I have a secret. Well, more of a secret addiction. Perhaps you won’t even be surprised. I will read nearly any travel book, eschewing opportunities to go out, ride a bike, sleep, occasionally even eat. It’s a genre I love, and I don’t know if it’s because I love the books, want to imagine myself on the trips, or am cocky enough to believe that one day I might write one. I have read some true doozies, including one about a woman who randomly fell in love with a Masai on a trip with her boyfriend, and moved back to eat putrid goat meat and fight against strong cultural taboos, like her husband’s desire for multiple wives. This last one I would not say was a great book, so much as it was a train wreck that I could not look away from, and so I did not. (The book is called the White Masai, if you were wondering).
I asked on a couple of times on twitter and the like who people like to read, and got almost no response, so I just wrote this article on the basis (mostly) of books I’d read myself, including one which I distinctly remembered having read on Dec. 23rd, 1992, which if you don’t already wonder about my ability to remember very specific life events will surely make you raise an eyebrow. And yet I routinely miss people’s birthdays. Maybe it’s part of my misanthropic charm. It’s charming, right?
And now I present to you, in lieu of a truly strange story about falling in love with a Masai warrior and moving to a pre-electric village (that’s what they call them these days) to fall terribly ill and nearly die on several occasions, a story I recently had “printed” about 9 travel books that make you say “better them than me”
Today’s story? Volcanoes. And for some of those, I’m thinking “better them than me” as well. Some things are called once-in-a-lifetime for a reason. I’m just saying.
Awww, that's a great article! I've made notes for later…
I haven't read Kon-Tiki in many years, I should look that one up again.
I've never been able to appreciate Theroux, he's just TOO cranky for me.
I remember reading the Krakauer book on an airplane and realizing that they were higher up that I was, on the plane. eek!
xox from yr cronopio
You might like this book then:
It's not as travel-porn as the White Masai, but I am not sure that much could plumb a lower depth than that.
[looking on Amazon now, that book appears to cost as much as half of a decent camera. Dear god, african imports are expensive. If you want to pop me an email with a postal address, i'll send you a copy, but no guarantees on the speed of the postal service here. 🙂 firstname.lastname@example.org]
yay cronopio, glad you liked it, and yes, Theroux is in a permabad mood. There were so many other books in the original article, but it was too long. I'll save that research for another time!
And Richard, yeah, that Masai book was a sight to behold. And yet I never stopped reading it. Don't worry about sending that other book you mentioned, it would cost an arm and a leg, and there's so much bad lit out there already. Need anything from S. America? BTW, added you back on flickr.
I love Travel Lit.
I just read a very funny book called "Diplomatic Baggage" which chronicles the life of a woman whose husband is in the diplomatic corps and of course they end up all over.
While we were living in Mauritania, I read a Lonely Planet guide called "Mali Blues," where the author traveled through Senegal, Mauritania and on to Mali. She made so many horrible cultural faux pas and missed the point of so many things that it's no wonder she hated Mauritania so badly. She's not someone I'd ever want to meet, much less travel with. In fact, I have yet to find something written in English that is positive about Mauritania. The best I can do is the neutral Quentin Crewe's "In Search of the Sahara."
I enjoyed your article and will look for some of the books you mentioned that I haven't read yet.
I found your blog through Matador. My guilty pleasure is travel blogs ! I might have to try some books for a change. I look forward to reading more about your Chile adventures! ~Amanda