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.
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?