86 recommended travel books

the emperor, by Ryszard Kapu?ci?skiConde Nast commissioned a distinguished group of writers to nominate their favorite travel books. Participating authors included André Aciman, Monica Ali, Julia Alvarez, Tom Bissell, Geraldine Brooks, Vikram Chandra, Jim Crace, Jared Diamond, Linh Dinh, Anthony Doerr, Jennifer Egan, Stephen Elliott, Nuruddin Farah, Nell Freudenberger, Peter Godwin, Peter Hessler, Uzodinma Iweala, Sebastian Junger, Robert D. Kaplan, Mary Karr, Erik Larson, Rosemary Mahoney, Peter Mayle, Tom McCarthy, John McPhee, Adrienne Miller, Jan Morris, Stewart O’Nan, Francine Prose, Jonathan Raban, Graham Robb, Akhil Sharma, Matthew Sharpe, Jim Shepard, Darin Strauss, Robert Sullivan, Manil Suri, Paul Theroux, Colin Thubron, Lynne Tillman, Luis Alberto Urrea, Gore Vidal, Sean Wilsey, John Wray, and Lawrence Wright.

The result is a list of 86 books. Looking at this list, the first thing that strikes me is how few of them I have read. West with the Night was our first bestseller at North Point Press, and we also published Ted Hoagland and M.F.K. Fischer. At Mercury House we reissued some Robert Lewis Stevenson as part of our neglected classics series. A few others I read here and there, but I haven’t read the majority of these books. Is it an especially peculiar list or have I just neglected my travel reading? Maybe a bit of both, but I think the list is a little odd because of the methodology of just collecting nominations — I mean, how can Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan not make a list of great travel books? Anyway, here’s the list. For more information about the nominated books, go to the CNT page.

Along the Ganges, Ilija Trojanow
Arabian Sands, Wilfred Thesiger
An Area of Darkness, V.S. Naipaul
As They Were, M.F.K. Fisher
A Barbarian in Asia, Henri Michaux
The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer, Eric Hansen
Bitter Lemons of Cyprus, Lawrence Durrell
Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, Rebecca West
Blue Highways, William Least Heat-Moon
Captain John Smith: Writings
Chasing the Monsoon, Alexander Frater
Chasing the Sea, Tom Bissell
Cross Country, Robert Sullivan
Dark Star Safari, Paul Theroux
Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville
Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell
Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman’s Skiff, Rosemary Mahoney
The Emperor, Ryszard Kapu?ci?ski
Endurance, Alfred Lansing
Eothen, Alexander William Kinglake
“Exterminate All the Brutes,” Sven Lindqvist
Farthest North: The Voyage and Exploration of the Fram, 1893–1896, Fridtjof Nansen
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson
The Fearful Void, Geoffrey Moorhouse
From a Chinese City, Gontran De Poncins
Great Plains, Ian Frazier
The Great Railway Bazaar, Paul Theroux
Hindoo Holiday, J. R. Ackerley
The Histories, Herodotus
The Impossible Country, Brian Hall
In a Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson
India: A Million Mutinies Now, V. S. Naipaul
The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain
In Patagonia, Bruce Chatwin
In the Country of Country, Nicholas Dawidoff
In Trouble Again, Redmond O’Hanlon
Iron and Silk, Mark Salzman
I See by My Outfit, Peter S. Beagle
The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition
Journey to Portugal,
José Saramago
Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs and Condition of the North American Indians, George Catlin
Letters from Egypt: A Journey on the Nile, 1849–1850, Florence Nightingale
Life on the Mississippi, Mark Twain
London Perceived, V. S. Pritchett
The Long Walk, Slavomir Rawicz
The Lycian Shore, Freya Stark
Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, Suketu Mehta,
The Muses Are Heard, Truman Capote
The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches, Matsuo Basho
News from Tartary, Peter Fleming
The Nomad: Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt
No Mercy: A Journey into the Heart of the Congo, Redmond O’Hanlon
Notes from the Century Before, Edward Hoagland
Old Glory, Jonathan Raban
The Pillars of Hercules, Paul Theroux
The Pine Barrens, John McPhee
Riding the Iron Rooster, Paul Theroux
The Rings of Saturn, W. G. Sebald
The River War: An Historical Account of the Reconquest of the Sudan, Winston Churchill
The Road to Oxiana, Robert Byron
Rome and a Villa, Eleanor Clark
Roughing It, Mark Twain
Arabia, Peter Theroux
Sea and Sardinia, D. H. Lawrence
Shah of Shahs, Ryszard Kapu?ci?ski
A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, Eric Newby
Siren Land, Norman Douglas
Skating to Antarctica, Jenny Diski
Slowly Down the Ganges, Eric Newby
The Songlines, Bruce Chatwin

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  1. Travel books somehow do not fascinate me except those that come with high recommendation from reviewers that I trust. I have read eight on the list. I am quite amazed that I have considering that they are low on my priority. Naipaul, Paul Thoreux and Mark Twain are the ones that I have read.

  2. That is an excellent list. I have read a lot of those: Paul Theroux i like a lot and his mentor V S Naipaul i love to hate 🙂 but a lot of them i have not. So all at once i am inspired to go book shopping. There is nothing i like more than the smell of a book store; a new book. Books are not something i enjoy buying on the internet somehow.