Even as a travel writer, or especially as a travel writer, some of my deepest understandings of place, my most intense sense of “being” somewhere come neither from actually being there, or from reading a travel book about the destination. Often a novel about someone or an event creates the vividness and depth of a town or village or city almost serendipitously.
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Four Non-Travel Travel Books I Enjoy At Home
History, geography, biography and personal journals transport me to a time and place unlike anything else. Here are a few titles I love plus a list of (more conventional) favorite travel guides from Amazon.
Travel Books for the Long Haul Traveler
In Travels with a Tangerine, Tim Mackintosh-Smith sets out to follow the footsteps of the great Arab/Muslim traveler, Ibn Battutah. Battutah, who left his native Tangier in 1325, covered three times the distance of Marco Polo, and returned 30 years later…after some 75,000 miles of wandering. Mackintosh-Smith cuts corners (he doesn’t have 30 years to spend!) He does, however, capture the spirit of the intrepid traveler in many of the places Battutah visited.
In the fog that surrounds things Islamic today, Macintosh-Smith’s book is reassuring.
Explore Old Warsaw
In The Spies of Warsaw by Alan Furst, the inadvertent hero of the book is Warsaw, Poland. A fading, elegant dowager of a city, Warsaw is seen as lovely and classy but trapped by the juggernaut of World War 1. French and German intelligence operatives scheme to take advantage of her and Warsaw suffers.
Furst unfolds the betrayals and ravishment of the city, even as we are immersed in her streets, balls, halls and great deceptions. A great and passionate love story.
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A Travel Book Companion On The Silk Road
Colin Thubron has always been a master story teller! Shadow of the Silk Road takes us on the greatest land route on earth, the Silk Road. That fabled, splendid commercial road traces its way from the heart of China through the steppes of Asia to Iran. It finally ends up in Antioch, once Syrian territory, now Turkish.
But Thubron brings the hamlets and people and ruins and forgotten villages and their lives to life as he journeys by donkey cart, car, bus, truck and camel. It’s a travelers’ tale richer than any traveler could take, now on Kindle.
An Amsterdam Immersion With A Travel Guide
Picture Amsterdam 1659, a tight community of Portuguese Jews. One of them stumbles upon coffee as a commodity! A whole new market opens up and we are there in the midst of the smells, sounds and characters of Amsterdam. This is The Coffee Trader by David Liss, a novel about commerce that succeeds brilliantly in giving us Amsterdam in the 17th century.
Pick one of these up and curl up in a comfy chair. It will motivate you to keep on traveling!
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