8 Books for Students Taking a Gap Year

Carolina Jacobs

Jun 17, 2022

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In the wake of the coronavirus, more first-year students are deferring their admission than ever before. Rather than start their elite education online, students at Harvard, MIT, Williams College and other prestigious universities are taking a gap year to explore the world — and their limitless potential as global citizens. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in doing, too, add the following books about taking a gap year to your list of must-reads. They’ll help you wrap your mind around a year full of travel and better prepare for this life-changing journey if you do decide to embark on it. 

1. “Your Gap Year” — Susan Griffith

 If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop for all things travel, pick up a copy of “Your Gap Year.” This book contains a wealth of information for gap year adventurers. Whip out your highlighter and take note of specialist Susan Griffith’s tips and tricks for exploring every corner of the globe. Whether you’re going to India or Italy, Griffith will help you figure out what to pack, how to fundraise and even where to party. 

2. “The Big Trip” — Lonely Planet 

Lonely Planet’s “The Big Trip” is a market-leading, comprehensive guide for anyone preparing to take a gap year. Not sure where you want to go yet? The book is full of ideas — from swimming with dolphins in New Zealand to learning Spanish in Guatemala. Flip through its pages to find full-color photographs, regional overviews and pre-trip tips for budgeting, health and safety. Stories from experienced travelers will also help you better prepare for your journey no matter where you go.

3. “Amazing Gap Year Adventures” — Tammy Cohen

Tourists are more likely to become victims of pickpocketing, kidnapping and similar crimes because they’re often unfamiliar with and unaware of their surroundings. Tammy Cohen’s collection of first-hand accounts is evidence of these unfortunate yet all-too-common situations. However, her book “Amazing Gap Year Adventures” also shares stories of gappers who kept their wits about them and had the best trip ever. Their remarkable accounts remind travelers that sometimes the adventure is worth the risk. 

4. “Gap Year: How Delaying College Changes People in Ways the World Needs” — Joseph O’Shea

More and more universities are urging students to take a gap year before beginning their studies. That’s because they believe that international travel will help young adults develop as scholars and citizens. However, there has been no systematic data to support this belief — until now. In his book “Gap Year,” Joseph O’Shea presents the first empirical analysis of a gap year’s influence on student development. Discover how you might grow and expand your vision by picking up a copy of this stellar read. 

5. “Travel as a Political Act” — Rick Steves

Rick Steves has spent nearly half his life traveling, and he has plenty of books to show for it. However, if you want tips on traveling with purpose and intention, “Travel as a Political Act” is a must-read. This book differs from his usual travel guides and focuses on moments of travel that can change your perspective and life forever. Let go of any preconceived notions you have about travel and foreign countries and experience it first-hand, just as this book suggests. 

6. “What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding” — Kristin Newman 

In the mood for a heartwarming, relatable memoir? Kristin Newman’s got your back. In between her full-time career and attending seemingly endless weddings and baby showers, the author somehow found time to travel the world. However, her adventures might be more escapist in nature as she admits she may have used adventure to avoid the “real world” her friends and family appeared to live in. Read about her adventures in “What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding.”

7. “Eating Mud Crabs in Kandahar: Stories of Food During Wartime by the World’s Leading Correspondents” — Mann McAllester

Have you ever wondered what kinds of foods you’ll eat during your gap year? International cuisine can be delicious, but it’s often an adventure all to itself. The stories found in this book will prepare you to eat creepy crawlies, animal body parts and everything in between. More importantly, it will remind you of the disparities between the western world and wherever you choose to spend your gap year. The overall message: keep an open heart, be grateful and carry a bottle of Tums.

8. “Change the World Without Taking Power” — John Holloway

At some point during your travels, you’ll realize that sophisticated ideals just don’t hold up in the real world, at least, not in the ways you’d expect them to. Eventually, you might even feel like throwing in the towel and heading home. Before you do, read John Holloway’s “Change the World Without Taking Power.” This book will remind you why you began this journey and encourage you to keep going, even if you don’t feel like it right now. 

The Journey of a Lifetime

Odds are you won’t be able to take a year-long break after graduating and starting a career, so take this opportunity to embark on the journey of a lifetime. Keep an open mind and remember to pack a few good books as you set out on your grand adventure. As long as you prepare accordingly and take a few notes from the experts, you’re bound to have the most unforgettable year of your life.

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