In the first of our series ‘Around the World in 80 Books,’ we boldly leap into epic journeys from Ethiopia to Ireland
TRAVELING DOESN’T ALWAYS have to be about changing your location. As French poet and author Anatole France wrote, “Traveling is changing your opinions and your prejudices.” Especially in this time of COVID-19 shutdowns, it might seem like travel has come to a halt. But books prove that the revelations that happen on journeys aren’t dependent on boarding passes. Read a book, learn about the world, keep traveling.
In the first installment of our series “Around the World in 80 Books,” we feature 10 adventure tales that we can dive into—even from our armchairs.
Walk in the Woods (1998), by Bill Bryson. “A little voice in my head said: Sounds neat! Let’s do it!” writes Bryson of his more humorous than heroic slog from Maine to Georgia along the Appalachian Trail. Bryson’s tale may be the funniest call for conservation ever written.
A Book of Migrations (1997), by Rebecca Solnit. The author’s long hike in western Ireland leads to a rumination on movement—cultural, psychological, personal—in a land partly defined by “tinkers” (Irish itinerants).
Seven Years in Tibet (1953), by Heinrich Harrer. During WWII, an unlikely friendship develops between the Dalai Lama and an Austrian mountaineer who has escaped a British prisoner-of-war camp in India.
In Patagonia (1977), by Bruce Chatwin. When he was a kid, Chatwin found a thick, leathery piece of skin in his grandmother’s cabinet. He was told it was from a brontosaurus in Patagonia. This inspired him, years later, to travel to the southern tip of South America, where his peregrinations led to tales of banditry, Butch Cassidy, and Welsh immigrants.
In Trouble Again (1988), by Redmond O’Hanlon. This nail-biter of a jungle trek begins with a review of the afflictions O’Hanlon might encounter in the depths of the Venezuelan Amazon: Chagas’ disease (from a bug bite that kills you up to 20 years later), river blindness, and the candiru (a tiny catfish that can attach itself, with grave consequence, within the urethra).
Brazilian Adventure (1933), by Peter Fleming. His brother invented James Bond, but 26-year-old journalist Peter Fleming? He signed on to a treacherous 3,000-mile Brazilian jungle hunt to uncover the fate of a lost English explorer.
Wild Coast (2011), by John Gimlette. “To some this is hell. To others it’s an ecological paradise, a sort of X-rated Garden of Eden,” writes Gimlette, who embarked on a swashbuckling three-month expedition into the dense forests of “South America’s untamed edge”—Guyana, French Guiana, and Suriname.
Wild (2012), by Cheryl Strayed. Strayed finds her best self while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. With her candor and willingness to be vulnerable, she inspired us to believe we could hike it too.
Land of the Dawn-Lit Mountains (2017), by Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent. Despite suffering from panic disorder (a malady the author says she shares with Charles Darwin), the intrepid Bolingbroke-Kent sets off on a solo adventure across a lesser-known part of India, Arunachal Pradesh. Her travelogue sensitively captures the history, landscapes, and people of this isolated, mountainous state.
In Ethiopia With a Mule (1968), by Dervla Murphy. Getting lost in a swamp, sharing meals with bewildered highlanders, fighting off bandits—the acclaimed travel writer experienced these and more on an epic 1,000-mile solo trek across Ethiopia, with just a 30-pound rucksack and a long-suffering mule she named Jock.
What travel-inspiring books are you reading during the coronavirus shutdown? Share with our well-read community by tagging us on Twitter with the hashtag #natgeotravelbookclub or email firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll include some of your favorite reads in our weekly Travel newsletter.