Travelling is a broad topic and the true mysteries of exploration and wanderlust can never really be expressed by a guidebook or a factual summary of a destinations’ attractions. Sometimes, all the information in the world can be a little… dull. Not so with these books. Two of them are travel guides, yes. However, they are all written with the kind of richly beautiful prose that delights in the free-spirited and passionately burning nature of those who dedicate large parts of their lives to travelling and exploring the globe.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
On the Road is a 1950s classic that captures the freewheeling joyousness of a life spent travelling. Entirely set in America, Jack Kerouac’s smoky, jazz infused poetic ruminations create an effervescent backdrop to the semi-autobiographical accounts of his cross-country journeys with his beat crew. Travelling from the lowdown tin houses of New Orleans, across Americas’ diverse deserts, plains and mountain passes, to Virginia, New York, Colorado and San Francisco, Kerouac’s narrator Sal Paradise embarks upon one of the most celebrated journeys in modern literature. Other characters in the novel represent prominent beat movement poets, writers and artists from the time including Neal Cassady, Alan Ginsberg, William Burroughs and more.
In a Sunburned Country (or Down Under) by Bill Bryson
Iowan-born Bill Bryson is one of the most prolific and best-selling travel writers of all time. His Notes from a Small Island, about his final journey around his home-of-20-years the UK, was extremely popular in the 90s. But it is this travelogue, about his experiences travelling around Australia that cemented his place as a legendary travel writer. With a title inspired by a famous poem from the early 19th century, written by a homesick Aussie living in London, UK, Bill deftly weaves humorous anecdotes about his own experiences travelling across the Outback with the serious and often bloody account of Australia’s’ founding.
The Beach by Alex Garland
The young westerners’ party pilgrimage to Thailand or another Eastern country may be a bit passé in 2019. However, when Alex Garland inspired young men and women across America and the UK to strap on a backpack and head for the beach in 1996 it was a much more exciting and rawer prospect. You won’t find full moon parties with neon dayglow ravers and cocktails in bright pink plastic buckets here. Instead, it’s a sombre yet beautiful tale of a utopian island refuge spoiled by greed and betrayal – think of Lord of the Flies, except with cannabis cultivation, shark attacks and Koh Samui. The Beach received great reviews upon release, including from the novelist Nick Hornby and in the New York Post. It was so successful it was also adapted into a movie in the year 2000, starring Leonardo Di Caprio and directed by Trainspotting and future Slumdog Millionaire auteur Danny Boyle.