What’s On My Bookshelf? The Travel Book Edition

No, you’re not imagining things, What’s On Your Bookshelf is a week later than normal – and for a very good reason. This month, you see, we’re pleased to be teaming up with The Friendly Friday Challenge – a fortnightly challenge co-hosted by Sandy from The Sandy Chronicles, Amanda from Something to Ponder About and Sarah from Travels with Me – to talk about travel books.

But first, a quick recap on what I read in March (which, incidentally, seems so far away now).

March Reading

In the interests of space and words, my brief reviews are on Goodreads, but my read of the month was Milly Johnson’s Woman In The Middle, closely followed by Sophie Hannah’s The Mystery of Three Quarters.

As far as cookbooks go, I read Jimmy and Jane Barnes’ Where the River Bends (more for the stories than the recipes) and Skye McAlpine’s A Table In Venice (for both stories and recipes).  Both books were library loans and while I didn’t cook anything from Where The River Bends, I certainly did from A Table In Venice. Peaches Poached in Amaretto Syrup (with an amoretti crumb) was declared a favourite by Grant.

Travel Books

My travel bookshelf as taken in 2020

My travel bookcase lives in my home office as a constant reminder of the reason why I work – so I can escape from it. It’s full of guides to places I’ve been, and travel memoirs from fabulous writers about places I love or would like to visit. 

As for a favourite? I’m hard-pressed to pick one – so I won’t. Instead, here are a few of my favourite authors. As for the virtual travelling I do through cookbooks and fiction? That’s a subject for a whole other post.

Peter Mayle’s Provence

The first travel memoir I ever bought was Peter Mayle’s A Year In Provence. It’s one I reread every few years so 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.

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 time I feel like escaping to the south of France. 

Mayle also turned his hand to fiction with 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.

Bill Bryson

Bryson is the master when it comes to travel writing and I adore how he combines exploring, walking and writing about both. My faves from him? Notes From a Small Island, Downunder, A Walk In The WoodsThe Road To Little Dribbling, and Neither Here Nor There.

John Baxter

France, walking, food, art and history. What could be better?

I bought my first John Baxter book in Shakespeare and Co in Paris – a second-hand copy of A Paris Christmas. It seemed serendipitous – food and Paris in Paris. The following year I found a copy of Baxter’s The Most Beautiful Walk In The World on the bookshelf in our rental cottage in Wyck Rissington. I’d been struggling with Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers so immediately texted our landlord and asked if I could swap. Thankfully she said yes.

Other faves…

I’ve recently done a mini purge of my travel bookshelves (to make room for more), and while some books have gone to an interim “maybe” or “to be read” pile before making their way to the “donate” pile, these will always have a place.

  • Love it or hate it, I’m very firmly in the Love camp with Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love.
  • Ben Groundwater is one of my favourite travel writers and his Five Ways To Carry A Goat gave me the inspiration for the character of Jake in Careful What You Wish For.
  • Again combining food and France (can you see a theme developing here?) is Felicity Cloake’s One More Croissant For The Road. I can’t wait for her new one: Red Sauce, Brown Sauce – A British Breakfast Odyssey.
  • The late (great) AA Gill is the travel writer’s travel writer. I’m in awe.

Sue, Donna, Debbie and I have been delighted to co-host this one-time combo challenge with Friendly Friday Challenge and What’s On Your Bookshelf. To join us and showcase your favourite travel book, you can share in the comments, pingback with your own post, or use the handy InLInkz bar below. Please be sure to tag both challenges (‘Friendly Friday’ and #whatsonyourbookshelfchallenge). We look forward to hearing your thoughts as well as your travel book suggestions!

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Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

56 thoughts

  1. Wow this is great Jo, a very comprehensive look at travel books and their impact on you. I have read a few of these but not 5 ways to carry a goat which has to be one the best titles for a book ever! Such a great way to combine our love of travel and reading in one challenge!

  2. Ah Jo, your travel book list has left me salivating! The thought of the wonderful foods of France and Italy always makes my feet itchy for travel.
    Thank you for sharing

  3. Ah travel books are especially great atm when it is not so easy to travel as we once did. Your list is comprehensive and inspirational.
    I can totally understand why the tales in Provence book has been re- read many times. I am also attracted to travel memoirs especially if set in Scandinavia!!
    Thanks for joining in with the Friendly Friday challenge. It has been fun to have you a a great host. I do hope to well be tempted to join us again because to would be most welcome.

    1. I haven’t read any set in Scandinavia yet, but last month read a novel set in the islands off Stockholm and it made me interested to know more about there. The link up/collab is a lot of fun. I’m off to start going through everyone else’s suggestions and posts.

  4. I LOVE Bill Bryson and a Walk in the Woods is one of my favorites with In a Sunburned Country a close second. I hadn’t heard of a few that you mentioned though so I’m going to have to check them out. I haven’t written up a post of my April books yet so I shared my March book instead.

    1. I think they published Downunder as A Sunburned Country in the US – don’t you hate it when publishers do that? Our April round-up will be back on schedule on the 3rd Friday of next month.

  5. Wow! You have a great collection of travel books. One of my favourites is Sand Dance by Bruce Kirkby and another fun one is Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart (similar to A Year in Provence but in Spain) I also loved Eat Pray Love!

  6. Jo, it was a copy of Country Inns and Back Roads that sparked our interest in taking seasonal road trips throughout the US back in the late 80’s. The love affair continues. These days we mostly watch YouTube to check out future destinations and the internet has a wealth of information, but a good travel book is still treasured. Love your suggestions.

  7. OMG there are so many great books mentioned in your post – and in the comments – that I truly don’t know whre to begin. But begin I shall with Peter Mayle’s A Year In Provence. I’m off for a hike this morning but just might sneak in an old bookshop on my return. Wonderful post which I will bookmark to reference!

  8. I was in Provence for a time just after A year in Provence came out. Everyone (french) would ask me if I’d read it and I’d say no. To which the response was a venemous ‘Good. Don’t! He’s a liar and everyone hates him”. He apparently had ‘no firends’ and clearly a lot of the locals didn’t like what he said about them. Like with the colonial books in my post, it’s good to remember there’s always another side to the story. Hehehe. As for Eat, Pray,Love, while I’ve not read it, I found a copy in the children’s play room in Bali and it had so many pages book marked with post it notes, it did intrigue me. I will try to find the picture of it for you….it’s hilarious. #Whatsonyourbookshelf

    1. I’ve heard that about Mayle…& I suspect he was all they said he was – especially coming from a London advertising background… but I loved the reads…

  9. Thanks for recommendation of books I need to read. You’ve reminded me that Peter Mayle’s “A Year in Provence’ was one of my favorite reads. I’m still thinking that there’s time for another life where I live in France for year or two. It is my hubby’s country afterall and he doesn’t mind being my translator 24/7 🙂

  10. Thank you, Jo, for sharing your list of books with #weekendcoffeeshare. So many good books so little time. I’ll refer back to your blog when I look for book suggestions.

  11. Wow. Good reason for working…and the visual reminder is exceptional. I have never really had a travel bug (just as well, I guess due to costs!) but I did have my solo visit to USA to see Hawaii, SF, Las Vegas and Los Angeles and each of those places I sure read about first. My interest in Hawaii was because of Dad and him spending 6 weeks studying at a Summer School of Harvard Business School there. Mum and Dad did “around the world’ via first class as their last big and amazing trip once he had retired, and he told me recently Mum said “that’s it, A, I am not getting my passport renewed”. And then holidays became within Australia. You sure are leaving a legacy here Jo! Denyse.

  12. So many books here thst I haven’t read that I now feel I must. I’ve cooked a couple of recipes from Where The River Bens but I found most to be either too fancy or ingredients too difficult to get. But I loved it for the stories. I’m not really into travel books. I tend to prefer to know nothing about a destination until I arrive. Weird I know! I don’t have a #whatsonyourbookshelf post this month as I messed the dates up and thought it was next week.

  13. Love, love, love all of your recommendations Jo and your travel bookshelf is very impressive. I’m keen to read Where the River Bends and also A Table in Venice. I’m looking forward to travelling again one day soon but at least I can travel through reading. x

  14. I have Skye McAlpine’s A Table In Venice and although I have never cooked from it, I love to browse it. In fact might have a look at it for this week’s inspiration. That is the second recommendation I have had for the Felicity Cloake book so now must read it.

    1. I ended up buying my own copy of A Table in Venice. I got a copy of Sophie Hansen’s Around The Kitchen Table at the library the other day and want to cook SO much from it. I suspect I;ll have to buy it.

  15. Hi Jo, I am always interested in what you are reading. You are a voracious reader and open minded with a variety of book categories. Of course, the recipes that go along with some of the books, leave me drooling. ❤️I now have new book suggestions on my TBR list after reading your post. I just finished reading an engaging book by Stanley Tucci (“Taste”). I look forward to hearing/reading more about your upcoming adventures.xx

  16. Hi Jo – quite a deep dive into travel books – and I can’t say that I’m unduly surprised with your love for travel being so ingrained. Interesting that you have favourite authors and why they’re favourites – and that lots of them have a food connection too. Kind of a win/win. 🙂

  17. 5 Ways to Carry a Goat sounds amazing–I just added it to my TBR list on Goodreads. I’ve been meaning to read Bill Bryson for ages and have a title of his sitting on my bookshelf.

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