Sure you can learn about van life through the loads of Tik Tok or Instagram videos, but sometimes it’s nice to learn through a good ‘ol fashioned book. So why not combine your love of books and van life with an inspirational van life book?
The best van life books are filled with practical advice and can teach you something about this lifestyle, no matter how experienced you already are. And at the core, they will simply give you someone else’s perspective on life and how to approach it (which is always eye-opening).
I’ve learned so much about the nomadic lifestyle and the van life community through books, and I love being able to learn new concepts at my own pace.
So I put together this list of the best van life books to share some of my favorites with you. These books are chock full of van life inspiration, tips for life on the road and how to live in a van, ways to save money, how to get started building your self-converted van, and more. Let’s dive in!
Books on How to Start Van Life
How to Live the Dream: Things Every Van Lifer Needs to Know
This book by Kristine Hudson is aimed squarely at those who are tired of conventional life and itching to get out and start having life-changing adventures in a van. The book covers everything from how to know if van life is right for you, how to choose a van, how to make it your own, what you’ll need to prepare for life on the road, storage solutions, budgeting, a camper van cookbook, and more.
The book is a quick read at 112 pages but packed with useful wisdom and tidbits on van living. It’s the perfect van life book for someone who wants to know if living in a van is right for them.
The Camper Van Bible
This is pretty much the go-to guide for anyone thinking about living in a van or just getting started with van life. The author, Martin Dorey, is a van lifer and camper van expert. He’s also a presenter of the popular British TV show One Man and his Camper Van.
Martin ascribes to the “Live, Eat, Sleep, Repeat” motto, and the book applies those four tenets to the basics of van life:
- Owning and living day to day with a camper van (LIVE)
- Cooking and eating in your camper (EAT)
- Sleeping in your camper (SLEEP)
- Keeping you and your van going (REPEAT)
Although Martin is UK-based, American audiences will find his book full of useful information. The second edition will be published in May 2023 and contains updated text and photos, new recipes, accessibility, and great UK spots for camper vans.
Van Life: Your Home on the Road
This book isn’t a guide, but it’s a great book for anyone looking for inspiration to undertake this life-changing social experiment we call van life. Foster Huntington, who is credited with creating the #vanlife hashtag, compiled images from his social media accounts of van lifers from all walks of life across the United States into this beautiful coffee table book.
Packed with gorgeous photographs and organized into sections like “Volkswagen Vans,” “Converted Vans,” “School Buses,” “American Vans,” and more, the book is an homage to the van life community, and could be considered the “camper van bible of inspiration” for those on the fence about van life.
Books on Van Builds
Van Build: A Complete DIY Guide to Designing, Converting, and Self-Building Your Campervan or Motorhome
This book was written by a husband and wife duo who designed and built their own camper van and wanted to help others do the same, without making all the same mistakes they did! It took them 9 months to carefully plan and build their dream home, but they assert that with their book, new van lifers can do the same thing in as little as 21 days.
They cover every step of the process, including plumbing and electrical systems, with charts, lists, photos, and descriptions. The book has recommendations for van conversions in the US, UK, or Australia, including where to source parts and which stores to patronize.
The Van Conversion Bible: The Ultimate Guide to Converting a Camper Van
Van life officially has its own bible that is written to fit any skill level or budget. The cover is so beautiful that you could easily use the hardcover as a coffee table book (if you had a coffee table!)
Written by Charley Low and Dale Comley (aka the climbingvan Instagram account), the book is full of detailed gas, water, and electrical system diagrams, plus contains a step-by-step build guide that anyone can use to undertake their own van conversion. As far as van conversion books go, this truly is the bible.
Books on Solo Van Life
Practicing Happiness: A Memoir of Van Life
Sarah Wynde was a single mom whose son had grown up and left for college. She lived in Florida in a house whose upkeep was a constant source of stress and worry. Her life felt stagnant and she was looking for the next thing.
So in 2016, she sold her home, bought a camper van, and packed up all her belongings to become a van lifer. This book is an honest and wry account of her incredible adventures living in a van – a story about being brave and choosing happiness over comfort.
From Wheels to Wellness: Tips and Tricks for a Healthy Van Lifestyle
While this book isn’t explicitly about solo van life, it does contain a lot of useful tips for staying healthy on the road, especially as a solo traveler. Health – particularly mental health – is not something most people consider when they think about van life, but it is critical when you travel alone.
In this book, Kristin Cashore lays out all the health considerations you may not have thought about before committing to the nomadic lifestyle: where to get preventative care, how to stay mentally healthy as a solo traveler, what to do in case of emergencies, and how to handle new scenarios.
Books on How to Fund Van Life
Working Where Your Heart Is: Finding Success Outside the Traditional Office
Another excellent book by Kristin Cashore, Working Where Your Heart Is is part memoir, part van life guide. In it, she details her own struggles with van life and imparts knowledge gleaned from like-minded individuals and the van community on everything from brushing your teeth in the dark with no water, to meal prep with no electricity.
But where this book really shines is when Kristin explains how she went about finding freedom by starting her own freelance writing business to support her epic journey, and how other hopeful van lifers can do the same. If you’re wondering what your budget should be for van life, and how to make that money, this is the book for you.
The Side Hustle: How to Turn Your Spare Time Into $1000 a Month Or More
Although not explicitly written about van life, this book contains great advice for anyone trying to live in a van and make money while doing so. Nick Loper’s book contains real-world examples of how regular people are earning side hustle incomes outside their regular employment.
The book (now in its second edition) outlines the “Big 3” side hustle business models and contains practical, long-term steps to building up your own side hustle income of $1000 a month, and advice on how to grow that income from there.
Books for Road Trip Inspiration
Lonely Planet: The Vanlife Companion
This Lonely Planet guide contains 20 classic global itineraries for your next road trip – from Ireland to New Zealand, South Africa, Nepal, Australia, and the US and Canada. Not only that, it has expert advice from experienced Lonely Planet travel experts on how to travel safely in foreign countries, cut costs, and more.
On top of the usual well-researched travel advice you’d expect from Lonely Planet, the book also contains van life-specific tips, including how to choose and customize your own van, plus profiles of leading van life personalities and how they first hit the road.
The Falcon Guide to Van Life: Every Essential for Nomadic Adventures
One of the most useful van life books for those in the United States, this inspiring guide is written for anyone who travels by van, including full-time nomads and weekend warriors. It combines practical tips, stunning photography, and inspirational tales of the great outdoors.
But where this book really shines are in the awesome itineraries that it lays out for travel by van around the Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, and Southwest US. It contains 5 suggested itineraries, complete with maps, highlights and stop information (including where and how to park legally.)
100 Drives, 5000 Ideas: Where to Go, When to Go, What to Do, What to See
Although not aimed specifically at van lifers, this is one of the best van life books for planning travel itineraries. It lays out 100 epic road trips throughout all 50 US states, with maps, route-planning information, what to see along the way, where to stay, and more.
Anyone planning a road trip would do well to pick up this book, whether they are planning to live in a van or just want to get away from the rat race for a weekend.
Books on Budget Van Life
Van Boondocking on a Budget
The full title of this van life book is: Van Boondocking on a Budget: The Practical Guide to Successfully Living in Total Freedom as a Nomad, Cut Your Cost of Living & Experience True Freedom in your Van or RV for Less than $1,000 a month. Yes, the title is a mouthful (I think it may have something to do with gaming the Amazon algorithms by stuffing your book title with keywords) but the book is not. It’s a short read that is chock-full of useful tips for boondocking.
One of the best van life books for those seeking a low-cost lifestyle in a van, this book lays out in detail how to make money and save money while boondocking, including Ideas for cutting monthly costs, choosing your amenities and locations to keep costs low, and how to save money by changing your eating habits.
Living on Almost Nothing
This is another book that is technically not about van life, but it’s a well-reviewed and incredibly popular guide on how to cut costs and live cheaply in the modern world. The book is short and easy to read, with actionable, practical advice on getting by with very little.
In this book, Amber Storck outlines everything from how to save on food, how to pay off student debt faster, and how to save even when you don’t earn very much. Highly recommended for anyone seeking to do life on the road on a budget.
Summing It Up
There you have it! My complete library of van life books. I hope you find some of these guides useful. The best part about many of these books is that they are written by van lifers, so purchasing one will support a fellow vanlife companion. You can also gift a van life book to a van life enthusiast friend who may be itching to get on the road. Now get out on the open road and start your new life!