44 Reviews

The backstory, and two twists

Book with 3D puzzle of Notre-Dame, Catboy from PJ Masks, and some Jurassic Park Lego figures

Each review contains images of the book, decorated by my son Francis.

Reading time: 3 minutes

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Travel Book Reviews

I've read a decent amount of travel literature.

Of course, there's so much more I need to read, especially if I'm writing a travelogue.

A few years ago, I started reading the travel section of the Westerville Public Library. I discovered some great books and writers. I particularly liked Bob Shacochis and the geographer Alastair Bonnett (his Unruly Places was a fun, weird read), but after a stretch of uninteresting books, I decided it would be better to curate the list.

I made a few rules, too. They came down to: Mix it up.

I went through at least a dozen travel websites' "Best of" lists and consulted - despite some issues I have with Goodreads - travel-related reader lists. I made a few rules, too. They came down to: Mix it up.

  • Not just men, not just white people, not just Westerners
  • Not just trips to Europe and America (quite common for my personal travels - which I will rectify)
  • Classics, best-sellers, and books I've never heard of
  • Four or five in French, my second language
  • No repeat books: if I read it prior to this project, I won't review it
  • Exception to the above: The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton... just because
  • No repeat authors: if I include one of their books in this project, that's all for them
  • Exceptions to the above: Bruce Chatwin (two books) and Paul Theroux (two books), because Chatwin died an accomplished travel writer at 48, the age at which I finally managed to figure some things out, and because Paul Theroux, along with Michel de Montaigne and Anthony Bourdain, were monumental influences on me - and I cannot overstate anything in that sentence
  • A few service guides (yes!), not just travelogues and travel memoirs
  • The reviews will be short, they aren't going in the New York Review of Books
A book, with Francis's hand on it, surrounded by Jurassic Park Lego characters

The artist inserts himself into his work. (See below.)

After going through the list - carefully, but not too carefully - I had forty-four works. And thus we have 44 Reviews. It should take about a year to read the books and review them.

You can filter the blog entries to see all of my travel book reviews by clicking this link. Click here to see only the 44 Reviews series.

Not just men, not just white people, not just Westerners.

But Wait, There's More

I added two features to the reviews:

  1. My wife Gina's reaction to each book; specifically, what she heard when I talked about it (I talk to her about most travel books I read)
  2. Photos of my son Francis's decorations of each book; an arrangement - nay! a mise en scène - which has nothing to do with the contents of the book, nor my reactions to it, but everything to do with a preschooler's idea of what looks good at that exact moment
Francis building a special Lego decoration

Hard at work decorating Puneetinder Sidhu's Adrift.

Several Lego bricks connected to create a beautiful abstract object, orange, white, and gray

A horse, with colors from the cover of Adrift.

The books

  • Baedeker, Karl and Muirhead, J.F., The United States
  • Bilski, Tory, Wild Horses of the Summer Sun
  • Bissell, Tom, Chasing the Sea
  • Botton, Alain de, The Art of Travel
  • Bourdain, Anthony, World Travel
  • Byron, Robert, The Road to Oxiana
  • Chatwin, Bruce, In Patagonia
  • Chatwin, Bruce, The Songlines
  • Clark, Eleanor, Rome and a Villa
  • Conti, Anita, Racleurs d'océans
  • Delisle, Guy, Shenzhen
  • Eyewitness Travel, France
  • Gilbert, Elizabeth, Eat Pray Love
  • Hemming, Henry, Misadventure in the Middle East
  • Jenkins, Jedidiah, To Shake the Sleeping Self
  • Jian, Ma, Red Dust
  • Kpomassie, Tété-Michel, An African in Greenland
  • Léry, Jean de, Voyage au Brésil
  • Lévi-Strauss, Claude, Tristes tropiques
  • Lopez, Barry, Horizon
  • Mandel, Pam, The Same River Twice
  • Mandeville, John, The Travels of Sir John Mandeville
  • Matar, Hisham, A Month in Siena
  • Murphy, Dervla, Full Tilt
  • Naipaul, V.S., An Area of Darkness
  • Nansen, Fridtjof, Farthest North
  • Page, Amanda, ed, The Columbus Anthology
  • Pitts, Johnny, Afropean
  • Poncins, Gontran de, From a Chinese City
  • Prato, Liz, Volcanoes, Palm Trees and Privilege
  • Raban, Jonathan, Bad Land
  • Sedaris, David, Calypso
  • Sidhu, Puneetinder, Adrift
  • Stark, Freya, A Winter in Arabia
  • Taylor, Candacy, Overground Railroad
  • Tesson, Sylvain, L'axe du loup
  • Theroux, Paul, Figures in a Landscape
  • Theroux, Paul, On the Plain of Snakes
  • Thesiger, Wilfred, Arabian Sands
  • Trojanow, Ilija, Along the Ganges
  • Troost, J Maarten, The Sex Lives of Cannibals
  • Twain, Mark, The Innocents Abroad
  • Whitewolf, Harry, The Road To Purification
  • Wright, Lawrence, God Save Texas

Again, you can filter the blog's travel book reviews by clicking this link. To see only the 44 Reviews series, click here.

Archive

About

A smiling Francis and me, sitting outside in front of some shrubs

Some basics

A brief biographical sketch

Me on top of a sunny Mt Pilatus in Switzerland, with mountains in the background

Travel

Pardon the saccharine and the obvious, but travel is everything

A couple standing in front of a large Gothic church, on a bridge over the Seine

France

France deserves its own section

Francis, as a two year-old in a car seat, in sunglasses reading a French picture book

Reading

The bullshit of daily life? I'd rather read.

Stage with musicians going at it - they're Gogol Bordello, and they're crazy

Music

Let me take you back

Little boy sitting on a big white bed, looking at a tablet

Television

I watch a lot more television than movies

Live action from a soccer game at Crew Stadium - yellow versus blue

Soccer

The only sport that matters

Ugly photo of a pig knuckle after it's been eaten - really, it looks horrible

Food

As a travel writer, I have to talk about food

Me in an outdoor restaurant drinking from a green coconut with a long straw

Dumb stuff

You will not feel smarter after reading this

Dumpster full of garbage

Minimalism

Trying to live simply

Me getting out of a red Ferrari F430 with a guy clapping for me

Other Interests

I've only driven a Ferrari once

Dude wearing orange pants and orange and green shoes walking on wet grass

Get off my lawn

A few brief rants

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