but this is not for lack of trying.”

Douglas Adams, Last Chance to See
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Last Chance to See
  • Adams, Douglas (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages - 10/13/1992 (Publication Date) - Ballantine Books (Publisher)

2. Simon Winchester, 1944 –

Author Simon Winchester at a book signing

Simon Winchester is a New York Times bestselling author and journalist from England. As a young adult, he attended the University of Oxford to study Geology, then started traveling for work. While on assignment in Uganda, Winchester read Coronation Everest and became a writer. First, he started working as a reporter, covering his international escapades and the following news.

During his travels, Winchester spent three months in prison in the Falkland Islands, and that experience also became part of his nonfiction books. In Holy Terror, his first book was published in 1975. This spurred his passion for writing nonfiction, and his 1998 book The Professor and the Madman was his first bestseller. Winchester’s books feature a narrative nonfiction form that is pleasant to read while remaining true to the nonfiction genre.

“The English language was spoken and written—but at the time of Shakespeare it was not defined, not fixed. It was like the air—it was taken for granted, the medium that enveloped and defined all Britons.”

Simon Winchester, The Professor and the Madman
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The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary
  • Simon Winchester, The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary, paperback
  • Simon Winchester (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 242 Pages - 07/05/2005 (Publication Date) - Harper Perennial (Publisher)

3. Peter Mayle, 1939 – 2018

Peter Mayle was a British businessman who spent much of his adult life in France. The experiences he had in France were the subject of a series of books that became memoirs and landed him a spot on this list of authors like Bill Bryson. A Year in Provence, published in 1989, was his first international bestseller and earned the Best Travel Book of the Year award from the British Book Awards. In it, Mayle wrote of living as a British expatriate in France. Several sequels followed it, and his 2004 book A Good Year became a major motion picture. In 1992, Mayle was named Author of the Year by the British Book Awards.

“Rain they take as a personal affront, shaking their heads and commiserating with each other in the cafés, looking with profound suspicion at the sky as though a plague of locusts is about to descend, and picking their way with distaste through the puddles on the pavement.”

Peter Mayle, A Year in Provence
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The Mosquito Coast
  • The Mosquito Coast By Theroux Paul
  • Theroux, Paul (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 384 Pages - 06/01/2006 (Publication Date) - Mariner Books Classics (Publisher)

4. Paul Theroux, 1941 – present

Author Paul Theroux in a black suit

Called “The world’s most perceptive travel writer” by the Daily Mail, Paul Theroux writes both fiction and nonfiction books. This author earned a Royal Medal from the Royal Geographical Society for his travel writing and received the American Academy of Art & Letters Award for Literature. Two of his travelogues, The Old Patagonian Express in 1979 and The Mosquito Coast in 1981 were nominees for the American Book Award. Theroux is an American writer who was born in Massachusetts. As a young adult, he joined the Peace Corps, and that travel became the basis for much of his early writing.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Paul Theroux, The Mosquito Coast
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The Mosquito Coast
  • The Mosquito Coast By Theroux Paul
  • Theroux, Paul (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 384 Pages - 06/01/2006 (Publication Date) - Mariner Books Classics (Publisher)

5. David Sedaris, 1956 – present

Author David Sedaris sitting in a chair

David Sedaris is an American humorist and essayist with several nonfiction books. Me Talk Pretty One Day is a collection of his essays published in 2000 that won the Thurber Prize for American Humor, and Naked, his 1997 book, was his first New York Times bestseller. His books talk about life as a middle-class youth in North Carolina. They also discuss his travels to England, France, and New York; these nonfiction travel works put him on this list. Sedaris was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2019.

“I hate you’ she said to me one afternoon. ‘I really, really hate you.’ Call me sensitive, but I couldn’t help but take it personally.”

David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day
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Me Talk Pretty One Day
  • Great product!
  • Sedaris, David (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 272 Pages - 06/05/2001 (Publication Date) - Back Bay Books (Publisher)

6. J. Maarten Troost, 1969 – present

J. Maarten Troost is a Dutch-American author who writes humorous travel works. His South Pacific trilogy and books about contemporary China are some of his most famous. The Sex Lives of Cannibals, his first book published in 2004, was well-received. The new book earned him a finalist spot on the Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers list and an accolade as one of the 25 Books to Remember from the New York Public Library. CNN called it one of the “Funniest Travel Books Ever Written.”

“Like many air travelers, I am aware that airplanes fly aided by capricious fairies and invisible strings.”

J. Maarten Troost, The Sex Lives of Cannibals

7. Stephen Hawking, 1942 – 2018

Author Stephen Hawking

Born in Oxford, Stephen Hawking attended University College in Oxford and studied physics before switching to natural science. This combination gave him a passion for learning about the laws that govern the world. Though his works are not in the travel genre, his clear writing and ability to use humor in his works earn him a spot on this list. A Brief History in Time, which he published in 1988, explores some of the most profound questions of human existence. Hawkings suffered from ALS, gradually leading to his paralysis and, eventually, his death.

“If time travel is possible, where are the tourists from the future?”

Stephen Hawking, A Brief History in Time
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A Brief History of Time
  • Hawking, Stephen (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 212 Pages - 09/01/1998 (Publication Date) - Bantam (Publisher)

8. Elizabeth Gilbert, 1969 – present

Author Elizabeth Gilbert doing a TED Talk

Author Elizabeth Gilbert is most famous for her 2007 memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, which she published in 2006. The author was born in Connecticut and grew up in the country on a Christmas tree farm. Gilbert started writing as a young adult, publishing a “Pilgrims” short story in Esquire in 1993. Eat, Pray, Love was based on her travels across Italy, India, and Indonesia, which landed her a spot on this list. The memoir also was a New York Times bestseller and became a movie in 2010.

Gilbert also wrote Big Magic, a self-help book for creatives, and Committed to a second memoir. Looking for more reading material talking adventure? Check out our guide to the best books for adventurers!

“This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something.”

Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia
  • Great product!
  • Gilbert, Elizabeth (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 400 Pages - 01/30/2007 (Publication Date) - Riverhead Books (Publisher)

9. Pete McCarthy, 1951 – 2004

Author Pete McCarthy looking at glasses at a bar

Though not a prolific author, Pete McCarthy has several travel books that are interesting reads. The Warrington native was born in 1951 and died in 2004, publishing six works during his lifetime. Traveling extensively, McCarthy found that Ireland, his mother’s homeland, was the most intriguing place to live, and he wrote about it often. The first of his books, A Doctor’s War, hit bookshelves in 1979. McCarthy’s Bar: A Journey of Discovery in Ireland talks of the author’s travels across the island nation, and this book was published in 1999.

“I reckon if I can’t spend the day sleeping, the next best thing is to spend it reading and drinking.”

Pete McCarthy, McCarthy’s Bar: A Journey of Self Discovery in Ireland
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McCarthy's Bar: A Journey of Discovery In Ireland
  • McCarthy, Pete (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 352 Pages - 03/03/2003 (Publication Date) - St. Martin's Griffin (Publisher)

10. David McCullough, 1933 – 2022

Author David McCullough

David McCullough rounds out this list. This American author was born in Pittsburgh and graduated from Yale. Books by this author always receive high marks, and he won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award twice. Most of the books in his portfolio are history books, but one, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, also takes on the travel genre. The book, which he wrote in 2011, takes on history and travel by exploring what ex-pats who moved from America to Paris between 1830 and 1900 experienced. Looking for more? Check out our round-up of the best Dutch authors!

“Those for whom things came easily usually made less of an effort, not more.”

David McCullough, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris
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The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris
  • the remarkable story of the generations of American artists, writers, and doctors who traveled to Paris, the intellectual, scientific, and artistic capital of the western world during the late 1800s
  • McCullough, David (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 576 Pages - 05/15/2012 (Publication Date) - Simon & Schuster (Publisher)
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