My Favourite Travel Books

I have been asked a couple of times recently what my favourite travel books are, so I thought I would put it all in a blog entry.
Below is my own selection, naturally idiosyncratic and with a slight bent towards Vietnam, owing to my interests and attachments:


A Dragon Apparent by Norman Lewis - Lewis is seen by now as the great master of travel writing, and all of his books are highy accomplished, filled with attention to fascinating and small detail. Readable, entertaining and quite sensitive and intelligent, A Dragon Apparent was written in the early 1950s and captures a Vietnam and Cambodia that are just on the verge of collapse. I also like his book on Burma, Golden Earth.  




Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux - The grand old curmudgeon of travel writing, I think Theroux is a great writer, almost because of his personal idiosyncrasies and apparent grumpiness. This is an account of his journey through Africa, where he rants about missionaries and NGOs and foreign aid workers. Wonderful stuff. I also love his The Happy Isles of Oceania and his odd fictionalised memoir My Other Life.



From a Chinese City by Gontran de Poncins - A French Count goes to live in Saigon's Chinatown in the early 1950s. This book is how I wish I could spend my life. He's largely forgotten now, but de Poncins was a beautiful writer. Check out as well his fascinating (and compelling) account of life among the Inuit, Kabloona.


Hindoo Holiday by J. R. Ackerley - Ackerley is these days a cult figure, though largely unknown outside the queer lit community.He writes elegantly in this early memoir of his time in India.




Catfish & Mandala by Andrew X Pham - Pham is a Vietnamese American who travels back to his homeland and discovers that he doesn't really fit in anywhere. This is such an amazing book, insightful, heartfelt and brutally honest.

Red Chapels of Banteay Srey by Sacheverell Sitwell - Of course, everything written by every member of the Sitwell family is lots of fun and always worth reading. In this one Sachie Sitwell visits Cambodia, and goes about being a tourist in the most elegant way imaginable.




The Spiritual Tourist by Mick Brown - An interesting re-invention of the travel book, Brown travels Britain and the world pursuing spiritual enlightenment and meets an amazing cast of characters while doing so.



The Global Soul by Pico Iyer - Iyer has always been an exceptional and totally uique travel writer, but I think  this is his best book, an examination of the metaphysical impications of tourism, transnationalism and belonging.




Twilight of Love by Robert Dessaix - Dessaix is perhaps Australia's best living writer, though vastly undervalued here. In this book he travels Russia in search of the novelist Turgenev.




A Time to Keep Silence by Patrick Leigh Fermor - Fermor, who died last year, was a great pal to many literary figures, and his own literary ability has been overshadowed somewhat by his famous acquaintances. His spare and stylishly written little books are all worth reading, but perhaps my favourite is A Time To Keep Silence, in which he writes an account of his time as a young man wandering through the monasteries of Europe.

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Next week I am teaching my Travel Writing with Spirit workshop with Laneway Learning Sydney, and there are just a couple of places left.  If you are interested in learning about how to record your journeys and travel more meaningfully, why not book a spot? 
Details: 

Travel Writing with Spirit
Only $14!!
Wednesday, August 5th 2015
7:00pm to 8:15pm
Waverley Library


 

In conversation with memoirist James Fry




Next week I'm at Balmain Library chatting to writer James Fry about his fascinating book That Fry Boy.

James' story is a compelling one about addiction and betrayal, and is a thoroughly honest and thought-provoking memoir. I very much look forward to talking to him about it, and I would love to see you there.

This is a totally free event, but it would be great if you could let the library know you were coming.

I hopr to see you there!

Details:

That Fry Boy with James Fry @ Balmain Library




When:

06 Aug 2015

What time:

6:30 PM  - 8:00 PM 

Where:

Balmain Library
Balmain Town Hall, 370 Darling St
Balmain, NSW, Australia 

Event Details:

That Fry Boy serves as both a cautionary and educative tale of the impact that bullying can have on a young developing mind. 

Free event. Bookings - online or call 9367 9211.
 
More information:

James Fry is a Sydney-based author and commentator.

James works as a youth justice conference convenor; a role that has him tasked with bringing juvenile offenders and their victims together in a restorative justice process on behalf of the NSW Department of the Attorney General and Justice.


Free event - All welcome - Refreshments served
Bookings - online or call 9367 9211

The launch of Cecile Yazbek's new book Voices on the Wind

This afternoon I headed over to Willoughby for the launch of Cecile Yazbek's first novel Voices on the Wind.

Cecile Yazbek and Walter Mason


Cecile has previously written a memoir of her life growing up as a Lebanese girl in South Africa, Olive Trees Around My Table, and an extremely popular and acclaimed vegetarian cookbook, Mezze to Milk Tart.

Voices on the Wind is her first foray into fiction, and it looks fascinating. Based on the story of her grandmother, it tells the story of a Lebanese family and their legal struggles in South Africa. Cecile has gone indie for this book, and she funded it through the sale of some beloved diamond earrings.



I am sure it has been a worthy investment, and I shall follow her new publishing journey with interest. As Cecile is an accomplished chef there was, naturally, a very impressive vegetarian Lebanese feast, and I tucked in while I was there. Good food makes a good launch I always say.

Voices on the Wind was launched by Sydney historian Dr. Shirley Fitzgerald, and author Rosie Scott was in the room, fresh from her own recent publishing victory (along with Anita Heiss) with the anthology on The Intervention, a book which features a contribution from my pal P. M. Newton.

If you'd like to hear Cecile talk about her new book, she is speaking at Turramurra Library at 10.30am on Thursday the 30th of July - details here.

Here is an interview with Cecile. And why not buy a copy of Voices on the Wind?
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