Classic and Contemporary Travel Stories

Allison, Peter. Whatever You Do, Don't Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide. Lyons Pequot, c2008. A hilarious, highly original collection of essays based on the Botswana truism: "Only food runs!" In the tradition of Bill Bryson, Allison brings us the lively adventures and biting wit of an African safari guide.

 

Bryson, Bill. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. BroadwayBooks, c1998. Here is Bryson at the height of his comic powers. Meeting up withcharacters such as Beulah and her fearsome husband, "Bubba T.Flubba," readers risk snakebite and hantavirus to trudge through swollenrivers and traipse up mountain steps, and develop a new reverence for creamsodas and hot showers.

 

Chatwin, Bruce. In Patagonia. Summit Books,c1977. An exhilarating look at a placethat still retains the exotic mystery of a far-off, unseen land, Chatwin'sexquisite account of his journey through Patagonia teems with evocativedescriptions, remarkable bits of history, and unforgettable anecdotes.

 

Cook, James. The Explorations of Captain James Cook in the Pacific, as told by selections of his own journals, 1768-1779. Heritage Press 1958. Cook's three great voyages into the uncharted Pacific, told in his own words. This travel classic recounts exploration of the eastern coastline of Australia, mapping of New Zealand, and the discovery of Hawaiian Islands.

 

Heat Moon, William Least. Blue Highways: a Journey Into America. Little, Brown, c1982. Published in 1983 to phenomenal reviews, Blue Highways: A Journey into America became a cult classic on par with Jack Kerouac's On the Road and John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley. In this highly acclaimed, bestselling memoir, a 38-year-old laid-off college professor of Sioux and white blood drives around the U.S. on the back roads called the "blue highways."

 

Hemingway, Ernest. A Moveable Feast. Simon & Schuster, 1996. One of Ernest Hemingway's most beloved works. This is his classic memoir of Paris in the 1920s, a literary feast. It brilliantly evokes the exuberant mood of Paris after World War I.

 

Kerouac,Jack. On the Road. Penguin Books, 2003. One of the most influential and important novels of the 20th century, this is the book that launched the Beat Generation. It was the harbinger of the radical changes that would soon sweep society in the 1960s.

 

Kidd, Sue Monk. Traveling With Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story. Viking, 2009.
Between 1998 and 2000, Sue and Ann travel throughout Greece and France. Sue, coming to grips with aging, caught in a creative vacuum, longing to reconnect with her grown daughter, struggles to enlarge a vision of swarming bees into a novel. Ann, just graduated from college, heartbroken and benumbed by the classic question about what to do with her life, grapples with a painful depression.

 

Krakauer, John. Into the Wild. Anchor Books, 1997. In April 1992, a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. Krakauer brings McCandless's uncompromising pilgrimage out of the shadows, and the peril, adversity, and renunciation sought by this enigmatic young man are illuminated with a rare understanding--and not an ounce of sentimentality.

 

Lansing, Alfred. Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage. McGraw-Hill, 1959. In January 1915, after battling its way for six weeks through a thousand miles of pack ice and now only a day's sail short of its destination, the Endurance became locked in an island of ice. This astonishing tale of survival by Shackleton and all twenty-seven of his men on the ice-bound Antarctic seas, defined heroism.

 

Mayes, Frances. Under the Tuscan Sun. Broadway Books, 1997. Frances Mayes--widely published poet, gourmet cook, and travel writer--opens the door to a wondrous new world when she buys and restores an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside.

 

Mayle, Peter. A Year in Provence. Vintage Books, 1991. Mayle transports us into all the earthy pleasures of Provençal life and lets us live vicariously at a tempo governed by seasons, not by days.

 

Points Unknown: A Century of Great Exploration / edited by David Roberts. Norton, c2000. From Robert Falcon Scott's final journal entry to Jon Krakauer's daring solo climb of the Devil's Thumb to Tom Wolfe's brilliant portrayal of Chuck Yeager shattering the sound barrier, David Roberts and the editors of Outside magazine have gathered the most enduring adventure literature of the century into one heart-stopping volume.

 

Rodriguez, Deborah. Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil. Random House, c2007. Rodriguez, a hairdresser and mother from Michigan, despaired of being of any real use. Yet she found she had a gift for befriending Afghans, and once her profession became known she was eagerly sought out by Westerners desperate for a good haircut and by Afghan women, who have a long and proud tradition of running their own beauty salons.

 

Sovich, Nina. To the Moon and Timbuktu: A Trek through the Heart of Africa. New Harvest, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. A fast-paced trek through Western Sahara, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, bringing their textures and flavors into vivid relief.

 

Steinbeck, John. Travels with Charley: In Search of America and later novels, 1947-1962. Library of America; Penguin Putnam, c2007. With Charley, his French poodle, Steinbeck drives the interstates and country roads, and he reflects on the American character, racial hostility, on a particular form of American loneliness he finds almost everywhere, and on the unexpected kindness of strangers that is also a very real part of our national identity.

 

Stegner, Wallace. Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs: living and writing in the West. Random House, c1992. Wallace Stegner's most important and memorable writings on the American West: its landscapes, diverse history, and shifting identity; its beauty, fragility, and power.

 

Stewart, Chris. Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucia. Pantheon Books, c1999. A funny, generous, wonderfully written account of an family making a life and home in remote but enchanting southern Spain. At seventeen, Chris Stewart, the first drummer for the rock group Genesis, left the band and launched a career that included stints as a sailor, a sheep shearer, and a travel writer.

 

Strayed, Cheryl. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. A powerful, blazingly honest, inspiring memoir: the story of a 1,100 mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe--and built her back up again.

 

Theroux, Paul. Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town. Houghton Mifflin, 2003. A rich and insightful book whose itinerary is Africa, from Cairo to Cape Town: down the Nile, through Sudan and Ethiopia, to Kenya, Uganda, and ultimately to the tip of South Africa going by train, dugout canoe, chicken bus, and cattle truck. 

 

Thompson, Hunter S. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Vintage Books, 1998. The tale of a long weekend road trip that has gone down in the annals of American pop culture as one of the strangest journeys ever undertaken.

 

Troost, J. Maarten. The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific. Broadway Books, 2004. One of the most original, rip-roaringly funny travelogues in years—one that will leave you thankful for staples of American civilization such as coffee, regular showers, and tabloid news, and that will provide the ultimate vicarious adventure.