Literature & Travel

So much of our travels can be enjoyed through the prism of literature. Some writers are intrinsically connected to a destination--e.g., Gabriel García Márquez with northern Colombia; Thomas Hardy with Dorset, R.K. Narayan with Madras.

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Comment by Terence Baker on April 23, 2013 at 9:38am

I put down -- to recommence very soon -- Iain Sinclair's London Orbital, concerning his 2000 walk around London's M25 motorway, or at least as near as he could get without being splattered by speeding cars. Another great recommendation, written in an unique style to the usual travel book. I only put it down because I was travelling to Ethiopia last week and took with me Nicholas Jubber's far-fetched but entertaining The Prester Quest, in which he took a letter 800 years old that never made it and was originally addressed to the supposedly mythical Ethiopian Christian king Prester John.

Comment by Terence Baker on April 23, 2013 at 9:33am

Thanks Vicky. I thought Laurie Lee was from Somerset. It borders the Cotswolds, or maybe I am getting confused because of the title of his book Cider with Rosie, cider generally being associated with Somerset.

I am just doing a session of Dervla Murphy travel books ... her one on Laos, followed by her one on Siberia, then Ethiopia with a Mule, and I just found two more -- as yet unread, on Coburg and Madagascar. I recommend her.

Comment by Vicky Picks on April 23, 2013 at 9:09am

Read about the idyllic corner of the Cotswolds, Britain, where the writer Laurie Lee grew up

Comment by John Lamkin on March 2, 2013 at 2:17pm

IFWTWA invites non-members to attend its 2013 Hawaii conference - see

Comment by inka piegsa-quischotte on August 5, 2012 at 12:22am

I'd like to introduce City of the Green-Eyed Beauty, a literary guide to Istanbul, following the footsteps of Orhan Pamuk, Barbara Nadel and Pierre Loti. Three very different writers with one thing in common: fascination with Istanbul.

Comment by Sam Scribe on January 16, 2012 at 9:05pm

Interesting choice of reading, Terence. I just searched for the book and wound up reading an article on Wikipedia, for what that's worth. It gave me the impression that Mandeville was a little short on reportorial objectivity, but probably no worse than Fox News. 

Comment by Terence Baker on January 16, 2012 at 5:35pm

Just finished Sir John Mandeville's The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, published in 1365. It is entertaining and informative (I now have stored in my memory both the Anglicised and Greek names for the Three Wise Men, for instance), but one critic suggested that the longest journey Sir John Mandeville made might have been to the nearest library. Mandeville does state that the world is round, though, and this was many years before Galileo proved it, which was a heretical belief in both of their times. Some state that the author was from Belgium, although he has an English name. Worth reading for some juicy details and for his mostly nonjudgmental views.

Comment by Ed Wetschler on January 5, 2012 at 9:02pm

Tempting recommendations, Terry. In addition, I always tip my hat to people who manage to read two books at one time. 

Comment by Terence Baker on January 5, 2012 at 8:57pm

I am currently reading two books that cover travel and two of my big interests or pet delights: birding and amateur English travellers, which includes my own good self, albeit most likely on a less scale.
The first tome is American Peter Matthiessen's ode to the crane, Birds from Heaven, which took Matthiessen to such places as Bhutan, Florida, South Africa, Japan, China and Russia.
I personally spend a lot of time birding, and I heartily recommend it as a way of getting majestically away from the usual tourism haunts, although in some spots birding is the main tourism draw.

The second book, which I am reading right now, is from an old favourite, Eric Newby. It is A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, which is the wonderful tale of two unprepared travellers off on a whim and armed with only curiosity to climb a 20,000-foot-plus peak in the Himalayas. There is a long tradition of the innocent Englishman abroad, and perhaps we can be accused of arrogance, not an aggressive arrogance, but an arrogance nonetheless born of the probably misguided notion that we are welcome everywhere. It's a fantastic read.

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