Travel writing is a glamorous but difficult genre. To a reader it’s an easy sell: you get to go to fantastic places and see unusual things without spending the money. In a back-to-school, nose-to-the-grindstone season like the one we’re in now, that’s a mixed blessing at best. But for a writer, getting your tone right can be tricky. The speaker’s narration of the exotic wonders of the place they’re visiting can quickly turn condescending and even racist. Only the most skilled writers can toe the line. Like, you know, Steinbeck.
In this list, I’ve observed the following parameters: no recent blockbusters, like Eat, Pray, Love or Wild, as many of the world’s regions as one could possibly fit, and steering away from the older, 19th-century popular travel books unless there was something particularly remarkable about them.
Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck
Steinbeck. A poodle named Charley. A road trip. What’s not to love?