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Travel books I have read and recommend in 2019
Throughout this past year I have read and reviewed numerous travel-related books. Here is a selection of those that I recommend. It is a personal selection and reflects my taste. It does not include guidebooks or other travel guides – I will save that for another post.
These days books are available in more than just hardback or paperback versions. There are e-readers such as Kindle and digital audiobook subscription sites like Amazon’s Audible. You can read more in a previous post about books that are not books.
Step By Step - Simon Reeve
Starting with biographies I would highly recommend Simon Reeve’s Step by Step. Simon Reeve is, of course, the presenter of several BBC television’s travel series and is known for his investigative prowess, adventurous spirit and bringing truly off the beaten track places and their people into our homes. He does this in a thought-provoking manner which he has made his own. In Step by Step, he details his life from a turbulent teenager, through near suicide to television presenting. Just as his travel programs (Equator, Tropic of Capricorn, and Sacred Rivers) is style is thoroughly engrossing and entertaining.
The Lightless Sky - Gulwalli Passarlay with Nadene Ghouri
This book was recommended to me by one of my readers. There are some who would not classify The Lightless Sky as a travel book but if you define travel as a “journey taken” then this book surely qualifies. It is the harrowing story of the journey of an Afghan refugee fleeing war and persecution. This is no ordinary refugee but a boy of 12 sent away by his parents unaware of the hardships their son will endure. This well-written book highlights the sad plight of thousands who are exploited by people traffickers across Europe. I have yet to come across anyone who is not moved by the story of Gulwalli.
Tales from the Fast Trains - Tom Cheshyre
Ticket To Ride - Tom Cheshyre
This pair of books is not just for trainspotters or rail enthusiasts. Indeed they would struggle to find much to interest them as little is mentioned about the gauge, the bogies or the hauling locomotives. Rather these two books are for those who like to travel by train.
Tom Cheshyre in Tales From The Fast Trains, sometimes accompanied by the mysterious and enigmatic ‘E’, explores lesser cities of Europe on the high speed rail network.
In Ticket to Ride he discovers the world’s train journeys. He experiences all kinds of journeys on every kind of train from steam hauled trains to highly technical bullet trains.
Tales From The Fast Trains
Ticket To Ride
The Salt Path - Raynor Winn
After losing their home, livelihood and health Raynor and her husband take the decision to walk the South-West Coast Path. This is an against-the-odds genre of book which details the couple’s struggle with failing health, a non-existent budget and the usual deprivations of long-distant hiking and camping. As I read the book I felt I was walking with them or just a few steps behind such is the author’s power of description of both the journey and its effect on their physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
The only way is West - Bradley Chermside
Another long-distance trail, another author and different reason for following a path. Bradley Chermside decides to follow Northern Spain’s pilgrim path, the Camino de Santiago.
It all starts, in Greece, with a 20 Euro note on which a girl had scribbled her email. Years later he hikes 900km for a blind date and to ponder some significant life changes. The book is the chronicle of his journey and the people he meets. His humour and insights into the people he meets make this an un-put-downable book.
The Meaning Of Rice - Michael Booth
Before reading The Meaning of Rice my knowledge of Japanese cuisine was limited to Sushi, Wagamama and chopsticks. In addition Japanese food seemed to centre around some pretty weird ingredients, to western palates at least. As the subtitle … And Other Tales From The Belly Of Japan, suggests this is not just a book about rice.
Michael Booth takes us on a culinary journey of Japan from street food to food fit for and emperor. Food from the unsavoury and weird to the more well-known and palatable dishes we have come to love outside of Japan. This book alone has tempted me to visit Japan in the near future and increased my knowledge of Japanese cuisine 100-fold.
One More Croissant For The Road - Felicity Cloake
This book should come with a health warning – “not to be read if hungry.”
This is a book for the keen Francophile, avid cyclist, greedy gastronome or connoisseur of the croissant. Felicity Cloake sets out to cycle and eat her way round France while at the same time searching for the perfect croissant. What could make for a more mouth-watering read?
Along the way she searches out regional dishes sampling the good and positively awful. The travelogue-cum-foodie-memoir is punctuated by her own recipes of the dishes she is trying and by explanations of everything from ordering coffee to the history behind a dish. Of course there is always her review of every croissant she tastes.
Did you find this list helpful going forward? How many of these books have you read? What travel books did you read in 2019?
I am already compiling a list of travel books to read in 2020. Do you have any recommendations? Let me know in the comments below.