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Topic: Non-fiction for travel junkies

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Date Posted: 6/14/2009 7:18 AM ET
Member Since: 6/28/2007
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Just wanted to update on the reading progress so far:

Read Almost French by Sarah Turnbull, really enjoyed it.  I liked her discussion of the place, but especially the way she explored her culture shock and the process of learning about social expectations and customs.  Under the Tuscan Sun: Bren, you're right, it's nothing like the movie and I liked it much better.  A Trip the Beach was a nice read but I never felt like the author looked too hard at the place or the people. I read The Old Patagonian  Express by Paul Theroux and while I loved the writing, the author really struck me as a certain type of professor - you know the type, they're always ready to set you straight before you've finished figuring out the question.  Any thoughts?

Halfway through Nothing to Declare by Mary Morris, and French Revolutions is next.

Own Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and The City of Falling Angels, I really like them both.  Of course there are a million things on the thread and a bunch are on my wishlist and TBR pile.  So many great suggestions, thank you!!!

Date Posted: 6/17/2009 10:41 PM ET
Member Since: 5/8/2009
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wow, reading through everyone's suggestions is great. So many reminders of all the great books I've read - i love Peter Jenkins, Least Heat Moon, Gelman, Bryson and so many of the others. Loved Under the Tuscan Sun, the book. Hated the movie because it was so not the book. Some others you might like to try: French Impressions by John S. Littell (from his mother's journals of the time their family lived in France. Funny.) On Celtic Tides by Chris Duff (around Ireland by sea kayak) and Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owen (awesome). Blue Highways really started me on the path to reading travel memoirs, and Worldwalk by Steven M. Newman sealed my fate. This has to be my favorite genre.

Date Posted: 6/18/2009 10:04 PM ET
Member Since: 5/28/2009
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Try The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin. One of my favorite books ever, and I am not even a fan of the travel genre. : )

Date Posted: 6/20/2009 3:23 AM ET
Member Since: 11/17/2005
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I like Stephen Clarke's books about France (I guess is not exactly travel but about the culture, customs, social expectations). My favourites are Talk to the Snail and A Year in the Merde.

Date Posted: 6/20/2009 12:49 PM ET
Member Since: 6/18/2009
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My all time favorite travel book is Take Me With You, by Brad Newsham.  He travels around the world, and at the end of his trip (and the end of the book), chooses one of the people he met for an expense paid trip to the United States. You can read stories of the visit on the website (but if you're going to read the book, you might want to hold off on visiting the website and ruining the end of the book.)

Date Posted: 6/21/2009 8:21 PM ET
Member Since: 1/10/2009
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Jen - have you read Paul Theroux's The Great Railway Bazaar? I read that one and liked it, so I was looking forward to The Old Patagonian Express, as I'd been on some of those South American trains. I found it very disappointing, as he seemed to be in a crabby mood from the time he got on the first train, and spent the journey being surly about talking to locals who dared to interrupt his reading (books about the countries he was travelling through). Very unlike the earlier book, in which he was much more receptive about talking to local people on the different trains he rode.
Date Posted: 6/24/2009 11:58 AM ET
Member Since: 1/17/2007
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Castaway!  http://www.amazon.com/Castaway-Lucy-Irvine/dp/0552146811/

Molvania!  http://www.amazon.com/Molvania-Jetlag-Travel-Guide-Cilauro/dp/B000LMPL7O/

Phaic Tan!  http://www.amazon.com/Phaic-Tan-Jetlag-Travel-Guide/dp/0811853659/

(PS: the first one is a serious, real, and outstanding nonfiction account)



Last Edited on: 6/24/09 12:02 PM ET - Total times edited: 4
Date Posted: 6/24/2009 12:21 PM ET
Member Since: 5/17/2007
Posts: 3,129
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Niall Williams and his wife Christine Breen have written a series of books about leaving New York and settling in County Clare, Ireland, ancestral home of both.  They are lovely books with plenty of description, travel within Ireland, culture, and real Irish characters!



Last Edited on: 6/24/09 12:30 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/25/2009 2:29 PM ET
Member Since: 1/17/2009
Posts: 10,319
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I have really enjoyed many of the books in the "Traveler's Tales" series. Each book in the series is essays about travel in the country or on the topic of the book. There are a bunch of them ... for various countries, etc.

Also, Colin Thubron and Robert D. Kaplan (particularly "The Ends of the Earth") are great writers.

The funniest travel book I've ever read is Carl Franz's "The People's Guide to Mexico" (the descriptions of the book make it sound like a guidebook, but really, its much more like a travelogue, and way, way more interesting than a guidebook). The books is excellently and interestingly written and some of his stories made me laugh so hard I'm sure I almost peed my pants. 

Date Posted: 6/26/2009 11:31 AM ET
Member Since: 6/28/2007
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Margaret:

Thanks for saying it, Theroux was really cranky in that book!  He was so annoyed with everyone, I wanted to call him up and tell him if the only thing he enjoyed about travelling was reading "great" literature, why not just go to a resort and lie in the sun and read it there? So Great Railway Bazaar was better?  He's obviously a good writer despite the attitude.

More generally:

My wishlist is growing exponentially.  Finished Summer of My Greek Taverna.  Hate to say it, but it convinced me not to go to Greece.  The author is likeable and a good writer, but his love of the country seemed less and less reasonable as he went.  French Revolutions was hilarious and I snorted and giggled all the way through - I've been road cycling seriously for the first time this season and the bike stuff was at least as funny as the travel stuff.  Nothing to Declare was good, but I had trouble with the writer's style at times - is magical realism possible in a nonfiction account?  Was I missing some symbolism as she described her encounters with ghosts and spirits?

Date Posted: 6/26/2009 1:24 PM ET
Member Since: 5/8/2009
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I also just finished The Summer of My Greek Taverna, and enjoyed it. Didn't make me want not to go, though. Maybe just not have any business dealings over there.

I haven't read Nothing to Declare, but your comments tell me I need to. As far as I'm concerned, ghosts and spirits belong in a nonfiction account every bit as much as in a fictional story. How can you visit a medieval castle or Civil War battlefield or any place steeped in history and not encounter an spirit or two?

Date Posted: 6/28/2009 9:46 AM ET
Member Since: 1/10/2009
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Yes, the Travelers' Tales series is excellent. I'm reading one of the Australian ones now, and there's a section on learning to surf that had me ROFL. I seem to be addicted to them, as I have a lot more on my wish list. They're great for giving me ideas about whose writing I like, so I can search to see if those authors have written whole books I can request. Jen - Yes, I wanted to tell Theroux to do his reading at home and not export himself to give us gringos a bad name. There's at least one more book in the fake-countries series (Molvania, Phaic Tan), called 'San Sombrero,' about an imaginary Latin American land.

Last Edited on: 6/28/09 9:59 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 7/7/2009 11:50 PM ET
Member Since: 2/24/2006
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Theroux ROCKS!!  I love all his books.

In "The Old Patagonia Express" he was trying to describe how utterly and completely desolate the landscape was at the end of the journey -- a difficult task for a writer to convey to a reader who isn't there, but he did it for me in four words:  "There was no smell."

I understood so completely it made me catch my breath.

Date Posted: 7/8/2009 9:50 AM ET
Member Since: 6/28/2007
Posts: 230
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Update!

The first book to arrive from the Traveler's Tales series was Sand in My Bra, which was a series of vignettes and stories about travelling by women.  Very funny and unexpectedly introspective at times.  Anne Lamott's "the Aunties", about accepting her butt and thighs in a vacation spot full of teenagers, was my favorite.

Tales of a Female Nomad was also a great read. 

Date Posted: 7/11/2009 2:04 PM ET
Member Since: 10/13/2007
Posts: 957
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There is a great book about a gentleman who walked the Appalachain (spelling?!!!) Trail.  He had some pretty funny experiences on his trek!

I don't recall the title or the author, maybe someone here knows? 

Date Posted: 7/12/2009 12:28 PM ET
Member Since: 8/30/2007
Posts: 3,237
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Terry, the Appalachian Trail book is A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, one of my very favorite writers, travel or otherwise.

Date Posted: 7/12/2009 1:28 PM ET
Member Since: 10/13/2007
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Thanks, Janelle!  I added the audio CD version to my WL.  I would love to read it myself,  but that Mt TBR is looming large these days!  So, I will wait in line for the audio book.  (It's on the site in cassettes, but the vehicle I have now doesn't have a cassette player!)  I may check library to see if I can get through interlibrary loan.

Subject: travel book suggestions
Date Posted: 7/12/2009 5:18 PM ET
Member Since: 11/13/2008
Posts: 1,312
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"Tales of a Female Nomad" by Rita Golden Gelman (Mexico, the Galapagos, Indonesia )   "Beyond the Sky and the Earth" by Jamie Zeppa (Bhutan) and "Paris to the Moon" by Adam Gopnik

Date Posted: 7/12/2009 10:06 PM ET
Member Since: 10/13/2007
Posts: 957
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ETA: OOPS, the OP wants NON-fiction!



Last Edited on: 7/24/09 2:35 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/23/2009 4:00 PM ET
Member Since: 6/24/2009
Posts: 2
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Sex Lives of Cannibals-J. Maarten Troost

The Freeway-Dori Decamillis

Date Posted: 7/23/2009 7:52 PM ET
Member Since: 1/17/2007
Posts: 12,889
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IN TROUBLE AGAIN by Redmond O'Hanlon

Subject: just finished reading this...
Date Posted: 7/24/2009 9:31 PM ET
Member Since: 1/8/2009
Posts: 2,016
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Honeymoon in Purdah: An Iranian journey. I loved the portrayal of the Iranian people, the author not so much. My review is on the book's page. There's also a thread in this forum about this book. 

 

Date Posted: 7/26/2009 1:05 PM ET
Member Since: 10/2/2007
Posts: 350
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A favorite author is Alice Steinbach who took a year off from her job as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun for a European journey of self-discovery.  The result was Without Reservations.  Loved the book. 

I also liked her next book, Educating Alice, in which she describes roaming around the world as an informal student, taking lessons in French cooking in Paris, Border Collie training in Scotland, traditional Japanese arts in Kyoto, art and architecture in Havana, the gardens of Provence, and art in Florence.

I loved her feature articles as a reporter and, as an armchair traveler,  really enjoyed these books.

Subject: Food and travel
Date Posted: 8/8/2009 8:48 AM ET
Member Since: 1/10/2009
Posts: 332
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If you like books about travel that emphasize food (not the 'I went to X and ate something revolting' variety) the traveler's Tales series has several. You might also like Calvin Trillin's Travels with Alice; he and his wife and two small daughters go everywhere and really appreciate the food. More recently, he wrote Feeding a Yen. He loves food and is very funny.
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