Friday, May 27, 2011

Travel Tips: Best Books to Read Before You Roam

Image by Alan Levine

One of my favorite lazy afternoon things to do when I'm house-, or in this case, hotel-bound is to browse travel websites. Maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment, but somehow gazing at photos of far-flung locales and reading about the adventures of others helps me to momentarily forget my own stationary condition.

If you hadn't guessed, from all the content I've highlighted on this blog, one of my go-to sites for e-tourism is Lonely Planet. Their articles are thought provoking, their photos lovely to look at, and even if you don't agree with all of the opinions they put forth, you can be sure of finding some lively discussion and debate both in each article's comments section and in their Thorn Tree forum.

Lonely Planet was one of the first travel-themed websites I uncovered as a young teen in England, preparing to set off on my first African adventure in the summer of 2001. I was drawn in by the wealth of articles and gleaned a lot of valuable information from the forum, so it makes sense that I would return eagerly and often. They're always updating their content - essential practice for any travel site that wants to stay relevant - and recently added a new feature that I just had to share. If there's anything I love as much as baking and travel, it's reading and now LP offers a condensed list of Travel Books to Read Before You Go.

Grouped by region and country, the list is extensive and offers readings from genres as diverse as Social Anthropology, Memoir, Humor, Politics and Fiction. The list is by no means exhaustive, but it's a good place for a traveler to begin researching their destination of choice and a great place for a bibliophile to lose themselves for a year or two. I can just imagine an armchair traveler's intense delight at discovering this trove of titles!

We're visiting Matt's parents in South Carolina this weekend and I took advantage of the long drive to finish up French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork and Corkscrew, another of Peter Mayle's delightful books about Provence. His books go down smoothly, like the fine French wines about which he writes, and I'm always amazed at how just a few lines can transport me to another place entirely. For a few hours yesterday afternoon, I wasn't sitting in traffic in storm-soaked Tennessee, but relaxing on a terrace in the sun-drenched south of France.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons I've always loved travel literature and, over the years, I've collected a few favorite authors and some favorite works. I had fun searching LP's list for some of these favorites (Paul Theroux, James Michener, Robert Falcon Scott, Somerset Maugham, to name but a few) but what surprised me most was just how many of the titles I hadn't read. Thanks to LP, my to-read list is now about a mile long, but I'm not complaining! If you've ever found refuge in a travel book or taken an armchair trip around the globe, you must read this list - search for your old favorites, discover new ones or use it to plan a future adventure.

While we're at it, what are some of your favorite travel/location inspired reads? I've always been a big fan of James Michener, but also love Frances Mayes' portrayal of rural Tuscany or Paul Theroux's account of hair-raising adventures on the Trans-Siberian.  Even with my recently expanded to-read list, I'm always looking for recommendations!


  1. I love James Michener too, I read Hawaii when I was in Madagascar. Have you read Eat, Pray, Love? So good. I also really enjoyed The Blue Sweater.

  2. great post...couldn't agree more about LP, it is brilliant isn't it? Thank you for sharing!

  3. Jenn - I read Hawaii as a teen and I got hooked. I think I've read all but a couple of Micheners. I love that they're hefty and so well researched :) I haven't yet read Eat, Pray, Love, but have been told that I should. I keep looking for it at the library but the movie has made is so popular!

    I've never heard of The Blue Sweater - I'm assuming it's travel literature? I'll have to check it out (I love getting recommendations!)....

  4. Andrea - so glad you enjoyed it! LP is pretty awesome - no matter how often I visit, I always find something good!

  5. Thanks for all the tips!!!! I am planning a family tour in this coming 31 DEC 2011. Hope much of these info are still good. Will double check on my end. Thanks much again!

    Cheap hotels

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. I'm very similar, and if you haven't already read it, Wanderlust by Elisabeth Eaves really validated my feelings on the subject!
    Travel Books

  8. This article gives the light in which we can observe the reality. This is very nice one and gives indepth information. Thanks for this nice article. Travel Books