Thursday, January 07, 2010

Favourite travel books from my 2009 reviewing year

Late last year I posted about my three favourite books from my reviewing job, and got such good feedback - including from some of you who bought and loved books at my suggestion - that I thought I'd better repeat this exercise now that 2009 is over.

To start with, a much-awaited book (for me) from one of the great travel writers - the grumpy but accurate Paul Theroux, and his Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar. As I've mentioned before, his original Great Railway Bazaar book was largely responsible for my obsession with riding the Trans-Siberian across Russia, and this book is the recreation of his journey, some thirty years on. Some changes in geography and politics means he can't follow the exact route, but he gets pretty close, and the book is largely written in the same style, not always positive about the places he sees or the people he meets, but always fascinating. It's a true traveller's must-read, basically, and I really savoured it.

Next, from an Australian writer who spent some time volunteering in Mexico, is Cate Kennedy's Sing, and Don't Cry : A Mexican Journal. For a start, I related well to the "fish out of water" syndrome of being an Aussie doing some serious abroad time, and how the process of fitting in somehow magically becomes a process of not wanting to leave - that was my experience abroad in a nutshell. Kennedy is usually a poetry and fiction writer rather than a travel writer, so this is an especially well-written travel narrative.

Finally, my third favourite travel book this year was the light-hearted Three Men in a Float: Across England at 15 mph, by Dan Kieran and Ian Vince. It's a chronological tale of the men's crazy journey across England driving an electric milk float. That's not an easy thing to do, of course, and there are plenty of funny incidents along the way. I'm quite a fan of people who do things the hard way, especially if it's also the weird way, and this book was a fun read.

Over to you: did anybody else read a great travel book in 2009? Please share your tips in the comments.

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