Now I know you’ve been waiting desperately for the final ten books on my Travel Books List. Thinking about them kept you up nights this week, eh? Well today is the big reveal!
11. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Some books you finish and you sit processing the beauty, color, and feeling it leaves you in. The God of Small Things is one of those books. Like To Kill A Mockingbird, this book tells a small-scale story that relates to a much larger time period and political statement. Written delicately, out of chronological order, and many times from the perspective of a child, The God of Small Things is a book that offers a complex look inside an Indian family that, like all families, is only doing the best they can.
12. Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac (also On the Road)
I read this book at 16, and I went right out afterward and got A Buddhist’s Bible, the book Kerouac said he was reading at the time of writing Dharma Bums. (I also read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance shortly after.) Something about the mountains, the rambling story, the messy characters attempting to find direction and peace resonated with me. And let’s face it, who didn’t like the Beats at 16?
13. Two Ship Books: In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick and Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
I never had a real affinity for whaleships or trips to Antarctica, but I love the ocean and history and a great tragic tale. Set in the early 1800′s, In the Heart of the Sea tells the intense mythic tale of the Essex who was rammed and sunk by an angry sperm whale (that’ll teach you not to kill em!) and the 20 crewmembers who tried to survive through hunger, fear, and desperation for months in three small boats. Endurance recounts the story of Ernst Shackleton’s 1914 Antarctic expedition where everything goes wrong. Reading about the leadership of Shackleton and the fortitude, courage, and strength of the men in the face of disaster will definitely bring some adventure in your day-to-day existence.
14. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemmingway (also everything he’s ever written!)
If you haven’t read this book already, it’s probably because you’ve been oversaturated with people telling you how amazing it is. And I’m here to tell you, tough shit. It’s a great book. Read it already! Someone once said that either you are a Hemingway reader or you aren’t. Well I love Hemingway, and I’m not your typical male, hunting and fishing, blood and guts, war and destruction, macho type either. I’m a sucker for his writing style, his stories, his tragic characters, and his somber, direction-less take on love. This book is one of my favorites, though, because it gives the reader a visceral experience of France and Spain post WWI.
15. Three More India Novels: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, Maximum City by Suketu Mehta, Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (also The Enchantress of Florence, Haroun and the Sea of Stories)
Ok, so I am cheating here, again. Because of my current fascination with India and desire to travel there, it is the location of a lot of my favorite travel books right now. I grouped these three books together only because of the shared country. All three are brilliant in their unique way and depict different areas of Indian life, history, and location through narrative storytelling, first hand accounts, and magical realism. These three books are some of the best books I have ever read.
16. Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz
Set in Cairo in the early 1900s, Palace Walk offers a look inside the daily lives of one Muslim family led by tyrannical husband and father Al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad. The differences between the men and women’s lives are drastic, as the women of this household are barely allowed to leave the home, while the men drink, have affairs, and go to parties for their own pleasure. Still set against the nationalist revolution against the British, Palace Walk brought a new understanding to my Western mind of the reasoning behind some of the strict societal rules. Interesting bit of trivia, Jackie Onassis helped edit this book for the English translation.
17. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (also The Bean Trees)
Narrated by the five women of the Prices Family, The Poisonwood Bible chronicles their lives as missionaries in the Belgium Congo in the 1950s and 1960s, navigating political turmoil as the four daughters come of age in an African village. Paralleling the exploitation of Africa by foreigners and the abuse of the missionary father to his daughters, Kingsolver does here what she does best. She weaves the lives and different perspectives together to create a book that is so much greater in impact than its individual parts.
18. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
Telling the true story of America’s first serial killer set against the backdrop of the creation of the World’s Columbian Exhibition of 1893, Devil in the White City is a grim lined fairy tale of two men who set out to achieve their goals against impossible odds. We learn about Daniel Burnam, the chief architect of the massive and world-renowned fair where the first Ferris Wheel was shown, and Dr. H.H. Holmes, a man who used the World’s Fair to lure his victims to his hotel where he would torture and kill them, mostly single young women. Horrifying, fascinating, and almost unbelievable, H.H. Holmes would never have gotten away with his crimes in today’s modern era of communication and travel.
19. The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene
Drawing from his experience of working in the Secret Intelligence Service in Sierra Leone during World War II, Greene’s novel situates around British Major Henry Scobie and his personal struggle between his morals as dictated by the Catholic Church and his pride. Not an uplifting story, but one centering around the failure of all the main characters, The Heart of the Matter is nonetheless a masterful look into the inner demons that undo us all as human beings.
20. The People’s Guide to Mexico by Carl Franz and Lorena Havens
This isn’t a linear book with one story like most of the other selections. It actually functions as a guide book too, but all over the book are amazing stories, first hand accounts, and Mexican folklore and history. Even if you aren’t going to Mexico anytime soon, this is a great bathroom or coffee table book.
PLUS A Few More Travel Books (You Might Know These as Movies)
Even if you’ve seen the movies, trust me, you should read the books. Except for Fear and Loathing and City of God, I think the books are way better. The films of Fear and Loathing and City of God are pretty fantastic in their own right.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
The Beach by Alex Garland (Mind twisting book depicting the hellish influence of western tourism on â€œparadise.â€)
City of God: A Novel by Paulo Lins
Motorcycle Diaries by Che Guevara
Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer
Chocolat by Joanne Harris
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer