Best Books: Hittin’ the Road

Continuing the list of “best books,” with a pretty long list of best travel writing. (Man! I love travel!) Note, once again, that I have not read all these. They are books I would like to read, and the list is compiled from a number of other best books lists. Some of these are fiction, but the majority are travelogues (both old and new). Area covered in parenthesis. (I apologize for repeats and misspellings. I made this list in two sittings.)
  • The A TIME OF GIFTSTravels of Ibn Battuta, Ibn Battuta (Islamic world)
  • The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain (Europe and Holy Land)
  • Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, Rebecca West (Balkans, Yugoslavia)
  • Venice, Jan Morris (Venice)
  • A Time of Gifts, Patrick Leigh Fermor (Europe, Holland to Constantinople)
  • Danube, Claudio Magris (Europe, Danube River)
  • China Along the Yellow River, Cao Jinqing (China, Yellow River)
  • The Rings of Saturn, W. G. Sebald (Suffolk)
  • Passage to Juneau, Jonathan Raban (Seattle to Juneau)
  • Letters to a Young Novelist, Mario Vargas Llosa (international)
  • On the Road,ON THE ROAD Jack Kerouac (USA)
  • As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, Laurie Lee (Gloucestershire to London)
  • Naples ’44, Norman Lewis (Naples)
  • Coasting, Jonathan Raban (sea, Great Britain)
  • Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck (USA)
  • Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson (Great Britain)
  • Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell (Spanish Civil War)
  • The Beach, Alex Garland (Thailand)
  • The Great Railway Bazaar, Paul Theroux (Asia, Europe, Middle East, India, Trans-Siberian Railway)
  • The Road to Oxiana, Robert Byron (Middle East, Venice to Pakistan)
  • IN PATAGONIAVenice, Jan Morris (Venice)
  • In Patagonia, Bruce Chatwin (Patagonia)
  • The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway (Paris to Pamplona)
  • Wild Coast, John Gimlette (South America)
  • A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, Eric Newby (Afghanistan)
  • Arabian Sands, Wilfred Kesiger (Arabian Peninsula)
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson (Las Vegas)
  • Our Man in Havana, Graham Greene (Cuba)
  • The Journals of Captain Cook (sea, Pacific Ocean)
  • Among the Russians, Colin Thubron (Russia)
  • An Area of Darkness, V. S. Naipaul (India)
  • THE MUSES ARE HEARDAs They Were, M. F. K. Fisher (California to south of France)
  • The Emporer, Ryszard Kapuscinski (Ethiopia)
  • Letters from Egypt, Florence Nightengale (Egypt)
  • Great Plains, Ian Frazier (Great Plains, USA)
  • The Lycian Shore, Freya Stark (Turkey)
  • The Muses Are Heard, Truman Capote (Russia)
  • Their Heads Are Green and Their Hands Are Blue, Paul Bowles (Hindu, Buddhist, and Islamic world)
  • Travels with Myself and Another, Martha Gellhorn (military conflicts, 20th century)
  • The Cruise of the Northern Light, John Borden (Alaskan and Siberian Arctic)
  • SEA AND SARDINIASea and Sardinia, D. H. Lawrence (Sicily)
  • Venice, Jan Morris (Venice, Italy)
  • A Time of Gifts, Patrick Leigh Fermor (Constantinople, Turkey)
  • The Way of the World, Nicholas Bouvier (Yugoslavia to India)
  • An African in Greenland, Tete-Michel Kpomassie (Greenland)
  • West with the Night, Beryl Markham (Kenya)
  • China As I See It, Pearl S. Buck (China)
  • In an Antique Land, Amitav Ghosh (Egypt)
  • Original Letters from India, Eliza Fay (India)
  • Tracks, Robyn Davidson (Australia)
  • Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (Mt. Everest)
  • FIELD GUIDE TO GETTING LOSTThe Lost City of Z, David Grann (The Amazon)
  • A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit (America)
  • A Dragon Apparent, Norman Lewis (Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam)
  • A House in Bali, Colin McPhee (Bali)
  • A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway (Paris, France)
  • A Turn in the South, V. S. Naipaul (The South, USA)
  • A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson (Appalachian Trail, USA)
  • A Winter in Arabia, Freya Stark (Yemen)
  • Arctic Dreams, Barry Lopez (Arctic)
  • The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton (anywhere)
  • Baghdad Without a Map, Tony Horwitz (Middle East)
  • BITTER LEMONS OF CYPRUSBalkan Ghosts, Robert D. Kaplan (The Balkans)
  • Beyond Euphrates, Freya Stark (Iraq, Persia)
  • The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer, Eric Hansen (world)
  • Bitter Lemons of Cyprus, Lawrence Durrell (Cyprus)
  • Black Like Me, John Howard Griffin (America)
  • Blue Highways, William Least Heat-Moon (America)
  • Brazilian Adventure, Peter Fleming (Brazil)
  • Chasing the Sea, Tom Bissell (Central Asia)
  • City of Djinns, William Dalrymple (Dehli, India)
  • Coasting, Jonathan Raban (sea, England)
  • Coming Into the Country, John McPhee (Alaska)
  • DARK STAR SAFARIDark Star Safari, Pail Theroux (Africa, Cairo to Capetown)
  • Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey (Southwest, USA)
  • Down the Nile, Rosemary Mahoney (Africa, the Nile)
  • Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (Italy, India, Indonesia)
  • The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe (1960s USA)
  • Endurance, Alfred Lansing (Antarctic seas)
  • Facing the Congo, Jeffrey Tayler (The Congo)
  • The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (Belgian Congo)
  • Four Corners, Kira Salak (Papua New Guinea)
  • Full Circle, Michael Palin (Pacific Ocean lands)
  • HUNTING MISTER HEARTBREAKFull Tilt, Dervla Murphy (Ireland to India)
  • Golden Earth, Normal Lewis (Burma/Myanmar)
  • Holidays in Hell, P. J. O’Rourke (world)
  • Hunting Mister Heartbreak, Jonathan Raban (America)
  • In a Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson (Australia)
  • In Siberia, Colin Thubron (Siberia)
  • In Trouble Again, Redmond O’Hanlon (Orinoco to the Amazon)
  • Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer (Alaska)
  • Iron and Silk, Mark Salzman (China)
  • Kon-Tiki, Thor Heyerdahl (The Pacific Ocean)
  • LADY AND THE MONKThe Lady and the Monk, Pico Iyer (Kyoto, Japan)
  • Life on the Mississippi, Mark Twain (Mississippi River, USA)
  • The Log from the Sea of Cortez, John Steinbeck (Gulf of California)
  • The Long Walk, Slavomir Rawicz (The Soviet Union)
  • The Lost Continent, Bill Bryson (America)
  • Maximum City, Suketu Mehta (Bombay)
  • The Motorcycle Diaries, Ernesto “Che” Guevara (South America)
  • No Mercy, Redmond O’Hanlon (The Congo)
  • Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson (England)
  • Nothing to Declare, Mary Morris (Latin America)
  • PILGRIM AT TINKER CREEKOld Glory, Jonathan Raban (The Mississippi River, USA)
  • The Old Patagonian Express, Paul Theroux (Patagonia)
  • Out of Africa, Isak Dinesen (Kenya)
  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard (Virginia, USA)
  • The Pillars of Hercules, Paul Theroux (Mediterranean)
  • The Places In Between, Rory Stewart (Afghanistan)
  • Riding to the Tigris, Freya Stark (Turkey)
  • The Rings of Saturn, W. G. Sebald (East Anglia, England)
  • The River at the Center of the World, Simon Winchester (China)
  • River Town, Peter Hessler (China)
  • ROAD TO OXIANARoad Fever, Tim Cahill (South America to Alaska)
  • The Road to Oxiana, Robert Byron (Middle East)
  • Mousetrapped, Catherine Ryan Howard (Orland, Florida)
  • Roughing It, Mark Twain (Wild West, America)
  • Seven Years in Tibet, Heinrich Harrer (Tibet)
  • The Sex Lives of Cannibals, J. Maarten Troost (Equatorial Pacific)
  • The Size of the World, Jeff Greenwald (world)
  • Slowly Down the Ganges, Eric Newby (India)
  • The Snow Leopard, Peter Matthiessen (The Himalayas)
  • The Soccer War, Ryszard Kapuscinski (war in late 20th century)
  • THE SONGLINESThe Songlines, Bruce Chatwin (Outback Australia)
  • Terra Incognita, Sara Wheeler (Roman Empire)
  • Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson (Islamic World)
  • Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck (America)
  • Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere, Jan Morris (Italy)
  • Two Towns in Provence, M. F. K. Fisher (Provence, France)
  • Video Night in Kathmandu, Pico Iyer (Far East)
  • When the Going Was Good, Evelyn Waugh (world)
  • The Worlds of Venice, Jan Morris (Venice)
  • The Worst Journey in the World, Apsley Cherry-Garrard (Antarctica)
  • Wrong About Japan, Peter Carey (Japan)
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig (American Northwest)

And last and very likely least, I want to point a finger to my own travel-writing site, The Wandering Gumshoe. Believe it or not, I have no intentions of ever making this site a book, but I do have visions of expanding the site to include all the humanitarian trips I have taken and will take. That’s why there are links that currently go nowhere. Sorry. Just check out Moldova and India.

And I could also point out the my novel, Benevolent, is very descriptive about suburban Detroit and about travels to Israel, Bethlehem, and Egypt.

“First they hiked a short distance across a flat and open land to the head of one of the gorge trails. Then they came to a sudden greenness, where the sandy vastness of tan gave way to a slit in the earth that flowed with verdant lushness. Bamboo, oak, and feathery conifers filled the deep crevasse that was the riverbed, and they lowered themselves into it, down a deep, rocky slope” (p238).

“They entered the Delta basin and found their way to their hotel in Cairo. They were there only a couple days before they caught a sleeper train down the Nile. They giggled like little kids when they entered their compartment. ‘It’s like James Bond,’ Andrew pulled a knob and a piece of the wall came open to reveal a sink and mirror, a little soap dish and toothbrush holder. Their beds also folded down from their daytime seats and in the dark they looked out the tiny windows at the heads of their beds to the moving of dark palm shadows against the black that separated from dark blue above in a straight horizon, the stars so numerous they made fuzzy masses in the sky. It was magical to slide across the desert this way, in the night, with the clacking of the rails” (p305).

“The sky washed from from black to navy to a limpid mix of white and blue and pearl, purply pink before the sun broke over the tops of the trees and clarified everything with harsh light. The sharp shadows stretched long on the ground were as imposing as the branches reaching high. And then they day softened, the hours went by. Sometimes there was a small noise and Robert would poise his gun. Once or twice he jutted a finger out into the woods, pointing at a Chickadee or an erratic track where a Cardinal had passed, throwing snow with its tiny toes and wing tips” (p163).

“Then she waited for the sherut to clear and negotiated across the bustle of the intersection: boys kicking around a soccer ball, the call of vendors, the constant noise of cars laying on horns and cars struggling to survive, held together with will and duct tape, hung with ornamentation that Westerners might find gaudy but which had a beauty anyhow. Angels. The hand of the prophet’s wife. The all-seeing eye. Flowers… Cross and crucifix. Air fresheners. Beads. One over another in an assertion of clutter, bright and swaying, glinting and sagging and gathering dust” (286).


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