Top 30 Travel Books: Now It’s Your Turn

Travel Blog  •  Jim Benning  •  09.15.06 | 1:32 PM ET

We just finished posting our top 30 travel books of all time, and we know you don’t agree with every selection on our list. Did we leave off your favorites? What’s in your top 30—or at least your top five? Let us know.

  • No. 1: “Arabian Sands” by Wilfred Thesiger

  • No. 2: “The Road to Oxiana” by Robert Byron

  • No. 3: “The Great Railway Bazaar” by Paul Theroux

  • No. 4: “The Soccer War” by Ryszard Kapuściński

  • No. 5: “No Mercy” by Redmond O’Hanlon

  • No. 6: “North of South” by Shiva Naipaul

  • No. 7: “Golden Earth” by Norman Lewis

  • No. 8: “Video Night in Kathmandu” by Pico Iyer

  • No. 9: “The Innocents Abroad” by Mark Twain

  • No. 10: “In A Sunburned Country” by Bill Bryson

  • No. 11: “The Snow Leopard” by Peter Matthiessen

  • No. 12: “The Songlines” by Bruce Chatwin

  • No. 13: “Travels with Charley” by John Steinbeck

  • No. 14: “Riding to the Tigris” by Freya Stark

  • No. 15: “Europe, Europe” by Hans Magnus Enzensberger

  • No. 16: “City of Djinns” by William Dalrymple

  • No. 17: “A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush” by Eric Newby

  • No. 18: “All the Wrong Places” by James Fenton

  • No. 19: “Hunting Mister Heartbreak” by Jonathan Raban

  • No. 20: “River Town” by Peter Hessler

  • No. 21: “Road Fever” by Tim Cahill

  • No. 22: “When the Going was Good” by Evelyn Waugh

  • No. 23: “Behind the Wall” by Colin Thubron

  • No. 24: “Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere” by Jan Morris

  • No. 25: “A Time of Gifts” by Patrick Leigh Fermor

  • No. 26: “Baghdad Without a Map” by Tony Horwitz

  • No. 27: “The Size of the World” by Jeff Greenwald

  • No. 28: “Facing the Congo” by Jeffrey Tayler

  • No. 29: “Venture to the Interior” by Laurens van der Post

  • No. 30: “A Turn in the South” by V.S. Naipaul

    69 Comments for Top 30 Travel Books: Now It’s Your Turn

    T Schloemann 05.31.06 | 4:34 PM ET

    Better than most of the books on your list, yet sadly left out, is Tiziano Terzani’s “A Fortune Teller Told Me.” 

    This, unlike many of the books on your list, is great travel literature.

    Julia Ross 05.31.06 | 7:53 PM ET

    I was pleased to see Ryszard Kapuściński and Peter Hessler on this list, though I’d put Kapuściński’s “The Emperor” in the top five. A couple of classics you missed: “Balkan Ghosts” by Robert Kaplan and “Paris to the Moon” by Adam Gopnik.

    Mish Irish 05.31.06 | 8:25 PM ET

    At the start of this, I was kind of expecting to see William Least Heat-Moon’s “Blue Highways” on here, but once Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley” got the nod, I kind of figured Highways would be left off.

    Thanks much for doing this list.  I’ve enjoyed checking in every day to see what books you listed and will have to check out the ones I haven’t already read.

    the poacher 06.01.06 | 5:08 AM ET

    Great list, has made my feet itch intolerably. I’d only quibble with a few: Alexandra David-Neel’s ‘Magic and Mystery in Tibet’ (maybe not a Travel Book as such?); Thubron’s ‘In Siberia’; Andrew Harvey’s ‘A Journey in Ladakh’; and John Hillaby’s ‘Journey to the Jade Sea’.

    Charles Holmes 06.01.06 | 9:00 AM ET

    Thanks for the list. It’s an interesting one and all worthy writers. Some others I think would qualify are John McPhee’s “Coming Into The Country”, Charles Nicholl’s “Fruit Palace” and Graham Greene’s “Journey Without Maps”. A number of the writers chosen could have had multiple books. I can think of at least ten by Norman Lewis.

    michael gorra 06.01.06 | 11:18 AM ET

    Interesting list—I know so few of them even though I teach a course on travel narratives.  I miss some older books, e.g. Henry James, Italian Hours; Flaubert in Egypt.  And from the 20th century, some of my favorites are Sybille Bedford, A Visit to Don Ottavio; Bharati Mukherjee and Clark Blaise, Days and Nights in Calcutta (his and hers versions); and above all the extravagant, mannerist, majestic Rome and A Villa, by Eleanor Clark.

    Andie 06.01.06 | 5:03 PM ET

    The Wonder Safaris - Adam Levin

    Bob 06.01.06 | 6:04 PM ET

    Thanks for starting this discussion.  It’s an interesting list.

    I would have definitely included Robert Kaplan’s “Balkan Ghosts,” which I think is a classic, and probably William Least-Heat Moon’s “Blue Highways.”  I also think “Confederates in the Attic” is a better Tony Horwitz book than “Baghdad Without a Map.”

    Otherwise, it’s hard to quibble with your choices.  Some of my other personal favorites are Adous Huxley’s “Jesting Pilate” and Henry Miller’s “The Colossus of Maroussi.”  A couple of more recent books that I enjoyed were Jason Elliot’s “An Unexpected Light” and Brad Newsham’s “Take Me With You.”

    mike 06.01.06 | 11:40 PM ET

    Looks like we could have done a top 40 or a top 50 and still had plenty of great books left out.

    I see your logic, Mish. “Travels with Charley” and “Blue Highways” both cover a lot of the same territory. Steinbeck just did it better.

    And Charles, thanks for mentioning Graham Greene. I’ve been meaning to dig further into his books, and maybe this will be the reminder/push I need.

    Jeff 06.01.06 | 11:47 PM ET

    The Great Railway Bazaar was a wonderful Theroux book. I would include one other Theroux book, “Riding the Iron Rooster.”
    This tale of his travels through China by train, ironically, rose to a climax on a hair-raising rental car journey across the wastes to Tibet with a neurotic Chinese driver and his crazy harpy girlfriend.

    Jim Benning 06.01.06 | 11:59 PM ET

    I, too, loved “Riding the Iron Rooster,” Jeff. I also loved Theroux’s “Old Patagonian Express.” Choosing one for our list was tough! We did debate it. In fact, I love “Old Patagonian Express” so much I’m going to be assigning it to my travel writing class here in San Diego this summer.

    We decided early on not to include any one author twice. Had we, I might also have wanted to include another Pico Iyer book, “The Lady and the Monk.”

    I know there are a lot of Grahan Greene fans out there. One contributor suggested we include “The Lawless Roads.” We discussed it. It wasn’t one of my favorites.

    I, too, loved Brad Newsham’s “Take Me With You.” It has a lot of heart. I’ll have to check out “The Wonder Safaris.” Thanks for the suggestion. There are lots of great suggestions here.

    There are just so many great books to choose from.  As much as anything, of course, our list is a starting point for discussion—and inspiration for trips to the bookstore or library.

    Our books editor, Frank Bures, masterminded the list with all of our input. Frank, any thoughts?

    Jane B. 06.02.06 | 7:43 AM ET

    Here’s some I’d add:

    - Jules Vernes “Around the World in 80 Days,” Ok, I haven’t read it since I was 11, but together with “Travels with Charley,” it sparked this child’s lifelong interest in travel;

    - Classics, such as “The Journals of Lewis & Clark,” an ultimate travel adventure story; and “Tales of the Alhambra,” by Washington Irving; “On the Road,” by Jack Kerouac, inspiring a generation of travellers and writers;

    - Theresa Maggio’s, “Mattanza: Love & Death in the Sea of Sicily,” as evocative and thoughtful a travel book as can be found anywhere;

    - Laurie Lee’s “As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning,” a charming, delightful tale of a walk across Spain pre Civil War.

    Frank Bures 06.02.06 | 9:00 AM ET

    Hmm. What to say that hasn’t been said?  These are great suggestions.  Lists like this are always hard because books are so personal. Obviouly, we have our opinions, but the great thing is that there are enough books out there for everyone to have their own personal list makes them want to get out on the road.  If anyone hasn’t read Arabian Sands, do it. It’s slower than some books, but it sinks deep into your bones and really makes you want to chuck it all and head out into the unknown.

    Andie 06.02.06 | 2:22 PM ET

    Also (noting there are few women on the list ...) Mary Wollstonecraft’s “Letters on Sweden, Norway, and Denmark”

    Frank Bures 06.02.06 | 3:09 PM ET

    Yes, that was an issue. Believe me, we looked for women’s travel books. There are a lot of good ones out there, but not as many as I’d like to see.  Not sure why that is.  And we weren’t going back to the 1700s.

    Suebob 06.02.06 | 4:45 PM ET

    He was mostly at work, but his work was flying…does
    Wind, Sand and Stars
    by Antoine de Saint-Exupery still count?

    The prose is some of the most beautiful writing I have ever read, especially the chapter about waiting for the lost pilot to come home.

    And I think all of Tim Cahill’s books should have made the list. I love the dude.

    Frank Bures 06.02.06 | 4:59 PM ET

    Wind, Sand and Stars is one of my favorite books too, and we talked about it, but in the end it didn’t quite fit the travel genre—the writer moving through a strange land/culture, trying to make sense of it.

    Jane B. 06.02.06 | 6:08 PM ET

    Frank, I’m going to have to argue with you. The first sentence here reads “our top 30 travel books of ALL time.”  You have a lot of books from the last 30 years or so.  There are so many travel classics (I’ll add de Toqueville now) available, as interesting today as when they were written.

    Much of the truly fine writing about a sense of place by women has been done in the context of memoir (Markham, Allende, Nin, to name a few).  I’d count Maggio’s books as classics, but find Mary Morris and Alison Wearing to be the equal of some of those listed above.

    Frank Bures 06.02.06 | 7:49 PM ET

    Well, if this was a “best memoirs of all time,” we might have included those books. But just because they take place in another country, doesn’t make them travel book. There has to be the sense that the traveler is on a journey (or journeys) through some place. I loved West With the Night and Out of Africa, but they’re not quite travel—a close cousin, maybe. As for the earlier stuff, a lot of it lacks the the energy of the modern travel story, with its self-conscious searching and modern sensibility and forward momentum.  They can be sort of dry and a little too anthropological.  But that’s just my opinion.

    Els 06.03.06 | 10:51 AM ET

    Great list. Probably 20 out of 30 are on my personal top 30-or-so too. I’d like to have seen included: In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin, The Roads to Sata by Alan Booth, Charles Glass - Tribes with flags, Geoffrey Moorhouse - Calcutta, Jason Elliot - An Unexpected Light, Tahir Shah - Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Vikram Seth - From Heaven Lake or William Fiennes -The Snow Geese.

    Eric Forbes 06.04.06 | 5:29 AM ET

    Three excellent travel literature that should not be forgotten: Tim Mackintosh-Smith’s The Hall of a Thousand Columns: Hindustan to Malabar with Ibn Battutah (2005) and Travels with a Tangerine: A Journey in the Footnotes of Ibn Battutah (2001), where the writer takes you on an enthralling journey through India in the footsteps of Ibn Battutah, the Tangier-born 14th-century adventurer; and also Rory Stewart’s The Places in Between (2004).

    Scott 06.06.06 | 1:35 PM ET

    It’s a bit dated by now, but Henri Mouhot’s “Travels in Siam, Cambodia, and Laos” is an adventurous pseudo-discovery style of travel book that makes me think of a time when some travel was fresher and more surprising. Very National Geographic.
    Terrific list, though, and thank you for that - all sorts of impetus and inspiration to be found, I’m sure.

    Lotus 06.07.06 | 12:11 PM ET

    Great list but I have to agree with the person who missed seeing Tiziano Terzani’s “A Fortune-Teller Told Me” on the list. I would have liked to have seen it included.  Also, for a light, humorous read, a Peter Moore title would have been a useful addition.

    Steve 06.08.06 | 7:59 AM ET

    Thanks for the great list.  I’ll definetly be checking some of these out. But how about Patrick Leigh Fermor’s “A Time of Gifts” and “A Walk in the Woods”?

    Frank Bures 06.09.06 | 11:00 AM ET

    Thanks for the comment, Steve! Actually, A Time of Gifts is number 25. We might have put A Walk in the Woods on, but we decided to only have one book per author, and went with In a Sunburned Country.

    Daniel Buck 06.17.06 | 10:16 AM ET

    Peter Fleming (1907-1971, best known perhaps for BRAZILIAN ADVENTURE, wrote several other droll road memoirs, e.g., ONE’S COMPANY and NEWS FROM TARTARY, any one of which could be on your honor roll.

    ARABIAN SANDS, I’m embarrassed to admit, I found unreadable. And SONGLINES is mostly fiction, or dreamy, take your pick. IN PATAGONIA, piquant inventions notwithstanding, is Chatwin’s monument.

    Nonetheless, all in all, TOP 30 is an exemplary roster.
    Dan Buck

    Kate Lewis 06.20.06 | 12:36 PM ET

    It would have been nice to see more women writers included in your list. Here are my suggestions:

    1. No Hurry to Get Home, by Emily Hahn (A beautiful, moving account of the travels of a former writer for The New Yorker. Hahn takes us to the Belgian Congo in the 1930s, to Shanghai, to Hong Kong. Her descriptions are magical and vivid.)

    2. Nothing to Declare, by Mary Morris. (A more modern tale than Hahn’s, but nonetheless poignant. This is the story of a solo woman’s exploration of Mexico, Central America, and the inner landscapes of her heart. Told with attention to detail and both melancholy and joy.

    3. West With the Night, by Beryl Markham. (Often compared with Hemingway, Markham crafts an eloquent story of her travels as a pilot in Africa. A brave, inspiring woman.)

    Newer Books

    1. Somebody’s Heart is Burning, by Tanya Shaffer. (A dazzling account of the author’s travels and volunteer jobs in West Africa. The perfect mix of personal memoir with sense of place.)

    2. Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana, by Stephanie Elizando Griest. (A humorous and at times heartbreaking story of the young author’s travels through the former Soveit Bloc and the communist island of Cuba. She does an excellent job of mixing history with memoir.)

    3. Es Cuba: Life and Love on an Illegal Island, by Lea Aschkenas. (I just finished this, and read all 342 pages in just two days! I couldn’t put it down. A personal, honest, and eloquently written story of the author’s ten months in Cuba, where she falls in love with the country and with a Cuban man. Takes us into the heart of a country misunderstood by many Americans, myself included before I read this.)

    Maya 06.21.06 | 2:25 PM ET

    Edith Durham’s High Albania is a marvel, and how could you leave out Lady Montagu-Wortley or Rebecca West!?

    Daniel Buck 06.21.06 | 5:11 PM ET

    Lest we forget:  Rose Macaulay’s FABLED SHORE: FROM THE PYRENEES TO PORTUGAL BY ROAD (1949), a gracefully written, erudite account of her motor car journey along the southern Iberian coast. Macauley is in a league with Patrick Leigh Fermor and Peter Fleming.

    Anthony 06.22.06 | 11:06 PM ET

    I LOVE this list!  Would you consider adding:

    Old Glory by Raban - the trip down the Mississippi by small boat

    The Last Gentleman Adventurer - hard to find but flat out brillant of a time lost to us.

    The Sex Lives of Cannibals - current hilarity in the South Pacific

    and, of course,

    A Walk in the Woods - sort of the comedic travel book that brought Bryson and Thoreaux on the map as reality comics of the driest sort.

    I might also add:

    Blue Latitudes - by Horwitz, a bit more historical but absolutely fascinating.

    and, for the women,

    Rowing to Latitudes - a quirky book about how far someone will go to travel their passion. 

    All in all though, Thoreaux and Bryson dominate this genre.  After all, its all “On the Road” redux anyway.


    Cynthia Fontayne 06.23.06 | 12:28 AM ET

    These are some of my favorites among the “moderns”—There are gems among my OOP oldies (one of which includes a recommended packing list for ladies, with two particularly notable items: “a panty girdle and chapel veil.”

    Durrell, Gerald. “My Family and Other Animals”—Arguably the world’s funniest and most literate zookeeper, he roamed the world in search of all kinds of wildlife. This early book is about his childhood soujourn on Corfu with that most exotic group, his mother and siblings.

    Durrell, Lawrence
    Gerry’s more sedate brother. For a true “sense of place,” read anything—fact or fiction by him.

    Frazier, Ian. “Chasing the Monsoon” You don’t need a weatherman to tell the way the wind blows. But it helps. onsoon as metaphor and unifying theme for this trek through the Asian subcontinent.

    Harrison, Barbara Grizzuti. Italian Days—A voluptuous appreciation of that simpatico country.

    Hughes, Robert. Barcelona—
    The art critic takes on this most artful city.

    McCarthy, Mary. The Stones of Florence—Vassar women have always had this “thing” for Italy. This is one of the best products of that gentle obsession.

    Morris, Jan. Hong Kong—
    Or anything she’s written about Wales. 

    Morris, Mary. Wall to Wall
    From Beijing to Berlin, by train.—Another great rail tale, this one from a writer who is a meticulous journal-keeper with a special eye for the smallest human gesture.

    Naipaul, V.S. Among the Believers—Uncharacteristically uncranky.

    Paul, Jim. What Is Called Love—
    A trip to France and into the past with the San Francisco poet, medievalist and romantic. Scholarly segments on the Avignon popes and Petrach draw you in as smoothly as passages about Parisien cafes. She didn’t deserve him.

    Perelman, S.J. Westward Ha!—
    Make that ha-ha-ha.

    Sokolov, Raymond. Native Intelligence—OOP novel by the former arts editor of The Wall Street Journal. Scour your local second hand bookstores for it. Witty, clever, invents its own language. Sokolov is an accomplished food writer as well ...anything he writes is sure to be painstakingly researched, beautifully crafted and enjoyable to read.

    Stinnett, Caskie. Grand and Private Pleasures—
    A collection from one of America’s greatest travel essayists, who also was an editor at the classic Holiday magazine and the founding editor of Travel and Leisure. Any of his books and articles glow with knowledge, wit and class.  I miss him.

    Theroux, Paul. The Great Railway Bazaar—He’s claimed it is not his favorite of his non-fiction books, but it is a classic in travel literature.

    Winchester, Simon. Outposts—
    Another witty Brit tours the often obscure vestiges of his country’s empire.

    Eric Forbes 06.25.06 | 4:59 AM ET

    Overall a great list, though I would like to add the following: Jenny Diski’s Stranger on a Train (2002); Jason Elliot’s An Unexpected Light (2000); Ryszard Kapuściński’s The Shadow of the Sun (2001); Ma Jian’s Red Dust (2001); Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City (2004); and Vikram Seth’s From Heaven Lake (1983).

    Marianne Handler 06.26.06 | 12:06 PM ET

    Some time ago I read a great list created by a book store that focused on mysteries. Her theory was mysteries introduced you to the places you were about to visit because , although the characters were not real, the streets, the buildings and neighborhoods, perhaps the restuarants and the culture of the time period were.

    At the time I was about to go to China and she had recommended these 3 which I enjoyed very much.
    Nicole Mones, A Cup of Light (Dell)  Set in Beijing (I loved this one about porcelain trade.)
    Lisa See,  Dragon Bones (Random House)  Set in the Yangtze River Gorges area this book is the third in a series that features the same main character.
    Qiu Xiaolonb, Death of a Red Heroine (Soho)  Set in Shanghai.

    In addition I read River Town and was so glad to see it on your list.

    But on to my idea.. How about the next list being mysteries that introduce readers to the countries they are about to visit. It could be divided by countries and, I would guess, enjoyed by many.

    What do you all think?

    Jim Benning 06.26.06 | 12:21 PM ET

    Marianne, I love your idea. We’ll give this some serious thought.

    I’ve been enjoying the Los Angeles-focused mysteries of Denise Hamilton, a former L.A. Times reporter (whose protagonist just happens to be a female reporter). She does a wonderful job of evoking all sorts of fascinating corners of the city. (The place has changed since the days of Raymond Chandler!)

    Mae Sander 06.27.06 | 1:35 PM ET

    In an Antique Land : History in the Guise of a Traveler’s Tale (Vintage Departures)
    by Amitav Ghosh

    Marianne Handler 06.27.06 | 1:45 PM ET

    I hope you do… Now I am working on finding good mysteries that take place in Madrid and Barcelona. Let you know when I find some or I hope others will let me their favorites mysteries and novels in these cities.

    Bud Ruf 07.02.06 | 12:12 PM ET

    I just finished a study of travel (can I plug it? “Bewildered: Travel and the Quest for Confusion” to be published by UVa Press) and I wish I’d known of a lot of these books.  Then again, the list proves that travel literature is a very rich field.

    But let me second Henry Miller’s “The Colossus of Maroussi” a big unmade bed of a book by an equally big personality.

    An excellent book that hasn’t been mentioned yet is “The Names of Things: A Passage in the Arabian Desert” by Susan Brind Morrow, exquisitely observed connections between language, the physical world, and travel - and nowhere near as dull as that might sound.

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned Alphonso Lingis, a wildman of philosophy and travel.  I like “Abuses” especially (he gets arrested in Bangkok, nearly killed in Nicaragua). 

    Diane Johnson’s “Natural Opium: Some Travelers’ Tales,” is not a great travel book but many shrewd observations from a very pleasantly cranky traveler.

    Paul Bowles’s “Their Heads are Green and their Hands are Blue.”  The author of “The Sheltering Sky” (a new category of travel novels?) and set off on his initial travels as an alternative to suicide.  See his memoir “Without Stopping,” too.

    As for classics, Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road” seems as fundamental as any (The road is before us!  The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.”)

    And can I suggest Nietzsche as the patron saint of travel?  He wrote (in paraphrase) “Don’t trust thoughts unless they come to you while you’re walking.”

    Peter Vogel 07.11.06 | 12:05 PM ET

    I really think that one of Isabella Bird’s books (my favorite is “A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains” but her “Unbeaten Tracks in Japan” is as good) would have been an excellent addition. Not only are they great travel books but they are books by a woman writer, books from outside of the 20th century, AND wonderful representatives of all of those solo Victorian women who seemed to roam all over the world.

    John Arthur 07.16.06 | 8:17 AM ET

    My top picks include:

    1. From the Holy Mountain, William Dalrymple
    2. In Xanadu: A Quest, William Dalrymple
    3. City of Djinns: A year in Delhi, William Dalrymple
    4. The Age of Kali: Indian Travels & Encounters, William Dalrymple
    5. Carpet Wars by Christopher Kremmer,
    6. Inhaling the Mahatma, by Christopher Kremmer
    7. The Road to Oxiana, Robert Byron
    8. A short walk in the Hindu Kush, Eric Newby
    9. An unexpected light, Jason Elliot
    10. Lost Heart of Asia, Colin Thubron
    11. Siberia, Colin Thubron
    12. Calcutta, Simon Winchester, Lonely Planet, 2004
    13. The River at the Centre of the World, Simon Winchester
    14. Lost in Transmission, Jonathon Harley
    15. Holy Cow, Sarah MacDonald
    16. Almost French, Sarah Turnbull
    17. In the Empire of Genghis Khan, Stanley Stewart
    18. My life and travels, Wilfred Thesiger

    Lucy 07.18.06 | 4:17 PM ET

    Where are all the women????

    John Arthur 07.18.06 | 8:33 PM ET

    No’s 15 and 16 above - wonderful books. As is noted elsewhere on this site, travel writing as a literary genre has tended to be dominated by men. Out of World Hum’s Top 30 Travel Books, only two are by women (No’s 14 and 24).

    I can also recommend Christina Lamb’s Sewing Circles of Herat and House of Stone, although these probably aren’t travel books. In the past I have also really enjoyed Robyn Davidson’s Tracks (which should have made my top 18). I have recently picked up a copy of The Cruelest Journey: Six Hundred Miles to Timbuktu by Kira Salak which comes highly recommended.

    Can you recommend any other travel books by women?

    Eva Holland 07.21.06 | 5:02 PM ET

    I’m guessing neither of these fits the definition you used for the list, but thought I’d throw them out there anyway in case anyone hasn’t read them. Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell and Hemingway’s Paris memoir, A Moveable Feast, are both fantastic, two of my favourite books period, let alone favourite travel(ish) writing.

    Just out of curiosity, did any of the output from the big-name Victorian explorers of Africa get considered for the list? I have to read them for my course work all the time and get a pretty big kick out of some, but I’m not sure if that’s just me…

    Carmen Fernández 10.15.06 | 10:40 AM ET

    These are thrty great books, however I´d add on one which is fun, interesting and is a great read about an expat moving to the Alpujarras in Granada, Spain: “Driving over Lemons” by Chris Stewart.
    Lets keep these travel books coming, please!

    Lorin Ripley 12.11.06 | 2:43 PM ET

    Just came across this story.
    How you could make such a list, and forget Richard Halliburton, the last of the romantic travellers, is beyond me.  I am partial to “The Royal Road to Romance”, which introduced me to the whole concept of travel as a genre.
    And, not to get picky, I am surprised that Stevenson’s “Travels with a Donkey”, which is more well known today than Halliburton, didn’t make the list.

    Emerson Grossmith 01.03.07 | 5:41 AM ET

    I like some of the list but afraid that Chatwin, Bryson and a few others just don’t cut it. I think if Chatwin had of written on his trip to Afghanistan
    then that might be a favourite. Also, have never been a big fan of Theroux until his “Dark Safari” came out and that would be on my list. Basically, if I have more than one copy of a book or it is rare makes it to my lists. I was rather shocked that no one had any classic travel books on their list. Unfortunatley, most of my choices are out of print and maybe that is why I like them.
    My top picks are:
    1. Road to Oxiana, Robert Byron (because I have 4 copies and one signed hb)
    2. Travels of Sir Henry Layard
    3. Where the Four Winds Meet, Fosco Maraini (very hard to find)
    4. Dark Star Safari, Paul Theroux
    5. African Calliope, Hoagland
    6. A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, Newby
    7. The Light Garden of the Angel King, Peter Levi (who travels with Chatwin in Afghanistan).
    8. Arabian Sands, W. Thesiger
    9. Travels in Dictionay Land, Tim Macintosh-Smith
    10. African trilogies, Peter Mathiessen
    11. The Ukimwi Road ( the AIDS road in Africa) Dervla Murphy
    12. Zanzibar Chest, Aidan Hartley
    13. The Unexpected Light, Jason Elliot
    14. From the Holy Mountain, W. Dalrymple
    Also, I like to read books by the travelling companions of some of the above mentioned writers, i.e. Peter Levi, George Schaller (who travelled with Matthiessen) and Chris Sykes (who travelled with Robert Byron). They give a different flavour to the travel stories.

    Louise Thorn 01.29.07 | 2:28 PM ET

    My favorites: 
    Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle by Dervla Murphy and anything (especially early works) by Robert Kaplan. Thanks for bringing out the wander-lust in the dead of winter.

    Joan Evans 02.07.07 | 3:18 PM ET

    While you have some really great books on your list, I was very disappointed about the lack of women authors.  One.  Now, I love Freya Stark, but there are so many other of her books that are more representative of her deep explorations of the Arabic world. 

    Dervla Murphy, while it is hard to chose one book, is another glaring omission.  My favourites are her travels with young Rachel - On A Shoestring in Coorg, and Where the Indus is Young.  In fact, only the political books don’t really cut it. 

    I could go on, but the most glaring omission is Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon.  How could you possibly forget it?  I know it is long, but it is an amazing work, and definitely belongs on anyone’s top 5.
    I was quite pleased finding that I had read 24 of the books and own 19 of them.  I took note of the ones I’ve never heard of, and will look them up. 

    It is an impossible task to put such a list together.  Thanks for the effort.  I did the same myself a couple of years ago.  If I dig it up, I’ll post here, if you like.

    Dan Fischer 02.13.07 | 8:41 PM ET

    I found O’Hanlon’s No Mercy not as interesting as either of the first two, though this is not to say it’s bad.

    Perhaps The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard is more adventure than travel, but probably no more so than some of the ones listed.  It’s a great book by any standard, though.

    Both John McFee’s Coming into the Country and Edward Hoagland’s Notes from the Century Before would be on my top 20.

    David Quammen’s Song of the Dodo, while more about island biogeography, is still a great travel book in places.  Among nature writing I prefer Matthiessen’s End of the Earth or The Birds of Heaven to The Snow Leopard.

    And I’d add von Humboldt’s Travels, The Voyage of the Beagle, Lewis and Clark’s Journals, and Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, Johnson’s A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland and/or Boswell’s A Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides.

    Li Xiong 02.22.07 | 6:01 AM ET

    “The Road to Oxiana” is just one of the worst travel books I’ve ever read. It’s terribly boring and presumptuous, and way overrated. It’s plain to see that half of the anecdotes are simply (and clumsily) made up for the sake of the tale… Awful! Is it possible nobody agrees with me?

    “News from Tartary” by Fleming is much, much better, and it’s not in your list. Also, I would add “Frontiers of Heaven” (Stewart)

    Darrel Schoeling 03.06.07 | 2:31 PM ET

    Let us chime in that despite all the excellent winners Beryl Markham (west with the Night)and Edward Abbey (Desert Solitaire) must be on the list (and Steinbeck’s Log From the Sea of Cortez too) as Essential Reading.

    For what it’s worth, ur own list, alpabetically, of the top 25 looks like this (see
    Arctic Dreams, Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape • Barry Lopez
    The Colossus of Maroussi •  Henry Miller
    Dersu the Trapper •  V.K. Arseniev •  Malcolm Burr
    Desert Solitaire •  Edward Abbey
    Dreams of Trespass, Tales of a Harem Girlhood •  Fatima Mernissi
    Endurance, Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage •  Alfred Lansing
    The Fatal Shore •  Robert Hughes
    The Great Game, The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia •  Peter Hopkirk
    Here is New York •  E.B. White
    Homage to Catalonia •  George Orwell
    Independent People, An Epic •  Halldor Laxness
    In Patagonia •  Bruce Chatwin
    In Siberia •  Colin Thubron
    The Log from the Sea of Cortez •  John Steinbeck •  Edward F. Ricketts
    Midnight’s Children •  Salman Rushdie
    Our Man in Havana •  Graham Greene
    The Path Between the Seas, The Creation of the Panama Canal: 1870-1914 •  David McCullough
    Playing With Water: A Passion and Solitude on a Philippine Island •  James Hamilton-Paterson
    The River at the Center of the World •  Simon Winchester
    The Snow Leopard •  Peter Matthiessen
    Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice •  Mark Plotkin
    Trading with the Enemy, A Yankee Travels through Castro’s Cuba •  Tom Miller
    Voyage of the Beagle •  Charles Darwin
    West with the Night •  Beryl Markham
    Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China •  Jung Chang
    The World of Venice •  Jan Morris
    The Worst Journey in the World •  Apsley Cherry-Garrard

    Shaun 03.23.07 | 12:37 PM ET

    Not a lot of women on this list. Perhaps no one has had the joy of Reading Kira Silak’s “the Cruelest Journey:600 miles to Timbuktu” or Maria Coffey’s “Boat in my Baggage”.

    Jay 04.02.07 | 10:30 PM ET

    What about Frommer’s Guides? They are user-friendly trip planners and combine the broad appeal & time-tested features of the For Dummies guides with Frommer’s accurate, up-to-date information & travel expertise. Written in a personal, conversational voice, For Dummies Travel Guides put the fun back into travel planning. They’re awesome!

    Patricia Mei 05.07.07 | 8:25 PM ET

    Maybe I missed this, but it’s one of my long-time favorites, and got me interested in Afghanistan decades ago:
    The Light Garden of the Angel King
      by Peter Levi

    Jim 05.13.07 | 4:05 AM ET

    I am surprised that On the Road by Jack Keruac did not make it onto any lists here.  Granted it is not a travelogue, but the freedom and abandonment in those travels across the US, the verybackbone of the book, ushered in a whole new age.

    Doug 05.30.07 | 5:27 PM ET

    Is A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins not considered a travel book? I think that it should be somewhere near the top of the list.

    Maxine Rose Schur 06.19.07 | 5:50 PM ET

    Just wanted to mention that my travel memoir, Places in Time, was just named 2006 Best Travel Book of the Year by the North American Travel Journalists Association. It can be ordered through any bookstore as well as and my website.

    It’s an evocative narrative of journey around the world when young, poor, naive and lusting for new experiences. In a collection of essays the book leads you on a suspense-filled journey through Mexico, the Caribbean, France, Switzerland, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Nepal Australia and New Zealand.

    Travel is my passion. As a professional travel writer I writemostly about the offbeat and little-known. I’ve twice won the Lowell Thomas Award given by the Society of American Travel Writers.

    allan eastman 06.24.07 | 8:57 AM ET

    ...Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk’s ISTANBUL is as evocative a book about any place in the world that you could ever read…it effects your emotions when you return there…

    ...Michael Booth’s JUST AS WELL I WAS LEAVING is a tremendously funny book as he retracees the travels of the decidedly loony Hans Christian Anderson in the 1830s…

    Peter Robb’s A DEATH IN BRAZIL is one of the best portraits of a country ever written…

    how could you miss IBN BATTUDAH???

    Angeles 06.25.07 | 8:50 AM ET

    Terrific list, however I miss:

    Ibn Battuta - The adventures of Ibn Battuta (a MUST have)

    Ryszard Kapuscinski - EBANO ( a MUST have)

    Debbie 07.09.07 | 9:22 PM ET

    My favorite travel book of all time is Peter Mayle’s book “A Year in Provence”  I read it while in the Bahamas and kept wanting to saying Bonjour to everyone! He does a great job of telling what it’s like to travel and live in France.  All of his books about Provence are terrific!

    Nick Bowles 12.12.07 | 1:38 PM ET

    A great list, I wish you had Richard Halliburton on there. He enjoyed rock start status in the 1920’s and did remarkable things, including one of the first aerial circumnavigations of the world. A shameless stunter his breathless accounts are populist and gripping, the best book was his fourth, the Flying Carpet and it is Boy’s Own stuff. It inspired me to travel. Nick

    jo jo 12.13.07 | 1:42 PM ET

    I remember Richard Halliburton.  I have a couple of his books still.  My brother gave them to me many years ago, and jump-started my travel dreaming, and later adventures, as well, Nick. 

    However, when I tried to re-read them, I just found them too… I don’t know… maybe “Boy’s Own Stuff” isn’t my favourite style now. ;-)  But his enthusiasm is certainly contagious.

    I’m currently re-reading Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West - the most egregious omission from the original list.  I love her wit, her insights, the effortless way she weaves history and current events, and her passion for the lands of the Southern Slavs, and, the brilliant diamond-clear writing.  And it certainly gives one insight into the breakup of Yugoslavia 70 years later.

    Liz 01.03.08 | 4:45 PM ET

    Barefoot Across Borneo is one thing; No Mercy is something else and much less at that, especially since it echoes a much better book by R. Nugent, Drums Along The Congo

    Peter Handel 06.19.08 | 6:27 PM ET

    Music In Every Room by John Krich - still a riot after many years, the best cranky travel book I’ve ever read..

    Julie 06.26.08 | 6:57 PM ET

    Frommer’s National Parks of the American West by Don Laine, Arthur Frommer, Barbara Laine, and Geoffrey O’Gara

    Actually, pretty much everything I have read by Frommer is great.  Very accurate information, and easy to read.

    richard carter 07.10.08 | 9:36 AM ET

    The Ultimate Journey by Richard Bernstein reminded me of The Snow Leopard, Bernstein is a sensitive, thoughtful person and this deserves to be on the list.

    Jane 07.10.08 | 5:06 PM ET

    One of my favorites is One Dry Season, by Caroline Alexander - she follows in the footsteps of Mary Kingsley, another great woman traveler, whose Travels in West Africa, is a wonderful example of intrepid Victorian-era exploration. 

    I must echo some other comments - it is not at all difficult to find fabulous women travel writers.  Not at all.  How could you not include Dervla Murphy, one of the wildest and most interesting travelers ever?  Start with Full Tilt: Ireland to India on a Bicycle, and go from there.

    Ezine Article 07.15.08 | 6:44 AM ET

    I think it’s quaite enough for travel books…all of them is the great books that ever made.

    But truly I’m loved most this books Baghdad Without a Map” by Tony Horwitz and
    “Golden Earth” by Norman Lewis. That’s interesting books.


    Rene Beuchle 07.27.08 | 5:06 PM ET

    I didn’t read all the comments above and I hope I don’t tell something for the second time, but… you should really try out Robert Carvers ‘The Accursed Mountains’. For anyone interested in a quite wild European place: Albania. Enjoy!!

    Eddie Lewis 09.02.08 | 8:05 PM ET

    Agree totally with the poster who said Dark Star Safari is Theroux’s best travel book; though Railway Bazaar and Patagonian Express are usually cited as his “classics” and are certainly illuminating reads, Dark Star is a notch above for its combination of a trip so often seen as impossible in 21stC, reminiscences of his time there 40 years earlier and the way he blends the two to create a book you just can’t put down.

    Slow Boats to China and the sequel Slow Boats Home by Gavin Young would definitely make it onto my list, as would Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl (ignore the controversies about his migration theories, it’s a classic travel/adventure book as well).

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