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.

Recommendation: Wonderful Book!

August 31, 2016

Many people reading this will no doubt already have read Eric Newby's A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush. But if you haven't, I really recommend it--and if you have, perhaps this will make you think about reading it again.

An American Road Trip

August 22, 2016

Roads: Driving America’s Great Highways
By Larry McMurtry. Touchstone, 2000, 206 pp.

Combining two passions—for roads and for travel books—Larry McMurtry has created a road narrative that takes him through America, in spurts. The roads in this book are the interstates, “the great roads, the major migration routes that carry Americans long distances quickly,” whose precursors he believes were the great roads of the nineteenth century: the rivers of the Americas.

Beginning in January, Roads takes us on a series of trips, each pegged to a month and to specific highways. “Being alone in a car is to be protected for a time from the pressures of day-to-day life,” he says “It’s like being in one’s own time machine, in which the mind can rove ahead to the future or scan the past.”

As he drives—from Duluth to Oklahoma City (on the 35), or from Baltimore to Burlington, Colorado (the 70, South on Highway 287)—McMurtry’s thoughts rove in many directions. He may reflect on historical events that took place in the area he is driving through, on writers who lived there or wrote about the region, on landscape or the number of quirky museums he passes, on his own life and work, and always on the road itself, with its particular character. These observations flow conversationally and some seem a bit this and that, but many are striking, especially his comments on travel.

McMurtry is not just a traveler: he has an intense interest in the subject of travel. He owns 3000 travel books, (more…)

An Appetite for Paris

August 13, 2016

Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris
By A. J. Liebling. With an introduction by James Salter. North Point Press, 1986. (Parts originally published earlier in New Yorker.) 167 pp.

“The eater’s apprenticeship, though less arduous, must be as earnest as the cook’s,” writes A. J. Liebling in Between Meals, eight essays that explore his education in the art of eating. This course of study took place of course in France (“It goes without saying that it is essential to be in France.”) beginning in 1926, when, at the age of 22, he spent a year in Paris, technically registered at the Sorbonne but in fact haunting the city’s restaurants, cafes, and bars, acquiring expertise in the subject that would engross him for the rest of his life.

That year, so central to Liebling’s life, is at the heart of these essays, many previously published in the New Yorker, where he was a staff writer. (more…)

Westward Ha! or Around the World in Eighty Cliches

August 6, 2016

Westward Ha! or Around the World in Eighty Clichés
By S. J. Perelman. Drawings by Hirschfeld. Simon and Schuster, 1947, 1948, 159 pp.

Travel provides rich material for satire. From the misinformed plans, to the mishaps en route, to the boring photographic record foisted on friends, journeys offer boundless scope for mockery—of oneself (the traveler), of others, of the ways of the world, and of travel itself.

S. J. Perelman takes all of these on in his wild romp Westward Ha!, the story of the world tour he and his friend Hirschfeld— theatrical caricaturist for the New York Times—undertook for Holiday magazine in the 40s. In 9 months, they visited 27 countries, “all the areas celebrated by Kipling, Conrad, and Maugham,” including Shanghai, Hongkong, Thailand—Siam at the time—Malaya, India, Egpyt, Italy, France, and England.

Everywhere, they suffer, and always extremely: (more…)

15 Funniest Travel Books Ever Written (in English)

August 4, 2016

If you love humor in travel books, you might want to have a look at CNN's list of "The 15 Funniest Travel Books Ever Written (in English)." (Just click on the photo for the link.) There are some excellent titles here, perhaps including some that you haven't read.

Of course, I don't entirely agree with their selection--wasn't Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country funnier than his Walk in the Woods? And how could a list like this omit Eric Newby? But as Barnaby Rogerson, chair of the Donlan Travel Book Prize and publisher at Eland, says, "each and every passionate reader will have their own list."

I'd love to hear your own choices.

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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