Travel Books That Will Take You Far
As the days get shorter and colder, vicarious adventure starts looking better than the real thing. Here, chosen in part to reflect the range of the planet's ecosystems, are half-a-dozen great books for the armchair explorer:
1. Arabian Sands (1959), by Wilfred Thesiger. From 1945-50, Thesiger spent as much time as he could in the Empty Quarter of the Arabian Peninsula, where he rode camels, passed himself off as a half-witted slave to avoid being executed as an infidel, and enjoyed intense "comradeship in a hostile world" with the Bedouin. Then he came home and wrote a masterpiece about a ridiculously tough setting for humans to live in, and the ways in which they managed to do so.
2. Shackleton (1986), by Roland Huntford. This is the biography that started all the fuss about the Antarctic explorer who put the safety of his crew ahead of his polar ambitions -- a fuss that has led to tomes with titles like "Managing Your Company the Shackleton Way." Huntford also wrote a muck-raking study of Scott and Amundsen, but Shackleton is an out-and-out tribute to a humane leader.
3. The Snow Leopard (1978), by Peter Matthiessen. Along with a special affection for this book (the first one I ever reviewed professionally), I like its unorthodox spirituality. While trekking in the Himalayas in search of the elusive cat, the author feels at one with creation: "I ring with life, and the mountains ring, and when I can hear it there is a ringing that we share."
4. The White Nile (1960), by Alan Moorehead. The Australian journalist carried on a love affair with Africa, and this beautifully written work is one of the products. Its "characters" include the mercurial polymath Sir Richard Burton, along with lions, hippopotami and the Nile itself, which seemed to hide its own source like a coveted treasure.
5. Into the Heart of Borneo (1984), by Redmond O'Hanlon. Quite simply, the funniest travel book ever written.
-- Dennis Drabelle
By Christian Pelusi |
November 15, 2007; 7:02 AM ET
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