Top 50 Travel Literature of All Time
Top 50 Travel Literature of All Time
The My Destination shortlist…
In our eyes these 50 travel books need to be consumed. Now!
1. Sun After Dark, Pico Iyer - Pico Iyer is an incisive observer, and Sun After Dark sees him dissect the changing world through stories as diverse as meditating with Leonard Cohen to geopolitical discussion with the Dalai Lama.
2. Living Dangerously, Sir Ranulph Fiennes - Hailed as the ‘the world’s greatest living explorer’, Sir Ranulph Fiennes CBE’s autobiography would inspire even the laziest of armchair travellers. His tales of parachuting onto Europe’s glaciers and incredible expeditions to both poles are not to be missed.
3. The Great Railway Bazaar, Paul Theroux - Paul Theroux’s first and best travel book, a book which redefined and rejuvenated a dying genre. In it, he travels by train from Europe all the way through to Asia, before looping back through Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway. A classic.
4. Red Dust, Ma Jian - After deciding to escape the bustle of Beijing and the surveillance of the police, Ma Jian embarked on a three year journey around China. From deserts to crowded cities, Red Dust gives an illuminating look at the complications of modern China.
5. Long Way Round, Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman - The two actors fulfill a lifelong dream, undertaking a motorbike trip around the world in aid of UNICEF. Passing through Russia, Europe, America to name a few, this diary details the ultimate highs and devastating lows of their challenging journey.
6. Walking the Amazon: 860 Days. The Impossible Task. The Incredible Journey, Ed Stafford- With the intentions to become the first men to walk from the source to the mouth of The Amazon River; Ed Stafford loses his companion after 68 days and continues alone fending off dangerous animals, and an encounter with native tribesmen.
7. Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence, Doris Pilkington Garimara - A personal and emotional account of Australia’s ‘Stolen Generation’, this book follows the quest of three young girls, Molly, Daisy and Gracie, on a quest of survival. On the run from police and hunted by a tracker, follow their 2,400 kilometer journey back to their home.
8. Go Your Own Way: Women Travel the World Solo , Faith Conlon - A popular concern for many, travelling alone as a woman is a hot topic. Go Your Own Way is a compilation of essays by solo female travellers documenting the trials, tribulations and thrills of travelling alone.
9. Life’s a Trip: The Transformative Magic of Travel, Judie Fein - An eye opening peek into the life of a traveller, Life’s a Trip is a collection of tales with silly situations, interesting encounters and a few life lessons thrown in. Prepare to be entertained and inspired.
10. The Rum Diary, Hunter S. Thompson - Venturing to Puerto Rico for a journalism job, Paul Kemp is hurled headfirst into a failing paper full of chaos and corruption. With forbidden fruit in the form of a colleague’s beautiful girlfriend, a run in with police and booze-filled, hazy Caribbean nights, you’ll need that rum almost as much as Kemp does.
11. Around the World in 80 Days, Michael Palin – A Palin classic – this book accompanies his 1989 television series of the same name, where he follows the route of Jules Verne, who wrote the original (in French)!
12. Cannery Row, John Steinbeck - Although not a book about the motion of travel, Cannery Row is a dazzling character portrait of community life in small-town California which is packed with the zest for making the most of things.
13. The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp, WH Davies - WH Davies reflects on his travelling years with concise honesty. From stories of riding the railroad without paying to using jailhouses as B&B’s, the book is as amusing as it is invigorating.
14. The Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac - The Dharma Bumssees a thoughtful Kerouac and his friends ponder spirituality by getting involved in the poetry scene of San Francisco, embarking on heavy drinking sessions and climbing mountains. It’s a book that will make you want to repeat their journey.
15. Down Under, Bill Bryson - One of the funniest, most down-to-earth writers around, Bryson strikes again with a fantastic account of his journey through Australia.
16. Arabia, Jonathan Raban - In Arabia, Jonathan Raban explores the Middle East in an attempt to better understand the region. It’s a compelling insight, and the stories of the land and the people he meets are amusing as they are intriguing.
17. Hokkaido Highway Blues, Will Ferguson - Will Ferguson decided to attempt to hitch-hike the length of Japan, the first recorded attempt in history. Culture-clash madness ensued.
18. In Xanadu, William Dalrymple - In Xanadu is the charmingly poetic account of William Dalrymple’s journey to Xanadu, retracing the steps of Marco Polo in a journey which is as much about the places he visits as it is about his relationships with those around him.
19. Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Deborah Moggach - A group of eccentric pensioner’s jet off to Jaipur to spend their golden year in ‘an Indian palace with the charm of an English Manor’. A new world awaits them, where some will flourish where others will fall.
20. Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K. Jerome - Originally intended as a travel guide, Three Men in a Boat is instead a witty account of a boating trip up the Thames in Victorian England, written with all the enthusiasm of someone involved in a boyish adventure.
21. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini - From the author of A Thousand Splendid Suns, this is a story of friendship and redemption, following one man’s journey back to where he spent his childhood: Afghanistan.
22. Twitchhiker, Paul Smith – One man attempts to get as far away from Newcastle as he can in 30 days, relying only on the kindness of twitter users. All in the name of charity. How far did he get? Read and find out...
23. On the Road, Jack Kerouac – An absolute classic, from the father of the Beat Generation. Kerouac explores the notion of personal freedom in this semi-autobiographical work that started a literary movement.
24. Once While Travelling: The Lonely Planet Story, Tony and Maureen Wheeler - If you’re a lover of the guidebooks, this autobiographical backstory should interest you. The Wheelers have certainly had some interesting experiences!
25. Are We Nearly There Yet?, Ben Hatch -The thought of travelling the length and breadth of the UK in a car with kids in tow may sound like a nightmare, but after reading this, the importance of family becomes increasingly clear.
26. Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson - Bill explores his adopted home nation in his inimitable style of hilarious observation, unfortunate pratfalls, and cutting social commentary.
27. A Writer’s World: Travels 1950-2000, Jan Morris- Spanning five decades, this isn’t just a superb collection of humorous and insightful travel writings, but also a portrait of the late 20th century.
28. The Snow Leopard, Peter Matthiessen - In detailing his attempt to spot a snow leopard in the Himalayas, Matthiessen deals with the sparseness of his surroundings and his attempts to reconcile himself with his own being in a moving and honest way.
29. Among the Believers: An Islamist Journey, V.S. Naipaul - This account of a journey through Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Indonesia explores not only these unique settings, but the faith and fanaticism of the native faith in taut and enlightening style.
30. Pictures from Italy, Charles Dickens - Old-fashioned perhaps, but there are few writers with a keener eye for the intricate details of exuberant 19th century Italy than Dickens.
31. The Island, Victoria Hislop - A heart wrenching tale of love and loss as the outbreak of leprosy sees those infected banished to the Greek island of Spinalonga.
32. Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road, Neal Peart - When Peart’s (drummer of prog-rock band Rush) wide and daughter both died within the space of a year, he took to his motorbike and travelled across North and Central America in order to come to terms with his grief.
33. Last Chance to See, Douglas Adams - A comic, thought-provoking, and sometimes haphazard journey to see species on the brink of extinction, including Komodo dragons in Indonesia and Mountain gorilla in Zaire.
34. Stalin’s Nose: Across the Face of Europe, Rory Maclean - A farcical tale of a trip across Eastern Europe after the Wall came down, with a pig and elderly relatives for company, unfolds with sardonic humour and moving encounters.
35. The Sex Lives of Cannibals, J.Maarten Troost – Troost spent 2 years living with his girlfriend on a remote island in the Pacific. It’s a bizarre story of naked locals, hapless visitors, and terrible beer shortages.
36. Essays (Penguin), George Orwell – Although not all travel writing, this collection is worth it for A Hanging and Shooting the Elephant alone, both harrowing and strangely beautiful accounts of Orwell’s experiences in imperial Burma.
37. Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathon Swift – Alright, so this one is all fiction. Even though it was written in the 18th century, there have been few books written since that so successfully parody the travel genre.
38. Moods of Future Joys: Around the World by Bike - Part 1, Alastair Humphreys - Leaving his friends, girlfriend, and family behind Alastair Humphreys begins a quest to cycle around the world, with the intentions to travel through every continent.
39. Thunder and Sunshine: Around the World by Bike - Part 2, Alastair Humphreys -The sequel to ‘Moods of Future Joys’ Alastair Humphreys continues his four year adventure, across treacherous terrain and 46,000 miles of solo riding.
40. One Man and his Bike, Mike Carter - A 5,000 mile journey following the entire coastline of Britain. Mike Carter is taken back by the generosity of British people, along with some very comical happenings.
41. Cold Beer and Crocodiles: A Bicycle Journey into Australia, Roff Smith - An exploration into the history of Australia. Peter Roff uses beer as a social tool to understand the people of Australia, across a 10,000 mile journey of the continent, absorbing the locals and landscapes.
42. An Embarrassment of Mangoes, Ann Vanderhoof: A Caribbean Interlude:The ultimate island adventure of 16 countries and 47 individual islands raided for their local ingredients and delicacies. Ann Vanderhoof and companions experience the transition from business to beach life in the Caribbean.
43. Several Ways to Die in Mexico City, Kurt Hollander - An urban insight into the harmful realities of living in one of the most densely populated cities in the world. A dark yet amusing story of one man’s struggle to survive in Mexico City. Parasites, black magic, and cannibalism are some obstacles that confront Kurt Hollander
44. Against the Flow, Ian Walker: Culinary Adventures up the Mekong River: From the basin of the Mekong River in Vietnam up to the source in the Tibetan Mountains, Ian Walker experiments with local Asian cuisine including mice, duck embryos and the still beating heart of a cobra.
45. Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer - A young university graduate, tired of a capitalist environment where money and possessions determine success, decides to abandon his life and embark on a journey into the wilderness of Alaska. Surviving on a self-sustainable mentality determines Christopher McCandless’s eventual fate.
46. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, Christopher McDougall - The Tarahumara tribe that defies modern science by their ability to run for hundreds of miles at a time, to catch anything from a dear to an Olympic runner. Christoper McDougall attempts to learn these skills to compete in a 50mile race through Mexico’s deadly copper canyons.
47. Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert – Forget the film, read the novel. An honest account of upping sticks and letting travel change your life for the better as Italy, India and Bali take center stage.
48. Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Paul Theroux - More than thirty years after the journey that resulted in the Great Railway Bazaar, Theroux retraces his tracks to see what’s changed. Particularly poignant is an encounter with a lady in Vietnam who lived through her country’s war with Theroux’s native United States.
49. A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson - Hilarious. Bryson is the master of comedic travel writing and this is arguably his funniest book. He decides to walk the Appalachian Trail, which stretches from one end of the United States to the other, with old school friend Stephen Katz.
50. Blood River, Tim Butcher -Tim Butcher embarks on a journey through the Congo, one of the most dangerous places in the world, and comes out smiling. Sort of.
...there have been few books written since that so successfully parody the travel genre.
By Themes (All Destinations)
- Central America
- Middle East
- North America
- South America
"I haven't been everywhere, but it’s on my list" - Susan Sontag