It's no coincidence I road-tripped Route 66 during Spring Break of my senior year in college; my American Lit class had just covered Jack Kerouac's On the Road.
There's a reason I hopped on the Trans-Siberian Railway this summer, and its name is War and Peace. (If you have the patience to plow through that behemoth, you deserve a vacation-reward of some kind!)
For me, nothing inspires wanderlust more than a well-crafted travel book. Sometimes, that may come in the form of a novel that really captures the essence of a place, like War and Peace. Other times, it may be a non-fiction travel narrative, like the wonderful works of Bill Bryson, a personal favorite.
Last month, we recognized the most travel-inspiring movies of the year by doling out our first-ever round of Budget Travel Oscar awards, and I'll be the first to admit that films can do wonders to put destinations on the tourist map. (If the stunning vistas in the Lord of the Rings trilogy didn't at least make you consider a Kiwi tour, well, then, you might be dead.)
But I'd argue that the experience of reading a book sells a place even more. (Not a surprising perspective, I suppose, coming from an editor…) To really get acquainted with a destination, it's not enough to just look at pretty landscapes (my apologies to the LOTR cinematographers); you need to absorb the details of its history, get a sense of its layout and landscape, learn about the food its residents eat, the music they dance to, the smells in the air. Books have the home-court advantage here—they have more time and space to describe such details.
Here, then, we've decided to spearhead an effort to come up with a definitive list of the 25 greatest travel books of all time. (Consider it a bookworm-friendly compliment to our BT Oscars!) We plan to pick the brains of top travel writers and editors for nominations, but first, we wanted to go to our favorite experts—yes, that's you—our readers!
Please tell us your favorite travel book and why it holds your top spot. (I need a few new titles to add to my summer reading list, so I'm looking forward to hearing what you have to say!)
And keep your eyes out for our article on the 25 greatest travel books of all time. It'll grace the pages of this very website soon!
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