The best of contemporary travel writing

By Jennifer Ennion

Whether you're an armchair traveller or frequent flyer, this summer pick up a paperback or download an e-book and read the best of contemporary travel writing.

Find inspiration for your next adventure in travel writing. Photo / Thinkstock
Find inspiration for your next adventure in travel writing. Photo / Thinkstock

INTO THE WILD by Jon Krakauer

American writer and mountaineer Jon Krakauer has written a compelling account of Christopher McCandless, a young well-educated man whose determination to chase his dreams led to his undoing.

He traces the journey McCandless took across North America, into the wilds of Alaska. Before setting off and disappearing from his family, McCandless donated his savings to charity so he could live off the land.

The book successfully gives readers an insight into the mind of McCandless, his passion and obsession.

It also pieces together the steps he took, from his meetings with strangers to the places he slept.

Into the Wild became a New York Times bestseller when it was published in 1996 and was later adapted to film by actor Sean Penn. It is an enthralling and very moving story.

THE BEACH by Alex Garland

The Beach has to be among the most read and inspiring travel novels of all time, enticing backpackers the world over to descend on the islands of Thailand.

Published in 1996 and becoming a cult classic, The Beach is centred on a young Englishman, Richard, who learns of an island oasis untouched by tourism.

With a French couple and a hand-drawn map, Richard leaves Bangkok's dingy Khao San Road behind and sets off in search of paradise in the Gulf of Thailand. Yet paradise isn't exactly what he finds.

The book, by English author Alex Garland, was such a hit that in 2000 it was adapted into a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

It's been described by critics as "spellbinding and hallucinogenic'' and "an adventure you'll never forget''.

DOWN UNDER by Bill Bryson

You could really pick any of Bill Bryson's travel narratives and expect a great read - he's written quite a few - Notes from a Small Island; A Walk in the Woods; Neither Here nor There, and the list goes on.

But for a different perspective on Australia, read Down Under (or In a Sunburned Country - US edition), published in 2000.

The travelogue traces the American author's visit to Australia and the characters he meets. Bryson's wry wit offers a humorous insight into how Australia and its quirks are viewed from an outsider.

Down Under has been described as a "masterpiece in travel literature'' by Globe & Mail Toronto and Bryson as "a very talented writer and an enormously funny and perceptive one''.

TROPIC OF CAPRICORN by Simon Reeve

This travel narrative was borne out of a four-part BBC documentary series in 2008 and is a riveting read.

Its sister books are Tropic of Cancer and Equator, yet it was for Tropic of Capricorn that Reeve was named New York Times bestselling author.

The book is about Reeve's around-the-world journey following the southern edge of the tropics.

He travels through Africa, Madagascar, Australia and South America, crossing the Andes mountain range, and the Namib, Kalahari and Atacama deserts.

It's a fascinating adventure during which Reeve meets gem miners, former cannibal hunters and Madagascan royalty.

Reeve has travelled in more than 100 countries and is an exceptional journalist and author.

A YEAR IN PROVENCE by Peter Mayle

It could be said that Peter Mayle really started the trend of wealthy foreigners, largely Brits and Americans, buying land and setting up a home in France and Italy.

A Year in Provence hit bookstore shelves in 1989 and is an auto-biographical novel about Mayle's first 12 months living in the village Menerbes in south-eastern France.

Across the pages he details life as an expatriate and writes about the local cuisine and customs, dealing with unruly workers and getting through winter.

He does this so well that the British author has won multiple awards, including Best Travel Book of the Year (1989) and Author of the Year (1992) by the British Book Awards.

The international bestseller was produced by the BBC in 1993 as a television mini-series.

- AAP

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n6 at 21 Sep 2014 14:11:20 Processing Time: 1494ms