Top 10 Travel Books
Chris’ personal picks from places in the world that he has visited.
The Great Railway Bazaar – Paul Theroux: The Great Grump of travel writing, I wouldn’t like to be in the same carriage as Mr. Theroux, but I love his travel books for their intimate description of conversations that he uses to reveal people and place. This was his first and possibly best, but his recent Dark Star Safari is riveting too.
Notes From a Small Island - Bill Bryson: Bill is someone with whom I really would like to share that railway carriage: funny, perceptive, good-humoured…I always laugh out loud when reading his many books (most embarrassing) and I only chose this particular one because he exposes my British quirks so humourously.
Travels with Charley: In Search of America - John Steinbeck: I love this book: this is travel writing as it should be, not mere travelogue, but a profound and insightful analysis of what the traveller experienced. And the companionable device of taking his French poodle Charley along lightens Steinbeck’s blacker musings.
As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning - Laurie Lee: Laurie Lee's wonderful, lyrical description of life in Spain in the run-up to the Civil War is more than a description of his journey, more than a travel book…it is a time-and-place machine that allows you to accompany the author on his travels through 1930’s Spain.
O Canada – Jan Morris: Her books on Venice, Hong Kong and her beloved and native Wales could also have been on this list, but I choose her book of essays on 10 Canadian cities as my personal favourite, perhaps because her piece on Toronto, my home city, is so perfectly observed. She also understands how different Canada is from the U.S.
A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush – Eric Newby: His wry and self-deprecating humor make him a delightful travelling companion and his descriptions of the high-altitude Hindu Kush in Afghanistan convey a shimmering sense of wonder, as well as a sparkling window into a country that has become so notorious of late.
In Patagonia – Bruce Chatwin: More than a simple travel writer, Bruce Chatwin was a brilliant story teller. Intrigued by this southernmost tapering of South America since an early childhood lust for Grandma's scrap of hairy Giant Sloth skin, he takes the reader on a journey that evokes this desolate but beautiful land and its people.
The Snow Leopard - Peter Matthiessen: In 1973, Peter Matthiessen joined wildlife biologist George Schaller on a 400km trek up to 17,000 feet in the Nepalese Himalaya. He wanted to see the elusive snow leopard and his journey is as much an exploration of himself as the soaring landscape. It’s a tough, but exquisitely beautiful read.
Seven Years in Tibet – Heinrich Harrer: You may have seen the film with Brad Pitt – don’t let this stop you from reading this book. It’s the story of an arrogant young man transformed by the Tibetan people and a young Dalai Lama with whom he seeks refuge as an escapee from a British POW Camp in World War II. Epic.
Full Tilt: Ireland to India With a Bicycle - Dervla Murphy: The story of her travels to India, through Iran , Pakistan and Afghanistan on her bicycle, Roz. It's the first of her travelogues (all wonderful), in which she established her practice of traveling on foot, bicycle, horse or mule through countries around the world.