5 Travel Books to Treasure

I recently read this article on Conde Nast Traveller’s website (one of my favourite online
travel resources) on books that inspire you to travel. The article listed 16
books, ranging across diverse locations such as Istanbul, Ho Chi Minh,
Marrakech, Alaska, Ireland, and my very own Mumbai (Katherine Boo’s Behind
the Beautiful Forevers
). The UK’s Telegraph has also come up with its
own list of the 20 best travel books of all time.
Rambling somewhere in The Cotswolds, England
It’s so true; every time
you pick up a book you get transported to another land, provided the writing is
good! There are some books that are not travel books, strictly speaking; yet,
they manage to weave such a vivid picture of the place that they’re set in,
that you just want to pack your bags and go. Both the articles got me thinking
about some of the travel-related books that I treasure. So here’s my list of Top 5
Travel Books
. All of them are non-fiction works. And it’s no
coincidence that 4 of them are set in Europe!

The City of Falling Angels
– John Berendt

Dark Decadence
The title of this book is
derived from a sign posted outside an under-repair church in Venice – “Beware
of falling angels”. I don’t know if it was this book that triggered my love
affair with Venice or whether I picked it up because it has always been my
dream destination. Either way, I absolutely adore this book. Berendt’s writing
flows as smoothly as the gondolas gliding in the Venetian canals. The book
revolves around the 1996 fire that gutted the historic Fenice – the Opera House
that is Venice’s pride. The book is peppered with interesting real-life
Venetians and their quirks and foibles. It paints a decadent and mysterious
picture of Venice, beautifully weaving the resurrection of the Fenice (Italian
for phoenix, very aptly) into the story.
My Family and Other
Animals – Gerald Durrell
My well-thumbed copy!
This book always brings a
smile to my face – and loud laughs while reading it. Durrell writes about the
couple of years he and his family spent on the Greek island of Corfu
when he was a boy. He grew up to be a naturalist and his love for nature and
all things that move was a childhood affliction. The book gives incredibly
detailed accounts of life in Corfu and the flora and fauna that Durrell found
fascinating, not to mention his eccentric family members and their antics! And
this book gave me one of my favourite food descriptors – ‘toast covered with a
melting shawl of butter’ – so redolent and such a perfect way of putting it, don’t you think?
The Motorcycle Diaries – Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara
Of course, it was turned into a movie!
Eight years before the
Cuban revolution, Guevara and a friend set out to explore South America by road –
on La Poderosa, their 500cc Norton
motorbike. Argentina, Chile, Peru and Venezuela all feature in this high octane
ride, full of discoveries and debacles. Guevara’s writing is poignant with more
than a touch of humour, and the book paints a human picture of the future
revolutionary hero.
The Sweet Life in Paris – David Lebovitz
Quintessentially Paris – Coffee & Croissant
If you’re visiting Paris,
I suggest you lose the guidebook (just kidding!) and pick up this gem. Lebovitz
is an American pastry chef who now resides in the ‘city of lights’ and in this
book he writes about surviving the city. Written in his trademark dry humorous style,
it’s choc-a-bloc with information on where to get the best baguette, the best
hot chocolate, the best chocolates… you get the drift? Interspersed with his
recipes, this book also gives tips on dining etiquette, the farmers’ markets, the
Parisian predilection to le fromage
and le bronzage… All in all, a
delicious read!
A Year in Provence – Peter Mayle
Image courtesy
Mayle’s delightful account
of his time in a tiny French village in Provence has long been amongst the
best travel books. From run-ins with lazy builders to facing the Mistral, from
driving long distances for the perfect meal to summer evenings with friends and
wine (but of course!), the book paints an idyllic picture of the rustic life in
southern France. Interspersed with eccentric characters and drenched in
sunshine (for the most part), this memoir will definitely make you hungry – the
sheer number of food references in it is mind-boggling!So, that’s my list. Which are your favourites? Leave me a comment below.

The pebbled beach in Brighton, England
Pssst – I’m covering two of the places listed above during my big fat summer vacation this year! Details coming soon 🙂


  1. shIrIn 9 May, 2013 at 07:42 Reply

    Motorcycle Diaries, yes. Makes me want to go on a road trip.One book that made Tuscany my dream destination is Under The Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes. However, I haven't read the book but have watched the film.

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