Smith Travel BlogTravel tales and hotel news from the boutique hotel experts at Mr & Mrs Smith

Around the world in 14 books

Posted by Kate Pettifer on December 14th, 2009

When trying to find the perfect tome to give someone at Christmas, how to resist the mawkish marketing-led drive on the three-for-two stand? The best advice is to follow your heart and give something you love. In case your heart’s own library of travel books is lacking, we interrogated Team Smith to bring you our favourite volumes for voyagers…

misadventuresMisadventure in the Middle East: Travels as Tramp, Artist and Spy by Henry Hemming
‘It’s amazing – about two graduates who road trip around the Middle East painting their way from place to place.’ Chloe Smith

hideouskinkyHideous Kinky by Esther Freud
‘For the descriptions of Marrakech (the markets, the people, the food and drink) seen through a child’s eyes, and the glamour of a love affair in a foreign land.’ Sarah Jappy

asentimentaljourneyA Sentimental Journey through France and Italy by Lawrence Sterne
‘Witty, rambling and really funny account of a rambling pastor, who travels across the Continent, has a series of roundabout musings and saucy encounters and tells the prospective traveller absolutely nothing of any practical use. Absolutely fantastic.’ Anthony Leyton

oceaniaThe Happy Isles of Oceania by Paul Theroux
‘It’s a book about kayaking in the Pacific and, for me, a real love-hate relationship. I hate him describing New Zealand as “Fatland” and “bungaloid”, but love that he camped on the beach in the Northern Territory with a hermit.’ Stevie Gulliford

ashortwalk1A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby
‘It seems obvious to choose the godfather of travel books, but it’s a classic worth mentioning. I love this book for the sheer remoteness of its Afghan setting, and the foolish audacity of the journey itself. Funny, poignant and unique.’ James Lohan

shadowofthesilkrdShadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron
‘Thubron is the last of the English gentlemen travellers. He combines history, religion and cultural ideas with fascinating anecdotes. This is his latest and a really lovely read.’ Laura Squire

80datesAround the World in 80 Dates by Jennifer Cox
‘An intelligent, easy read that’s humorous and heartfelt. Cox launched herself into a chaotic pursuit of love – and no, she didn’t sleep with all of them.’ Kate Pettifer

naples44Naples ’44 by Norman Lewis
‘As a half-Italian, I am fascinated by the country of my mother’s birth. Although Lewis allegedly re-appropriated a lot of the personal anecdotes, this wonderful biography is the perfect depiction of the chaotic pragmatism of Southern Italy.’ Aline Keuroghlian

thelastlifeThe Last Life by Claire Messud
‘It’s a sort of coming-of-age story which takes place in or around Cannes; about some French who left Algeria when that war broke out, and owned a hotel on the Mediterranean, where the narrator grew up.’ Juliet Kinsman

kindnessofstrangersThe Kindness of Strangers by Don George
‘This is a collection of short stories about how travellers received unexpected help in more or less desperate situations all over the world. It is sometimes funny, occasionally tragic, but for sure it makes you think about how little gestures can make a huge difference.’ Anke Witte

shantaramShantaram by Gregory David Roberts
‘A picaresque, semi-autobiographical sprawl of a story, telling the cross-continental tale of a convict escaping from Australia to the Bombay slums, where he sets up a medical clinic, appears in Bollywood films, and joins the criminal underworld. Remarkable for its scope, imagination and the vivid descriptions of Indian landscape and life.’ Tamara Heber-Percy

motorcyclediariesThe Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara
‘I read it when I was really rather young and it had changed my life by the time I closed the back cover. It bred within me a sense of wanderlust I have never lost, and hopefully never will. It’s one of the most valuable things I own, and at £10, that’s really saying something.’ Sabine Zetteler

pillarsofherculesPillars of Hercules by Paul Theroux
‘He is a grumpy old bugger, so you know that if he has fun, then you are bound to have a blinder. Despite this book being massively out of date, it still provides the best indication of how miserable local cuisine and officials are going to be and how amazing the scenery and traditions are in small eastern European countries.’ Ed Lamdin

francescositalyFrancesco’s Italy by Francesco da Mosto
‘It has wicked pictures in it.’ Gareth Thomas

Are we missing anything? What’s on your travel-writing wishlist?

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3 Responses to “Around the world in 14 books”

  1. The Geography of Bliss will take you all around the world too!

    By Nomadic Matt

  2. what, no Philip Marsden or William Dalrymple? Or Patrick Leigh-Fermor?

    By james dunford wood

  3. I am glad to have found this travel blog. I love this reading list. Already read Around the world in 80 Dates, and will be reading The Motorcycle Diaries next.

    By Marie Stuart Noel

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