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: Greater Nowheres

February 22, 2016

Tags: Travel, Australia, Outback

Greater Nowheres: A Journey Through the Australian Bush
By Dave Finkelstein and Jack London. Foreword by Philip Caputo. Harper & Row, 1988, 313 pp.

The challenge of traveling in the Australian bush is written in the names of its locations: “Skeleton Point,” “Disaster Bay,” “Foul Point,” “Disappointment Bight,” “Useless Loop,” “Point Torment.” Inhabited by lethal snakes and insects, afflicted by weatherly extremes, endowed with a landscape typically described as desolate, bleak, and stark, and so underpopulated that the unprepared traveler risks dying unaided, Australia’s vast Outback is not a destination for the frivolous tourist.

Undaunted by the challenge, Dave Finkelstein and Jack London, two “middle-aged dropouts”—the first a former lawyer and China specialist turned sometime journalist, the second a former college instructor turned fisherman—set out to tour the bush. (more…)

Antiquarian Maps

February 11, 2016

Tags: Maps, Antiquarian Maps, Travel, Travel stories

Barentsz map
I've just returned from the Miami Map Fair, and I've been thinking about how antiquarian maps, which are based on journeys, represent a pictorial kind of travel writing.

This is the so-called "Barentsz map" of the arctic. It's a beautiful map--my favorite in my husband's extensive arctic collection. (I especially love the sea monsters.)

This map is claimed to be based on charts drawn by the Dutch explorer Willem Barentsz, containing information gained from his three voyages to the north in 1594, 1595, and 1596-7 in search of the Northeast Passage. In the last of these voyages, Barentsz and his crew were trapped in the ice and forced to overwinter in Novaya Zemlya, where they fought off polar bears and struggled to survive. In the long retreat south in the spring, Barentsz died.

There are powerful stories in these old maps.

Travel Quotation

February 10, 2016

"The wise traveller travels only in imagination...Those are the best journeys, the journeys that you take at your own fireside, for then you lose none of your illusions."
―W. Somerset Maugham

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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