Friday, August 31, 2007

Extreme Adventure

When National Geographic produces a list they trumpet as “The 100 Greatest Adventure Books of All Time,” we pay attention. That’s like getting advice from Little Debbie about the best Swiss Cake Rolls, right? Seriously: they oughta know.

National Geographic’s list includes some books that are fairly recent (Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer from 1997 comes in at # 9; Sara Wheeler’s Terra Incognita from 1996 makes the list at # 82). Others are inarguably classics (Lewis and Clark’s Journals from 1814 is # 2, Travels, by Marco Polo from 1298 comes in at # 10.

While the list makes fascinating reading, and while it's difficult to disagree with many of these choices, there are a few notable absences. I was surprised, for instance, that something by Paul Theroux didn’t make the cut, especially his very important The Great Railway Bazaar from 1975. Another few surprising no shows: Colin Thurbron’s Behind the Wall from 1987, Bill Bryson’s Notes From A Small Island (1995) and, even though it’s very, very recent and, arguably, more about food than travel (though when is food not an important part of that thought?) Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour from 2001.

Still it’s a great list and a serious keeper for those on a life mission to read the very best travel writing of all time.

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