“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.”
There’s no other place to start this travel book list than with this modern epic by Jack Kerouac – an autobiographical novel and work of the post WWII Beat Generation. Follow Kerouac’s road trips through the USA from New York, Denver, San Francisco and LA and everything that goes along with, as his characters live life against a backdrop of jazz, poetry and drugs.
The Sun Also Rises | Ernest Hemingway
“Going to another country doesn’t make any difference. I’ve tried all that. You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another. There’s nothing to that.”
Hemingway is revered as one of the iconic writers of American fiction. An exhaustive traveller himself, his trail leads from his birth place in Illinois, USA through Northern Italy, Toronto, Paris, to Smyrna in Turkey and Pamplona in Spain, back to Paris then Key West and Wyoming, before journeying to East Africa, the Bahamas, Barcelona, Havana, London, Normandy, Luxembourg, Venica and Idaho, where he ended his life. Along his exhaustive travels he wrote, and is considered (at least to me) one of the best travel writers of time. Take any one of his books for moving and beautiful accounts of experiences around the globe. One of Hemingway’s most famous works, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), was inspired by his time as a journalist covering the tumultuous Spanish Civil War for the North America Newspaper Alliance. But here listed is a novel of the Lost Generation, based on Hemingway’s 1925 trip to Spain from Paris, portraying American and British expatriates heading for the Festival of San Fermín in Pamplona to watch the running of the bulls and the bullfights.
Barbarian Days | William Finnegan
“The particulars of new places grabbed me and held me, the sweep of new coasts, cold, lovely, dawns. The world was incomprehensibly large, and there was still so much to see. Yes, I got sick sometimes of being an expatriate, always ignorant, on the outside of things, but I didn’t feel ready for domestic life, for seeing the same people, the same places, thinking more or less the same thoughts, each day. I liked surrendering to the onrush, the uncertainty, the serendipity of the road.”
Simply a masterpiece: A travel and surfing memoir, and an essential read for both surfers and non surfers alike. Finnegan has chased waves through South Pacific, Australia, Asia, Africa and this is a beautiful self-portrait of a travelled, hard-core surfer exploring the true depth of the sport in its culture and codes, its mechanics, as an obsession, an addiction, a life’s commitment, a way of life.
A Walk in the Woods | Bill Bryson
“Distance changes utterly when you take the world on foot. A mile becomes a long way, two miles literally considerable, ten miles whopping, fifty miles at the very limits of conception. The world, you realize, is enormous in a way that only you and a small community of fellow hikers know.”
A hilarious travelogue about Bryson’s adventures hiking the Appalachian Trail. The account of his walking the venerable and infamously difficult “AT” in the eastern USA is a wry account of the many pitfalls he encounters and errors in judgment he makes along every step of the day. Shockingly funny, it also includes some mind-blowing facts and figures about the trail and its history, as well as the areas surrounding. It’s a travel book for hikers and non-hikers, with characters that will stick fondly with you for the rest of time.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn | Mark Twain
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
An adventure-filled classic, one that defines American Literature, about two American exiles – an orphan and a runaway slave – floating more than 500 miles down the great Mississippi on an even bigger journey. America 1870’s with everything within: a background civil war, deadly family feuds, the conflict between civilization and “natural life”, which Huck embodies with his free spirit and uncivilised ways, and resistance to rule and discipline.
“Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all.”
“If I had not some strength of will I would make a first class drunkard.”
“We had seen God in His splendors, heard the text that Nature renders. We had reached the naked soul of man.”
“Superhuman effort isn’t worth a damn unless it achieves results.”
Sir Ernest Shackleton, C.V.O. (1874-1922) is regarded as perhaps the greatest Antarctic explorer and one of England’s heroes. He was a member of Captain Scott’s 1901-1903 expedition to the South Pole, then in 1907 led his own expedition on the whaler Nimrod, of which the events are chronicled in his first book, The Heart of the Antarctic. He is considered one of England’s greatest heroes for his actions during the ill-fated expedition outlined in his second book and expedition to “the White Warfare of the South”. It is a tale of high adventure, strenuous days, lonely nights, unique experiences, and above all, records of unflinching determination, supreme loyalty and generous self-sacrifice on the part the men.
“Don’t settle down and sit in one place. Move around, be nomadic, make each day a new horizon … it would be a shame if you did not take the opportunity to revolutionize your life and move into an entirely new realm of experience.”
A chilling and tragic read of a young man’s search for knowledge and experience. He leaves behind his old life, his supportive family, giving all his savings to charity, burning the cash in his wallet and gives himself a new name. Four months later, putting himself up against the Alaskan wild, hunters find his decomposed body, but it is how protagonist McCandless comes to die that is the indelible story of ‘Into the Wild’.