10 Books You Should Add to Your Pre-Study Abroad Reading List

ies abroad logo
IES Abroad

Who doesn't love a good travel read? Our IES Abroad College Relations Managers and Advisors sure do!

Whether you're preparing for study abroad or simply craving a mental escape during lunch break at your job, we've got the book recommendations to inspire you for your next adventure. A few of our College Relations and Advising team members have shared a sampling of their favorite summer books that are sure to bestow the reader equal parts cultural awareness and wanderlust. Read on!

Notes from A Small Island by Bill Bryson

"A wonderful, humorous look at the UK through the eyes of an American who lived there for a long time. This was a great read after living in the UK on two occasions and reminiscing about the things that drove me crazy and the things that I loved while I was there." - Virginia Gabby, College Relations Manager


Trinity by Leon Uris

"Trinity is an epic novel that pulls you in with its captivating story. At the same time, it shares the history of Ireland (through the lens of fictional characters) from the potato famine to just before the Easter Uprising. This novel might also be of particular interest to those curious about Northern Ireland." - Maya Kozarsky, College Relations Manager

My Year of Dirt and Water by Tracy Franz

"I highly recommend My Year of Dirt and Water by Tracy Franz for anyone who is interested in Japan. The book is a journal by an American woman living in Japan whose husband is cloistered in a monastery for a year as he studies to become a Zen Buddhist monk. Franz’s journal is a wonderful, insightful exploration of the nuances of Japanese language and culture." - Beth Eustis, Associate Director of College Relations

Amsterdam: A History of the World's Most Liberal City by Russell Shorto

"I enjoyed the personalization of the author’s journey as he learned about the city’s incredible history, and how the cosmopolitan city compares to its old-self. I think students would be surprised to learn about the impact Amsterdam’s history has made on modern ideals of liberalism." - Martha Ponce, College Relations Manager

The Goldfinch by Donna Tart

"A coming-of-age story mostly based in the United States—but Amsterdam features prominently! Also, there’s a movie coming out for this one soon." - Josh Knowlton, Program Advisor

Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong by Jean-Benoit Nadeau & Julie Barlow 

"This book offers an insightful dive into a deeper understanding of the paradoxes of the French people and their culture.  The summary explains it as a 'journey into the French heart, mind and soul.'  The authors illustrate aspects of French society including language, education, economics, and more, using both personal observations and researched facts.  It’s a great read for anyone who has studied in, lived in, or visited France or plans to spend time there." - Emily Colby, College Relations Manager

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

"This brilliant hagiography of Buddha by German author, Herman Hesse. This short 1951 novel recounts the timeless journey of self-discovery that we all must take in this lifetime." - Danielle Leonard, College Relations Manager

Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman

"A nonfiction story about two female journalists racing each other to make the fastest trip around the world in 1889-1890. It isn't relevant to a specific place, but a fun travel read!" - Becca Yount, Program Advisor

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

"I just started to read (so have not finished) Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. I’m about 50 pages in and am really enjoying it. It talks about Trevor’s life growing my in South Africa as apartheid was ending. Could be really interesting for students who will study in Cape Town." - Maureen Brady Coyle, Senior Customized Program Manager and Financial Analyst

Ready for more reading recommendations? Check out our Intercultural Competency Reading List compiled by the IES Abroad Diversity team, which includes books covering contemporary intercultural issues. Feeling inspired? You can explore study abroad and internship programs around the globe using our Program Finder

IES Abroad News

Read More

IES Abroad regularly publishes news stories, articles, student stories, and other helpful study abroad content. Stay up to date on the latest from IES Abroad by reading our recent posts.

View All IES Abroad News