The writing genre containing travel books is often associated with guides like Frommer’s or Footprint. However the travel genre has a long and distinguished history with writers ranging from Peter Mayle to Mark Twain. While some of the places and people in these books may no longer exist, the stories portrayed in various top travel publications continue to inspire generations to get out and see the world.
The Innocents Abroad – Mark Twain
Published in 1869, The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain lands on several major book lists for best rated and most influential travel books, including one by the Smithsonian. This best-seller marks an opposite tone to Twain’s other famous works, like Huckleberry Finn, and instead comically details articles that Twain wrote for the Alta California newspaper chronicling his travels through both Europe and the Holy Lands.
On the Road – Jack Kerouac
Another timeless travel book with far-reaching impact on modern day travel writers is Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. This book portrays Kerouac’s viewpoint of the United States through his personal experiences. The stories centers around a time post World War II when Americans embraced a new craze for road trip traveling within the continental United States. While the original version was heavily edited for content, copies after 2007 portray a much wilder and uncensored journey.
In Patagonia – Bruce Chatwin
Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia looks deep into the southern tip of South America. As a former art auctioneer and writer for the Sunday Times Magazine in London, Chatwin stepped away from it all. His actions were in part to search for a prehistoric piece of a mylodon inspired by his childhood, and part to research the stories of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in the region and to discover a historical colony of Welsh nationalists.
Arabian Sands – Wilfred Thesiger
Another publication that’s continuously rated as one of the top travel books is Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger. Arabian Sands takes readers into the land of Arabia during the late 1940’s. Thesiger both describes and tries to understand the life of the people living in an area known as the Empty Quarters, known for their anti-Christian sentiment and lack of exposure to the world outside the largely desert landscape.
A Year in Provence – Peter Mayle
Another publication considered one of the travel books to read before you die is a Year in Provence by Peter Mayle. Mayle takes readers into Lubéron, a small remote country, and entertains with stories and lessons learned with his wife and two dogs in a 200 year old farmhouse. Whether describing the town tradition of goat racing or lingering on the town’s local cuisine, A year in Provence takes those vicariously looking to start anew through a journey of travel and discovery.
These historical travel publications only highlight a few of the great authors who bring the wonders and mysteries of the world into the palm of your hand through a good book. So even if you can’t afford to travel, take a trip in your mind with one of these highly rated reads.