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The Rings of Saturn. The young would-be prime minister's work is a travel book masquerading as triumphalist military history. The Road to Oxiana.

Byron's eclectic, architecture-obsessed quest to find this ancient land in Afghanistan is credited with perfecting what would become the faux-casual tone of modern travel writing. Jonathan Raban calls it "a work of fantastic craft and artifice and calculation, though it pretends to be just scribbled off on the spur of the moment. Some of these buildings are gone and just live through Byron's descriptions. Rome and a Villa. Clark came to Rome on a Guggenheim fellowship to write a novel. Instead, says Anthony Doerr, "she walked, she looked, and she unleashed her tremendous intelligence.

The result is…intimate, explosive, swimming with memory. The ironist made this journey west between and along with his brother, the secretary of the Nevada Territory. Twain had enlisted on the Confederate side in the Civil War but quickly defected. Sandstorms: Days and Nights in Arabia. Paul Theroux's brother also wrote a great travel book, but his is a slow burner, not a whirlwind tour. It begins as a search for a vanished Lebanese imam but focuses more on understanding Saudi culture from within.

Sea and Sardinia. A nine-day visit to the island spawned the author's most memorable nonfiction work.

What always separated the journalist from other foreign correspondents aside from his eloquence and his liberties with the facts was his deep engagement with history. In Iran around the time of the shah's overthrow, he does the job of documenting the revolution's chaos and its many ironies e. A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush.

Actually, a very long one.


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The self-effacing adventurer's first book describes his unsuccessful attempt to climb a remote 19,foot peak in northeastern Afghanistan. At the time, he was a fashion buyer with no mountaineering experience—apart from a trip to some rocky Welsh countryside. Long before escaping to Italy became the thing everyone did, wrote about, and parodied, Austrian-born Englishman Douglas documented the experience beautifully—particularly in this survey of the Naples region. If you really want to see how these things should be written, read this" out-of-print. Skating to Antarctica. Perhaps echoing Moby-Dick, Diski begins with a lyrical description of whiteness, which summons her time in a mental hospital and fuels her odd passion for the icy continent.

Of course she decides to go there. Slowly Down the Ganges. Newby, whose understatement extended to his book titles, had to travel a good distance overland along the river when his rowboat ran aground yards from the starting point. Rosemary Mahoney calls it a "very funny story with just the right mix of history and personal interactions with the locals. His portrait of his sometimes skeptical and often deadpan wife is superb.

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The narrative, which begins with a trip to the Outback, soon breaks for new territory, using Aboriginal song as a metaphor for the evolution of human culture—about which Chatwin has strange, beautiful theories. Southern Baroque Art. The art critic, baron, and literary scion wrote this survey of the art that arose in the seventeenth century in such creative cauldrons as Lecce, Italy—criticism as imaginative travel.

Not long after settling in Tangier, the visionary novelist was charged with recording obscure Moroccan music for the Library of Congress and came away with a series of essays that Francine Prose considers "as dispassionate and odd and beautifully written as his fiction.

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A Time of Gifts. This is book one of a planned trilogy about the writer's journey on foot from Holland to Istanbul in —the concluding part has not yet been published and Fermor is over No matter, says Colin Thubron: This volume is perfect. That makes it "more natural, looser in a way" than the second volume, but never careless. To a Distant Island.

One of Stewart O'Nan's favorites is a very unusual kind of travel book. Travels in Arabia Deserta. Readers might be better served by a modern distillation of this nearly 1,page study of life with the desert nomads in the s—put to paper decades later. The ornate style makes Doughty a must-read despite his Victorian attitude toward non-Christians. He was beloved in his day, too. Travels in the Interior of Africa. The Scottish explorer who "discovered" the Niger River and drowned in it a decade later wrote this perennially popular log of his journey.

It has inspired a host of writers from Hemingway to T. The Travels of Sir John Mandeville circa There's a good chance this medieval Englishman's journey to Egypt and the Holy Land was entirely fabricated, but it was widely influential in its day and remains, according to Uzodinma Iweala, a "great point of departure for anybody interested in the history of travel writing.

Travels Through France and Italy. The Scottish author left for southern climes in his middle age and, as Peter Mayle says, "found so much to offend him that he wrote a wonderfully pithy and cantankerous book. He epitomizes a particular kind of English traveler—critical, superior, and deeply suspicious of foreign food and foreign ways.

Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes. The author of classic swashbucklers was also a crack travel writer, as in this ass-assisted journey—which, according to Graham Robb, "gives one of the very few accurate views of remote France, not seen through a coach or a train window. Travels with Myself and Another. Gellhorn's husband Ernest Hemingway is the unnamed "another" in this collection of essays from the intrepid and savvy traveler, but Rosemary Mahoney recommends it for a section in which she treks alone through Africa.

This collection of two separate pieces—a sixties portrait of Aix-en-Province and a late-seventies look at Marseille—works for the contrasts they evoke. A View of the World. Peter Godwin recommends "anything" by this midcentury traveler—"deservedly recognized by Graham Greene as one of the best writers of the twentieth century"—but says this compilation of 20 pieces spanning 30 years is an excellent place to start.

As great a journalist as he was a writer, Lewis manages an interview with an executioner for Castro and a report on the genocide of Brazilian Indians out-of-print. West with the Night.

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A bush pilot and the first person to fly solo, east to west, across the Atlantic, Markham writes vividly about her discoveries, explorations, and narrow escapes. The Worst Journey in the World. The adventurer's retelling, from inside the expedition, of Captain Scott's disastrous last attempt to reach the South Pole made more so by Roald Amundsen's arrival there a month earlier is "justifiably famous—and well named," says Jim Shepard. Paul Theroux considers it a classic because he is "partial to travel books where a certain amount of difficulty is involved.

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Wrong About Japan. The novelist's account is as much about the generation gap as it is about the disorientation of travel. Carey's inability to grasp Japanese pop culture is magnified by his year-old son's easy embrace of it. So many great travel books. How to choose? We asked 45 of our favorite writers for their favorite nonfiction travel titles—the ones that changed the way they considered a certain culture or place or people, that inspired them both to write and to get out into the world themselves.

Their nominations—everything from Hunter S. Histories—follow, all of them passionately endorsed and beloved. The original date of publication follows the title; the current publisher and the price follow each entry. Will be used in accordance with our User Agreement and Privacy Policy. Share via Twitter. Share via facebook dialog. Share via Pinterest. Share via Email. Arabian Sands Wilfred Thesiger Born in Ethiopia to a British diplomat, the writer-explorer was disenchanted with the West and spent five years traveling among the bedouins of southern Arabia, detailing their disappearing way of life.

Fisher Peter Mayle, who has credited the brilliant food writer's Provence books with inspiring him to first visit the region, nonetheless recommends the book that comes closest to being Fisher's complete memoir. A Barbarian in Asia Henri Michaux For those who would have liked to imagine Rimbaud as a reporter, the louche French poet Michaux might make the perfect guide to the East in the thirties. Captain John Smith: Writings The Jamestown founder's journals and other primary accounts of the colony were collected on the four hundredth anniversary of its creation.

Chasing the Monsoon Alexander Frater The ultimate foul-weather traveler, Frater crosses India during its summer monsoon. Chasing the Sea Tom Bissell Memoir, travelogue, and cultural history mix in the young writer's tale of his journey to post-Soviet central Asia's rapidly disappearing Aral Sea.

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Cross Country Robert Sullivan Claiming to have traveled cross-country 27 times, Sullivan finds a fresh approach to a travel-writing staple by making part of his subject the history of the road-trip genre itself. Dark Star Safari Paul Theroux Stephen Elliott prefers this cantankerous account of an overland journey—from Cairo to Capetown via canoe, cattle truck, armed convoy, and more—to other Theroux books that tread more familiar ground.

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Democracy in America Alexis de Tocqueville What Tom McCarthy treasures most about this landmark outsider document of American mores, and what makes it a travel book, are "his impressions of the land itself as something dark, brooding, and inscrutable. Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff Rosemary Mahoney The novelist's allusive account—contrasting her lonely rowboat ride with the sumptuous Nile journeys made by Flaubert and Florence Nightingale—just came out in July. Brand and Katarzyna Mroczkowska-Brand As Haile Selassie's regime in Ethiopia collapsed in , the intrepid Polish journalist interviewed various functionaries and compiled a complete if composite picture of that mysterious kingdom, right down to the emperor's dog, which had a habit of peeing on the shoes of dignitaries.

Endurance Alfred Lansing The Jon Krakauer of his day, Lansing gave shape and understated precision to the story of Ernest Shackleton's white-knuckle escape from Antarctica in after his boat had become locked in ice. Eothen Alexander William Kinglake The writer whom Winston Churchill recommended for lessons in prose style gives a subtly self-mocking account of his travels in the Middle East. Farthest North: The Voyage and Exploration of the Fram, — Fridtjof Nansen The author, a scientist who went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize, was also bold or crazy enough to try to reach the North Pole by getting his boat stuck in ice and drifting north.

Thompson Thompson's exuberant, drug-fueled twist on New Journalism reaches its apotheosis in an account aptly subtitled "A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream. The Fearful Void Geoffrey Moorhouse Hoping to recover from a failing marriage, Moorhouse sets out to cross the Sahara on foot and by camel, from west to east. Great Plains Ian Frazier The deadpan novelist's circuitous 25,mile drive through the heartland—with stops at the site of the Clutter mass murder and Sitting Bull's cabin—is a popular favorite.