Armchair Travel Guides

I’m taking a break from my English travel journal to talk about books – travel books. The way I figure it, if I can’t physically travel, I’m going to do it virtually, and that means reading and, re-reading some of my favourite, travel books. Armchair travelling, if you like.

It began with this one by Ann Mah, which left me with a yearning for more France.

Okay, here’s where I digress. As much as I try not to keep too much “stuff”, I can’t apply the whole Marie Kondo thing to my bookcase – at least not my travel bookcase (or my cookbooks, but that’s another story). My travel bookcase lives in my home office as a constant reminder of the reason why I work; it contains travel memoirs and guides to everywhere I’ve been.

Anyways, the yearning for more France had me pulling this one out of the bookcase: A Year In Provence.

Now, my copy is falling apart – as, indeed, it should be given that I bought it in, wait for it, 1990. Am I really that old? And that was the paperback. The original was published a year earlier.

Peter Mayle wrote a couple of sequels to A Year In Provence. Both are enjoyable reads, but there’s just something about the original that has me reaching for it every few years.

Another of Mayle’s that I’ll be re-reading this month is a novel,  A Good Year.

Now, I’m going to say this really quickly – A Good Year is one of my absolute favourite movies. Russell Crowe is in it – yes, I know, but he’s great in this, as is Marion Cotillard – and it’s set in Provence. That’s all that you really need to know.

Also on my reading list this month is Bill Bryson’s From Neither Here Nor There. I bought this one from a second-hand bookstore in Armidale when we were on a road trip one time and have never read it.

One that I’ve been meaning to read, and it’s been on my to-be-read pile for goodness how long is Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Another on my list for this month is The Angry Island, by the late great A.A. Gill. And, if I don’t run out of days, From Here To There, by Jon Faine.

If you’re looking to do some armchair travelling of your own, here are a few of my favourites – in no particular order:

Anything by Bill Bryson, but especially Notes From a Small Island, Downunder, A Walk In The Woods, and The Road To Little Dribbling.

Anything by John Baxter, but especially The Most Beautiful Walk In The World, A Paris Christmas, A Year In Paris and, The Perfect Meal.

Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert, Five Ways To Carry A Goat, Ben Groundwater, and One More Croissant For The Road, Felicity Cloake.

For a laugh, you can’t go past the Jetlag Travel Guides. There are three in the series (four if you include the guide to Molvanian Baby Names) and they’ve all been written by the Working Dog crew – the writers behind the Aussie classic movie The Castle. The story is that one night over dinner they started talking about writing a satirical version of a Lonely Planet Guide, the country of Molvania was invented, and the rest is hilariously history.

They’ve written them in a way that unless you read the words they could be mistaken for a serious travel guide – right down to the author biographies in the back of the book. It must have been so much fun.

But that’s enough from me, what’s your favourite travel book?

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Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

16 thoughts

  1. As you know, I don’t really read non-fiction so haven’t read many travel books but have enjoyed those where a location has featured in a novel. And I do love my english (small village) mysteries so guess that’s where my interest in visiting there came from!

  2. I love Bill Bryson and his travel writing has me in stitches. I still maintain that “Down Under” made me fall in love with Australia before I’d even set foot on Australian terra firma. I haven’t read many of these but I’m certainly going to add some to my To-Read list, first up those Jetlag Travel Guides, they look a right hoot!

  3. Hi Jo, I have read Eat, Pray, Love and Wild from your list, and will check out some of the others you suggested. They all look like fun reads. Under the Tuscan Sun is a longtime favorite, as is anything by Dave Barry.

  4. Hey, our travel bookshelves look quite similar (unlike our cookbook collections which, if you see mine, would surely cause you to run away screaming)!
    You’ve featured some great books here. ‘A Walk in the Woods’ is one of my favourite books of all time. I simply cannot reread it enough. ‘Wild’ is also a must-read (WAY better than the movie…as is ‘AWITW’ for which I will not even mention the film–such a disappointment).
    I would also add to your list “The Best Place to be Today: 365 Things to do & the Perfect Day to do Them (Lonely Planet).” Such a fun book! It’s jammed packed with inspiration. And, it’s interesting to see what is featured from our own local areas.

    1. Let’s agree not to talk about Robert Redford as Bill Bryson. I’ll check out your recommendation – it sounds right up my alley.

  5. That’s a a very substantial list for a month!! I do love A A Gill but haven’t read that one above. I’ll be interested if you read Wild and what you think. I thought it was complete rubbish and I wanted to throttle the silly woman and throw the book at the wall I was so irritated by it. It smacked of trying to make a story and a quick buck out of a pretty ordinary walk.There are very few books that make me feel like that. Do let me know what you think if you read it. Apart from that, a good selection, and that movie is great!

    1. I’ll let you know. I’ve had this AA Gilll sitting there mocking me for at least 2 years, maybe more. I’ll let you know what I think about it and Wild. If I get through my allocated 4-5 books I’ll be happy.

  6. Hello Jo! I love the sound of armchair traveling in this stay-where-you-are times. I have read a few of these books–Wild and Eat, Pray, Love. But you’ve given me a lot to add to my list. Thank you. Take care and stay safe!

  7. Jo, Lots of fun reads on your list. I have The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho next on my to read list. The novel makes you want to visit Spain, Morocco and Egypt. I’ve been to all three countries and love them all. #lovin’lifelinky

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