Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Five best travel books

Laura Landro writes the Wall Street Journal's Finicky Traveler column and is the author of Survivor: Taking Control of Your Fight Against Cancer (1998). She named a five best list of travel books for her newspaper.

One book to make the list:
Innocents Abroad
by Mark Twain

In 1867, Mark Twain embarked on an ambitious cruise to Europe, the Middle East and the Holy Land. His aim was to see Europe and the East with his own eyes rather than those of the guidebook writers who had gone before. The letters from the road that Twain wrote for publication back home—they are compiled in "Innocents Abroad"— presented one of the first unvarnished looks at the realities of travel. With scathing wit he mocks his fellow passengers ("We have a poet and a good-natured enterprising idiot onboard, and they do distress the company") and the drudgery of guided tours. Churlish after too many churches, Twain never feels so blessed as when he learns that Michelangelo is dead. After an arduous but fascinating journey on horseback through Lebanon and Syria, he is felled by cholera but recovers to swim in the Sea of Galilee, where a night sky "has no boundaries but the broad compass of the heavens." The curmudgeonly traveler becomes downright reverent by the time he reaches the Holy Land, "the genuine center of the earth."
Read about the other books on the list.

The Innocents Abroad also appears on Michael Oren's five best list of books that "vividly capture the long history of America's encounters with the Arab world."

--Marshal Zeringue