Reading your way around the world with a difference – Sydney Morning Herald

Armchair travellers have always loved books that take them to new destinations. In lockdown, with closed borders, they were a consolation: there was no other way to travel except in your head. But now we are beginning a very cautious opening up to the world, travel books can whet our appetite for new experiences far from home.

By travel books, I mean more than travel guides, useful as these are. If youre looking for something comprehensive, you cant go past Lonely Planets The Travel Book, which showcases the best of 230 nations every United Nations-approved country in the world.

Geoff Dyers novel Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi is sexy, horrifying and hilarious.Credit:

If youre nervous about going overseas and would prefer to travel within Australia, youll appreciate your journey more with some understanding of the oldest culture in the world. Marcia Langtons Welcome to Country is a guide book with a difference: it explores Indigenous languages and customs, history, native title, art and dance, storytelling and cultural awareness and etiquette for visitors.

But sometimes the most enjoyable way to choose or prepare for a possible trip is to read about what writers got up to in those places, allowing for fictional licence. My best preparation for the unlikely combination of Venice and Varanasi, for example, was Geoff Dyers sexy, horrifying and hilarious novel Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi. Just dont do what his narrator did, or youll end up deranged and starving.

We love intrepid narrators, even when few of us would be daring enough to follow in their footsteps or in the case of Ken Haley, wheelchair tracks. This crazy-brave Australian wont let a little disability cramp his style as he travels around the world and records his adventures. His latest book, The One that Got Away, sees him rolling around the Caribbean in the time of COVID, encountering the odd robbery, health problem, hurricane and unexpectedly active volcano. Haley is sharply observant, funny and gutsy.

Intrepid heroes are all the go in The Independents list of best travel books that explore more than just a destination, with recommendations for Jon Krakauers Into Thin Air, about disaster on Mount Everest; two African journeys, Levison Woods Walking the Nile and Waypoints: A Journey on Foot by Robert Martineau; and for women travellers, Mia Kankimakis The Women I Think About at Night.

Marcia Langtons Welcome to Country is a guide book with a difference.Credit:Arsineh Houspian

The Independent also recommends Bill Brysons classic 2000 book Down Under: Travels in a Sunburned Country. Its a hugely entertaining read that is also a little annoying for Australians, because Bryson made such a brief visit and sometimes seems content to trot out the clichs, though he always puts his own humorous stamp on them.

Travel can be an invitation to wild and improbable travellers tales, which feature in Antoni Jachs Travelling Companions, a novel based very loosely on his solo explorations in Europe in the 1990s and the travellers he met along the way. The realistic problems of travel delays, strikes, terrible weather sit alongside philosophical confessions and brilliantly surreal contemporary fairytales with enticing titles, such as The Tale of the Corporate Raider, the Glamorous Stockbroker & the Talking Parrot.

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Reading your way around the world with a difference - Sydney Morning Herald

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