Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Travel Writing

Collapse
X
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

    Travel Writing

    One of my favourite genres is reading peoples' tales of their grand, epic, or utterly stupid journeys. I don't know why it appeals to me so much, but it also seems to trigger some great writers. I think these days I mostly enjoy long-since written pieces, travelling when it was difficult, and getting a contemporary history. I'm generally not so much a fan of modern comedic-travel writing that seems to have been triggered by Bill Bryson and feels entirely designed to be read on the radio with little vignettes lightheartedly mocking the locals. Tim Moore recreating the 1914 Giro D'Italia on a very old bike is fun enough to read, but leaves very little impression.

    A sort of Top 10 (some of these are in a sort of grey zone between history, travel and politics):

    A Short Walk In The Hindu Kush by Eric Newby
    A Time Of Gifts - Patrick Leigh Fermor
    In Xanadu - William Dalrymple
    Imperium - Ryszard Kapusinski
    Eastern Approaches - Fitzroy Maclean
    Old Glory - Jonathan Raban
    High Albania - Edith Durham
    Hokkaido Highway Blues - Will Ferguson
    Trieste And The Meaning of Nowhere - Jan Morris
    Blood River - Tim Butcher

    #2
    Originally posted by San Bernardhinault View Post
    I'm generally not so much a fan of modern comedic-travel writing that seems to have been triggered by Bill Bryson and feels entirely designed to be read on the radio with little vignettes lightheartedly mocking the locals.
    Possibly a fair point, but if you're going to make one exception to your unwritten rule I'd heartily recommend Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks.

    Comment


      #3
      Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing

      Comment


        #4
        Originally posted by Toby Gymshorts View Post
        Possibly a fair point, but if you're going to make one exception to your unwritten rule I'd heartily recommend Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks.
        I'm not totally opposed - Hokkaido Highway Blues is certainly heading in that direction. But that style seems to have displaced most of the traditional travel writing and a lot of it is on a fairly narrow spectrum between "writing for Sunday Times readers" and "writing for Radio 4 listeners".

        Comment


          #5
          big fan of Jonathan Raban. Old Glory is great. I also like Passage to Juneau and Driving Home, his selection of essays.

          another US travel book I like is Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon

          Comment


            #6
            I am a big fan of travel books. As well as some of those mentioned above my favourites include:

            The river at the centre of the world - Simon Winchester (about the Yangtse)
            River Town - Peter Hessler (perhaps not a travel book as such, as it is about living in China rather than a journey)
            The roads to Sata - Alan Booth (In some ways a prequel to Hokkaido Highway Blues)

            Comment


              #7
              Probably the Rolling Stones of the genre but Michael Palin's books are very good reads. I know he had a large production team finding him "genuine" local experiences that a normal traveller wouldn't do, like visiting a primary school class in Nepal or meeting the king of Mali or what have you, but he does combine tales of those experiences with a well observed commentary on the way of life and idiosyncracies of the countries he visits, with just enough historical or factual stuff where context is needed to set scenes without making it sound like a wikipedia entry or travel guide. That's the sort of balance that works best for me.

              Comment


                #8
                If Michael Palin is the Rolling Stones of the genre, I'd put Paul Theroux as Elvis Presley...His The Great Railway and its sequel, Ghost Train To The Eastern Star must be considered to be up there as having invented this type of writing.

                Also, an honourable mention for Colin Thubron - especially To A Mountain in Tibet. Incredibly moving. A meditation on travel and mortality.

                Most things by William Dalrymple are worth reading - Nine Lives and The Age of Kali are particularly good on India.
                Alexander Frater - Chasing The Monsoon is an eminently readable journey across India. It's inspired many of my travels in that country. As does anything by Mark Tully.
                John Berendt - The City of Falling Angels s a wonderful reflection of one of my favourite places in the world, Venice.

                One of my favourite books about India, not strictly a travel book: Begums, Thugs & Englishmen: The journals of Fanny Parkes, a fascinating insight into 19th century Raj life. She was an enlightened woman but nevertheless of her time. Worth having on you when you are next in India.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by Wouter D View Post
                  Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
                  Apsley Cherry-Gerrard's The Worst Journey is probably a good companion piece. Have you read that WD? certainly Endurance is on my list to read.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    I've really loved some of the books you mention in your original post, SB (particularly Jan Morris'). It's a genre I'm a bit in love with too!

                    There's a couple of relatively recent finishes I'd highly recommend:

                    Kolyma Diaries: A Journey into Russia's Haunted Hinterland by Jacek Hugo-Bader. A rather old skool Polish journalist takes a trip along the Kolyma highway in Siberia, retracing the history of the gulags and generally spending a lot of time having to get drunk with random characters he meets along the way.

                    Land of the Turquoise Mountains by Cyrus Massoudi. Liked this a lot, mostly I think because I haven't read a lot about Iran, so it was all quite new to me.

                    Border by Kapka Kassabova. While it's a bit of a travelogue, it's something more akin to Morris' book in that it's a general examination about how borders, borderlands and those who live in them are affected by the ebb and flow of politics and allegiances.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Excellent genre and thread. Dervla Murphy and her travels by bike are excellent.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by gt3 View Post
                        Apsley Cherry-Gerrard's The Worst Journey is probably a good companion piece. Have you read that WD? certainly Endurance is on my list to read.
                        Not yet, no. My copy of Endurance is MIA: I must have lend it out to someone, but completely forgot to whom.

                        I do have Shackleton: The Heart Of The Antarctic. Not quite as good as Endurance, but still a very interesting read.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Lots of shopping that needs to be done. I've already bought Endurance from Amazon thanks to the recommendation - it's a book I've heard about repeatedly but always forgot to buy.

                          I saw Apsley Cherry-Gerrard give a very engaging talk at the RGS in London, but never bought the book. I guess that's going to be next up after Endurance.

                          My opinion of Colin Thubron isn't great. I read "In Siberia" which I should have found utterly fascinating, but I found his writing to be just swamped under an avalanche of adjectives that hid the lack of content.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Another one with a decent collection of travel writing here.

                            Love Paul Theroux, enjoy Thubron, Tim Moore makes me howl and I'm quite fond of Bryson, although he does try a bit too hard at times in his more recent stuff.

                            Only read one Dervla Murphy, never touched Leigh Fermor or Dalrymple - I probably should. Not read Old Glory by Raban, though I did enjoy A Passage to Juneau so I ought to seek that out.

                            I've got the Jacek Hugo-Bader that vv mentions, but not yet read it - but did read his previous effort "White Fever: A Journey to the Frozen Heart of Siberia" which was very nicely written. I'm also aiming to get the Kapka Kassabova one as I thought the one she wrote about growing up in Bulgaria was lovely.

                            Couple of others worth a mention - not strictly travel writing in the sense that some of the others are, but more a story collector from places that she visits, Wendell Steavenson has written a couple of excellent books: "Stories I Stole: From Georgia" and "The Weight of a Mustard Seed" (stories of Hussein-era and post-US invasion Iraq). In the Shackleton/Cherry-Garrard polar exploration genre, I'd highly recommend "In the Land of White Death" by Valerian Albanov.

                            Final thought - for anyone who likes an old-fashioned exploration into the jungle kind of adventure, I still think Redmond O'Hanlon is hard to beat.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              "My opinion of Colin Thubron isn't great. I read "In Siberia" which I should have found utterly fascinating, but I found his writing to be just swamped under an avalanche of adjectives that hid the lack of content".

                              SB - Give To A Mountain In Tibet a go. I know what you mean about his writing, but there's something about this one which makes it special.

                              Comment


                                #16
                                TrL this was my post on the current reading thread(and yes, I know it's a bit non-u to quote yourself...):

                                I've found myself reading several books about mountains recently. It started last year when I went trekking in Nepal (I know that makes me sound like Henry Blowfeld - "it reminds me of that night in Karachi dear boy..."). I read Maurice Herzog's Annapurna. A controversial book - apparently some of the others in the team felt it overplayed Herzog's role in the expedition. Whatever the truth of that, the account of the descent still gives me goosebumps!

                                That then led a friend of mine to give me a copy of the Ascent of Rum Doodle. Which of course is an absolute hoot after reading Annapurna. One of my favourite lines in it when describing members of the fictional team is "Humphrey Jungle, radio expert and route-finder.Had been nearly as high as most..."

                                Then earlier this year I was given a copy of Into The Silence by Wade Davis. It's the history of the Mallory expeditions to Everest. The early chapters dealing with the First World War are some of the most harrowing and lump in throat stuff I've read about it. It remains at that pitch throughout and has pretty much become my book of the decade so far. Can't recommend it enough.

                                i'm coming down from the heights of the Himalayas - next up are H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald and its counterpart The Goshawk by TH White. Has anyone read either? they were given to me as a pair by a good friend of mine.

                                Comment


                                  #17
                                  Aha, I have “Into the silence” sitting amongst my unread pile, have been looking forward to it for a while...

                                  Comment


                                    #18
                                    Originally posted by Third rate Leszno View Post
                                    Wendell Steavenson has written a couple of excellent books: "Stories I Stole: From Georgia"
                                    Ack, have been after that for a while. Bread and Ashes by Tony Stevenson is still the best travel book I've read about Georgia, but I've got a feeling Steavenson's book would be better.

                                    TrL - Kassabova's first book (the one you mention) was what convinced me to buy the second. If you liked the first I'm quite sure you'll like Border. Given it's in the same department (of sorts) I'll also throw in a mention for Slavenka Drakulic's Cafe Europa.

                                    Comment


                                      #19
                                      Some great books in this thread. And some I need to track down.

                                      I liked Thubron's book along the Silk Road (not sure if that was the title). I'd recommend Blue River, Black Sea by Andrew Eames following the course of the Danube, and for more Hungary/Romania action my favourite Patrick Leigh Fermor book Between the Woods and the Water.

                                      Comment


                                        #20
                                        I've read "H is for Hawk" - I found it a bit disappointing. She quotes great swathes of a book by someone else on hawks which I found more interersting - and it seemed to follow a literary formular which i felt I'd encountered before. Many love it though

                                        Comment


                                          #21
                                          Originally posted by ad hoc View Post
                                          Some great books in this thread. And some I need to track down.

                                          I liked Thubron's book along the Silk Road (not sure if that was the title). I'd recommend Blue River, Black Sea by Andrew Eames following the course of the Danube, and for more Hungary/Romania action my favourite Patrick Leigh Fermor book Between the Woods and the Water.
                                          I had automatically assumed Between The Woods And The Water would have been your Leigh Fermor book, ad hoc, all things considered. I think I found the first book marginally more interesting to me because it traveled through territory slightly more familiar to me, and also had the excitement of departure and the astonishing stuff of walking through Germany in 1933. But really they belong together as a pair.

                                          Comment


                                            #22
                                            Big fan of Palin and Bryson and would also commend to the house both Pete McCarthy books - Road to McCarthy and McCarthy's Bar. I also absolutely adore Hank Wangford's book on South American cowboys Lost Cowboys.I am not sure whether it counts as travel writing or journalism but "Holidays in Hell" by PJ O-rourke is a great book that I must reread.
                                            Last edited by Bordeaux Education; 16-12-2018, 22:16.

                                            Comment


                                              #23
                                              I've mentioned it many times before, but on the Shackleton topic, South by the man himself is well worth a read.

                                              Comment


                                                #24
                                                I bought Eric Newby's 'Love and War in the Apennines' the other day, remembering how much I loved his account of the Trans-Siberian Express years ago - Blackwell's in Edinburgh (a fine bookshop) had several of his books on display, and I wanted to buy them all.

                                                Mark Twain's travel writing is generally entertaining. In fact I prefer travel writing from another era, just as I prefer old maps and newspapers. Last year I read Gaziel's First World War travel account of trips to Thessaloniki and Serbia. Could be that the time distance makes it easier to deal with anything distressing that comes up.

                                                Comment


                                                  #25
                                                  Talking of old travel writing, I got into H V Morton when my mother-in-law gave me "In the Steps of the Master" which was a book he wrote in 1934 travelling around Pre-Israel Palestine. It was bittersweet reading about places that probably don't exist any more certainly not in the form that they did then. I then went onto read "In search of Wales" by him which wrote about a fair few places I know well but from a different historical perspective - Cardiff, Port Talbot etc. Unfortunately, I may not read any more of his and he was a bit of a fantasist (exampled by him 'happening' upon David Lloyd George sitting on a fence in Criccieth - as it goes, my grandfather's home town) and a racist anti-Semite. However, the former especially was a wonderful read which isn't besmirched by that.

                                                  Comment

                                                  Working...
                                                  X