Lonely Planet Writer

Top travel literature titles of 2011

It's the end of the year, so here are some of the top rated travel literature books we've reviewed in 2011. If either you're after some inspiration for your travels in 2012 or a gift for a friend or family member with wanderlust, you're sure to find something of interest below.

Country DrivingCountry Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory by Peter Hessler

Reviewed by Ben Handicott

Country Driving is a look at modern China through the eyes of a journalist fluent in the language and with a keen understanding of Chinese culture. The title is more than nominal with Peter Hessler traversing large parts of the countryside, but if you want to learn a great deal about all facets of China, the country and its people, then this is your book.
Read the full review here.

Along the Enchanted Way by William Blacker

Reviewed by Will Gourlay

'Enchanting' isn’t a word usually associated with Romania. Think 'Romania' and most people will conjure images of Communist-era architecture in Bucharest or hair-raising tales of Dracula. However, in Along the Enchanted Way, William Blacker's account of years spent living in Romania paints an altogether different – and unexpected – picture of this little-known country.
Read the full review here.

Lost on Earth by Steve Crombie

Reviewed by Steve Waters

In Lost on Earth, young Aussie Crombie plans to ride his single-cylinder Honda 650cc motorcycle from Ushuaia at the southern tip of South America's Tierra Del Fuego, toPrudhoe Bay, Alaska; the Pan American Highway's unofficial endpoint well north of the Arctic Circle. This cracking tale of sheer determination should be mandatory reading for any young, would-be adventurer. (Disclaimer: Steve Crombie has worked for Lonely Planet.)
Read the full review here.

Travels: Collected Writings by Paul Bowles

Reviewed by Trent Holden

While Paul Bowles may not have the celebrity status of some of his contemporaries, namely the holy trinity of Beat writers (Ginsberg, Burroughs and Kerouac), his contribution to 20th-century literature was arguably just as significant. He’s remembered as one of the literary beacons of his time, not only because of his stellar body of work (including the masterpiece The Sheltering Sky). This is essential reading for not only all Bowles fans, but anyone interested in travel writing – as few have truly lived the life he has, immersed deep within the culture and blessed with the ability to articulate life as he saw it.
Read the full review here.

Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India by William Dalrymple

Reviewed by Elizabeth Shannon

Nine Lives is not really a travel book. This is not the tale of a bemused foreigner fumbling through an exotic landscape, but rather the result of William Dalrymple’s long familiarity with India: nine stories of religious practitioners navigating both the innate certitudes and contradictions of their own faiths and how India’s rapid development has affected these traditions and people's roles in them.
Read the full review here.

In Tasmania by Nicholas Shakespeare

Reviewed by Kirsten Rawlings

In Nicholas Shakespeare’s eyes, Tasmania is a secret and rarely visited place, ‘a byword for remoteness’. His comprehensive biography In Tasmania paints this outpost as a magnet for the lost, a place to be renewed or be forgotten. From the burgeoning towns of Launceston and Hobart, to the fertile northeast and the windy and bleak west coast, Shakespeare reveals the hardships and inspirations of its inhabitants over the centuries, suffusing each corner with history and beauty.
Read the full review here.

Halfway House to Heaven by Bill Colegrave

Reviewed by Steve Waters

I must admit to a certain amount of jealously when I first encountered Halfway House to Heaven by Bill Colegrave. The Wakhan Corridor, that long thin sliver of Afghanistan thrusting into the Pamir Mountains, hemmed in on three sides by Pakistan, China andTajikistan, has long been on my own radar, ever since I read The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron and Peter Hopkirk's Great Game series. Colegrave, though, claims a much older influence, the Central Asian tragedy of Sohrab and Rustum, as recounted by the 19th century English poet Matthew Arnold.
Read the full review here.

Thin Paths — Journeys in and around an Italian Mountain Village by Julia Blackburn

Reviewed by Claire Beyer

Julia Blackburn, author of Thin Paths, has an eye for detail. The seemingly small and insignificant are given big lives. The common dormouse, the developing tadpole and vocal owl are all given as much loving attention as her new surroundings in this lovely tale of life in an Italian mountain village.
Read the full review here.

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