Novels to Travel With

Full Tilt: Ireland to India With a Bicycle
Dervla Murphy
(RTW travel)
This book recounts a trip, taken mostly on bicycle, by a gritty Irishwoman in 1963. Her route was through Yugoslavia, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and ended in New Delhi. She carried a pistol, got sunstroke, and suffered the usual stomach disorders. She endured bad accommodations but reaped much local hospitality, too, including a dinner with the Pakistani president. Most of the book concerns the high mountain country of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
(From Library Journal)

Into the Wild
Jon Krakauer
After graduating from Emory University in Atlanta in 1992, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandoned his possessions, gave his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhiked to Alaska, where he went to live in the wilderness. Four months later, he turned up dead. His diary, letters and two notes found at a remote campsite tell of his desperate effort to survive, apparently stranded by an injury and slowly starving. They also reflect the posturing of a confused young man, raised in affluent Annandale, Va., who self-consciously adopted a Tolstoyan renunciation of wealth and return to nature.
(From Publishers Weekly)

Round Ireland With a Fridge
Tony Hawks
Have you ever made a drunken ben? Worse, still, have you ever tried to win one? In attempting to hitchhike round Ireland wich a fridge, Tony Hawks did both, and his foolhardiness led him to one of the best experiences of his life. Joined by his trusty traveling companion-cum-domestic appliance, he made his way from Dublin to Donegal, from Sligo through Mayo, Galway, Clare, Kerry, Cork, Wexford, Wicklow--and back again to Dublin. In their month of madness, Tony and his fridge met a real prince, a bogus king, and the fridge got christened. They surfed together, entered a bachelor festival, and one of them had sex without the other knowing. And unexpectedly, the fridge itself became a momentary focus for the people of Ireland.
(From Amazon)

The Road to McCarthy : Around the World in Search of Ireland
Pete McCarthy
(RTW travel)
Pete McCarthy established one cardinal rule of travel in his bestselling debut McCarthy's Bar: "Never pass a bar with your name on it." In this equally wry and insightful follow-up, Pete's characteristic good humor, curiosity, and thirst for adventure take him on a fantastic jaunt around the world in search of his Irish roots -- from Morocco, where he tracks down the unlikely chief of the McCarthy clan, to a remote and sparsely populated Alaskan town (named McCarthy, of course) where the eighteen townspeople are far outnumbered by the bears. Risking life, limb, and liberty in an almost heroic effort to trace his own lineage, he also happens to discover the peculiar and fascinating history of McCarthys everywhere while managing to down a few good pints along the way. Packed with unexpected detours and dozens of hilarious moments, The Road to McCarthy is a quixotic and anything but typical Irish odyssey that confirms Pete McCarthy's status as one of the funniest and most incisive authors writing today.
(From Amazon)

An Embarrassment of Mangoes : A Caribbean Interlude
Ann Vanderhoof
(the Caribbean)
What could be better than dropping all of life's mundane day-to-day activities and setting course for the adventure of a lifetime? In the mid-1990s, Steve and Ann Vanderhoof did just that when they packed up their belongings, put their careers on hold, rented out their home, and set sail for a two-year tour of the Caribbean. At the helm of a 42-foot sailboat, Ann and Steve travel more than 7,000 nautical miles and visit 16 countries, taking readers on a lively tour of the flavors, sights, and sounds of the Caribbean. Whether it's enjoying a meal with the locals, participating in festivities, or discovering the secrets of the islands, Ann writes of the rewards of living an uncharted life under the stars. Beautifully written passages transport readers to pristine beaches under azure skies. A detailed travelogue and an intimate portrait of self-discovery, this is a refreshing, soulful journey about rediscovering the things that really matter.
(From Elsa Gaztambide)

My Invented Country : A Memoir
Isabel Allende
The book circles around two life-changing moments. The assassination of her uncle Salvador Allende Gossens on September 11, 1973, sent her into exile and transformed her into a literary writer. And the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, on her adopted homeland, the United States, brought forth an overdue acknowledgment that Allende had indeed left home. MY INVENTED COUNTRY, mimicking the workings of memory itself, ranges back and forth across that distance between past and present lives. It speaks compellingly to immigrants and to all of us who try to retain a coherent inner life in a world full of contradictions.
(From Amazon)

Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man's Miraculous Survival
Joe Simpson
(Peruvian Andes)
Joe Simpson and his climbing partner, Simon Yates, had just reached the top of a 21,000-foot peak in the Andes when disaster struck. Simpson plunged off the vertical face of an ice ledge, breaking his leg. In the hours that followed, darkness fell and a blizzard raged as Yates tried to lower his friend to safety. Finally, Yates was forced to cut the rope, moments before he would have been pulled to his own death. The next three days were an impossibly grueling ordeal for both men. Yates, certain that Simpson was dead, returned to base camp consumed with grief and guilt over abandoning him. Miraculously, Simpson had survived the fall, but crippled, starving, and severely frostbitten was trapped in a deep crevasse. Summoning vast reserves of physical and spiritual strength, Simpson crawled over the cliffs and canyons of the Andes, reaching base camp hours before Yates had planned to leave. How both men overcame the torments of those harrowing days is an epic tale of fear, suffering, and survival, and a poignant testament to unshakable courage and friendship.
(From Amazon)

A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East
Tiziano Terzani
It was 1976 when Tiziano Terzani was warned by the fortuneteller in Hong Kong: "Beware! You run a grave risk of dying in 1993. You mustn't fly that year. Don't fly, not even once." Sixteen years later, Terzani had not forgotten. Despite living the life of a jet-hopping journalist, he decided that, after a lifetime of sensible decisions, he would confront the prophecy the Asian way, not by fighting it, but by submitting. He also resolved that on the way he would seek out the most eminent local oracle, fortuneteller, or sorcerer and look again into his future. So after a feast of red-ant egg omelet and a glass of fresh water, he brought the new year in on the back of an elephant. He even made it to his appointments: Cambodia, to cover the first democratic elections; Burma, for the opening of the first road to connect Thailand and China; and even Florence, to visit his mother, a trip that would take him 13,000 miles across Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Mongolia, and Siberia. In this way, that jet-hopping journalist rediscovered the art of travel, the intricate chains of chance which lead to discovery, and the mass of humanity he'd overlooked in his rush for newsworthy quotes. And he also saved his life. Terzani's odyssey across Asia is full of revelations and reflections on the dramatic changes underway in Asia. Having spent two decades on the continent, he brings a deep love for the place to his journeys, but also the eyes of someone troubled by the changes he sees. Burma and Laos, finally open to outside contact, are now funnels for AIDS and drugs; Thailand has been traumatized by its rapid development; China is an anarchy fueled by money rather than ideology, where Mao has been transformed into the god of traffic. Surrounded by the loss of diversity wrought by modernism, Terzani asks if the "missionaries of materialism and economic progress" aren't destroying the continent in order to save it. Fortunately, there is a flip side to his occasionally dispiriting commentary, one that Terzani discovers in his hunt for fortunetellers. Through his side trips to seers who read the soles of his feet, the ashes of incense, and even the burned scapula of sheep, it becomes clear that the Orient of legends, myths, and magic still determines people's lives as much as the quest for money. By staying earthbound, Terzani lived to tell of an extraordinary journey through the ever-shifting kaleidoscope of Asia.
(From Lesley Reed)

Anna Karenina
Leo Tolstoy
Some people say Anna Karenina is the single greatest novel ever written. Anna Karenina tells of the doomed love affair between the sensuous and rebellious Anna and the dashing officer, Count Vronsky. Tragedy unfolds as Anna rejects her passionless marriage and must endure the hypocrisies of society. Set against a vast and richly textured canvas of nineteenth-century Russia, the novel's seven major characters create a dynamic imbalance, playing out the contrasts of city and country life and all the variations on love and family happiness.
(From Amazon)

The Travels of Marco Polo
Marco Polo
(Europe & Asia)
Marco Polo (1254-1324) spent the best part of 20 years globe-trotting from the Polar Sea to Java, from Zanzibar to Japan and probably travelled more extensively than anyone before him. His travels began in 1271 when he accompanied his father and uncle on their second visit to China. There he worked as a diplomat, undertaking numerous missions in the service of Kubilai Khan. A few years after his return to the West in 1295, Polo was captured as a prisoner of war in Genoa, and in prison met Rustichello of Pisa, a romance writer who became his enthusiastic collaborator in putting together this book. Despite piracy, shipwreck, brigandage and wild beasts, Polo moved in a world of highly organized commerce. He loved describing precious gems, spices and silks, but had an equally keen eye for exotic plants and especially birds; his grasp of history was rather less assured, but he was a superb human geographer.
(From Amazon)