My Favorite Travel Writers

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“Travel writers” are not limited to non-fiction.  I never had much interest in visiting Russia until I read Tolstoy’s War and Peace last year.  Now St. Petersburg and Moscow are way up there on my bucket list.  If you are going to Greece, read Zorba, the Greek.  No other book will do.  My list includes novelists who make me want to go to some particular location. 

 

Childhood memories include travelogues such as Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, and Shangri La

 

Adolescent reading included Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Jane Austin, Sherlock Holmes and Charles Dickens—Most of their books take place in England and are part of the reason I became a first-rate Anglophile. 

 

Barbara Kingsolver—I don’t want to go to what was known as the Belgian Congo because of The Poisonwood Bible, but no author gives a better sense of place than Kingsolver does in this novel.

 

Non-Fiction travel writers I enjoy include:

 

Bill Bryson

            A Walk in the Woods—about the Appalachian Trail

            In a Sunburned Country—about Australia

            I’m a Stranger Here Myself—about England

 

Charles Darwin—The Galapagos Islands would have interested no one if not for Darwin.  The Origin of the Species is not a travelogue, per se, but it will make you curious about a very remote part of our planet.

 

Elizabeth Gilbert—Eat, Love, Pray

 

Jim Corbett is another author I discovered as a teenager:

Man-eaters of Kumaon

The Man-eating Leopard of Rudraprayag

Jungle Lore

 

John Berendt—Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil almost singlehandedly revived the city of Savannah, Georgia, my birthplace.  He also wrote a book about Venice, Italy, but it is not worth reading.

 

Mark Twain

 Huckleberry Finn

Innocents Abroad

 

Pat Conroy—I finally made it to Dafauskie Island, South Carolina, this past year because thirty years ago, I read The Water is Wide.  Conroy has often told the story of South Carolina, not always flatteringly, in Lords of Discipline, The Great Santini and South of Broad.

 

Peter Mayle

            A Year in Provence

 

Tim Cahill

            Jaguars Ripped My Flesh

            Road Fever

 

Wendell Berry—Everything Wendell Berry writes about Kentucky is worth reading.  Mostly, he writes fiction, but no one gives a sense of place better than Berry.  Try Jayber Crow and Hannah Coulter.

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Categories: Book Review, Lists/Top Ten, Quotations, Travel, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “My Favorite Travel Writers

  1. Dorothy Sayers. One of my favourite mystery writers. Long live Peter Whimsy.
    Love many of the others you mention too — especially Twain and Berendt.
    Carl Hiaasen also gives a great sense of place to Florida.
    BTW, David Sedaris’s new book Let’s discuss Diabetes With Owls, has a howlimngly funny chapter on travel to Australia.
    Two of my favourite authors are Checkov and Dostoyevsky, although I must say they don’t make me visit Russia any more than Hardy has me packing my bags for bog country. 🙂

  2. Pat Anderson

    What about Paur Theroux? The Iron Rooster is a classic, but others are equally gripping.

    • I have not read the Iron Rooster, but will get it today. Theroux is widely acclaimed to be one of the great travel writers, but I wanted to include a legitimate list of my favorites and I haven’t read enough of Theroux (yet) to put him on my list.

  3. I like Hiassen (am reading Bad Monkey right now) and Sedaris, but haven’t gotten Diabetes with Owls yet. Thomas Hardy never made me want to go to England.

    Dozens of books are not on my list, and should be. John D. MacDonald writes of the Florida “cracker” culture as well as anyone. Tony Hillerman writes about Native Americans in the Four Corners region of New Mexico. I hope other people will chime in with their favorite “travel” authors.

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