'You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose'.
Dr Seuss: Oh, the Places You’ll Go.
Have you ever lost your WiFi connection at an airport, railway station or ferry port?
Frustrating, isn’t it?
Or the battery goes before you’ve finished scrolling your social media (does anyone ever finish scrolling?)
Not to worry – here are my Top Ten Travel (paperback) Books that you can pop into your carry on (possibly even your pocket), in case of such emergencies.
This is the first travel writing book I read, of Josie’s cycles around the USA, and I remember how awed I was by her adventures. And, whilst I’m not a cyclist, I knew I wanted to travel across the States as much as I could (I’ve visited eight of the fifty states so far) and create my own stories. Josie has since written several other books of her cycling and cooking tales around the world.
Insights into: USA
Perhaps not an obvious travel book about Italy, I was so drawn into the monuments and the trails of the Illuminati’s Path of Illumination across Rome that I checked flights on Expedia. I was living in China at the time, which made visiting tricky, but one day I’ll visit the Italian capital. I will probably head straight to Antico Caffe Greco, a centuries old coffee house and writer’s hangout.
Insights into: Rome, Vatican City
The film and subsequent merchandise have seeped into our psyche so much, however this short story popular in the sixties, has to be the ultimate New York fantasy for a lot of first time visitors. I was no different when I visited Manhattan – Fifth Avenue and a bagel – for the first time in 1997. I remember reading Capote’s novella as part of my American Studies degree, and collecting black dresses on my travels ever since.
Insights into: New York City
No surprise that a second book around the USA has made my list; a fascinating and infuriating country, and many writers have penned their North American stories. Not many have done them with a (large French?) poodle called Charley, and with a few classic stories already written.
Insights into: USA
I read these books about Chinese characters, before my own travels around China, and I imagine they planted the seeds of what it meant to be a woman in one of the largest countries in the world. And how to deal with a Chinese Aunty (you let them deal with you). Tan’s tale of second generation Chinese women in San Francisco is a direct contrast to Hui’s characters living in 21st century Shanghai, but both are engaging, and have travelled with me to my bookshelves in 2018. I think it’s high time for a re-read of these great stories, almost fifteen years since I returned from living in China’s Guangdong province.
Insights into: China.
Follow Harold, a retiree, as he unintentionally walks from the Devonshire South Hams to Northumberland’s Berwick-upon-Tweed. It’s the reflective and unintended actions of Harold that swept Joyce’s debut novel to award-winning position. And, of course, it starts in the Spring – a perfect time for a stroll across the country.
Insights into: UK
From the opening airline desk passenger-name confusion, in a Norwegian town I’d never heard of (Hammerfest), I was hooked on Bryson’s comedy, history and geographical knowledge. I’ve since spent time in the utterly gorgeous (and still pricey) Oslo and in the Arctic Circle (Tromso) in search of the elusive Northern Lights (spotted them once) and would happily encourage buying this book for any travel enthusiasts. Armchair or otherwise.
Insights into: Europe, from a US perspective
I’m a little bit in love with Irish prose, especially of the humorous wanderings, and although I haven’t quite finished reading this book, it’s straight in the top three on the first couple of chapters alone; ‘I immediately implement Plan B, which in this instance is to drive at random until something happens. It’s important to have a Plan B, especially when there’s no Plan A.’ We’ve all been there, McCarthy. I was fortunate enough to spend a few days in the northwest of Ireland – Sligo and Mayo – one summer, and I will happily return.
Insights into: Western Ireland.
It’s no surprise Bryson has made the list again, such are his wry cultural observations, informed by his sterling resourcefulness – namely utilising underwear for headwear, to fend off a foggy March arrival to the UK in 1973. Recognising the need to balance honesty with a magnetic pun opportunity, ‘I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to’, I suspect he has made Iowa very proud, in the way of an elderly relative ruffling-your-hair and digging you just a little bit too hard in the ribs, muttering about what a scamp you are. I’ve gladly shared more than one copy of this book with travel companions.
Insights into: UK, from a US perspective
Books have the power to transport you back in time, and Lee’s autobiographical prose has me longing to set off for a walk across the UK to Spain each time I re-read it. No airline seat is too uncomfortable when I have this book in my hand. From the opening scenes of waving goodbye to his mother, ‘silently watching me go, one gnarled red hand raised in farewell and blessing,’ I’m ready for travel delays.
Insights into: 1930s UK
I'd love to hear which travel books inspire your adventures. Drop a message in the comments box, or catch up with me on Twitter.
Disclaimer - As I'm an Amazon Affiliate (show me a Blogger who isn't), if you buy any books from these links then there's a good chance I'll receive a few pennies for your sale. All opinions and reviews are genuinely my own.