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Travel Book Suggestions?

June 11, 2013

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Today I’m calling on the hive mind and looking for travel books to read! I go back and forth in my relationship with travel books: so many that I try seem to either completely objectify the place visited or to be tainted by neocolonialism, sexism, racism, or all three at once. But when the planets align and I find a travelogue that’s clear of that, written by an insightful, observant author, I find myself inspired, thrilled, and in a blissful reading state.

I’ve found some of my favourites combine travel with other topics (off the top of my head, examples include Victoria Finlay’s Color and Sy Montgomery’s Journey of the Pink Dolphin), so feel free to be broad in your suggestions! As always, extra points for suggesting authors of colour or just authors who aren’t from the US or UK, simply because those are always trickier to find. Because I’m gearing up for my first long solo trip, I’m especially curious about books by solo female travellers, and for similar reasons I’ll get extra excited about books highlighting South America. Although, let’s be honest, really I find reading about every part of the world thrilling. ;)

And in case you’re also looking for some suggestions, here are a few more of my favourites (completely random, non-exhaustive list!): Eating India by Chitrita Banerji, Finding George Orwell in Burma by Emma Larkin, Oliver Sacks’ Oaxaca Journal, After the Dance by Edwidge Danticat, Empires of the Indus by Alice Albinia, Samba by Alma Guillermoprieto, The Palace of the Snow Queen by Barbara Sjoholm, Kinky Gazpacho by Lori Tharps, Hope, Human and Wild by Bill McKibben and A Good Horse Has No Color by Nancy Marie Brown (which I read a couple months ago & thus haven’t blogged about yet). Oh, and the books I’ve read of the National Geographic Directions series.

P.S.: Yes, I know about Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust to Go. In fact, I just downloaded the ebook from my library to look at again. But I suspect Pearl and I don’t always have similar tastes, and anymore the more the merrier when it comes to books to add to the TBR! Thanks in advance for any suggestions you have: feel free to just list titles if you don’t feel like writing more. :)

33 Comments leave one →
  1. June 11, 2013 9:21 am

    I haven’t read a lot of travel books, but out of the ones I read I liked three books which are based on China. One is ‘Red Dust’ by Ma Jian. It is about the time the author took off from work and travelled the length and breadth of China. Another is ‘The River at the Center of the World’ by Simon Winchester. It is about a trip that the author took through the Yangtze river and it has a lot of stuff about Chinese history and geography. A bit of colonialism is there, but it is still good. ‘River Town’ by Peter Hessler is about the author’s experience while he lived in a Chinese town teaching English in a school. I read it years back, but I remember it being very beautiful. I will look forward to seeing the suggestions of others.

    Wonderful to know that you are planning on a solo trip. Hope you have fun and a wonderful time with exciting and adventurous experiences.

    • June 15, 2013 5:16 am

      Thnx! I read & loved the Hessler but the others are new to me. :)

  2. June 11, 2013 10:18 am

    A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain. As snarky as he is under normal circumstances, I admired how reverent he was in many examinations of his travels in this book. I also loved The Sex Lives of Cannibals and Getting Stoned with Savages by J. Maarten Troost.

  3. June 11, 2013 10:24 am

    For an older book that is still beautiful try Edward Thomas’s In Pursuit of Spring. It’s not the traditional traveling book and focuses on the beauty of the world around you. I’ve enjoyed the excerpts from Cintia Ana Morrow’s book on Mexico and Peru but I can’t remember if you read Spanish and she is not translated. A fun fictional book is The Man Who Read Love Stories by Luis Sepúlveda. Have fun on your trip!

    • June 15, 2013 5:17 am

      I can read simple Spanish, but I doubt I’m up for the Morrow (yet), which is a shame. Thnx for the other recs tho!

  4. June 11, 2013 11:59 am

    I know it’s sort of well known so you’ve probably read it but Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert was great because it offered new perspectives on faith through the countries she visited while also, it was very amusing. Amy Tan’s Saving Fish From Drowning is fictional but it’s about a group of travelers making their way through China and Myanmar (Burma), narrated by their deceased friend who was supposed to be their tour guide on this trip. That one was also really good.

  5. June 11, 2013 1:06 pm

    I recently enjoyed In the Valley of Mist by Justine Hardy about Kashmir. I don’t know whether it’s fair to call it a travel book since some of the time she visits Kashmir as a reporter, rather than as a tourist. But the book certainly made me wish I had the courage to travel there and also taught me a lot about the conflicts in Kashmir over the last twenty years. The writing style is rather non-linear, but also very evocative.

    • June 15, 2013 5:18 am

      I have a v wide definition of travel book, so that sounds good to me! Have you read The Tiger Ladies of Kashmir? It’s a good memoir. Shalimar the Clown beautifully evokes Kashmir too: the audio version is stunning. :)

      • June 15, 2013 10:16 am

        I haven’t read either of those, thanks for the suggestions!

  6. Steve permalink
    June 11, 2013 2:51 pm

    Hi Eva, I’m not going to score many points…my recommendation is for a white, male, American author. But gee he’s good. Barry Lopez. Anything of his. Especially Arctic Dreams. Good luck!

    • June 15, 2013 5:20 am

      lol! Any good author earns points and Lopez sounds wonderful. I love nature writing. :) I’m surprised, with a last name like Lopez, that he’s not Latino!

  7. June 11, 2013 7:35 pm

    Before moving to Korea, I read Simon Winchester’s Korea: A Walk Through the Land of Miracles. It’s a bit dated now, but I found the spirit of it still reflects today’s Korea. Winchester is honest about the people he encounters which include American soldiers, buddhist monks, prostitutes, businessmen, ordinary, hearty Koreans, and many others. Not a feminist read, but definitely an enjoyable one.

  8. June 11, 2013 8:07 pm

    I DO NOT KNOW THE ANSWER TO YOUR QUESTION. But I will be interested to see what travel books you end up liking.

  9. June 11, 2013 8:09 pm

    Check out Penguin Travel Library. They were an excellent series of serious travel writers that were published several years back but some have been re released. Could probably get a list on google.

  10. Jenny permalink
    June 11, 2013 9:28 pm

    A Time of Gifts, by Patrick Leigh Fermor. Travels With Charley, by John Steinbeck. Both absolutely wonderful.

    • June 15, 2013 5:21 am

      Oh I read Travels w Charley in high school & adored it! I’ve now put the Soskice on hold & I’m sure I’ll get to the Fermor soon. :)

      • Alex in Leeds permalink
        June 21, 2013 12:06 pm

        You might like Fermor’s A Time of Silence as well – it’s about his experiences of staying in monasteries at times when he needed thinking space. A slim little book, beautifully written, and very interesting. :)

  11. Jenny permalink
    June 11, 2013 9:54 pm

    Oh, and I see you haven’t read Sisters of Sinai, by Janet Soskice! That’s travel and history and feminism and Biblical history all at the same time. I think you’d adore it.

  12. June 12, 2013 8:43 am

    I recently read Vasily Grossman’s Armenian Sketchbook. It is less a travel book than it is a book about people and place. It’s a beautifully written. I read the newer NYRB Classics edition. I

    • June 15, 2013 5:22 am

      Ohhh, that sounds esp intriguing since some of my best Russian friends when I studied abroad were Russian-Armenian!

  13. June 12, 2013 7:40 pm

    I highly recommend Tales from a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman. She’s American but has traveled everywhere. Her book details some of her travels through Mexico, Guatemala, and so many other places I can’t even remember. I read this one years ago but really enjoyed it.

    • June 15, 2013 5:22 am

      I read it years ago too & loved it! Have you read her follow up? I haven’t yet because it looks like more of an anthology.

  14. June 13, 2013 8:42 am

    Just yesterday I went to author talk for Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser, which sounds interesting. It’s a novel, but travel-related. Also she’s Sri Lankan – Australian, so an extra point? :)

    • June 15, 2013 5:23 am

      Hehe, definitely extra points for you Mee! And even more bonus points since I actually already have it out from the library! :D

  15. June 13, 2013 9:57 am

    I’ve been reading your blog for a little while, but never commented before. Hello! I have a couple favorite solo female travel writers to recommend: Mary Morris traveling through Mexico and Central America (Nothing to Declare) and Sara Wheeler traveling through Antarctica (Terra Incognita). And I’ll be adding a few of your suggestions to my reading list!

    • June 15, 2013 5:23 am

      Hi Julia, thanks for the comment! Nice to meet you. :) I read the Wheeler a couple years ago & tried the Morris last year before my own Mexico trip but couldn’t get into it. I’ll have to try it again, maybe it was just my mood rather than the book.

  16. Michelle permalink
    June 14, 2013 9:03 am

    Sara Wheeler has another book about traveling through Chile called Travels in a Thin Country

  17. June 14, 2013 10:24 pm

    I wrote about this one on both S&TI! and 20YH just before Tony & I left on our big trip, but I would highly recommend The Good Girls Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman. Yes, Friedman is a white American, but her narrative really struck a chord in me, even though all the places she visited over the course of her year away from home were all places I had no plans on going on my own trip! I just really felt I was on the same wavelength as her, as her struggles to achieve and succeed within the conventional boundaries were all ones I knew all too well. I have a feeling you might relate as well, and as an added bonus, she spends several months in South America!

    • June 15, 2013 5:25 am

      I read & love lots of white American authors! :p I clearly need a new way to phrase my especial interest in authors of colour/international authors. lol

      Anyway, this sounds excellent, so thanks so much!!!

  18. June 15, 2013 5:28 am

    Thank you to everyone for their recommendations! I really appreciate them all. :D

  19. September 17, 2013 8:33 am

    I am giving away a book today on my blog, A Good Home, a memoir by a Canadian woman who has lived in Jamaica, Vancouver,and Toronto and who describes here lives and houses in each place. You might be interested…


  1. 50 greatest travel books of all time | E'n'M

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