Last month, in celebration of their five year anniversary, World Hum, with the help of Rolf Potts, Thomas Swick, and Michael Shapiro, reviewed the top 30 travel books of all time (see previous post here). Curious about the opinions of noted travel writers, Rolf Potts inquired, via email, Pico Iyer, Peter Hessler, Tony Horwitz, Tim Cahill, and Jeffrey Tayler and asked them their thoughts about the selections. All responded and Rolf has been sharing their comments and opinions on his website.
He started with Pico Iyer, whose Video Night in Kathmandu cracked the top ten. Pico replied with a few of his favorite travel books, including Colossus of Maroussi, The Rings of Saturn, and The Gentleman in the Parlour: A Record of a Journey from Rangoon to Haiphong.
Next, Rolf featured comments from Peter Hessler, whose River Town landed at #20. Peter contributed with his list of favorites, including Blue Highways: A Journey into America, On the Road, and The Great Railway Bazaar. But, he also chimed in that travel books are about more the idea and sometimes “the meaning isn’t necessarily contained within the pages”.
In my previous post, I commented that the list sent me to the nearest bookstore and renewed my love for travel, self-discovery, and poignant writing. However, after reading Pico’s and Peter’s comments, I realize I hold a good travel book on the same regard as a great, classic movie. To me, noted travel writers whose books made the list, are like rock stars and I’m the fan hoping for quick glance, twinkle of sweat, or if I’m lucky, an autograph. Knowing what books they enjoy and why, helps me understand their attitude and mind set, a secret way into their world and lives without intruding. Which as a travel writer, is very important to me. Thanks, Rolf.
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In the meantime, what do you think about World Hum’s final list? How many of the listed books have you read? In your opinion, what makes a great travel book?