ITT: God-tier travel literature.
This is amazing. Paul Theroux (Louis Theroux's dad) went by train from London to Japan via India and SEA, then back through Russia, on his own, in the 1970s.
But as with all good travel literature, it's not just the journey that makes it interesting, it's that he's an amazing writer (his description of his feeling guilty about travelling aimlessly hit me right in the feels. He says he was "nagged by the seamless guilt of the unemployed man, who moves from failure to failure"- anyone who's been unemployed will understand this).
I must read more of his stuff.
What's your favourite travel literature, /trv/?
I am a huge fan of travel books. The Great Railway Bazaar is one of my absolute favorite books, and what really got me into the genre. The parts taking place in Burma were the most memorable part in my opinion, with the descriptions of the train going through the mountains in Burma probably being my favorite part of any book I've ever read. I actually just finished his The Happy Isles of Oceania recently and it was quite good as well.
Two other travel books I would recommend highly are North of South by Shiva Naipaul and Russian Journal by Andrea Lee.
I am currently reading Charles Darwin's The Voyage of the Beagle. I'm liking it more than I thought I would for such an old book.
This. It's not necessarily a "Travel" book, but it's a great look into the lives of those who live on the street, going from place to place. Highly recommend it.
You definitely should, its great.
He also wrote a sequel (besides other travel books) years later where he did the trip again and wrote about how it had changed, I've been meaning to read it
V.S. Naipaul is an amazing writer.
Trinidadian of indian origin, moved to the uk at 18 to study literature. Won a nobel prize for his body of work. There's a torrent floating around with all his books, slowly working my way through it.
The mystic masseur is a really good book (fiction) as is his story of travelling one year around india (Can't remember the title).
Really recommend it, truly God tier travel writing.
probably one of orwell's worst books, but it's definitely one of his most important. this and homage to catalonia are what being to solidly cement him as anti-socialist and anti-communist.
it's more of a period piece than about travel. but it's like traveling back in time, if that counts
I'm going to say Michael Palin.
His more recent trips have been interesting but a bit pedestrian what with him being an old man now, but if you can get hold of the 80s and 90s tie in books to the full circle, around the world in 80 days and pole to pole tv travelogs they provide a fascinating insight into a world rarely seen at the time, parts of which are now lost to history. Around the world in 80 days is particularly gripping because such a journey, not using planes probably would no longer be possible even if you left the safety and politics issues out of the equation. His 'travelling to work' diaries also cover this period in more detail if you're interested but I enjoy the naive charm of the original books as you know they've not been edited to benefit from hindsight and have a nice note of optimism in them wherever he writes about.
There's a part in the Around the World in 80 Days series that really sticks with me:
>Palin takes this amazing trip around the world.
>One of his favourite parts is travelling by some kind of fishing boat with these locals who can't even speak English (I forget where it was).
>Everyone is incredibly friendly and kind to him
>Arrives back home in London
>Ends up in an argument with an asshole newspaper guy
>Gets depressed at the contrast
As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning - Laurie Lee
A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earth-bound Travels in the Far East - Tiziano Terzani
Tristes Tropiques - Claude Levi-Strauss
And of course anything by Bruce Chatwin.
i just read your description of this book and was so excited about it I was about to find it on amazon and order it (i normally just charity shop for books)
then i realized i have it and just found it boring so gave up halfway (all the descriptions of smelly tamils or whatever)
I'm reading this now and it's great. Of course it doesn't compare to Orwell's other novels, but that says more about the extreme quality of those rather than the low quality of this. It's such a great look into Paris and London from back then.
Great book, so is Orwell's 'Down and Out'. I highly recommend reading both to compare the two viewpoints, like how class divisions are so bewildering to London. Best of all they read like survival narratives -- I liked these two books for the same reason I like Hatchet and Hunger Games.
Was hoping someone had already posted this. His prose is a bit florid for my tastes but he does a mean travel narrative.
If you haven't read 'The Royal Road to Romance' then you aren't aquainted with the most colorful travel writer in history. A certified looney toon, he circumnavigated the globe in the 1920s by working on freight ships, hiking through jungles, and dodging ticket inspectors in India. Once he got rich off his first book he was able to travel pretty much everywhere and he wrote an astonishing number of others; I've been too overwhelmed to read much more of his work.
Yeah, I especially don't know how you can come to that conclusion after reading Homage to Catalonia. He always identified as a democratic Socialist; he was just anti-totalitarian, which of course meant that he was anti-USSR.
An Armenian Sketchbook by Vasily Grossman is my favourite travel book. An untransmitably beautiful celebration of humanity. Really recommend it.
Cosign this hard. Travels with Herodotus was an incredible read.
Unrelated but my own recommendation:
A Time for Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor and its sequels. It's an autobiographical account of the author as a young man walking from Holland to Istanbul just prior to the outbreak of WWII. Fascinating descriptions of Europe's natural beauty alongside the crumbling remains of an aristocracy that wouldn't survive the war. I saw his trip as a bridge between the Grand Tours of the 1800s and the Hippie Trail of the 60s and 70s. I'm rambling, but this is hands down my favorite travel book!
You guys like essay's? I've read so many over the years, not one in particular comes to mind but I've been browsing tetw.org/travel recently and really enjoyed "kingdom of the lotus". Guys got any other recs as far as non-fiction essays go.
I had no clue Louis Theroux's dad (I watched a bunch of his documentaries) did so.
Anyway I'm not a big reader but I'll suggest a book of a friend of mine: "Hitch-hiking in the axis of evil" by Juan Pablo Villarino.
It talks about this Argentinian guy who hitch-hikes on his own through Afghanistan, Iran & Iraq. If anyone's interested Google him as 4chan thinks my post, with the link to his blog, is spam.
American God's by Neil Gaiman. Fiction aside, it's a travel book with a wondrous since of discovery and connecting the old world to the new. I can't count the times I read. Last time was the audio book on my flight out of the Country a year ago.
Graham Hughs' accomplishment is awesome but to my knowledge he has not attempted to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days or less. He did something more difficult but did not have a strict time limit.
Bill Bryson in general. I particularly like Notes From a Small Island around the UK, and The Lost Continent, which is basically him puttering around the States in an old Chevy before retiring to a rundown motel with a pack of beers each night.
Generally light-hearted, and every so often there's a turn of phrase that will make you sit uncontrollably spasming in laughter for about ten minutes.
This guy from my city is attempting something similar. Russia keeps fucking him over though, should have probably thought about it before he set off.
The Fruit Palace, Charles Nicholl
>funny and carefree englishman researches and does cocaine in 80's Colombia, hilarity ensues. Colombia jst seems like such an amazing place
Just ordered a copy of both of these, thanks for the recommendations.
Of the top of my head:
A Time of Gifts. A man walks from London to Constantinople, mostly living on peoples generosity. Set in 1920's iirc.
Ian Fleming of Bond fame wrote 'Thrilling Cities' for the Times paper. Each chapter is a new city such as Hong Kong or LA. Set in about 1950 and offers a nice perspective.
My favourite travel book/ autobiography. 'Tramp Royal' Early 1900 onwards. Set in Africa and South America mostly and includes shooting escaped murderers in Rhodesia, fighting off corrupt police trying to take over a factory in Brazil, becoming a film stunt double, serving in two world wars, piloting a boat at Dunkirk, walking the Andes in the winter, meeting the King of England, among other adventures. Excellent reading imo.
I've read Palin's Full Circle set of books and heartily recommend them.
Finally, Peter Fleming, older brother of Ian Fleming who went all over annoying natives and having adventures such as rowing up the Amazon to find a long lost Colonel/ Explorer who was presumed dead. All of his works are worth a read imo.
Obviously a bit dated when ti comes to useful tips on which night-club to visit, I enjoyed the travel books of Sir Frederick Treves.
The doctor and surgical innovator best known today as the doctor in The Elephant Man, Treves wrote a small handful of books recounting his travels. I particularly liked "The Land That is Desolate," recounting his travels in the Holy Land. I don;t have it in front of me, but a line that stuck in my mind went some thing like "There seemed little point in descending down a dark passageway into the earth to witness yet another tomb in which the Prophet Elijah was not actually buried."
Another travel book I like is "Travels," by Michael Crichton. Read it knowing that the first section is about being in medical school an becoming a writer, dealing more with an intellectual journey than an actual one. And the least section segues into a lot of nonsense about psychics and such.
But the middle section is essentially a collection of essays about various travels he undertook, and to me captures a nice flavor of what it was like to travel at the time when the world was opening up due to increased and safer air transport, but there were still places that were pretty exotic out there.
Three Men In A Boat is fucking hilarious and one of the few books to make me laugh out loud.
I just started reading Kon- Tiki today and I couldn't put it down. Although it is more of an adventure than a travel book it still makes me feel some type of way reading about their crazy expedition.
Picked this book up today, thanks for the recommendation. Looking forward to reading his 2008 book, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, where he revisits the route 30 years later after I've finished reading this one.
OP here, just finished reading The Great Railway Bazaar today, hadn't a lot of time to read lately so the last chapter took a while.
They included the first chapter of Ghost Train to the Easter Star at the end (the book where he does the trip again, 33 years later). It hit me right in the feels:
>he wrote Railway Bazaar in a much happier style than the early stages actually were- he was guilty and miserable because he had decided to travel aimlessly for four months while his wife and kids were at home, after his wife begged him not to, because he had run out of ideas for books and needed some income
>when he get back, he found his wife had been cheating on him, and her lover had spent a ton of time at the house, playing the role of the father. His wife pretended he was dead. The lover kept sending love letters to her even after Paul returned
>I had wondered why he had included the bit in the book about him kissing the waitress on the Trans-Siberian, given that he had a wife. Now I realise it was out of spite.
>He was miserable in the early stages of the trip, and nearly went mad by the time he got to Moscow (he'd clearly run out of energy by then- Warsaw to London gets about a paragraph)
>This was the reason he decided to include all the bad stuff about the trip too, rather than romanticising it (which, to be fair, made the book amazing)
I've never really ventured too far into travel writing, and I probably will have a better dig over the next few months... But what is it about Bill Bryson that makes him so famous?
>they named the library at my uni after him
Is he a good starting point?
Like the other anon said, the man has a gift to make a hilarious account of something as trivial as taking the subway or ordering a coffee in a foreign land.
He's also a lot less superficial than you'd assume, he backs up a lot of his stories with historical and social research about the countries/towns/monuments he's visiting.
I really loved everything he wrote about his travels, I'm less of a fan of his other works about science or the origin of nouns/words/verbs in English even tho he clearly puts efforts and passion in everything he does.
If you want to get acquainted with his works but don't have time to read full books now, you can start with "notes from a big country", each chapter is a standalone 1 or 2 pages chronicle where he ponders about how america has changed since he left for England more than a decade before. First Bryson I read, I read all the others after that.
Anyway 10/10 writer would read again.
Bill Bryson speaks in extremely plain English and has a great sense of humor, which is a breath of fresh air in a world where most authors just try to impress everyone with their vocabularies. He seems very genuine and intelligent. The kind of guy you just wanna sit down an have lunch with.
Another great thing about him is he writes about a lot of diverse topics. Of his, I really like A Walk In The Woods, which chronicles his trek through the Appalachian Mountains, and The Mother Tongue, which is about the evolution of the English language. He even wrote a book about the histories of various household objects. Dude has something for everybody.