Right now, I think all that people can think about is Covid. If you have a bit of the travel bug like me, you are just itching to travel again to somewhere other than your local target. To make having my wings clipped easier, I have been traveling vicariously using books, songs and movies to complement my addiction to travel sites and travel trivia.
Here are some of my all-time favorite books! I had to cull my list significantly since it was running to two pages. I have chosen my top 7, plus a couple of bonus books that I just couldn’t leave off.
Motorcycle Diaries, by Ernesto ”Che” Guevara: More a coming of age memoir than political polemic, it follows the journey of Guevara, as a 23 year old med student, and his friend, Alberto Granado, from Buenos Aires across South America on boat, motorcycle, horse and bus. A different perspective on the countries and peoples of South America, a place that is always fascinating.
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert: The subtitle says it all – One Woman’s Search for Everything across Italy, India and Indonesia. One part memoir, multipart travelogue around the world with a focus on three of my favorite countries.
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks: A book of epic proportions traces the 500-year history of the Sarajevo Haggadah, a Jewish text that lays out the Passover Seder, as it moves around the world. A history lesson as much as a travel journal.
Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell: One of my favorite set of books, especially after seeing the series, The Durrells in Corfu. The books chronicle events in Alexandria before, during and after the Second World War, but in such an intimate way that you could feel your way around the city with your eyes closed.
A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle: Part of travel is understanding your environment and the people that create the human dynamic there. That is the beauty of Mayle’s book. Not so much the what of Provence, but the who.
Under the Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles: Not the most appealing of travel books, it is, nonetheless, one that drew me in and held me captive until I finished it. A damning indictment of both tourists and travelers, it was what I read during a month-long trek through Morocco a few years back. It smells of Morocco, and that’s hard to do with just words.
On the Trail of Genghis Khan by Tim Cope: I don’t know why I have a fascination with Genghis Khan, but I do. Maybe it was the magnitude of his legacy or the brilliance of his strategy. In any event, I was taken in by this man’s journey across the steppes, and into the land of nomadic peoples and the perils they face on a daily basis. A transcendent read.
And anything by William Dalrymple or Bill Bryson.
Dalrymple makes history easy with his travel books on India, Central Asia and the Middle East. He drops historical tidbits like breadcrumbs so that you can find your way back through the complexities that have confounded the histories of these regions for centuries. Bryson, on the other hand, is one of the funniest, most human writers on the planet. He offers some of the best insights ever on the human experience of travel. And isn’t that the purpose of travel—to learn as much about yourself as you do about the places and people of your destination?