My aim on TraveLit is to introduce readers who share my love of travel literature to good books they may not know about. Mostly classics, some new, the books cover travel in its many forms, from exploration to tourism. Along with reviews, TraveLit also brings together provocative, entertaining travel quotations and reader recommendations. I welcome comments on the readings, the reviews, the quotations, or the fascinating enterprise of travel itself.

TraveLit--A blog about travel literature

Even with the best of maps and instruments, we can never fully chart our journeys.

Book Review

October 22, 2013

“People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.”
―Saint Augustine, Confessions

A Journey Around My Room and A Nocturnal Expedition Around My Room.
By Xavier de Maistre. Translated and with an introduction by Andrew Brown. Foreword by Alain de Botton. First published in 1795. Hesperus Classics, 2004, 138 pp.

The 18th-century French writer Xavier de Maistre, under house arrest for 42 days, with only a servant and his beloved dog for companions, cleverly transformed the experience into a kind of travelogue: the destination, his bedroom; the sights, everything within it; the commentary, his observations and philosophical musings.

Partly a satire on travel writing, partly an essay on life, A Journey Around My Room was extremely popular in France when it appeared in 1795. Indeed, it inspired a sequel, A Nocturnal Expedition Around My Room, which has the author hanging out his window, contemplating the stars as well as an enticing woman on a neighboring balcony. (more…)

Book Review

October 13, 2013

Barbarian in the Garden
By Zbigniew Herbert. First published in Polish, 1962. English translation by Michael March and Jaroslaw Anders, Carcanet, 1985; Harvest/HBJ, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986, 180 pp.

In Barbarian in the Garden, Zbigniew Herbert creates his own idiosyncratic Grand Tour. In Lascaux, Arles, and Albi, in Siena, Orvieto, Arezzo and San Sepolcro, the Polish poet, an Eastern European, seeks to apprehend the origins of Western culture. (more…)

Book Review

October 2, 2013

Cooper’s Creek: The Opening of Australia.
By Alan Moorehead. Atlantic Monthly Press, 1987, 223 pp.

Reading accounts of disastrous journeys—so abundant in tales of early exploration—I find it hard to decide which disasters seem the most poignant: the ones caused by human failings or those determined by chance. Both types play a role in Cooper’s Creek, Alan Moorehead’s gripping story of the Burke and Wills expedition into the center of Australia, a vast region of rugged climate and terrain, where summer temperatures can reach 150 degrees, so hot that a match dropped on the ground can ignite. (more…)

Selected Works

Travel Memoir
"Loved this book, which appears to be but is more than an account of an anthropological expedition, more than a travel book, more than a memoir."--Barbara Beckwith, author of What Was I Thinking?: Digging Deeper into Everyday Racism,
"It is undoubtedly the best written account of, and reflection on, fieldwork I have read, and --perhaps -- the best book on fieldwork (period) I have come across. --Joel Savishinsky, Professor of Anthropology (Emeritus), Ithaca College, author of Trail of the Hare.
“An impressively insightful, deftly written, accessibly articulate, expertly knowledgeable, and decidedly analytical survey of…book reviewing today.”
Midwest Book Review
“Captivating stories in an anthology of epistolary fiction from the last 50 years.”

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