Travel Books

I’m a total bookworm, and a diverse one at that.  I tend to hop between multiple genres (excluding ones like fantasy and romance, of course), and often find myself reading travel books.  Here’s a short list of some of my favourite travel books, and why I adore them so much.

Hokkaido Highway Blues by Will Ferguson

Notoriously self-depricating, Will Ferguson’s humour has traditionally emerged through writings on his (and my) home country of Canada.  His work includes Beauty Tips From Moose Jaw, How To Be A Canadian (slyly purchased by myself for my expat British boyfriend upon his arrival to this vast snowy land of crazy), and, naturally, Why I Hate Canadians.  Hokkaido Highway Blues is one of Ferguson’s forays into international writing, chronicling his hitchhiking adventure through Japan.  Working as a teacher for a few years in the country that hovers near the top of my travel list, Ferguson made the ambitious goal of traversing the country from south to north to follow the run of the cherry blossoms, an annual phenomenon that captivates the country and dominates conversation for an entire season.  Along the way he encounters a mish-mash of characters and entertainers, dead-set on calling him American and dissecting the Japanese psyche.  He gets fall-down drunk a lot, gives a surprising insight into a particular niche of “love”ly hotels, and illustrates a completely contradictory, yet fascinating cross-section of a race of utterly intriguing people.  Oh, and the book is very funny.  To anyone who has visited, plans on visiting, lived in, or is just mildly curious about Japan, this will entertain you for hundreds of pages.

Do Travel Writers Go To Hell? by Thomas Kohnstamm

When I considered pursuing travel writing, I came across this book.  Not only is it frank and funny, Kohnstamm introduced me to two very important things: firstly, travel writing can be about as unglamourous as sleeping in mud, and secondly, that northern Brazil sounds like a place I’d actually really like to visit (taking his advice and experience into consideration).  The book is a chronicle of Kohnstamm’s travels in northern Brazil while updating Lonely Planet’s guidebook for the region.  His experiences highlight the challenges that come with writing for guidebooks in less documented areas, and some of the moral issues and dilemmas faced by travel writers.  It’s a pretty funny tale, and certainly made me think a little harder about what travel writing has in store for those who seek it out.  Travelers and travel writers alike will probably really enjoy this book, and perhaps even those of you who are less travel-literature inclined.

My Invented Country by Isabel Allende

Best known for House of Spirits, Portrait in Sepia, and Daughter of Fortune, Isabel Allende is a well-known Chilean writer whose stories typically include elements of magical realism.  In My Invented Country, Allende retraces her roots in Chile, a country where she never truly felt as though she fit in, yet considers it home.  Born in Peru, and residing in America since the 1970s, a series of triggers prompted Allende to return to Chile on a nostalgic journey to better understand how her memories have shaped her life, and to differentiate between memory and reality.  I loved this book because of its unique portrayal of Chile, and from the honest and humourous self-reflection by Allende.  It’s a particular type of travel book that is somewhat uncommon, yet familiar all at once.  Don’t we all wish for a little nostalgia every so often?

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