Best 20 Travel Books


London Times on Line lists the best 20 travel books of the last century plus a video, “What books made you want to travel?” answered by Alexander McCall Smith and Colin Thubron. Don’t miss the video! (Note: you now have to sign up to see their archived content. Sorry.)

Oh dear, William Dalrymple is not on the list of best travel literature! Ahh, but see the video–Alexander McCall Smith does pick him.

I’ve read three of the 20 travel books on the list. Sadly, about as well as I do on most of these silly things.  But I will admit that there are six pieces of travel literature on the list that I really want to read, and which you will probably see show up on the shelves of the Traveler’s Library as soon as new releases slow down and I get back to classics. (Whoever said that book publishing was dead has not seen the e-mails from book PR agents that pile up in my e-mail box.)

I have read–and talked about here–

  1. Mani (#7) by Patrick Leigh Fermor,
  2. Notes from a Small Island(#15) by Bill Bryson,
  3. In Patagonia (#11) by Bruce Chatwin.

I’m happy that Patrick Leigh Fermor and Norman Lewis each made the list, although if you were actually picking best books of travel literature, instead of one book per author, you surely would have to include more than one by each of these authors. They alone could fill up a list, as far as I’m concerned. That is just ONE of the problems with “best” lists.

But here are the ones I want to read:

  • Ever since I read his Travels in Burma, and Naples ’44, I have been looking forward to reading Norman Lewis’ A Dragon Apparent, about Indo- China (#18).
  • The Dalrymple column, plus this article, makes me eager to read Colin Thubron’s The Silk Road(#14) and the sequel Shadow of the Silk Road.
  • Having read Eric Newby’s A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush,  and because I fell in love with the Apennines when I visited Italy, Newby’s Love and War in the Apennines (#13) is high on my list.
  • Since we enjoyed Spain so much, I have thought I would probably enjoy Laurie Lee’s As I Walked Out One Summer Morning (#6).
  • I have read excerpts from Freya Stark, but never a whole book, and think it is time that I read A Winter in Arabia. (#2)

So it looks as though my TBR list stacks up (no pun intended) pretty well against this particularly Top Twenty list.  What do you think? Am I missing something critical?

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About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, or recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She has written for Reel Life With Jane, Life is a Trip and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

4 thoughts on “Best 20 Travel Books

  1. I arrived in India and started reading Shantaram, a few 12+ hour train rides later I had finished the book, and with it had a completely different outlook on the people around me. Well worth the read.

  2. I’d add
    A Voyage Long and Strange by Tony Horwitz (though I really haven’t been able to get into any of this other books)
    The Brendan Voyage, Tim Severin
    The Sea Kingdoms Alistair Moffat
    On the Crofter’s Trail, by David Craig
    (though you might call the first of those adventure and the second two history, still they work as travel books for me)

    and others, but I’ll stop there…because I keep thinking of soundtracks.
    .-= Kerry Dexter´s last blog ..Remembering Amy Farris =-.

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