Saturday, April 30, 2011

Armchair Traveling

To A Mountain in Tibet by Colin Thubron
HarperCollins, 2011

Isn't that a gorgeous picture on the cover? This is my first book by Thubron to pick up - I did so because I'm fascinated by Tibet. This is a slow book, a book to your time with, but alas, I was too slow and had to return it to the library before I was finished. I'll definitely pick it up again to finish. The very nature of travel, especially to a far and different place, encourages personal reflection; the trick, at least when I'm looking for travel narratives, is to find a book that balances this with details and descriptions of the places and people met along the way. Thubron strikes that balance well.

This is gorgeous writing; I could give you so many examples! Here's an excerpt from a paragraph in chapter 3:
"I emerge from my tent to a sky washed clear...Ahead the river winds between mountain spurs that recede and overlap even fainter, before misting away through gullies dense with deciduous forest...And the last horizon to which the river points - far away under high cirrus cloud - seals the sky in a glistening, snow-lit wall to which we are unimaginably going." (p.28)
Want to do a little armchair traveling yourself? Here are some of my favorites:

Charles Kuralt's America by Charles Kuralt - Kuralt spends each month of the year in a different city, telling the stories of the places he visits and people he meets.

Transit Maps of the World by Mark Ovendon - Not a travel narrative, but a fascinating look at historic and current transit maps of cities through the world. Map lovers (and design aficionados) will get lost in this book.

Without Reservations: the Travels of An Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach - Steinbach takes an extended leave of absence from her job at a newspaper and spends the better part of a year in France, England and Italy. Each chapter begins with a postcard she sent to herself.

Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey Into Bhutan by Jamie Zeppa - While planning for grad school, Zeppa has a change of heart and commits to two years of teaching in Bhutan. Her book covers the challenges she faced, her daily life, and the relationship she begins while there.

My Life in France by Julia Child - This tells the story of Julia and her husband's move to France, and how she fell in love with the food and began the cooking for which she was so known. I listened to this audiobook, and it really brought the story to life.

Rick Steves' Postcards from Europe: 25 Years of Travel Tales from America's Favorite Guidebook Writer and Rick Steves' Travel as a Political Act - I'm a fan of both Steves' writing and television shows and enjoyed both of these books. Rick Steves' European Christmas has wonderful pictures and focuses on the holiday happenings in various cities.

What about you - do you travel by armchair? If so, what are some your favorite travel books?

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