I love travel books. Aside from my usual crime novels, they’re the only things I read. I am a bit fussy, though. Although I'm fond of travel books, I do like something with a sense of humour about it. Something dry and turgid just won’t do it for me. I just can’t persuade myself to read anything that doesn’t grab me, which probably means I’ve missed out on masses of titles that other travel enthusiasts have devoured. This is the first part of a list of the books in my library that I've pretty much read to death:
A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson:
This is not only my favourite travel book, but also my favourite book. Ever. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it and it still makes me laugh every time. Bill Bryson’s ability to make seemingly mundane daily details come to life is unparalleled, in my opinion. A Walk in the Woods takes you through the planning and preparation stages, as well as the actual activity, of section hiking the Appalachian Trail in the US. The events that transpire along the way are comical and his observations about his fellow travellers (including his walking buddy) made me desperate to follow in his footsteps and set out on the AT myself (I eventually did….a little!)
There aren't enough superlatives available to describe my obsession for this title. I can’t recommend it highly enough. All of Bryson’s books are outstanding, but this, for me, is the cream of the crop.
The Dark Tourist – Dom Joly:
Most people will know Dom Joly (as I did) from Trigger Happy TV, but he has also written two travel books. The Dark Tourist is the first of these, (the other being Scary Monsters and Super Creeps) and in it he travels to various ‘dark tourism’ spots around the world, including Chernobyl and The Killing Fields. Although the majority of the destinations have been witness to horrific crimes, Joly also finds the time to go skiing in the ever-popular destination of Iran. No, really. Take that, Telluride! Despite the subject matter, it is an extremely witty and insightful book that will make you, somewhat against your will, want to buy some skis and head to Western Asia.
Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools – Victoria Twead:
I found this while rummaging around Amazon’s travel section one day, looking for inspiration. I read that Vicky was a teacher in England and that she dragged her husband out to live in the village of El Hoyo, Andalucía, upon retirement. The move and subsequent settling in to life in a small Spanish village is so well written and paints a beautiful, and eventful, picture of their new lives. Since this book, Victoria has written a further three books in the same series: all of which are excellent. This, being the introductory book, is my favourite of them all.
Finding Yourself in Seville – Steve Carter:
I stumbled upon this book after inspecting a B&B on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. As I was looking through the guest information folders in each room, I realised that there was information about this, and another, book. On chatting to the owner, Steve, it transpired that he had written both titles. I bought Finding Yourself in Seville when I got home (and Love, Sex and Tesco’s Finest Cava) and loved them both. The former takes you through the story of a bad break up, where our hero, Andy, decides to make the break and venture off to Sevilla for a year of studying the Spanish language. During his time there, he befriends some interesting characters and finds himself in some awkward positions. This book always transports me back to my own time in Sevilla and for that, as well as numerous other reasons, I love it.
Dave Gorman - Unchained America:
Let me just say for the record that my love for this book has nothing do to with the fact that Dave and I share the same surname. That’s just a happy coincidence. I love it because it’s a brilliant tale of road tripping across America. I’ve done a fair bit of that myself and I can relate to the sights and sounds that are so wonderfully depicted throughout the book. The object of the trip is to travel from coast to coast without giving any money to corporations and dealing only with local, independent, businesses. This involves not buying gas, spending the night, or eating, in any chain owed premises. The results are fantastic and the book is full of hilarious stories, which are smartly conveyed to the reader.