20-best-travel-books

The 20 best travel books (not including mine!)

I’m about to head off on a trip and for my holiday reading I’ve decided to take one of my old favourite travel books with me. The only problem is that I’ve gone through my entire book shelf (which is mostly made of travel guide books and travel literature) and I can’t decide which book to take. I have so many favourites. If I could take (and read!) 20 books with me these would be my 20 favourite travel books:

best-20-travel-books

Neither here nor there: Travels in Europe
Bill Bryson
This was the first ‘travel’ book I ever read and it made me want to become a travel writer. I stumbled upon it in a bookshop in London and sat in the store for two hours reading it (and laughing hysterically) before I bought it!

best-20-travel-books

The Great Railway Bazaar
Paul Theroux
This is Theroux’s first (and I think best) travel book. In 1973 he set off from London’s Victoria station to travel by train across Europe and Asia to Japan and back again. He also wrote a follow up book 30-odd years later (Ghost Train to the Eastern Star) where he retraced his steps. Yes, he can be grumpy but what a storyteller.

best-20-travel-books

Holidays in Hell
P.J. O’Rourke
Although this book is from 1987 the stories are timeless and seriously laugh out loud funny. His idea of a holiday in hell includes war-torn Lebanon and Heritage USA (Jim & Tammy Bakker’s Christian theme resort).

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Around Ireland with a fridge
Tony Hawks
Tony makes a drunken bet that he could hitch-hike all around Ireland in a month – with a fridge in tow. What ensues is silly, funny and a heart-warming tale.

best-20-travel-books

Notes from a small island
Bill Bryson
After living in the UK for years this is Bryson’s farewell journey across Britain before he headed back to the US. It’s full of his usual irreverent humour and touching nostalgia. I love all the bizarre place names and interactions with wacky Brits.

best-20-travel-books

A Googlewhack Adventure
Dave Gorman
A Googlewhack is when you type in two words on Google and only get one match. Dave Gorman sets off around the world to meet the people who have websites that are a Googlewhack. It’s certainly wacky.

best-20-travel-books

The Pillars of Hercules
Paul Theroux
Theroux traipses around the Mediterranean coast visiting the not so visited places along the way. I loved it when a cruise company gave him a free cruise (hoping for positive reviews) and he wrote, ’Don’t they read my books?’ as he gleefully bags the cruise and its passengers.

best-20-travel-books

The Wrong Way Home
Peter Moore
Peter decided to travel from London to Sydney without flying. It might be a slow way to travel, but the book is fast paced and filled with great stories including Peter getting AK-47 lessons in Afghanistan.

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The Lost Continent
Bill Bryson
This was Bryson’s first travel book. In this rollicking read he jumps in his mom’s car from his hometown of Des Moines, Iowa and drives around the US.

best-20-travel-books

Playing the Moldovans at tennis
Tony Hawks
Another drunken bet and another very silly book. Hawks bets a mate that he could beat all of the players from the Moldovan football team in a game of tennis (but not all at the same time). But first he has to find them all!

best-20-travel-books

In search of Elvis
Charlie Connelly
Okay, I’m an Elvis nut, so I loved this book: especially when he meets the Jewish Elvis impersonator called Schmelvis in Canada.

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Do Not Pass Go: From the Old Kent Road to Mayfair
Tim Moore
Moore takes us around the Monopoly Board around London (we have the UK version in Australia) and he gives a historical and funny spin to each site (including a very funny chapter on London’s sewage works).

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Shadows of the Silk Road
Colin Thubron
Mr Thubron is a true adventurer and does real adventurer type things. In this book he travelled through China, Central Asia, northern Afghanistan, Western Asia along the old Silk Road on donkey, camels, third-class trains, buses, and jeeps.

best-20-travel-books

Vroom with a view
Peter Moore
I wish I had this idea for a book. Peter travels around Italy in a Vespa as old as he is and gets to eat a lot of Italian food and drink a lot of Italian wine while puttering through the Italian countryside.

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Friends like these
Danny Wallace
Not really a travel book per se, but in this funny and charming book Wallace decides to track down the twelve names he discovers in his old school address book and travels from Berlin to Loughborough and L.A. to Japan to find them.

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Finding Nino
Marc Llewellyn
It was lovely to read a book on living in Italy that didn’t have a quirky farmhouse in Tuscany with quirky plumbers.

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Once While Travelling. The Lonely Planet Story
Tony and Maureen Wheeler
The founders of Lonely Planet tell their story about how it all started. It’s a great story – although it does make you envious of all their trail-blazing travels.

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Downunder
Bill Bryson
Bill takes on Australia and not only is it funny, I found out all sorts of interesting (and scary) facts about my own country.

best-20-travel-books

In the Empire of Genghis Khan
Stanley Stewart
I read this while I was in Mongolia and my 2-day horse ride seemed tame compared to Stewart as he rides across the whole country eating fatty mutton for weeks on end.

best-20-travel-books

Nul Points
Tim Moore
I’ve read quite a few of Tim Moore’s books, but I loved the wacky idea of tracking down Eurovision contestants who scored zero points! Moore travels the world to hear first hand what happened to the 13 nul pointers.

What’s your favourite travel books? Oh, and feel free to mention any of mine :-)

 

 

 

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9 replies
  1. Amanda Callahan
    Amanda Callahan says:

    Hi Brian,

    Well, that’s easy! Your books. My favourite is Sleeping Around followed by Rule No. 5. Actually, your 7 books would make it in my top ten! Okay, I also love Bill Bryson, And from your list I’ve now got quite a few more books that I have to read. Thanks!

    Cheers Amanda

    Reply
    • bthacker
      bthacker says:

      Hi Amanda,

      Thanks so much! I like sleeping around as well 😉

      Cheers and happy travels
      brian

      Reply
  2. Pita
    Pita says:

    I’ve loved all your books, but Rule number 5 still makes me laugh out loud (perhaps you should retrace your steps one day?) I also love: A year in Provence, My Family and other animals, Don’t look behind you but”, Long way round, ’84 Charing Cross Road, A family in Paris, My life in France, Lights, camera, travel! Lunch in Paris. Ok, that’s enough – just realising how obsessed I am with travel books!

    Reply
    • bthacker
      bthacker says:

      Hi Pita,

      Thanks for posting! Yes, I have thought of retracing my steps for Rule.No.5. It would be great to get a bunch of old passengers and get a bus and do the whole trip. I think it would make a fun read with stories about how people’s lives have changed and. more importantly, if they can still party!

      Some great books there in your list Pita!

      Cheers and happy travels
      brian

      Reply
  3. Helen
    Helen says:

    Thanks for the book-list Brian – have read some, will add the others to my request list. My favourite of yours is “Where’s Wallis”, though hard to pick above the rest – all great reading! My favourite travel tale of all time (so far) is “The Unlikely Voyage of ‘Jack de Crow'” by A.J. (Sandy) Mackinnon. He sails a mirror dinghy from the river Severn in Wales, right through to the Black Sea. Fascinating account to me as I had recently returned from river cruises on the Moselle, Rhine, Maine & Danube, which covered part of his route.

    Reply
    • bthacker
      bthacker says:

      Hi Helen,

      Thanks for posting :-) Yes, I’ve read Sandy’s book – and also saw him do a talk about it. He was very funny and charming!

      Cheers and happy cruising!
      Brian

      Reply
  4. Reine
    Reine says:

    Hello there! Thanks for the great list! My favourite of yours is Rule No 5, a hilariously funny read. :)
    On the topic of humorous travel writers, I enjoy Rolf Potts (for instance “Marco Polo Didn’t Go There”) and Elliott Hester (“Adventures of a Continental Drifter”).

    Reply
    • bthacker
      bthacker says:

      Hi Reine,
      Thanks for picking one of mine! I like Rolf Potts, too – and I’ve met him and he’s a funny guy! I haven’t read Adventures of a Continental Drifter, but it’s on my list!
      Cheers and happy travels
      Brian

      Reply
  5. Allan
    Allan says:

    Hi Brian

    For the overland traveller, here are a few more.

    Magic Bus, by Rory MacLean. Memories of the Hippy Trail from Istanbul to India. Brought back many old memories.

    Red Tape and White Knuckles by Lois Pryce. A young ladies ride on a motorcycle through Africa from London to Capetown.

    And a favourite of mine, but probably obscure outside of Canada. Marco Polo on the OAS (Old Age Security). Ben Maartman. Proving that a pensioner on a limited budget can travel the world.

    Cheers,

    Allan

    Reply

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