What better way to get in the mood for travel than from your armchair. For those in your life who, either won’t get moving and need more than a gentle prod, or are addicted to journeying in any way possible, here is a list of classics and great reads that are guaranteed to deliver wanderlust.
EAT, PRAY, LOVE by Elizabeth Gilbert
– because I couldn’t put it down
I’ll start with my recent favourite. Written with a mixture of wit, intelligence and self-introspection with which many women will identify, Elizabeth Gilbert’s travels through Italy, India and Bali to find a balance in her life are at once interesting and thoroughly evocative.
Whilst some critics have called it at best ‘narcissistic New Age reading’, others, like Oprah Winfrey, have devoted two whole shows to it, and TIME praised it, suggesting that it is ‘as close as you can (get) to enlightenment-by-proxy’. Made into a film of the same name, 10 million copies of the book have benn sold worldwide. Love it or not, you can’t put it down. If you have a weekend to kill then this will definitely get your travel juice buds going.
DOWN UNDER by Bill Bryson
– because it SO brings Australia to life
Everyone has heard of this successful travelogue about Australia, even if it was published in America and Canada as In a Sunburned Country. The book describes Bryson’s travels by rail and car through Oz, his conversations with people and his impressions of the life, culture and amenities in every place he ventures.
His description of Australia has been lauded as ‘accurate and interesting’ and will give you a good idea of the facts, figures, history, territories, flora and fauna of the large country down under. Top this with Bryson’s capacity to make you laugh out loud and you have a winner.
ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE by Robert M Pirsig
– because I couldn’t read it, but felt I should have
You’ve simply got to include this classic here (even if, like me, you’ve tried to read it at least twice and not managed to get into it). The 1974 philosophical novel is ‘in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It’s not very factual on motorcycles, either.’
What it does is describe a 17-day journey on the author’s motorcycle from Minnesota to California. The trip is peppered with philosophical discussions that have resulted in a regard for the book as one of the most influential written in the last 50 years – an unforgettable narration of a summer road trip across America. Enough to evoke a need for similar.
CHASING THE DEVIL by Tim Butcher
– because I know the author and it’s set in Africa
I haven’t read this one yet, but it’s on my list of must-do’s. Tim Butcher (whose son is at school with mine) is not only a ‘nice’ man, but he writes a rivetting read. Chasing the Devil is a journey through Sub-Saharan Africa in the footsteps of Graham Greene, who had already given an account of his 350 mile trek in Journey Without Maps, published in 1936.
Despite being some seventy years later, Tim’s journey along the same path by foot from where Sierra Leone meets Liberia, across the top of Liberia down the tip of Guinea to the St John’s River, and then south-westerly to the Atlantic, spending most nights in jungle villages, is even more harrowing. His journey takes a month; and the ‘devil’ in his book refers to a West African sorcerer. I wonder at how sane he appears…
THE LAST TRAIN TO ZONA VERDE by Paul Theroux
– because this epic writer of travel deserves at least one read, and his newest release is set in Africa
The man whose The Great Railway Bazaar, written in 1975, is voted by countless people as one of the best travel works ever is due to release his latest book, with the byline My Ultimate African Safari, in May this year. He returns to the continent that he says he knows and loves best – he was here originally fifty years ago when in the Peace Corps.
His journey takes you from Cape Town through South Africa, Namibia, and on, this time his Africa is a different one – ‘the improvised, slapped-together Africa of tumbled fences and cooking fires, of mud and thatch,’…