What are Paul Theroux’s Favorite Travel Books?

Travel Blog  •  Eva Holland  •  06.19.12 | 10:28 AM ET

The author—whose latest novel we recently excerpted—gave his top picks, plus explanations, to The Browser’s Alec Ash. And they are? Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s Antarctic memoir, “The Worst Journey in the World”; “Following the Equator” by Mark Twain; Anthony Trollope’s “The West Indies and the Spanish Main”; Carlo Levi’s “Christ Stopped at Eboli”; and “An Area of Darkness” by V.S. Naipaul.

The Cherry-Garrard and Naipaul titles are both on our list of the 100 Most Celebrated Travel Books of All Time (along with four of Theroux’s own books)—I’ll confess I’d never heard of the other three.

Before getting into his book picks, Theroux also shared his thoughts on what drives people to read about travel:

I think people read travel books either because they intend to take that trip, or because they would never take that trip. In a sense, as a writer you are doing the travel for the reader. I get emails from people saying: I loved your book about Africa, but we went to Venice instead. So I get the impression that people who read my books don’t intend to take that trip themselves. In an ideal world they would like to travel alone and go to malarial swamps, but they haven’t got the time. They only have a couple of weeks vacation. So the idea that I’m in New Guinea, facing down boys with spears saying they are going to kill me, is a thrill for them. People read travel books for the same reason that they read novels. To transport them.

Now all we need is for Paul Theroux to make a music video extolling the virtues of Trollope and Twain, and we’ll have come full circle. (Via @iainmanley)


Eva Holland is co-editor of World Hum. She is a former associate editor at Up Here and Up Here Business magazines, and a contributor to Vela. She's based in Canada's Yukon territory.


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