Best Travel Books?

My main complaint with travel books is that everyone thinks they canwrite one; which is why there are enough duds to make you wish people stayed at home more.

Britain’s Daily Telegraph has just compiled a list of the top 20 Travel Books and there’s much to agree and disagree with in its recommendations, even if it is illustrated with mouth watering photographs.

For me there are too many fiction titles included. While Our Man in Havana and The Beach are good reads, (I’ll leave others to enjoy Hemingway, Hunter S. Thompson and Arundhati Roy). For me they’re not strictly travel books and in that case one could argue for Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance or Heart of Darkness, although I did enjoy reading a recent work that retraced the steps of the former.

There’s also one or two titles that are more journalism than travel. Homage to Catalonia and Naples’44 fall into this category.

I’ll get around to bemoaning the exclusions in a minute. Most of the authors are undisputed champions of the genre: Eric Newby, Paul Theroux, Colin Thubron, Jan Morris (though once a fan I can no longer bear her over-ripe prose) and Bruce Chatwin.

Regrettable omissions are Dervla Murphy and Tim Moore‘s humourous excursion around the London of the Monopoly Board. I’m also very fond of a U.S.A. road trip made by a Sioux Indian, William Least Heat Moon called Blue Highways that’s sadly no longer in our stock. Other writers seem to be represented by works wich are far from their best. I much prefer Raban’s Old Glory to Coasting and Bryson’s Lost Continent to his Small Island.

I simply revel in those books where everything goes wrong and the author is lucky to escape with life and limb intact whether it’s to devastated Haiti or bandit-ridden Mexico. What’s your favourite and do you consider fiction as worthy of inclusion?

Symon’s third novel out of Containment

Fans of Dunedin crime writer Vanda Symon will be pleased to learn she has finished the third novel in the Sam Shepherd-based crime series. Containment is going through the editing process, but should be out in September.

I caught up with Vanda when she visited Christchurch City Libraries for the Words on Wheels tour last week. This interview is about three minutes long. You can also read about Vanda’s experience on the book bus on her blog.

Come on Barbie let’s go party

Ms Barbara Millicent Roberts better known as Barbie turns fascinating fifty this month. And while Barbie is still wrinkle free and slim as a pin, her implausible measurements are 36-18-33, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for the plastic-moulded icon. She recently had to kick some serious Bratz butt to maintain her superdoll status eventually winning a December 2008 court case which will see Bratz dolls pulled off the shelf. During the 60’s and 7o’s Pedigree’s Sindy doll provided competition outselling Barbie in the UK (I had a Sindy doll, called Jessica, who enjoyed a loving and committed relationship with “Eagle-eyes” Action Man). 

But while there have been many cheap and vulgar imitations  no other doll could ever be as accomplished as Barbie; she’s had around 100 careers including stints as a paediatrician, jet pilot, NASCAR driver and even President of the United States and all the while enjoying a turbulent on/off relationship with Ken plus acting as mentor to her numerous siblings, cousins and friends, attagirl!

New York Fashion Week celebrated Ms Robert’s birthday with a show featuring frocks from 51 illustrious designers including Donna Karan, fashion house Marchesa, Calvin Klein and Karen Walker some of whom created special pieces in homage to la Barbie.

As Aqua so memorably said “life in plastic it’s fantastic”. Ya?