A Good Read: Around the world, from classics to today

Summer is here in a big way and with the toasty days and warm nights, I’m reminded of the hot and humid weather of my trip to Vietnam and Cambodia a few years ago.

Summer is here in a big way and with the toasty days and warm nights, I’m reminded of the hot and humid weather of my trip to Vietnam and Cambodia a few years ago.

Travel is a big part of my life and I have always loved reading about new places. Whether you are an avid traveler yourself or just looking for your next good summer read, travel literature is a great option.

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Part adventure story and part memoir, the best travel books take you beyond simple description of places and reveal as much about their authors as they do about their surroundings.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed was published in 2012 and followed by a movie soon after. Wild is the memoir of one woman’s journey across The Pacific Crest Trail. This book explores both the narrator’s internal struggle with traumatic events in her past and the physical dangers she faces as a lone hiker in a harsh and unpredictable environment. Wild is a story of tragic loss and eventual triumph that is both a great travel book and a celebration of female independence.

The Great Railway Bazaar is Paul Theroux’s account of a 1973 railway journey from Europe to the Middle East, India and Japan. I loved this book both for the author’s fascinating account of travel through rarely explored corners of the world and for his wry observations about the people and situations he encountered. His experiences range from sharing a railway car with a heroin addict in India to relaxing on the luxurious Oriental Express and drinking vodka on the Trans Siberian Railway. Armchair travellers and train enthusiasts alike will enjoy this novel that has become a modern classic.

Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road is by Kate Harris, who, even as a child, had a passion for exploring. Thinking there was nothing new left to discover on Earth, she dreamed of one day becoming an astronaut. Through adventures like cycling the Silk Road in Russia and sneaking into Tibet, Harris pondered the meaning of travel and exploration. She eventually concludes that living undefined by borders is as real and valuable as exploring outer space.

An iconic book from the Beat Generation, On the Road by Jack Kerouac, retains its relevance as a story of the search for authenticity in 1950s America. The book is a mostly autobiographical story of the author’s multiple road trips across the United States but told with fictional characters. Kerouac’s passionate stream-of-consciousness narrative complements the sense of constant movement and adventure in the book. Read this if you’re looking for a great road trip memoir with an unusual narrative style.

Despite a marriage and an exciting career as a designer, Jackie Kai Ellis’ life felt unfulfilled. As her marriage slowly disintegrated, she sunk into depression. The only place Ellis had been able to find comfort was in her love of food and cooking. In her beautifully written new memoir, The Measure of My Powers: A Memoir of Food, Ellis chronicles her travels through France, Italy and the Congo as she bakes pastries in Paris, picks apricots in Tuscany and watches gorillas feed in Africa.

Visit your local library to borrow these books or ask for more travel literature recommendations.

A Good Read is a column by Tri-City librarians that is published on Wednesdays. Danay Robinson works at Terry Fox Library in Port Coquitlam. 

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