That ubiquitous Seattle librarian Nancy Pearl recently appeared on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition to talk about a subgenre of non-fiction that has always fascinated me: travel narratives. Perhaps I’m a bit more interested than most, since I have spent entirely too much time shoveling Midwestern snow; but for whatever reason, I found Pearl’s travel narrative suggestions fascinating. They included:

Dead Reckoning: Great Adventure Writing from the Golden Age of Exploration, 1800-1900, an anthology that includes essays by the likes of George Kennan, John Muir, and Isabella Bird;

Mary Henrietta Kingsley’s memoir, Travels in West Africa, in which this blue-blooded Victorian woman travels to the Congo and climbs Mount Cameroon. Pearl is quick to point out that Kinglsey, like many travel writers of her era, included in her book political and social commentary unique to their time, which doesn’t always translate well for 21st-century readers;

And The 8:55 to Baghdad: From London to Iraq on the Trail of Agatha Christie and the Orient Express, by Andrew Eames, which combines modern-day rail travel with the journey Christie took in 1928, which formed the basis for her best-known mystery.

Some more recent classics that Pearl did not mention include Jonathan Raban’s Passage to Juneau, Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia, and William Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways.

Listen to more about Pearl’s recommendations here.

One thought on “Hitting the Road from Your Armchair”

  1. Great piece, Stephen! And good point about the more recent books Pearl didn’t mention. The Chatwin and the Raban you mentioned are both marvelous and total must-reads in this area. I’ve not read Blue Highways (will look for it). I would also add almost any of Paul Theorux’s non-fiction. And, for a flaky post-modern twist, Paul’s son, Louis Theroux, has recently written an entirely evolved travel narrative, The Call of the Weird. (And it is!)

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