The Tao of Travel
by Paul Theroux
Hamish Hamilton, $47
"The best travel," wrote Paul Theroux in his book Dark Star Safari, "is a leap in the dark. If the destination were familiar and friendly what would be the point in going there?"
I agree. And that quote both sums up Theroux's own attitude to travel - as you'd expect from one of the great travel writers - and the selections in this compendium of extracts from his favourite travel books, mingled with some of his own writing.
The writers vary from Bruce Chatwin to Samuel Johnson; from Evelyn Waugh to Ernest Hemingway, but they all describe the excitement of the unfamiliar, which is what makes travel so endlessly fascinating.
Its short extracts make it the perfect book for dipping into when you're travelling in a style - maybe bumping in an ancient bus along a rough track somewhere - that makes concentration difficult.
I rather like the idea of climbing back on the bus, wiping your hands clean after a meal of rice, mutton and vodka, and opening the book to savour Freya Stark's observation: "One can only really travel if one lets oneself go and takes what every place brings without trying to turn it into a healthy private pattern of one's own and I suppose that is the difference between travel and tourism."