Travel books are a popular genre in the 21st century, combining personal observations and emotions with detailed descriptions and journeys through interesting places. In English, Mary Wollstonecraft was a pioneer, writing about her trip to Scandinavia in 18th century in a way that was quite unusual for the time, as our interview with Emily Thomas about the philosophy of travel makes clear.
Arabic authors are also very important in the travel writing genre. Islam has a rich tradition of travelling to gain knowledge, and it's no surprise we have not one but two interviews on travelling in the Muslim world.
We also have reading recommendations from contemporary travel writers, including Paul Theroux, Colin Thubron and Sara Wheeler. Books that influenced Bruce Chatwin, author of In Patagonia and The Songlines, are recommended by his biographer.
(For books about specific countries—not necessarily travel writing—please look at our 'world' section where books are organized by country).
One morning in early June, Laurie Lee said goodbye to his mum at the garden gate and went off on an adventure. Is now the moment for you to do the same? Bestselling author and adventurer Alastair Humphreys recommends five books written by adventurers that can’t fail but inspire you to ‘go simple, go solo, go now.’
Mountain Gloom And Mountain Glory: The Development of the Aesthetics of the Infinite
by Marjorie Hope Nicolson
Letters written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark
by Mary Wollstonecraft
by Henry David Thoreau
The Art of Travel
by Alain de Botton
How to Talk About Places You've Never Been: On the Importance of Armchair Travel
by Michele Hutchison (translator) & Pierre Bayard
At its best, travel broadens our minds, expands our horizons and allows us to see the world we live in differently. But it has also played an important role in the history of philosophy. Emily Thomas, author of The Meaning of Travel: Philosophers Abroad, explores the connections between her two passions—philosophy and travel—at a moment when most of us are unable to leave our houses: perhaps the perfect moment to reflect on travel’s significance for human beings.
With his books In Patagonia and The Songlines, Bruce Chatwin (1940-1989) reinvented travel literature. Nicholas Shakespeare, his biographer, lifts the lid on a complex life and selects five books that influenced Chatwin’s work.
Author and Arabist Tim Mackintosh-Smith tells us about the rich tradition in Islam of travelling to gain knowledge, and directs us towards some of those, both Western and Arab, who’ve inspired with their tales of life on the road.
by Jan Morris
Hong Kong Noir: Fifteen true tales from the dark side of the city
by Feng Chi-shun
by the Hong Kong Writers Circle
The Heritage Hiker’s Guide to Hong Kong
by Pete Spurrier
Ghetto at the Center of the World: Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong
by Gordon Mathews
In 2014 Hong Kong’s ‘Umbrella Protests’ made news around the world. But will continuing protests in Hong Kong lead to advances in democracy or crackdowns by Beijing? Jason Ng, lawyer and author of Umbrellas in Bloom, chooses five of the best books for understanding China’s ‘foster child’ city.
Robert Macfarlane, author of an acclaimed trilogy of books about landscape and human thought tells us about the intrepid, sometimes misanthropic writers who inspired his own investigation of wilderness. He chooses some of his favourite books of nature-writing.
Five Books deputy editor Cal Flyn selects five of the best books on abandoned places, including a cultural history of ruins, an account of natural recovery in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, plus two unsettling works of science fiction. Her own book, Islands of Abandonment: Life in the Post-Human Landscape, is out now.