First Class Travel Books

Travel literature has found a new popularity in the '90s; essays and experiential reportage have joined guide books on the shelves of even the giant chain bookstores. Travel literature, however, has been around for hundreds of years -- thousands if you go back to what many consider the first travel story, the Epic of Gilgamesh. Here are some of our favorite volumes. Which are yours? Let us know. We'll be posting more from the archives, and reviewing new entries. When we're not busy reading, that is.

Durrell, Gerald. My Family and Other Animals
Arguably the world's funniest and most literate zookeeper, he's 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. Monsoon 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
Time Magazine's art critic takes on this most artful city.

McCarthy, Mary. The Stones of Florence
All Vassar women seem to have this "thing" for Italy. This is one of the best products of that gentle obsession.

Morris, Jan. Hong Kong
Or anything else she has written, ever. Well, except maybe for that novel about the fake country. Letter From Hav is mistaken for a travel book by many booksellers and Jan is still asked for hotel recommendations.

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

O'Hanlon, Redmond. Into the Heart of Borneo
One of the funniest travel books, ever. A tribute to the fact that that huge island in Southeast Asia has more than 250 breeds of ants.

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. Medieval In LA, his latest, offers similar chants about La La Land.

Perelman, S.J. Westward Ha!

Raban, Jonathan. Badland
Russ' choice of best travel tome of 1996. The man who edited the "Norton Anthology of the Sea" extends some salty metaphor to the American Great Plains while reconstructing the story of some of the families who settled there. Old Glory: An American Voyage a clever and loving tale of Raban's solo voyage down the Mississippi and encountering characters such as Rush Limbaugh's father.

Sokolov, Raymond. Native Intelligence
An out of print novel by the current 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 and biographer of A.J. Liebling...anything he writes is sure to be painstakingly researched 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 founding editor of Travel and Leisure. Any of his books and articles glow with knowledge, wit and class.

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

Twain, Mark. Following the Equator. Innocents Abroad
American classics.

Winchester, Simon. Outposts
A Brit tours the often obscure vestiges of his country's empire.

Travel Publications

Well, of course, we read *all* the travel publications, every page, every issue...almost. We especially like:


Editor Joan Tapper also was the launch editor of National Geographic Traveler and her fine hand and sensibility are evident in this gorgeous paean to islands everywhere.


We like this edgy travel journal mag that aims at the real experience of the locals. No fuss over stars and class, just taste the life of the place.  


The Thoughtful Traveler






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