Monday, 23 May 2011

Travel Writing books I've enjoyed

When I was 10 years old, I fancied myself a poet. Furious mid-night scribbling of soppy lines made me believe that this was what I wanted to write. Five years ago, when I frantically attended every City Lit class on writing that I could, I knew novel writing wasn’t for me. A year ago, half-way into my MA in Creative Writing, I fell headlong into playwriting and submitted a compilation of short stories as my dissertation thesis. By then, I had learned a valuable lesson – ‘Never say Never’ and ‘Always be willing to be surprised by the Universe.’ So, when a friend advised me to submit a few travel pieces to the Times of India, I thought nothing much of it, convinced that it wasn’t my genre. Two published articles later I find myself looking at Travel sections in bookstores and noting down ideas for my very own travelogue.

Besides the bog standard Bill Bryson on my bookshelf, here’s what I have read (and enjoyed) so far –

‘The Virago Book of Women Travellers’ – nuggets of travel writing from various women from 1689 to the present day.
‘The Pillars of Hercules’ by Paul Theroux – a travelogue of his overground journey, taking the long way, from Gibraltar to the southern pillar of Ceuta in Morocco.
‘A Moveable Feast’ by Ernest Hemingway – his memoirs about his time living as an American expat in 1920s Paris surrounded by writers of the time.
‘Out of Africa’ by Isak Dinesen – a memoir of life on her farm in Kenya.
‘Down and Out in Paris and London’ by George Orwell – a portrayal of what it was like to work as cheap labour in Paris (also around the late 1920s, early 1930s) and forage for food and shelter as a tramp in London.
‘Eat, Pray, Love’ by Elizabeth Gilbert – a travelogue of her year of travelling to Italy, India and Indonesia in search of her spiritual self through explorations in food and meditation.
And one of my personal favourites – Simon Majumdar’s ‘Eat my Globe’ – a description of his journey around the globe through food he enjoys and encounters.

This isn’t much compared to my steadily growing reading list of travel writing:

‘The Age of Kali’ by William Dalrymple
‘India in Slow motion’ by Mark Tully
‘Pictures from Italy’ by Charles Dickens
‘The Great Railway Bazaar’ by Paul Theroux
‘Ox Travels’ – by different travel writers.
Anything by Colin Thubron
‘Full Tilt’ by Dervla Murphy
‘The Global Soul’ by Pico Iyer

If you’re wondering what common themes link these choices, here it is – I’m interested in travel writing about India, food explorations while travelling and expatriate life abroad. Send me your own recommendations to add to the list!

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