The 20 best travel books of all time
They take you with them, make you want to hit the road. The Telegraph newspaper recently selected its top 20 best travel books of all time, and they start with Jack Kerouac's On The Road. And a warning: 'Proceed with caution, you may never be able to settle in one place again.'
On The Road is a novel inspired by a series of road trips taken by the Beat writer across America after World War II, and it has inspired many a journey since. I'm not sure if George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia has inspired visits to Spain. A vivid and harrowing account of Orwell's stay in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War, it's a moment in time, a slice of history, a personal journey.
Another choice is Paul Theroux's first travelog: The Great Railway Bazaar, a journey from London to Tokyo and back. It's the quintessential rail journey, on an assortment of trains like the Orient Express and the Grand Trunk Express to get there, and the Trans-Siberian Express all the way back.
Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island also made the cut. It's his journey across the length and breadth of the UK, taking in the weird and the wonderful along the way.
'Suddenly,' he writes, 'in the space of a moment, I realized what it was that I loved about Britain – which is to say, all of it. Every last bit of it, good and bad – old churches, country lanes, people saying “Mustn't grumble” and “I'm terribly sorry but,” people apologizing to me when I conk them with a careless elbow, milk in bottles, beans on toast, haymaking in June, seaside piers, Ordinance Survey maps, tea and crumpets, summer showers and foggy winter evenings – every bit of it.' Hear hear.
Some are works of fiction, some are travelogs, some personal accounts of extraordinary events. But, as with Been-Seen's Movie Atlas, they all give you an insight into the world they occupy.
Other books included on this eclectic list are: Alex Garland's The Beach; Jan Morris' Venice; Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises; and Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Some interesting reading for 2010, if you haven't already read them all. RM