by Lin Sutherland, Humor Editor

Who wouldn't say that travel is an enriching and educating experience? But it is far more enriching and you'll get more out of it if you've done your homework. Travel guidebooks can be a great help, but for the color, feel and soul of a place, I turn to a horse of a different color, travel literature.

Travel literature is different from guidebooks in that the author's voice and eye is your guide. The emphasis is not on listing the best hotels and restaurants, but on the personal travel experience and its meaning.

In the past when you went to the travel section of a bookstore, the best travel literature was lumped in and hidden among the guidebooks. But now that literary travel books are becoming hot in the publishing world, bookstores are starting to wise up and have a separate section for travel literature. In 1987, there was an upsurge of travel book stores. There are now more than 200 specialty travel book stores in the U.S.

What to look for? Well, fact is most of the great writers traveled. After all, what is traveling but exploring, and what is a writer, but an explorer? To name a few: Evelyn waugh, Graham Green, E. M. Forster, D. H. Lawrence, Aldous Huxley and Lawrence Durrell have all leant their knowing eyes to travel and to capture the soul of other countries.

The following is a list of this writer's favorite travel books:

  • A Taste for Travel, John Julius Norwich. A great anthology of travel writing.
  • Rodeo, Cunninghame Graham. An excellent but rarely read British writer whose travel accounts excel.
  • Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain. A hilarious account of his travels with a group of Baptists going to the Holy Land.
  • Eothan, Elexander Kinglake. On the near east, this is what a travel book should be.
  • Riding the Iron Rooster, and Kingdom by the Sea, Paul Theroux. Two excellent books by America's premiere current travel writer.
  • The Blessings of a Good, Thick Skirt. This anthology gives us the wonderful stories of the great English women travelers, such as Mary Kingsley and Dame Freya Stark.
  • West of the Night, Beryl Markham. An Englishwoman raised in Kenya, a friend of Isak Denison and a bush pilot, Markham's story is extraordinary and poetic.
  • Tschiffely's Ride, A. F. Tschiffely. 10,000 miles on horseback, across mountain and desert, jungle and swamp, from Argentina to New York City. When other adventure stories have turned to mold, this will still be read. For both spirit and amazing travel feat, this book is eternal.
  • The Colossus of Maroussi, Henry Miller. Unlike anything else ever written about Greece, this book is incandescent with the author's feeling for a great people and their past.
  • Traveller Through Time, Freya Stark. A photographic collection of the work of the fearless and indomitable Dame Stark, who traveled alone in Arabia where few foreigners, even men, had dared to venture.
  • Cities, Journeys, Spain, and Oxford, Jan Morris. Jan Morris has a fine and discerning eye for the unique place.
  • Holidays in Hell, P. J. O'Rourke. A funny compilation of worst trips - and Mr. O'Rourke's trips, if you know his writing, are rather unusual anyway.

And also:

  • Under a Sickle Moon, P. Hodson
  • In Bolivia, Eric Lawler
  • Stones of Florence, Mary McCarthy
  • and any books by these excellent women explorer/authors:
    • Dervla Murphy (biked Egypt and the Nile)
    • Bettina Selby (biked Pakistan to Nepal) and
    • Christina Dotwell (traveled Turkey on horseback)

These books will take you to the best of foreign worlds with a good read if you're an armchair traveler - and then make you want to get up and go there.