Tag Archives: travel books

Travel Classic Two: Bruce Chatwin

Cerro Tennerife Patagonia

Cerro Tennerife Patagonia

Destination: Chile and Argentina, South America

Book: In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin

Bruce Chatwin uses one of the most engaging opening lines found in travel literature, or any other kind of literature, for that matter, to start In Patagonia (1977).

The classic of travel books begins , “In my grandmother’s dining room there was a glass-fronted cabinet and in the cabinet a piece of skin.”

When he asked about the strange object, he was told it was a brontosaurus that had lived in Patagonia in South America, “at the far end of the world.”  The hairy piece of skin becomes what Alfred Hitchcock called “the Magilla”–the object around which the drama builds. As he searches for the true story of the piece of skin, Chatwin develops a fascination for Patagonia which inevitably leads him to the far end of the world.

Chatwin tells stories in every paragraph, practically in every sentence.  He has the gift of looking at things in a skewed fashion and seeing them in completely new ways. “About fifty million years ago, when continents were wandering about…” he says. He leaves a museum, “reeling under the blows of Linnaean Latin.”

As he works his way south through Argentina and Chile, Chatwin meets with many people whose stories surprise and entertain the reader.  He also tells anecdotes about people who were once here, from Butch Cassidy and his gang to Darwin and his gang. Even Edgar Allen Poe plays a bit part in a story about the real life origins of his story Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym. It is surprising the far-reaching impact of this remote place. But particularly, he is interested in the story of Charley Milward, a distant relative who found that piece of skin that was unfortuitously discarded, and of course must be rediscovered–or at least replaced.

Sometimes the journey, mostly on foot and hitch hiking on various decrepit vehicles, is very difficult. Sometimes it is very dangerous, as when a drunken sheepherder plays with his knife and wonders aloud what it would do the a gringo.  But regardless of whether you have the stamina to follow his route on the ground (and numerous travel agents stand ready to help you these days), In Patagonia provides a grand tour to take through reading a great piece of travel literature.

Photo by “Florasol” from Flickr, under Creative Commons License

Have you read it? Are you two for two this week? Or are you making a list? Share, please, we’re dying to know.

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10 Posts from the First 100 at A Traveler’s Library

VMB in Kastro, Sifnos Island, Greece

VMB in Kastro, Sifnos Island, Greece

Yesterday A Traveler’s Library hit one of those landmark days, and I was not even here to celebrate. (I’m in New Orleans ensconced in my favorite hotel, Hotel Monteleone.)

Ta-Da–100 Posts!

Somehow, it seems appropriate, though, that I had a guest post on India here yesterday, because it is symbolic of the ways this blog has introduced me to people, places and books to read for travel.  I might not have met Sue Dickman, yesterday’s guest poster,  had it not been for the 30-day challenge started by Michelle Rafter.

I certainly would not have had much to say about India, since I have not been there myself.  But by using guest experts, A Traveler’s Library roams beyond the  destinations that I have traveled to personally. We have had guests posts on New England, Croatia, Mumbai, and now India again.

And I met the nice folks at Wandering Educators, who invited me to be the Traveler’s Library Editor. I wrote their earlier this month about popular posts from April at A Traveler’s Library.

In the first 100 posts, we have traveled to an amazing 53 different places! I hope you’ll join me as we travel to more places and learn about more great books in the 2nd hundred posts.

TEN random selections from the First Hundred:

Onward toward that First Year celebration  January 10, 2010!

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10 Posts from the First 100 at A Traveler's Library

VMB in Kastro, Sifnos Island, Greece

VMB in Kastro, Sifnos Island, Greece

Yesterday A Traveler’s Library hit one of those landmark days, and I was not even here to celebrate. (I’m in New Orleans ensconced in my favorite hotel, Hotel Monteleone.)

Ta-Da–100 Posts!

Somehow, it seems appropriate, though, that I had a guest post on India here yesterday, because it is symbolic of the ways this blog has introduced me to people, places and books to read for travel.  I might not have met Sue Dickman, yesterday’s guest poster,  had it not been for the 30-day challenge started by Michelle Rafter.

I certainly would not have had much to say about India, since I have not been there myself.  But by using guest experts, A Traveler’s Library roams beyond the  destinations that I have traveled to personally. We have had guests posts on New England, Croatia, Mumbai, and now India again.

And I met the nice folks at Wandering Educators, who invited me to be the Traveler’s Library Editor. I wrote their earlier this month about popular posts from April at A Traveler’s Library.

In the first 100 posts, we have traveled to an amazing 53 different places! I hope you’ll join me as we travel to more places and learn about more great books in the 2nd hundred posts.

TEN random selections from the First Hundred:

Onward toward that First Year celebration  January 10, 2010!

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Focus on More Sites with Travel Literature

Looking for good travel literature recommendations?  So glad you stopped at A Traveler’s Library, but I have to confess, there are some other places you can look.  I listed some a while back. Here are three more of my favorites.

Globe Corner Bookstore’s web site is a great place for browsing all the books you need for travel–guide books, maps, and travel literature. But if you really want a treat, sign up for their newsletter.  It seems to me sometimes that they read my mind. I’m thinking about France, and voila the newsletter lists books for France. Give it a try. P.S. They have a blog, too.

Paperback Traveler This blog has many book reviews listed, arranged by country or region, and the definition of travel literature is worth reading, too. Warning: This site may not be updated. However, content is still worthwhile.

National Geographic Traveler Trip Lit column by Don George, focuses on travel literature. This column appears infrequently, but the other columns and the blog of NGT make worthwhile reading, too.  We quoted Don George’s Best Travel Writing column earlier.

Your turn. What other places have you found on the web that help you find the travel literature you are craving?

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Books for Scotland–Suggested by A Reader

Hello, and welcome to A Traveler’s Library. If you “stumbled” in to the site, I hope you’ll stick around and find more of your favorite travel destination and the literature or movies that help enhance the traveler’s experience. Please consider subscribing by the RSS or e-mail buttons in the right-hand column. Happy Travels! Added Note: Don’t miss the comment below the post by Alisdair Pettigrew. He came back to tell us more about George Blake. Thanks, Alisdair!

Destination: Scotland

The Scottish Flower, Thistle

The Scottish Flower, Thistle

Books by: H. V. Morton, George Blake, Edwin Muir, Kathleen Jamie, and others.

When I asked for suggestions for books for travelers to ten specific destinations, I put Scotland on the list. Alasdair Pettinger, who edits the valuable Studies in Travel Writing web site, had some definite ideas about Scottish travel literature, and literature about Scotland for travelers.

“I find the most engaging travel books were written in the 1920s and 30s: H. V. Morton, In Search of Scotland (1929) and Continue reading

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Traveler’s Library: Short Passages

Catching up on a few things missed earlier.

Bibliomania Add to the list of booksellers. Free books on line plus study guides for travelers and teachers.

Longitude Books Another addition to the list of travel booksellers. An on-line book seller of travel books. Give them a location and they will put together a package of book recommendations, including literature and guide books.

Reading on your Ipod.

Summer Literary Seminars in Four Countries.  You’ve read the books. Now write one. This amazing program includes a contest that covers all expenses (including airfare) for the winner.  To late for this year, but there’s always 2010. Thanks to Antonia Malchik at Perceptive Travel for the heads up on this. If you have not yet discovered Perceptive Travel, take a look. Them’s our kind of people.

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