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.
April 29, 2016
"There you are!" cried the Toad, straddling and expanding himself. "There's real life for you, embodied in that little cart. The open road, the dusty highway, the heath, the common, the hedgerows, the rolling downs! Camps, villages, towns, cities! Here today, up and off to somewhere else tomorrow! Travel, change, interest, excitement! The whole world before you, and a horizon that's always changing!"
―The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
April 20, 2016
Where the Pavement Ends: One Woman’s Bicycle Trip Through Mongolia, China & Vietnam
By Erika Warmbrunn, The Mountaineers Books, 2001, 249 pp.
Why travel by bicycle? “Because a bicycle is freedom; a bicycle is independence; a bicycle is self-sufficiency,” writes Erika Warmbrunn. “Because a bicycle lands you in places you didn’t know you wanted to go, and shows you things you didn’t know you wanted to see…”
And there is also the sheer exhilaration: “The flying abandon of a bicycle, legs pumping, body and wheels skimming above the land, cycling for the sake of cycling”—at least when the roads are good. Often, of course, they aren’t good: as Warmbrunn travels from Irkutsk to Saigon, she has to cope with roads that are torn up, or icy, or muddy. In one coal-mining village, she bicycles through such ash-laden air that she can hardly breathe. But she copes extraordinarily well.
Where the Pavement Ends describes an impressive journey. Traveling alone, with her bike—which she calls Greene—Warmbrunn covers 8000 kilometers in 8 months. (more…)
April 13, 2016
The Essential Lewis and Clark
Landon Y. Jones, Editor. Ecco Press, 2000, 203 pp.
“Long before Huck lit out for the territory, Lewis and Clark…defined
the territory,” writes Landon Y. Jones in the introduction to his selection from the explorers’ journals. “During their journey, and in their journals, Lewis and Clark created an epic,” he observes, “one whose effect on our collective imagination has made it, over time, the unofficial Odyssey of American history.”
The two Captains and their band, the Corps of Discovery, set out in 1804 with instructions from President Jefferson to find “the direct water communication from sea to sea formed by the bed of the Missouri and perhaps the Oregon.” Fortunately, Jefferson also instructed them to keep journals en route, which both men scrupulously did. Indeed, they wrote nearly a million words in these journals, which have been published in a 12-volume set. For those unwilling to tackle the whole of their account—or who would like to try a sample first—Landon has edited this abridged edition, aiming to capture the essence of their experience and their prose.
These journals bring to life this extraordinary journey, which covered 8000 miles, much of it through territory unknown to white Americans, and took 28 months—so much longer than they expected that many people had given them up for dead before they returned. (more…)
"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.
“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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