PW's Top 10: Travel Books

taffy puller, Stockholm, Sweden 2011
Paul Solberg

Travel literature dates back to a time when seeing the world was an expensive and time-consuming enterprise reserved for the privileged, like Charles Dickens, whose Pictures from Italy, about a yearlong trip to Italy, combined his gifts of imagination and observation. In a new edition, Italian artist Livia Signorini interprets this classic with her modern and artistic vision.

Lonely Planet, a guidebook publisher that decades ago focused on backpacking the hippie routes from Europe to Asia, proves its mettle this season with Better Than Fiction, an anthology of travel writing by celebrated international authors—including Joyce Carol Oates (we’re happy to hear she does get up from her desk occasionally), Isabel Allende, and Pico Iyer—sharing true tales of their adventures far from home. More traveling authors appear in The Condé Nast Traveler Book of Unforgettable Journeys: Vol. II: Great Writers on Great Places, with contributions from literati E.L. Doctorow and Edna O’Brien among others.

From those writers whose reputation is founded on travel writing and the lessons they’ve gleaned from the open road, A.A. Gill who writes for Vanity Fair and the Sunday Times, has collected his wanderings in Here & There: Collected Travel Writing, in which he contemplates the decline of the croissant and discovers lobster-shaped coffins in Ghana. William Least Heat-Moon is a name synonymous with “road.” His Blue Highways was the first in a canon of travel stories; his best short pieces from Japan, England, Italy, Mexico, Long Island, Oregon, and Arizona are collected in Here, There, Elsewhere: Stories From the Road.

Pictures of foreign places always intrigue (as long as they weren’t taken by Uncle Harry), and Rosemary Flannery takes on Paris, a city at the center of art, literature, and endless memoirs and travelogues (and yes, filled with effortlessly slim women who nibble on stinky cheese and have well-behaved children). With her eyes skyward, she sees the beautiful angels looking down in The Angels of Paris: Looking Up in the World’s Most Beautiful City. Christopher Makos and Paul Solberg, American photographers with a jones for Sweden, under the blessings of the Swedish Tourist Board, present the country of Stieg Larsson with Tattoos, Hornets & Fire: The Millennium Sweden, providing the visuals of a country so well-known through its crime fiction. Back home, the Appalachian Trail is 75 years old and, with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy on board, is marking its anniversary with an illustrated book, foreword by Bill Bryson, who wrote a bestseller about his attempt to walk the trail’s 2,181 miles (it goes from Maine to Georgia). The Appalachian Trail: Celebrating America’s Hiking Trail has 300 images, a detailed map, and enough history to satisfy those of us who would rather not actually hike the trail’s five million footsteps. Finally, by the intrepid souls we can always count on, those former Peace Corps volunteers, we have Becoming Plural: Travels in the Sudan, Travels in the Sudans by Richard Boggs, who first arrived in Sudan as a volunteer in 1986. Over many visits, he’s encountered camels in their souks, Nubian wrestlers, and the last of the ferrymen who became redundant with the construction of bridges across the Nile. And while God is in the details, writer and journalist George Rosen, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya, relates strange encounters from Africa to Mexico, in Immanence of God in the Tropics, including a seasick missionary who bumps into the deity himself (herself?) on the equator.

PW’s Top 10: Travel

Pictures from Italy by Charles Dickens, art by Livia Signorini. Tara Books, Sept.

Better Than Fiction by Edited by Don George. Lonely Planet, Dec.

The Condé Nast Traveler Book of Unforgettable Journeys: Vol. II: Great Writers on Great Places by Klara Glowczewska. Penguin, Aug.

Here and There: Collected Travel Writing by A.A. Gill. Hardie Grant, Oct.

Here, There, Elsewhere: Stories from the Road by William Least Heat-Moon. Little, Brown, Jan.

The Angels of Paris: Looking Up in the World’s Most Beautiful City by Rosemary Flannery. NYRB Classics, Oct.

Tattoos, Hornets & Fire: The Millennium Sweden by Christopher Makos and Paul Solberg. Glitterati, Oct.

The Appalachian Trail: Celebrating America’s Hiking Trail by Brian King. Rizzoli, Sept.

Becoming Plural: Travels in the Sudan by Richard Boggs. Garnet Publishing, Dec.

Immanence of God in the Tropics by George Rosen. Leapfrog Press, Nov.

Louisa ErmelinoPublisher's Weekly