Imbues's recent post on travel books got me thinking about travel writing (of the non-guidebook variety). I love travel writing and enjoy reading about places I've visited or plan to visit -- a good travel book provides a taste of the atmosphere of a place in a way even the best guidebook can't do. Here are a few of my favourites, listed by destination -- what are yours?
SOUTH AFRICA: Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Gavin Bell) - A young journalist who reported on South Africa in the waning days of apartheid returns after independence to travel across the country and see how things have changed.
January Sun (Richard Stengel): One day in the small town of Brits under apartheid, told from three different perspectives: a white veterinarian, an Indian shop owner, and a black taxi driver. One of the best apartheid-era books I've read.
The Wilderness Family (Kobie Kruger) Autobiographical story by the wife of a Kruger National Park game ranger which tells of their adventures in the park and how they raised an orphaned lion cub.
I Speak of Africa (Shan Varty and Molly Buchanan) The story of how a plot of bushveld became one of South Africa's premier game reserves, as well as the founding of Conservation Corporation Africa (a company featured on LL). I know Shan and Dave Varty and I've met many of the people who helped make Londolozi such an incredible place.
Phinda: The Return (Shan Varty and Molly Buchanan) The story of how determination, grit, and teamwork turned a plot of degraded farmland into a wilderness reserve. Phinda is sometimes featured on LL.
BOTSWANA: Botswana Time (Will Randall): The story of an unemployed British teacher who accidentally ends up guiding an overland safari through Namibia and Botswana, and then spends a year teaching in a primary school in Kasane.
The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency (Alexander McCall Smith): The adventures of Precious Ramotswe, the traditionally built proprietor of Botswana's first ladies' detective agency.
The Lion Children (Angus, Maisie, and Travers McNeice) Autobiographical story of a family who move from England to Botswana, where their mum marries a lion researcher. Written by the three children, this is a great book for adults as well as kids.
Mombo: Okavango's Place of Plenty (Mike Myers, Penny Hoets, and Grant Woodrow) The story of Wilderness Safaris, the first safari company to see Botswana's potential, and the incredible game reserve known as Mombo. Mombo is so unusually game-rich that it has become the subject of a scientific study .
GENERAL SAFARI/WILDLIFE: Africa Diaries (Beverly and Dereck Joubert) Behind the scenes with National Geographic filmmakers.
Backseat Safari (Robyn Keene-Young) A behind the scenes look at safaris and wildlife photography from a woman who has worked as a camp manager and is married to photographer Adrian Bailey.
The Trouble With Africa (Vic Guhrs) Autobiographical story written by an artist who spent several years living in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia in a safari camp run by his father-in-law, Norman Carr -- one of the founders of Zambian conservation.
Licenced to Guide (Suzy Cazenove) Mini-biographies of some of Africa's best living safari guides, and tales of their lives in the bush. I know several of the guides and the stories are all true!
EUROPE: Venetian Dreaming (Paula Weideger): The story of a New Yorker who moves to Venice for a year.
ROUND THE WORLD TRAVEL: Family Travels (Richard Reeves and Family): Around the world 'in 30 or so days' with the political writer, his wife, and three of their children (a television producer, a rock singer, and a ten-year-old). Mr and Mrs Reeves have connections in high places so the book includes some insightful political discussion with ambassadors and prime ministers as well as amusing travel anecdotes.
One Year Off (David Elliot Cohen): Around the world with the editor of the 'Day in the Life' book series and his wife and three young children, who quit their jobs, sell their Marin County house, and leave it all behind for a year on the road together.
GENERAL: Air Babylon (Imogen Edwards-Jones and Anonymous): Behind the scenes at a major airline based at London Heathrow. Very funny, but not an ideal choice for airplane reading (especially for nervous fliers!).
Hotel Babylon (Imogen Edwards-Jones and Anonymous): Behind the scenes at a five star hotel in London. Also very amusing