Top Travel Books:
Authors of well written travel books always claim to experience paltriness of words to narrate their fascinating experiences. It is their sheer humbleness because few travel books have the strongest of capabilities to take you to distant realms. One can vicariously travel alongside these travelers. Although, finishing these books leave you with a hankering for travel, adventure and exploration.
Here is a list of five such travel books that will make you pack your bags, leave you malingering and create your own adventure:
5. A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush:
An autobiographical account of the first ascend of Mir Samir. The author; Eric Newby who was a British businessman in the fashion industry climbed the peak in 1959. The peak situated in the Hindu Kush range of Afghanistan was until then deemed unclimbable . Eric Newby narrates his journey along with friend Hugh Carless in a facetious manner using his wry humor.
The plot in the book builds up from Newby’s life in the fashion business in London to Afghanistan. As a pre-requisite to the actual summit, Newby describes his brief training stint at North Wales, a sojourn in Istanbul and his life’s deadliest drive from Turkey to Persia. They begin their hike from the Panjshir valley in the remotest areas of Afghanistan inhabited by few Pathans, who live across scattered villages.
The story of their expedition begins with an evocative account of Nuristan and later builds up to the actual ascend. In the final parts of their journey they are stranded by the guides who feel it is impossible to climb the peak. The banter with his companion ‘Carless’ and the great comic timing of Newby glue the readers to great effect.
4. Into the Wild:,
Quite contrary to our Number 5 on the list of travel books, this one portrays the despairing yet beautiful account of a very young Christopher Johnson McCandless. After graduating from college, ‘McCandless’ donated $24,000 to charity, burned his credit cards and abandoned all his possessions. He reinvented his life while traveling to Alaska, north of Mt. Mckinley.
He left his well off family without informing either his parents or sister. On his way he lost his car in a flood and decided to hitch hike his way. He rekindles a dying relationship, meets a lone old man and impacts each of them in an inexplicable way.
His abandoning of worldly possessions, his desire to live each moment in the nature in an unfiltered manner and the untimely death in the pursuit of a primitive life hits a very strong chord among the readers. His self written notes add on to the lament among readers significantly. Although a certain set of people do not get along well with the story and term McCandless’ as an under prepared, unstable person.
3. The Snow Leopard:
This travel book recalls the journey of naturalist Peter Matthiessen and his friend George Schaller to the inner Dolpo region of Nepal. The journey is more like a quest for the blue sheep. The biologist Schaller’ seeks information about the mating patterns of the blue sheep or bharal’ as better known in Nepal. In the process they also wish to spot the most marvelous and the rarest cat; The Snow Leopard. The third part of the journey is to awaken the spiritual elements within him and visit the Crystal Monastery at Shey.
Peter majestically and vividly narrates each experience with beautiful details. As reader you could literally live through his moments. He doesn’t miss a chance to digress to matters of existence, the mystical components of Buddhism & Hinduism. He emphasizes on the point of living in the moment, that everything is now and as we talk about it we miss the present.
Matthiessen delves into the minor details of how science is corroborating the teachings of few Hindu books and the essence of living life based on the teachings of lamas or yogis or the great sages. All this is evident at his encounter with the lama at the Crystal Monastery; a crippled man who survives at those treacherous altitudes and is the most content with what he has at hand.
2.Getting stoned with the Savages:
The author; Troost’ was an employee of the World bank and his cravings for travel, regenerated by reminiscing his previous trip to Kiribati makes him leave along with his wife. Troost along with his wife take a trip to the Pacific island nations of Vanuatu & Fiji. The book takes a humorous turn when things take a steep turn away from their expectations.
The couple lands up among tribal communities. People who feed themselves with narcotive sedative drinks and man – meat. The couple fights against typhoons, earthquakes, giant centipedes and a handful of other misadventures. The consequences though are hilarious as Toost ends up imbibing a lot from those people and start living their life. The laid back, clothing optional lifestyle of the islanders.
The couple has to make a move to more civilized parts of Fiji when Sylvia’ gets pregnant. They take up parenthood in a land where prostitution and government coups are ubiquitous. Surprisingly there child takes up quietly to the lifestyle in contrast to his father.
1. Into Thin Air:
Cited as the best travel book across various platforms, the book narrates the deadliest incident to have transpired at Everest. The author ‘Jon Krakauer who was at that point of time a journalist with Outside writes about his firsthand experience of the disaster. That expedition of 1996 has been debated and the decisions of the people concerned have been highly speculated. There are many versions of the incident.
Krakauer begins by telling his motives behind climbing the grandest peak of the Earth. Describing the state of operations of the adventure companies who ran guided ascends to the summit. Mountain Madness and Adventure Consultants led by Scott Fischer & Rob Hall respectively were the 2 major agencies who were guiding groups of people up the mountain. A storm and inclement conditions brought a tragic end to the expedition and raised many eyebrows.
The controversy that surrounded Krakauer was centered around a Russian guide, Anatoli Boukreev. Boukreev’ who worked for Mountain Madness descended before his clients and that is what Krakauer terms as the conclusive factor. These events come from different perspectives, though whatever had been the cause, the turn of events did leave the survivors with deepest remorse and guilt. This travel book was later made into a movie in 2015.