Here are some of my latest favourite travel books.
Arctic Dreams - Barry Lopez
A must read for travellers to the far north, Arctic Dreams is as much a beautiful work on the natural history as it is a meditation on how the landscape can influence our deepest desires, imaginations and dreams. A classic of modern literature, the prose is as pure as the landscape it is set in.
At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig: Travels Through Paraguay - John Gimlette
From one of my all-time favourite travel writers comes this exploration of one of the least-known countries in the world, Paraguay. Refuge to Nazis, a smugglers’ paradise, and home to some of the earth’s weirdest wildlife and awful dictatorships, Paraguay was a land waiting for the right story-teller. Until John Gimlette showed up. He brings to life a cast of mad-cap generals, aging Mennonites, eccentrics, soundrels and discouraged Indians in this most entertaining book.
Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucia - Chris Stewart
Former rockstar turned sheepshearer moves with his wife to the remote Alpujarras region of Southern Spain, where they buy a farm covered in lemon, olive and almond trees, without water, electricity or road access. Eternally optimistic, Stewart describes his many adventures in this wonderful book.
Travels with My Donkey: One Man and His Ass on a Pilgrimage to Santiago - Tim Moore
Armed with a 12th century guidebook and a donkey for companion, Moore walks the Camino from Southern France to its end in Santiago de Compostella. This hillarious retelling of Moore's walk is a must for anyone wanting to attempt their own pilgrimage.
Arabian Sands - Wilfred Thesiger
A classic of travel literature, this 1959 book recounts the famous explorer's journeys through the Empty Quarter in the Arabian desert. Educated at some of the best universities in England, Thesiger was repulsed by Western society and followed in the footsteps T. E. Lawrence, exploring the deserts of Arabia and travelling among people who had never seen Westerners before.
The Road to Oxiana - Robert Byron
In 1933 the eccentric author sets out on a journey through the Middle East to Oxiana, the land on the border between the USSR and Afghanistan. This classic is both entertaining as well as an account of historical treasures mostly inaccessible to modern-day travellers.
Shadow of the Silk Road - Colin Thubron
To travel the Silk Road, the legendary trading route through the heart of Asia, is to trace the passage of time, trade and armies but also of ideas, religions, and inventions. Travelling by all possible modes of transport the author covers over seven thousand miles in eight months. From the heart of ancient China into the mountains of Central Asia, across northern Afghanistan (freshly liberated from the Taliban) and the plains of Iran into Kurdish Turkey. Along the road he meets a cast of interesting characters and makes some amazing discoveries. This is travel writing at its finest.
The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia - Peter Hopkirk
This is not as much a travel novel as an engaging read about the Great Game, the drawn-out struggle between the British and Russian empires. The book brings to life a cast of adventurers who travelled deep into unknown territory, often risking their own lives. From the Caucasus to China, over the high passes of the Pamirs and Karakorams and through the deserts of Persia, these men were the colourful characters engaged in a breathtaking tale of espionage and treachery.
“Travels in Siberia” by Ian Frazier
Like Russia, it took a while for this book to grow on me, but once it did I could not put it down. Travels in Siberia is a unique chronicle of Siberian Russia since the end of the Soviet Union, intertwined with captivating history and trivia.