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?

3 thoughts on “Best Travel Books?

  1. Travel Blog 10 March 2009 / 5:21 am

    So these are your top choices of travel books. I must say that these are indeed some fine choices. Me, I also love those kinds of books barely escaping death especially real stories.

  2. Travel Blog 10 March 2009 / 11:18 am

    So these are your top choices of travel books. I must say that these are indeed some fine choices. Me, I also love those kinds of books barely escaping death especially real stories.
    Sorry, should have added great post! Waiting for your next post!

  3. Lynne 10 March 2009 / 2:10 pm

    I like travel books that have an historical or cultural component. My list:
    William Dalrymple -From the holy mountain
    -City of djinns
    Sheila Paine – The Afghan amulet
    Geoffrey Moorhouse – The fearful void
    Peter Matthiessen – The snow leopard
    Dervla Murphy – Where the Indus is young
    Penelope Chetwode – Two middle-aged ladies in Andalusia.

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