The Traveller's Armchair Reading List

My present journey includes seeking a print publisher for the Nomadic Spirit . The proposed book, Movement: Seeking Perfect Lines, is a high-octane illustrated travelogue comprising the best photographs and text from this Nomadic Spirit .

As on any quest, it's important to know the terrain before setting out; I thought you all might enjoy browsing my research shelves.

In Association with

Gods of Travel Writing

Bruce Chatwin
I first encountered Chatwin while at Uluru, in Australia. The Songlines represents exactly what I seek in both travel and reading material: insight-driven experiences that are, thought-provoking and completely unexpected. The quote from Blaise Pascal at the bottom of every Nomadic Spirit page came from What Am I Doing Here?, perhaps the book that best describes Chatwin while he's busily attempting to describe everything he encounters, while attempting to understand the drive to travel-thus the drive to understand-itself.

"In theory, at least, the whole of Australia could be read as a musical score. There was hardly a rock or creek in the country that could not or had not been sung. One should perhaps visualize the Songlines as a spaghetti of Iliads and Odysseys, writhing this way and that, in which every 'episode' was readable in terms of geology. " - Bruce Chatwin, The Songlines

Tim Cahill
Cahill blends travel and adventure in the outdoors with a unique odd-ball, laugh-riot humour. With titles like Pecked to Death by Ducks and Pass the Butterworms: Remote Journeys Oddly Rendered, who would ever guess? On the other hand, his next book, Hold the Enlightenment: More Travel, Less Bliss, takes a shot at a subject nearer and dearer. So long as it's funny, I'll forgive him. I haven't found (or written) anything that sums Cahill up better than Amazon's own review of Road Fever: A High-Speed Travelogue:

"If you define 'adventure travel' as anything that's more fun to read about than to live through, then Tim Cahill's Road Fever is the adventure of a lifetime. Along with professional long-distance driver Garry Sowerby, Cahill drove 15,000 miles from the southernmost tip of Tierra del Fuego to the northernmost terminus of the Dalton Highway in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, from one end of the world to another, in a record-breaking 23 1/2 days. Just like the authors' camper-shelled GMC Sierra truck, the narrative bounces along at a relentless pace. Along the way Cahill and Sowerby cope with mood swings, engine trouble, Andean cliffs, obstinate bureaucracies, slick highways, armed and uncomprehending soldiery (not to mention the challenges of securing O.P.M., or Other People's Money--the sine qua non of adventure, Cahill observes). Author of such off-the-wall travelogues as Pass the Butterworms and Jaguars Ripped My Flesh , Cahill is equipped with the correct amalgam of chutzpah and dementia to survive what can only be called 'The Road Trip From Hell.' Readers, however, will thoroughly enjoy themselves."

Bill Bryson
His idea of a journey is nearly at complete odds with my own, and yet he makes my gut wrench so hard from laughing I can't put the man down. Bryson is a dodderer, a solitary fellow who considers a day of travelling perfect if he can manage-sometime between an icy lager at the pub and a tasty dinner at the quaint inn with the prescient staff-to find the house that some obscure historical figure took tea in. Of course, and fortunately for us, Bryson apparently experiences very few such perfect days. He also has a rather peevish habit of saying just what he thinks. An example from In a Sunburned Country:

"The fact is, of course, we pay shamefully scant attention to our dear cousins Down Under-not entirely without reason, of course. Australia is after all mostly empty and a long way away. Its population, just over 18 million, is small by world standards-China grows by a larger amount each year-and its place in teh world economy is consequently peripheral; as an economic entity, it ranks about level with Illinois. Its sports are of little interest tous and the last television series it made that we watched with avidity was Skippy, From time to time it sends us useful things-opals, merino wool, Errol Flynn, the boomerang-but nothing we can't actually do without. Above all, Australia doesn't misbehave. It is stable and peaceful and good. It doesn't have coups, recklessly overfish, arm disagreeable despots, grow coca in provocative quantities, or throw its weight around in a brash and unseemly manner." - Bill Bryson, In a Sunburned Country

Paul Theroux
The Evil God of Ugly Travellers. I don't get the fascination with this guy. He's a curmudgeon. OK,'s Bryson, but Bryson's as willing to laugh at his own buffoonery as anyone else's. I could say more, but Momma taught me better. Still, I'm not going to provide a link to him, so there!

Epic Travel

10 Years on 2 Wheels: 77 Countries, 250,000 Miles,
Helge Pedersen, Dana Payne Ed., (Elfin Cove Press, 1998)
A big beefy hardcover exquisitely photographed with stories equal to the irresistably bold, beautiful images.

"If there is one thing I can say about Helge from the little time we have spent talking is that he is honest. His photography in this book is honest. His love of people from all over the world is honest, and his text in "10 Years on 2 Wheels" is sincere. He left home looking to see the world, not conquer it. For anyone who has experienced, or has dreamt of experiencing frosty mornings in places far away with nothing but a tent, campstove and innocent anticipation of the road ahead, you need this book. It is about freedom, seeing the world as a citizen of the world, not as a spectator. Freedom from schedules and ownership, just you and your bike and the goodwill of those you meet on your travels." - Noel Camron Hastings

Jupiter’s Travels: Four Years Around the World on a Triumph,
Ted Simon, (Jupitalia Productions, 1996)
Between this book, and Helge Pedersen's above, I'm getting the idea that perhaps the next journey should be by motorcycle. And perhaps someday I'll be fortunate enough to put "300,000 copies sold!" on the cover of Movement: Seeking Perfect Lines!

"A compelling narrative that moves, sometimes at breakneck speed, over some of the world's most beautiful terrain...packed with fascinating detail, splendid characterisations and hair-raising adventures." - Boston Globe

Rowing to Latitude: Journeys Along the Arctic’s Edge,
Jill A. Fredston (North Point Press, 2001)
Rowing began as a yearly newsletter to family and friends, similar to how this Nomadic Spirit has become Movement. It is praised equally for soulful self-reflection, wilderness exploration and its lyrical writing.

"As Fredston writes, these trips are 'neither a vacation nor an escape, they are a way of life.' Rowing to Latitude is a lyrical, vivid celebration of her northern journeys and the insights they inspired. It is a passionate testimonial to the extraordinary grace and fragility of wild places, the power of companionship, the harsh but liberating reality of risk, the lure of discovery, and the challenges and joys of living an unconventional life." - From the book cover.

Cycling to Xian and Other Excursions
Michael Buckley,
(Crazyhorse Press, 1988)
The first book I read while planning my 1998 cross-China cycling tour. A true inspiration, both as a traveller and writer. Unfortunately out-of-print, but do yourself a favour and pickup a used copy. In fact, I loaned my copy out

"Travel cuts across barriers of time and space. It gives you a special sense of being wide awake-everything is new and different and magical, and there's so much to be discovered, so much to learn. Real travel means encountering people whose way of life is very different from your own and learning from them." - Michael Buckley

Travel Stories

Metal Cowboy: Tales From the Road Less Pedalled,
Joe Kurmaskie, (Three Rivers Press; 2002)
Of all transportation modes, cycling offers the best trade-off between intimate travel experience and the ability to cover distances. The only way to get closer to a country and its people is on foot. Kurmaskie adeptly translates this intimacy to the page in a series of 40 essays.

"Kurmaskie drifted around the country (and the world), meeting up with interesting and eccentric people, bunking wherever he found a dry patch of ground, eating whatever he could carry or scrounge. Like the travel books of Bill Bryson, Kurmaskie's collection of essays focuses on the unexpected and the little known. Travelogues are a dime a dozen, but the ones that find something fresh and unusual to talk about are fairly rare. Here readers will meet Elvis impersonators and other eccentrics; live through a goose attack mounted with military precision; and see the countryside the way they've never imagined it. A thoroughly delightful excursion" - Booklist

Patagonia: Notes from the Field,
Nora Gallagher Ed., Yvon Chouinard--Introduction, (Chronicle Books, 1999)
Filled with breath-taking photography (culled from years of Patagonia catalogues) and short essays and travel stories, set typically in the extreme outdoors, by a variety of authors and photographers, including Paul Theroux, Thomas McGuane, Tom Brokaw, Gretel Ehrlick, and Rick Ridgeway.

"I've always chosen my climbing partners carefully. I learned that someone's value to an expedition could largely be determined by their storytelling skills." - Yvon Chouinard

The Best American Travel Writing 2004 Pico Iyer Ed.
The Best American Travel Writing 2003 Ian Frazier Ed.
The Best American Travel Writing 2002 Frances Mayes Ed.
The Best American Travel Writing 2001 Paul Theroux Ed.
The Best American Travel Writing 2000 Bill Bryson Ed.
Jason Wilson (Series Editor)
, (Houghton Mifflin Co., 2000 - 2004)
The short story is among my favourite forms. It allows the author to get in and out quick, and with maximum impact. When an anthology includes the likes of Tim Cahill, Dave Eggers or Pico Iyer, you're going to laugh, cry and shake your head in disbelief with the best of them. And series editor Jason Wilson knows how to pick 'em.

"Having a travel writer report on particular things, small things, the specific ways in which people act and interact, is perhaps our best way of getting beyond the clichés that we tell each other about different places and cultures, and about ourselves." - Jason Wilson

Travelers' Tales Inc.
James & Sean O'Reilly, publishers.
Travelers' Tales Incorporated is a travel-writing institution. The link above lists over 70 titles published by the company, nearly all of which are anthologies. The authors include fresh new faces along with notables such as: Paul Theroux, Jill Kerr Conway, Tim Cahill, Bruce Chatwin and numerous others. Some sample titles:

Sacred Travel

Atlas Of Holy Places & Sacred Sites,
Colin Wilson (DK Publishing, 1996)
I must admit, it was surprising to discover how many of these sacred sites I'd encountered on my own limited travels. Generally, if I get within 100 clicks of one my traveller's radar resets course.

"At first glance, this book is very similar to The Atlas of Sacred Places, though...this new one treats 100 sites around the world, ranging from Ur to Machu Picchu. The one-half-to two-page entries are beautifully illustrated with color photographs. The last quarter of this volume, however, makes it more than just another pretty coffee-table book. A gazetteer plots the location of more than 1,000 sites on 20 color maps. A list keyed to the maps notes the founding date of the site, the country where it is located, and a brief note as to its importance." - Booklist

The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred,
Phil Cousineau, Huston Smith (Conari Press, 1998)
A gracefully illustrated guide to making travel a spiritual journey. Pilgrimage is structured as a Pilgrimage with chapters beginning with The Longing and The Call and proceeding through Arrival and Bringing Back the Boon.

"Cousineau shares details of his inspirational vision of travel, which is that every trip should be thought of as a pilgrimage, or 'soulful travel.' The author insists it is possible to 'transform even the most ordinary trip into a sacred journey'; and by 'sacred,' he means a personal value or ideal that is held close to one's heart and mind and thus elevates the consciousness." - Booklist

The Way of the Wanderer: Discover Your True Self Through Travel,
David Yeadon, (Travelers' Tales Inc, 2001)
Sitting at the top of my wish list, with chapter titles such as, "An Aboriginal Dreamtime Oddyssey," "White Water Wisdom-The River Within," and "Tokyo-A Subway Named Desire," how could I resist? And the "line drawings" mentioned below include quiet, evocative water-colours.

"'To know the world still remains a thing of mystery, silence and secrets this I find one of the greatest joys of all.' Yeadon ceaselessly looks for the unknown, less-traveled places and the extraordinary people he encounters along the way, like the 'hermit' home he visits on an island off the coast of Maine. His explorations take him all over the world, but he finds the undiscovered even in his native England. His extraordinary line drawings heighten the effect of his lyrical, meditative essays. A treat for the armchair traveler..." - Library Journal