Lists, Miscellanea, Reviews

Not Your Average Travelogue: A Top Ten List

I love to travel and hate to fly. It’s truly an excellent combination – at least I’m not prone to panic attacks. I get it done and I’m surprised every single time the plane doesn’t crash. Because I do enjoy self-torture, I’ve flown at least twice per year for the last 15 years. An alternative and much less stressful (and let’s face it, somewhat more adventurous) way to enjoy travel: read about it. Some of these have travel as their main focus, some have travel as a secondary attraction, 9/10 are enjoyable.

Road Trip

As hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and in no particular order:

10. On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Not my favorite, but a classic. I refuse to see the recent film adaptation. Anyone care to convince me otherwise…?

9. The Beach by Alex Garland. One of the failings of the American educational system is its discouragement of a gap year. Not that I’d want Richard’s…

8. The Terror by Dan Simmons. This novel is the fictionalized account of Captain Sir John Franklin’s doomed Arctic expedition of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror to force the Northwest Passage in 1845–1848. One of the best horror novels I’ve read.

7. Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene. I included this on my best books before blogging list, it’s a political satire and a black comedy about a vacuum cleaner salesman turned reluctant secret agent.

6. Anything written by Bill Bryson.

5. A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter. One of the few redeeming qualities about this novel (aside from the lyrical writing) is the evocative descriptions of the French landscape – absolutely gorgeous. The rest of it – less so…

4. The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham. Have I not convinced you to read this book yet? It’s a beautiful, melancholy story of love, redemption, travel, and loss (made into an excellent film starring Edward Norton).

“I have an idea that the only thing which makes it possible to regard this world we live in without disgust is the beauty which now and then men create out of the chaos. The pictures they paint, the music they compose, the books they write, and the lives they lead. Of all these the richest in beauty is the beautiful life. That is the perfect work of art.”

3. The Stand by Stephen King. Though primarily the tale of government mischief gone wrong (thus potentially letting evil reign), the book also has one of the most horrific scenes involving travel through a tunnel.

2. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill. In addition to traveling from New England to Colorado, there is also an alternative mode of transportation in the form of a personal inscape. For one character it’s a bike, for another it’s a Rolls Royce Wraith. It’s easily one of the best books I’ve read this decade and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys good fiction. I’ve always been convinced that if there is a hell, the soundtrack would begin and end with an Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas song. Glad I’m not the only one. As quoted in an interview, “I’m sure if you were going down to Hell in an elevator, the music playing would be the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas album and it would speed up the farther you plunged”. Exactly right, Joe Hill.

And if you happen to like the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas songs, don’t tell me! If you have the same reaction I have, please commiserate (inane fact: I have the same reaction to Coldplay and Oasis as I do to Alvin and the Chipmunks).

1. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson. I’ve done a lot of questionable things in my short life, few of which are comparable to the adventures in this semi-autobiographical novel.

“Good people drink good beer.”

Which is ruined by the fact that included in their serious drug collection is a case of Budweiser. Not good beer.

So…travel books? Love ’em? Hate ’em? Have you ever traveled anywhere solely because you’ve read a book set in that location? Sadly (or not), I have.

Image: Arabia Mountain Tumblr

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