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.

Travel Quotation

January 25, 2015

"Improvement makes straight roads; but the crooked roads without improvement are the roads of genius."
―William Blake

Book Review

January 10, 2015

Two Against the Ice: A Classic Arctic Survival Story and a Remarkable Account of Companionship in the Face of Adversity
By Ejnar Mikkelsen. Translated from the Danish by Maurice Michael. Foreword by Lawrence Millman. First published in 1955. Steerforth Press, 2003, 206 pp.

“Terrible trips make for excellent reading,” says Lawrence Millman in his foreword to Two Against the Ice by the great Danish Arctic explorer Ejnar Mikkelsen. As a longtime reader of disaster journeys, I can only agree. These trips don’t have to take place in icy lands. I was certainly gripped by Cooper’s Creek, Alan Moorehead’s account of the Burk and Wills expedition into the center of Australia. But there’s no question that many of the greatest terrible trips have been set in Arctic or Antarctic regions. Think of the journeys of Shackleton, Scott, Mawson—and add Mikkelsen to the list.

Mikkelsen seems to have been destined for the north. When he was a youth, already an adventurer working on ships in the Far East, an Indian in Calcutta, he says, “foretold me a future in a land so white and desolate that he had never imagined anything like it.” This proved to be true. In the north, he found his calling: he went on to explore Greenland, Siberia, Alaska. “What are you to do,” he asks, “when you have been born with eternal unrest in your body and are drawn to none but those parts of the world that sensible people regard as fit only for fools?” (more…)

Book Review

January 5, 2015

The Appian Way: Ghost Road, Queen of Roads
By Robert A. Kaster. University of Chicago Press, 2012, 124 pp.

Like many travel books, The Appian Way, by Robert A. Kaster is cast as a road trip—and what an extraordinary road it travels. The longest road in Italy, extending from Rome to Brindisi in the south, the Appian Way was conceived by Appius Claudius Caecus near the end of the 4th century bc. The first great road of Europe, it bears the ghostly imprint of the countless soldiers, tradesmen, farmers, and pilgrims who have traversed it. It is a road saturated with history. (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, barbarabeckwith.net.
***
"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.
Nonfiction
“An impressively insightful, deftly written, accessibly articulate, expertly knowledgeable, and decidedly analytical survey of…book reviewing today.”
Midwest Book Review
Anthology
“Captivating stories in an anthology of epistolary fiction from the last 50 years.”
Kirkus

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