I hate articles that list “top” anythings. They’re usually click-bait and there’s a reason why click-bait is called “click-bait” and not “an article worth reading.”
But here we are, looking awkwardly at each other.
So, out of the 40 or so travel books I read in 2018, here are my top ten. And they’re not in any order, as it was hard enough to pick my favorites. Please stop pressuring me.
I would insert images to go with these, but the images are large and the usual way of resizing them is mysteriously gone. So you’re going to have to be an active participant in all of this by clicking on the link to the associated blog, which will have a link to the Amazon page if that floats your book-filled boat.
Interstate, by Julian Sayarer
A Brit traverses the country by way of outstretched thumb in 2015. Observations about America, moments of magical realism, all sorts of wonderful.
Tracks, by Robyn Davidson
An Aussie lady traverses the Outback by camel. Misadventures and regular adventures ensue. Very insightful, very blunt. She’s highly aware of herself and her changing states over the course of her journey, which makes for great reading.
America Day by Day, by Simone Beauvoir
A Frenchwoman tours around America in the late 1940’s. Gives academic talks, meets Americans, European ex-pats, and academics. Tries to figure out New York.
Guidebook to Relative Strangers, by Camille T. Dungy
An African American poetess takes her young daughter on her academic and writing-related excursions. Reflects on American society, motherhood, and race. Beautiful prose.
Bad Land, by Jonathan Raban
A relocated Brit travels to the Midwest and examines the history and people of one particular Midwestern town. Not 100% a travel book, more along the lines of 70% history and 30% travel, but worth reading anyway.
West with the Night, by Beryl Markham
One of the world’s first woman aviators and her adventures growing up and living in Africa. Her only book. Excellently written, incredible adventures, leaves out pretty much all of her personal life, which may be good or bad.
Blue Highways, by William Least Heat-Moon
A 1978 tale of a man with Native American ancestry traveling the back highways of America attempting to understand himself, his roots, and his rocky relationship. It’s a wonderful tale, introducing the reader to places in America that few go.
Between the Woods and the Water, by Patrick Leigh Fermor
A walking travelogue of a young Brit in Europe just before the beginning of World War II. A fascinating look at the changing social landscape of Europe, the author’s later reflections on the people he met and situations he came across, and the most beautifully written depiction of scenery that I’ve read in a long, long time.
Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
A Pacific Coast Trail hiking story. Solo woman adventurer tackles the long hike as a way of clearing herself from the past debris that clutters her mind and body. A beautifully braided narrative, excellently written.
Full Tilt, by Dervla Murphy
An Irish lady bicyclist bikes from Ireland to India in 1963, carries a gun, fights off wolves, and generally kicks a lot of ass. Many adventures, amusing stories, a love of alcohol. She doesn’t take herself too seriously, which is lovely.
As a quick breakdown, as I find this sort of thing interesting, in this list…
- 6/10 books are written by women.
- 2/10 books are written by people of color.
- 5/10 books are written by Europeans.
- 6/10 books are travel narratives that occur in America.
- 9/10 books are written by solo travelers.
- 1/10 books had a bicycle as the traveler’s primary locomotion.
- 2/10 books had walking as the traveler’s primary locomotion.
All in all, though I wasn’t trying, it seems like a decently diverse list. Could have been more diverse, of course, but I’m working on it. It’s (understandably) very hard to find travel narratives written by people of color, especially within the United States.
Until next time, folks!