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5 travel books that can transport you to far-flung places in beautiful and funny prose

There is a time and place for travel listicles and round-ups. When you’re planning your trip to London or Florence, listicles that rank the best dining experiences can come in handy for your meal itineraries. Same for round-ups of the best hotels to book or the best landmarks to see. But great travel writing goes beyond that.

Great travel writing will open your eyes, expand your perspectives, teach but not lecture, enlighten and transport. Though much of the world may be off-limits now, we can still use our imaginations to travel to far-flung places through the power of a beautifully crafted sentence and a biting sense of humor, thanks to these travel books.

Here are a few classic and new travel book ideas for your reading and armchair traveling pleasure this weekend.

great railway
“The Great Railway Bazaar”. Image: Mariner Books

The Great Railway Bazaar, by Paul Theroux
One of the great classics of American travel writing, “The Great Railway Bazaar” takes readers on an odyssey throughout Asia aboard some of the most fabled trains in the world: the Orient Express, the Mandalay Express and the Trans-Siberian Express. First published in 1975, the book is part travelogue, part literature, with events and descriptions embellished in Theroux’s signature humor and novelistic flair.

A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson
After living in the United Kingdom for 20 years, travel writer Bill Bryson returned to the United States in his 60s, and decided on a whim to tackle the 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail, the world’s longest continuous footpath that crosses through 14 states from Georgia to Maine. What ensues is a travelogue written in Bryson’s classic “riotously funny” LOL style, that recounts his five-month journey with his friend Stephen Katz hiking through some of the most striking landscapes in America. If the premise sounds familiar, that’s because the book was adapted into a film starring Robert Redford as Bryson in 2015.

breeding book
“What I was Doing While You Were Breeding”. Image: Penguin Random House

What I was Doing While You Were Breeding, by Kristin Newman
This one’s for both the single ladies and the married ladies who are nostalgic for the days when they were single ladies. From a sitcom writer whose credits include hits like “That ’70s Show”, “How I Met Your Mother” and “Chuck”, the memoir takes readers along on the author’s escapades and “vacationships” abroad with Israeli bartenders, Finnish poker players and sexy Bedouins. For both singletons and married women, the book allows readers to live vicariously through the carefree career woman and her exploits around the world.

kindness of strangers
“The Kindness of Strangers”. Image: Lonely Planet


The Kindness of Strangers, Lonely Planet
If ever we needed some feel-good vibes, it’s now. “The Kindness of Strangers” curates 26 inspiring stories from esteemed writers including Dave Eggers, Simon Winchester, Tim Cahill and Jan Marris, that explore human connections forged through the experience of travel. It even got a shout-out from the Dalai Lama, who said: “I greatly appreciate the theme of this book that gathers stories of kindness received when it was most needed and perhaps least expected. I am sure they will inspire everyone who reads them, encouraging each of us to take whatever opportunities arise to be kind to others in turn.”

best american travel 2019
“The Best American Travel Writing”. Image: Mariner Books

The Best American Travel Writing 2019
This annual compendium collects the best travel writing essays published every year, offering readers a diverse range of voices, destinations and perspectives of the travel world. The 2019 edition is a collection of the most poignant and compelling stories published in prestigious and leading travel outfits that include “Travel + Leisure”, “National Geographic Traveler”, “The New York Times Magazine” and “Outside”. JB


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