Thursday, August 23, 2007

86 Best Travel Books of All Time

Conde Nast Traveler, as part of their 20th Anniversary issue, highlights the 86 best travel books of all time. How can one pick "the best"? They asked 45 of their favorite writers (including Jonathan Raban, Monica Ali, Stewart O'Nan, Gore Vidal and Jim Crace) for the travel books that "changed the way they considered a certain culture or place or people, that inspired them both to write and to get out into the world themselves." Their choices are varied, to be sure. Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is mentioned. So is Matsuo Basho's The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches published in 1694. Who is most represented? There's quite a few Paul Theroux and Mark Twain tomes, great travelers and great writers both.

Also, I would recommend reading books set in a place in which you are visiting. For instance, when I traveled to Spain with my beautiful wife I brought with me Cees Nootboom's Roads to Santiago: Detours and Riddles in the Lands and History of Spain and was drawn into the countryside even further because of his words. When I went to Kauai recently I brought with me a collection of Jack London's short stories, all based in Hawaii. When I went to Chicago I read Studs Terkel's non-fiction and Stuart Dybek's tremendous short stories. Whenever I go camping in the woods I bring with me Thoreau's Walden and read a few passages that fill my spirit even more than the woods and mountains do. Next time you're going to Bora Bora or Baltimore, Wichita or Wales, bring a book along with you set in that locale. It'll make your trip that much more memorable.

As a brief side note, World Hum offers the 10 Greatest Fictional Travelers that includes Huck Finn and the pilgrims from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

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