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: Biking Ireland in Rain, Sleet, Snow, and Gale Winds

June 22, 2016

Round Ireland in Low Gear
By Eric Newby. Viking, 1987, 308 pp.

It’s doubtful that you’re planning to bicycle through Ireland in the winter. But if you want proof that it’s not a good idea, you’ll certainly find it in Eric Newby’s Round Ireland in Low Gear.

In 1985, Newby and his wife, Wanda, remembering Ireland in the 1960s as “idiosyncratic and fun,” decide to return. Their aim is mainly to enjoy themselves. But this is Eric Newby, former Travel Editor of the Observer and travel writer par excellence, so of course there will be a book.

The trip shapes up with a logic of its own, as trips tend to do. Since the requirements of their extensive gardens prevent them from leaving their Dorset home in summer—the obvious time to go—they decide they will set out in winter. Most modes of transportation don’t suit, for a variety of reasons, including Ireland’s poor bus and train service in winter, Wanda’s rejection of walking, and their agreement that in a car, as one drives and one reads maps and guides, no one sees anything. So they settle on mountain bikes, though neither is an expert rider. (more…)

Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia

June 20, 2016

Australian Aboriginal art is so often about place that, like maps, it seems to me a kind of travel writing.

This work is from "Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia," a terrific exhibition at the Harvard Art Museums.

Book Recommendation: Who Said What, About Where?

June 10, 2016

Tags: Travel quotations

The Travellers' Dictionary of Quotation: Who Said What, About Where?, by Peter Yapp, is a great resource for travel writers and researchers--and it's also great fun to read. If you can get hold of a copy! Published in 1983, the book now seems to be out of print--I hope some publisher will bring out a new, updated edition.

Book Review: Travels with Charley:Dog On Board!

June 6, 2016

Travels with Charley: In Search of America
By John Steinbeck. First published 1961. Penguin Edition, 1986, 277 pp.

John Steinbeck’s account of the American road trip he took in 1960 with his French poodle Charley is surely a classic that all travel book reviewers should have read. So it’s with some embarrassment that I confess I’ve only gotten around to it now. Why had I never read it? After all, you don’t simply miss such an acclaimed and popular work in your field. Clearly, I had avoided it.

In retrospect—and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this as well—I think my problem was the dog. When I was younger, I wasn’t overly fond of dogs. The only dog I’d had anything to do with was the one my parents got after I’d left home, a neurotic Scottie who growled at me on visits, and bared his teeth. I sympathized with the neurosis—a family trait!—but kept my distance all the same. He was not a friendly soul.

I also think I felt—without having read the book—that Steinbeck might have used the dog as a gimmick. And I find that travel book gimmicks—designed, I always feel, to sell books—can be annoying.

In any case, before I turn off all dog lovers—which seems to be most Americans—let me say that having lived with and loved a dog in recent years, my attitude has entirely changed. (more…)

Book Recommendation

June 2, 2016

The Innocent Anthropologist, by Nigel Barley, is a terrific book about the reality of doing fieldwork: intelligent, funny, and very honest. Highly, highly recommended for all readers, not just anthropologists.

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.”

Quick Links

Find Authors