Synopsis: Digital nomad books like “The 4 Hour Work Week” and “Vagabonding” are well-known classics, but there are many others that explore everything from the how-to of business, to the big picture of technology, to the philosophy of long term travel. Read on for the complete list of the best digital nomad books.
The 35 Best Digital Nomad Books
One of the great things about being a digital nomad is thelearning. Whether it’s from the other digital nomads around you, on online forums, or from the many digital nomad books that have been published on the fields of entrepreneurship, remote working, technology, startups, or lifestyle design.
One thing I’ve noticed about online entrepreneurs is they love to read. There have been some truly spectacular digital nomad books published over the years. This list contains the must-read digital nomad books – I’m sure that whether you are starting out, or a seasoned digital nomad, there will be something here for you. Each book has a representative quote, along with a brief summary to entice you to read it for yourself!
The 4-Hour Work Week – Timothy Ferriss
“This is how most people work until death: ‘I’ll just until I have X dollars and then do what I want.’ If you don’t define the ‘what I want’ alternative activities, the X figure will increase indefinitely to avoid the fear-inducing uncertainty of this void. This is when both employees and entrepreneurs become fat men in red BMWs.”
Seen as most as the foundational document of the entire movement, the 4HWW is the original ode to Internet-enabled freedom and location-independence. Most of the other digital nomad books were inspired by it. It combines a healthy dose of inspiration with concrete steps, which he explains via the acronym “DEAL” – (Definition, Elimination, Automation, Liberation). The recommended websites are a little dated, but still provide an excellent starting point for the would-be nomad who a one-stop guide to what is possible.
The Sovereign Individual – James Dale Davidson & William Rees-Mogg
“Every social order incorporates among its key taboos the notion that people living in it should not think about how it will end and what rules may prevail in the new system that takes its place.”
It is hard to believe that this book was written all the way back in 1997. The Sovereign Individual foresaw workers able to exist outside of the confines of the nation-state through the Internet at a time when most people were still building websites through Geocities, and using AltaVista as a search engine. Still very worth reading, as many of the trends they write about are still taking shape. None of the other digital nomad books approaches its prescience.
The End of Jobs – Taylor Pearson
“What was going on? What’s the difference between my friends from college and the three hundred entrepreneurs now emigrating to Bangkok in flip flops? From the outside looking in, both groups were intelligent and hard-working. Why was one group living in fear of the threat of job loss, unreasonably long hours, and shrinking wages, while another was so overwhelmed by new opportunities they don’t know what to do?”
Pearson’s book is a one-stop guide to understanding the big picture forces which have made entrepreneurship more accessible to ordinary people than ever before. If you need a single book to give to people who doubt the wisdom of your choice, The End of Jobs should be what you hand them.
Citizens of the World – Nathan Rose
“Today, digital nomads are running six-figure and seven-figure companies from the unlikeliest of places – tropical islands in South-East Asia, outposts of the former Soviet Union, and far-flung corners of Latin America… On the surface, they look indistinguishable from any other long-term vagabonds, or so they would have you believe. But this masks something deeper: unlike the hippies of yesteryear, digital nomads are doing more than rejecting society’s rules – they are reshaping them.”
My upcoming book, which will reveal the untold story of the often-bizarre methods employed by digital nomads to make money online, their unshakable vision for personal sovereignty, a deep insight into the future they are creating, and inspiration for how you can join their ranks.
Be A Free Range Human – Marianne Cantwell
“What? Reality? This man thought that this life – in an artificially built, over-air-conditioned building in the middle of a screaming roundabout, hardly seeing daylight three months of the year, with the only hope of escape being winning the lottery – he thought that was reality? Somewhere, somehow, things had gone terribly wrong.”
Marianne Cantwell was told by everyone – her work colleagues, her friends, and even her own father – that her “dream job” existence in a high-powered London office represented the most she could hope for from life. One of the most practical of digital nomad books, explaining both the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of building an online business.
The Suitcase Entrepreneur – Natalie Sisson
“In reality there are just four things you need to build a business and lifestyle from anywhere. 1. Laptop or smartphone. 2. Internet connection. 3. A sound business idea. 4. The right mindset.”
Highly actionable advice for going from zero, through three stages of development to develop location-independent income. Sisson’s particular strengths are in podcasting, affiliate marketing and online courses, so it is one of the best digital nomad books to read if this is what you aspire to. Sisson had no home base for six-and-a-half years while building her business, showing doubters that combining business and travel can be done.
The World Is Flat – Thomas Friedman
“… computers became cheaper and dispersed all over the world, and there was an explosion in software – email, search engines like Google, and proprietary software that can chop up any piece of work and send one part to Boston, one part to Bangalore, and one part to Beijing, making it easy for anyone to do remote development. When all of these things suddenly came together around 2000… they created a platform from where intellectual work, intellectual capital, could be delivered from anywhere.”
A rather dense tome, running to 660 pages in the most recent paperback edition. Friedman is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist in the employ of The New York Times. The World Is Flat goes into great depth into Internet-enabled outsourcing. Meticulously-researched, it chronicles how motivated, educated, English-speaking knowledge workers now compete on a level playing field with those in the developed world – presenting a huge threat for the career professional, but huge opportunities for the entrepreneur.
Originals – Adam Grant
“In every field, even the most eminent creators typically produce a large quantity of work that’s technically sound but considered unremarkable by experts and audiences. When the London Philharmonic Orchestra chose the 50 greatest pieces of classical music, the list included six pieces by Mozart, five by Beethoven, and three by Bach. To generate a handful of masterworks, Mozart composed more than 600 pieces before his death at thirty-five, Beethoven produced 650 in his lifetime, and Bach wrote over a thousand.”
As an entrepreneur, you often need to question assumptions and do things differently. Originals lays out a roadmap for how to do that. The case studies are both entertaining and thoroughly thought-provoking. It will be interesting for digital nomads, but even more relevant for those looking to build a startup, as the book covers topics like how to build a workplace culture, and how to make sure your ideas are not silenced by a group.
Serve No Master – Jonathan Green
“I use less than five percent of the things I learned in college. I use absolutely NOTHING that I learned in my master’s course. The main value I get from my education is that I sometimes write in different books, like this one, about how I use nothing I learned in college. And I went to an excellent school.”
Think of Serve No Master as a no-holds-barred update on the 4-Hour Work Week. Jonathan Green pulls no punches in his writing style – probably the least PC of all digital nomad books. He has had stunning success as a self-published author, and I consider one of his other books, Breaking Orbit, as one of the finest books on Amazon self-publishing ever written (in a highly crowded market).
The Art of Fully Living – Tal Gur
“Creating a roadmap for our future is not about designing a detailed work plan, but rather about holding a vision, an intent, a north star by which to steer our lives. Then we can allow the path to twist and turn as it will.”
Tal Gur made a “bucket list” of 100 life goals to achieve within 10 years. This book follows his story of ticking them all off, while also building his way to financial freedom – which Gur defines as passive income being greater than cost of living. Experienced digital nomads will be able to relate to some of his moments of crisis (and the growth that ultimately came from them), and those aspiring to the lifestyle will surely be inspired by a quite remarkable life. It’s one of the best digital nomad books for ‘why’ to do all the business-building stuff in the first place.
The Fourth Economy – Ron Davison
“Warning: contents of this society have been known to create feelings of stress and alienation; provoke wars, homicides and suicides; and pollute the habitat you need for survival… This is, really, just the best we have been able to do up until now and it could be that improvement will actually overturn much of what we now accept and advocate. Learn about your culture and your place in it, but do not cling too tightly to it. What we’re teaching probably needs to change, and soon.”
The huge ambition of this book is to present the last 700 years of Western civilization, and show what this broad arrow of history points to next. With depth of research that will simply blow you away, Davison argues that power has been, step-by-step, dispersing from the center (the church, kings, etc…) to the individual. Davison’s “four economies” are (in-order) the land economy (c. 1300-1700), the industrial economy (c. 1700-1900), the information economy (c. 1900-2000), and finally the entrepreneurial economy (2000-present). It is not one of the digital nomad books that will show you how to start a business, but will definitely leave you excited by the scope of the opportunity.
The Attention Merchants – Tim Wu
“There was once a time when, whether by convention or technological limitation, many parts of life – home, school, and social interaction among them – were sanctuaries, sheltered from advertising and commerce. Over the last century, however, we have come to accept a very different way of being, whereby nearly every bit of our lives is commercially exploited to the extent it can be.”
Another book laced with staggeringly-good research. The Attention Merchants goes all the way back to the newspapers of the 19th century, through radio, television, the early Internet age, and finally to social media in the present day, in what can be considered a full history of how media has tried to capture and sell our attention. The purpose of reading this book as a digital nomad is twofold: 1. To build your cynicism and resistance to the sorts of messages advertisers bombard you with. 2. As a how-to, so that you can employ some of the tactics for yourself, to get the attention of your clients and audience.
Create or Hate – Dan Norris
“Create so much they can’t ignore you. Making stuff is entirely up to you. It doesn’t matter if it’s a hit. It only matters that you made it. This knowledge has served me well, and it’s the only reason I’ve been able to do what I do. I wrote 300 blog posts before I had one with more than 10 shares. I know people who got hundreds of shares on their first blog post. Good for them. I’m going to keep writing blog posts.”
A short, highly-digestible book which can be read in a single sitting, with a clear message – get creating. As the tagline of the book says, “successful people make things.” If you need a quick motivation boost, you can’t do much better than Norris’s book. Think of it as The War of Art for entrepreneurs.
How I Found Freedom In An Unfree World – Harry Browne
“You can be free without changing the world. You can live your life as you want to live it – no matter what others decide to do with their lives.”
A book which many freedom-seekers have mentioned as being behind a major mindset shift. The secret to freedom, Browne argues, isn’t trying to change other people, but to set your life up in a way that their decisions have the minimal possible impact on you. Instead of voting for freedom at the ballot box, or trying to start a movement to change other people’s minds, simply claim the freedom that is already yours. Written in the 1970’s, well before any of the other digital nomad books in this list.
Travel As Transformation – Gregory Diehl
“Few members of any culture ever take the time to step outside of themselves to assess their own behavior. That is what the traveler earns through his or her years of personal expansion. What matters is the willingness to question life’s arbitrary starting conditions.”
Diehl has been a perpertual traveller for over a decade. He makes the compelling case that traveling, especially to situations beyond one’s comfort zone, is key to developing beyond the “limits of culture”, as he puts it. His ideas on long-term travel as being vital to adopting a non-state mentality are particularly insightful for would-be global citizens. A very different read to most digital nomad books, as it goes into some quite knotty philosophical questions.
Reinvent Yourself – James Altucher
“… the IRS says the average multi-millionaire has seven different sources of income. When you have one source of income – for instance, a job – you are falling into the trap. You will be one of the masses instead of one of the people who will survive.”
At the core of Altucher’s message is leaving behind the confines of what society thinks of as success, and living life on one’s own terms – one which must resonate strongly with digital nomads. You can flip to almost any chapter of Reinvent Yourself and get a dose of wisdom from some of the many top performers that he rubs shoulders with. There are some real gold nuggets here.
The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck – Mark Manson
“For myself, quitting my day job in finance after only six weeks to start an Internet business ranks pretty high up there in my own ‘didn’t give a fuck’ hall of fame. Same with deciding to sell most of my possessions and move to South America. Fucks given? None. Just went and did it. These moments of non-fuckery are the moments that most define our lives.”
If you are allergic to smiling, airbrushed social media messaging, then Manson’s book is the antidote. He points out that there are only certain things that a person can care about (or give a f*ck about, in his vernacular), and implores readers to find what those are. Highly cynical, but strangely beautiful at the same time. Another quote: “Some of the most difficult and stressful moments of our lives also end up being our most formative and motivating.
Average Is Over – Tyler Cowan
“The forces outlined… will force a renewal of the social contract. We will move from a society based on the pretense that everyone is given an okay standard of living to a society in which people must fend for themselves.”
A big-picture tour through that which technology and globalization hath wrought. Cowan argues that the “middle” is going to find itself hollowed out, thanks to technology amplifying the reach that a few big winners can have. You will find the potential uses of intelligent machines either highly frightening, or highly exciting, depending on your point of view.
Minimalism – Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus
“The best way to escape the destructive influence of status, and the cultural stereotypes that come along with it, is to turn down the volume.”
Millburn and Nicodemus were living the American Dream, with well-paid, high-flying jobs, and all the material trappings of success. But they felt dissatisfied and decided to downsize their lives, with amazing results for their well-being. Digital nomads will be able to relate to how pursuing less, and learning to appreciate what you already have is one of the true secrets to freedom.
The Art Of Travel – Alain De Botton
“…we might return from our journeys with a collection of small, unfêted but life-changing thoughts.”
The Art Of Travel is unashamedly an intellectual book – the author is very at home quoting figures like Van Gogh, Humboldt and Flaubert. At the same time, it can be very humorous and even charming. Anyone who has been on the road for any length of time will be able to laugh along as the author sometimes finds travel not all its cracked up to be, but other times finding it to be the most exalted thing imaginable.
Buy Buttons – Nick Loper
“This book is about how to ‘unfix’ your income. The truth is there is more opportunity today to earn income in your spare time than ever before. Your income is never fixed; in fact, it’s limitless. The more people you help, the more you can earn.”
If you are stuck for an internet business idea, then this is the book for you. While some digital nomad books are heavy on inspiration but light on details, Buy Buttons is the opposite. Loper presents a veritable treasure trove of ideas, all of which can be started on the side without much time or money required to get started.
Side Hustle – Chris Guillebeau
“Sure, for some people the thought of quitting their day job and striking out on their own is exhilarating. For many others, however, it can be terrifying. After all, whether or not you have a family to support or a mortgage to pay, a job that produces a steady income and provides health insurance is difficult, if not impossible to give up. But what if you could get a profitable idea off the ground with just a minimal investment of time, money and effort – and you could make that happen alongside your stable and steady job?”
Guillebeau is a prolific author of digital nomad books, and you can’t go too far wrong with any of his works (he is most famous for The $100 Startup), but this one is particularly valuable for would-be digital nomads who, due to circumstances, cannot just drop everything and move to Thailand. The steps are presented as a 27-day plan, so that within a month you can start seeing results.
Will It Fly? – Pat Flynn
“Does your idea have merit? Will it succeed in the market you’re trying to serve, or will it just be a waste of time and resources? Is it a good idea for you and the life you want to live?”
From the creator of the wildly popular “Smart Passive Income” podcast, this is a book from an author who really walks the walk. authorityhacker.com named Flynn the world’s #2 blogger (by monthly earnings) in 2017. While he doesn’t personally live a nomadic life, Flynn’s income is well into the millions, making his thoughts on Internet entrepreneurship worth reading and re-reading.
How To Travel The World On $50 A Day – Matt Kepnes
“The more deals and tricks you know, the more you can stretch your budget. And “cheap” doesn’t mean traveling like a pauper. It’s about traveling (as the cliché goes) like a local because when you are at home you don’t spend a lot of money per day and neither do the locals where you are visiting. If you know just a few general tips and some location-specific advice, you can always have a first-class experience without paying a first-class price.”
Quitting your job to pursue entrepreneurship is almost certainly going to result in a pay-cut, at least at first. In this digital nomad book (already in its third edition), the popular blogger “Nomadic Matt” lays down how to travel the world on the cheap. As he says, it won’t be possible to keep to US$50 a day everywhere, but he figures that on average (between expensive and cheap countries), that it’s achievable with a little creativity and know-how.
Crush It! – Gary Vaynerchuk
“…my secret is that I live by three pretty simple rules: 1. Love your family. 2. Work superhard. 3. Live your passion.”
If ‘Gary V’ is known for one word, it’s *hustle*. His message will not resonate with the lifestyle entrepreneur crowd (who prefer to take life a bit easier), but for those determined to build something really big by working intensely on something they have a huge passion for, the advice within these pages is the kind of tough love that might be just the thing to take your business to the next level.
Digital Nomads – Esther Jacobs & André Gussekloo
“Making money in a relatively strong currency – say, dollars or euros – enables you to live like a king or queen in countries with a weaker currency. When you move to a place with lower costs of living, you can change your lifestyle to suit your goals.”
This book covers a lot of ground, including the vexed question of where to incorporate and gain residency, like in Malta (which many books tactically avoid), which draws upon the experience of Esther Jacobs own struggles with the Dutch government, who refused to extend her passport because she traveled too much! This story alone is worth the price of the book, as it shows the frustrations of living “outside the box”. As with other digital nomad books, it also has plenty of other tips and case studies on all aspects of the lifestyle. As an all-in-one guide, you can’t do much better.
Remote: Office Not Required – Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson
“Even short commutes stab at your happiness. According to the research, commuting is associated with an increased risk of obesity, insomnia, neck and back pain, high blood pressure, and other stress-related ills such as heart attacks and depression, and even divorce.”
This book comes from the founders of Basecamp, who built a thriving software startup, entirely remotely. It lays out the case for why to practice remote work, and readers will notice echoes of the 4-Hour Work Week – it is difficult to get work done in an office environment, due to meetings and other distractions. To get real work done requires separating oneself from the office environment and judging people on their results, rather than dutifully spending the hours of 9-to-5 at a desk. Good inspiration for those new to remote work, as well as practical advice for those looking to build out their team.
Virtual Freedom – Chris Ducker
“To some, the concept of hiring and working with people that they will likely never meet in person is as foreign as it comes. However, the fact is that the world – particularly the business world – has changed drastically in the last ten to fifteen years. The Internet has enabled us not only to do business from a distance, but also to capitalize on an avalanche of of global talent that was previously inaccessible.”
Many digital nomad books deal with getting started, but this one is outstanding for once an entrepreneur has reached the point of needing to systematize their business with intelligent hiring. Established entrepreneurs will be able to (guiltily) relate to “superhero syndrome”, where they try to do everything themselves. Ducker provides a way out of the trap.
Escape From Cubicle Nation – Pamela Slim
“Building up the knowledge, skill and experience to be truly great at this work is a labor of intense love and sweat. Creating a business out of this work and building infrastructure, customers, fans, advocates, and mentors requires patience. And despite what a lot of hyped-up marketing material will tell you, hating your job intensely is not a business plan.”
A realistic, sometimes-humorous, and ultimately highly-actionable look at what’s involved in leaving the corporate jungle and becoming an entrepreneur. There are some very good analogies – for example, she likens many people’s dissatisfaction at work to an ill-fitting shoe. It also helps readers weigh up whether quitting their job in the first place is the right move (it isn’t always). The workmanlike details on how to actually choose a business idea, create a plan, find customers, and so on are in there too. It could well be the only book you need to go from “why should I even quit my job in the first place” to making it happen.
Where Can I Find Wifi? – Kayla Kurin
“I’m not here to give you any “digital nomad hacks” or tell you how easy it is to sell all your belongings, start a business that runs itself, and spend your life on the beach. I’m just a girl who works 25-ish hours a week and managed to build a modest savings account while travelling the world. I’m not here to tell you how to get a 6 figure income in 6 months! or ‘work 4 hours a week!’ I’m here to tell it like it is. My apologies.
I really enjoyed this book, especially for the author’s unfiltered storytelling style. Much of what Kayla writes will have experienced digital nomads nodding along in agreement, and those who are considering this lifestyle for themselves will get a refreshingly honest take on what life on the road is really like. It’s amazing, but it can be lonely, frustrating, and challenging… but it’s worth it.
The 9 To 5 Escape Artist – Christy Hovey
“Life will not pass you by because you’ll design the life you want to live. Your work schedule will work around the things that are important to you, not vice-versa. You start every day knowing you won’t have anyone telling you what to do, how to do it, or when and where you’ll be doing it. You have complete freedom to structure your life the way you want to.”
Of all digital nomad books, Hovey’s perspective is unusual (and hence, worth listening to), because she isn’t the arch-typical “young, single guy”, that describes so many internet entrepreneurs. Christy Hovey is a mother, so brings the perspective of how to do it, even if you’re attached / have family responsibilities. This digital nomad book is a full-length, complete roadmap.
The Obstacle Is The Way – Ryan Holiday
“The struggle against an obstacle inevitably propels the fighter to a new level of functioning. The extent of the struggle determines the extent of the growth. The obstacle is an advantage, not adversity.”
Stoic philosophy is a favorite of many digital nomads, and this book presents a modern take on the teachings of Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and the rest. Worth a close read when the pathway ahead seems blocked – Holiday’s book will make you realize that these obstacles are in fact blessings. The moments of greatest growth come through progress. Even if that sounds cliched, read the book anyway – you won’t be disappointed.
Digital Nomad – Tsugio Makimoto & David Manners
“Within the next decade, for the first time for 10,000 years, most people will find that the geographic tie is dissolving. It will happen gradually and people will be slow to realise that a revolution is occuring, but, by the end of those ten years, most people in the developed world will find themselves free to live where they want and travel as much as they want.”
This arrived 10 years before the 4-Hour Work Week, making it one of the oldest of all digital nomad books. Published in 1997 and fascinating to read with the benefit of more than 20 years of hindsight. For example, it was written “looking forward” to the day when people will be able to use the Internet to communicate by video. Far ahead of its time. The thoughts near the start on man being an inherently nomadic creature are particularly interesting.
The Digital Nomad Survival Guide – Peter Knudson & Katherine Conaway
“Being a digital nomad means you’ll be moving frequently while maintaining your career in different environments. This book will provide you with useful and specific knowledge about travel, housing, work and socializing to help you manage your new lifestyle over the long run.”
Among digital nomad books, this is a nuts-and-bolts guide for how to navigate the practical issues that come with life as a perpetual traveler. Budgeting, how to find good places to stay, essential gear to take with you – it’s all here.
Vagabonding – Rolf Potts
“For some reason, we see long-term travel to faraway lands as a recurring dream or an exotic temptation, but not something that applies to the here and now. Instead, out of our insane duty to fear, fashion, and monthly payments on things we don’t really need – we quarantine our travels to short, frenzied bursts. In this way, as we throw our wealth at an abstract notion called “lifestyle”, travel becomes just another accessory – a smooth-edged, encapsulated experience that we purchase in the same way we buy clothing and furniture.”
One of the most beautiful and delightful digital nomad books. If you want some inspiration behind the *why* to travel, Vagabonding provides it in spades. By the end, you will find yourself ready to do whatever it takes to discover the joys of life on the road.
It’s in my upcoming book: Citizens of the World.
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