Travel Literature Public

Created by Sean Bala

A collection of some of my favorite pieces of travel literature that I've read over the years.

  1. The Tao of Travel by 

    No rating

    Paul Theroux celebrates fifty years of wandering the globe in this collection of the best writing from the books that …

    Sean Bala says:

    Don't know where to begin? This book is a miscellany of travel literature that can get you started.

  2. Ghost Train to the Eastern Star by 

    No rating

    In Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Paul Theroux retraces the steps he took thirty years ago in his classic …

    Sean Bala says:

    This was the first travel book I read and it got me hooked. Theroux retraces the journey he took in "The Great Railway Bazaar" thirty years later, reflecting on what it means to be a "ghost" in the places you had been before.

  3. The Great Railway Bazaar by 

    No rating

    In 1973, Paul Theroux embarked on a four-month journey by train from the United Kingdom through Europe, the Middle East, …

    Sean Bala says:

    In many ways, this book kicked off a new wave of modern travel literature. While many people don't like his writing (finding him too opinionated or too caustic), I find Theroux's writing balances a keen eye for detail and reflexive insights about places and people.

  4. The Old Patagonian Express by 

    No rating

    Starting with a rush-hour subway ride to South Station in Boston to catch the Lake Shore Limited to Chicago, Paul …

    Sean Bala says:

    Probably my favorite of Theroux's works (so far), the premise is that he goes from his childhood home to a random spot in Patagonia by train. The goal is to upend the traditional travel narrative where all happens after you arrive. The chapter on the Panama Canal still sticks with me.

  5. The snow leopard by 

    No rating

    This lovely book (1978) describes a two month search for the snow leopard with naturalist George Schaller in the Dolpo …

    Sean Bala says:

    I love this book. A beautiful blending of spirituality, philosophy, nature, and storytelling. I've returned to it multiple times in my life.

  6. The Lady and the Monk by 

    4 stars

    When Pico Iyer decided to go to Kyoto and live in a monastery, he did so to learn about Zen …

    Sean Bala says:

    I originally did not like this book but I found that it has grown on me over time. Much more subtle than you might initially think. Read "Autumn Light" afterwards to find out what happens to Iyer after.

  7. A Beginner's Guide to Japan: Observations and Provocations by 

    No rating

    “Arguably the greatest living travel writer” (Outside magazine), Pico Iyer has called Japan home for more than three decades. But, …

    Sean Bala says:

    A good companion book to read with "The Monk and the Lady" and "Autumn Light"

  8. The Road to Oxiana by 

    4 stars

    The Road to Oxiana is the brilliant account of Robert Byron’s ten-month journey to Iran and Afghanistan in 1933–34. This …

    Sean Bala says:

    Byron really captures a distinct moment in time and travels through some beautiful landscapes in Central Asia through Iran, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan. A good blend of character, observation, and detail. Considered by many to be first modern travel book.

  9. A Pilgrimage to Eternity: From Canterbury to Rome in Search of a Faith by 

    No rating

    Moved by his mother's death and his Irish Catholic family's complicated history with the church, Timothy Egan decided to follow …

    Sean Bala says:

    Not the best of books, I like it for its Italian section where you see the joy of a person returning to a place they lived for many years. The book is a good meditation on faith in modernity and the loss of geographic meaning in a secularized world.

  10. City of Djinns by 

    No rating

    Sparkling with irrepressible wit, City of Djinns peels back the layers of Delhi's centuries-old history, revealing an extraordinary array of …

    Sean Bala says:

    One of the best travel books about India and Delhi. Written by a person who has a deep love for India, its history, and culture.

  11. From The Holy Mountain by 

    3 stars

    In the spring of A.D. 587, John Moschos and his pupil Sophronius the Sophist embarked on a remarkable expedition across …

    Sean Bala says:

    Another good one from William Dalrymple. Some beautiful passage going through the 1990s Middle East.

  12. Confederates in the Attic by 

    4 stars

    Confederates in the Attic (1998) is a work of non-fiction by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tony Horwitz. Horwitz explores his deep …

    Sean Bala says:

    Part travel book and part meditation on historical memory, Horwitz looks at the way people continue to engage w the American Civil War. Horwitz was a hands-on, active reporter who really got to the level of his subjects. Memorable, thoughtful, and genuinely hilarious book.

  13. Autumn Light by 

    No rating

    In this “exquisite personal blend of philosophy and engagement, inner quiet and worldly life" (Los Angeles Times), an acclaimed author …

    Sean Bala says:

    A bit less of a travel narrative than "The Monk and the Lady," this is a beautiful follow up to that book. Iyer has lived half the year in Japan with his wife and here you get a sense of what it is like to be a long-term expat. This book is a moving meditation on death and family.

Sort List

Embed this list on a website