What went wrong when a book can’t exist by itself?
this is not a travel book. It’s a book about China, a book that seemingly aspires to explain a part of China to its readers (think of Peter Hessler, John Pomfret, Evan Osnos, Liao Yiwu, or maybe Rob Gifford. The author of this book, AA, is a young Briton who lives in Beijing as a journalist/writer. He makes friends with..
Do photos, a lot of countries and a slick design make for a good book?
It is the turn of the first decade of the 21st century, and Fabian Sixtus Körner is a young designer from Germany who wants to see the world. He hears of the German tradition of the „journeyman years“, where young men, after completing their apprenticeship in the crafts, set out to roam about the country and learn from…
Is 18th century England interesting enough to read this book in its entirety?
We’re in mid-18th century England, and Oliver Goldsmith is a writer/poet with many talents. This book is a collection of „letters“ he starts writing for a periodic publication around the year 1760. Why did I put..
If all the idiots love it, does that mean that this is an idiotic book, or worse, a book for idiots?
Charles Bukowski is not exactly a travel writer. He is a writer, and some people have called him an existentialist writer. But he is not a travel writer. I am going to include him here anyway, simply because he moves around a lot in this novel. And because I think he is awesome. So, here’s…
Is this book going to be any good for you even if you’re not a fan of hardcore punk?
We’re in Washington, D.C. around the year 1980, and young punk enthusiast Henry Lawrence Garfield gives himself a new last name, thus becoming Henry Rollins. His favorite band Black Flag asks him to become their new lead singer, which he accepts. They record the album „Damaged“, and it goes on to become a…
Why is this book so legendary when it comes to travel literature?
It is the year 1956, and Eric Newby is an Englishman in his 30s who works in the fashion business. One day, he decides that he’s had enough of it and sets his mind on a mountain climbing expedition to Afghanistan. His friend Hugh Carless, who speaks a bit of Persian, comes along. The problem: neither of them is a seasoned…
Why should you read this book now, and why is there no English edition?
Jürgen Todenhöfer is a German journalist with a background in politics and law who takes a strong interest in the Muslim world, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the winter of 2014/2015, he decides to contact members of the so-called „Islamic State“ (IS) in Syria in order to do some on-the-ground reporting. It…
What happens to a travel story when you get caught up in old books and theories?
Ding Haixiao is a twenty-something Chinese travel writer who embarks on a trip to the Chinese Northwest. He hitches rides most of the way, sometimes alone and sometimes together with different travel companions whom he either already knows or gets to know on the road. He seems to have a strong liking for…
Can this be a new way to write travel literature, or will it always turn out terrible?
Huang Nubo is a Chinese billionaire who enjoys a challenge. He climbs mountains and writes poetry, he gives to charity, and his company supposedly tries to protect cultural relics in China. In 2013, he decides to embark on a mission that is supposed to last him ten years: a visit to each and every World…
Is this a coffeetable book or a regular travelogue, and is it worth a read?
At the beginning of the 1980s, during the early years of China’s opening and reform policy, aging English writer Stephen Spender decides to visit the Middle Kingdom. He takes two friends along, one of whom is a painter (co-author David Hockney). They start their tour from Hongkong, and they get to see Beijing…
What’s the difference between telling anecdotes and writing a book?
We’re right at the end of WW2, and Brian Dawtrey is a young man from England who is crazily in love with a girl. He writes her a ton of letters. – cut – It’s four years later, and BD has married the girl and his living with her on a farm. They have children. It’s a version of European farm life in the 1950s. – cut – We’re…
Is there a better book to get to know modern China?
Evan Osnos is an American journalist who, after studying China and the Chinese language in the mid-90s, arrives in Beijing in 2005. He is well educated, and he takes his job seriously. He moves into a Hutong, and over the years gets to know a lot of Chinese people from all walks of life. Some are rich, some are poor, some are..
What’s wrong with adventure travel writing if we get bored by it?
Rob Lilwall is a British adventurer who has managed to cycle home from Siberia to the UK. This time, he decides to take a buddy along (Irish adventurer Leon McCarron) and walk from Mongolia to Hongkong, which is his new home. The two manage to..
Does the expat experience really keep people from ever growing old?
Mitch Moxley is a young Canadian who decides to go to China. He seems to make this decision rather spontaneously. Upon arriving in Beijing, he takes on a job at an English-language newspaper, finds an apartment, roams the bar scene, takes on a few..
Is this in any way comparable to the works of Ella Maillart?
Remember Serge Roetheli, the guy who fabulously ran around the world and wrote a book about it that just wasn’t that good? Well, NR is his wife, the person who kept..
What’s wrong with the diplomatic approach to writing about a foreign culture?
In the mid-70s, German diplomat Erwin Wickert gets transferred from Romania to China. He has been there before (as a tourist in the 1930s), and he seems excited about it. He stays in Beijing for 4 years, lives through..
How can a book about a man running around the whole world be so… bad?
We’re in 1997, and Serge Roetheli has just returned from running all the way from South America to Alaska. He was accompanied by his wife on a motorcycle, and since this „American Challenge“ is now behind them, they decide to..
Are these just some minor slip-ups or are we looking at an expert exposing himself?
We’re in the mid-1950s, and the world has just entered the Cold War. Hans Ulrich Kempski is one of the best known journalists in West Germany. He visits Japan and China, both of which are on the..
Is this guy more than just a worthy rival to Albert von Le Coq?
We’re in the mid-19th century. Heinrich Schliemann is a German businessman with a gift for languages and a passion for history who will later go on to discover the ruins of Troy. But first, he decides to go on a journey to China and Japan, both of which are currently..
If this guy writes so well and goes to so many cool places, then just why is this book he wrote so bad?
Xiao Peng is a young Chinese white-collar worker who decides that he wants to see the world. He first travels around China, then ends up as an exchange student in the Netherlands. From there, he sets out to..
How far can British humor carry a story that otherwise revolves entirely around itself?
We’re in the late 1990s. Tony Hawks is a British music composer/comedian (not a skater!) who sets out to lug a refridgerator around Ireland. You might have already guessed it: he is trying to..
Does this book do anything right except exposing Mark Salzman’s attitude towards China?
Aspiring American travel writer Stuart Stevens is a huge fan of Peter Fleming. He sets out to retrace Fleming’s and Ella Maillart’s route from Beijing to the Northwest of China. And he doesn’t..
Why should young people from China read this today, more than one generation later?
In 1973, the People’s Republic of China is slowly starting to open up to „imperialists“ from the West. US-President Nixon and his aide Henry Kissinger have been warmly received, and now a select..
Why is this book so tragic, and what is the author’s role in the history he helped create?
In 1936, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has just finished its Long March into northern China. Amidst increasing Japanese aggression, the Chinese civil war keeps dragging on, and the blockade policy of the Nationalist government doesn’t permit..
What does 1930s China look like through the eyes of a European socialist?
It is the year 1932, we are reaching the bitter end of the Weimar Republic, and Egon Erwin Kisch is a German-writing journalist from Prague who embarked on a fact-finding mission to China. He is widely known in Germany for being a..
An author trying to get his points across?
Ernst Cordes is a Chinese-born German (apparently the son of an official) who is living in China during the period of the Republic. It remains unclear what exactly he is doing there, but he is fluent in Mandarin, and he keeps quite a few..
Could this talented artists have done more with the material he had at hand?
Wang Yuxi is a young visual artist from Beijing who dreams of crossing the United States by car. Classic road trip material. He overcomes a few initial visa difficulties and gets two buddies to come along. They make..
What made this „Karate Kid“ type collection of stories turn into one of the 1980s classics on China?
Mark Salzman is an American university graduate who decides to move to the People’s Republic of China for two years. His plan is to teach English and pick up some Wushu skills right at the source. He ends up in Changsha, and, being one of the few..
Does the Chinese literary world need to train tougher editors?
Yu Ying is a 20-something girl from Southwest China who lives and works as PA for a fashion model in Beijing. In 2009, she applies for the „Best Job In The World“, a project hosted by Tourism Queensland that places..
What happens when a fashion-conscious European woman visits China at the height of socialism?
Colette Modiano is working as a travel coordinator in France when she decides to assemble a group of wealthy Europeans and embark with them on a trip to China. It is the year 1966, and getting a glimpse on Mao’s..
Who came up with the idea to spoil an otherwise fine travel book with a bunch of nonsense?
Ben Donald is a British journalist who formerly used to love traveling but has somehow grown sick of it. He then runs into a guy who claims to be a sort of „travel coach“ and gets sent to Germany by said guy. Well, Germany doesn’t..
Is this book more than just a treasure chest for those who are enthusiastic about China?
Matteo Ricci is a Jesuit priest from Italy. He arrives at the Portuguese outpost of Macao in the second half of the 16th century, determined to carry Christianity into China. The Jesuits would very much like to get..
Can a seasoned diplomat really be this naive, or is he just cleverly conning his readership?
Henry Kissinger, a diplomat working for the Nixon administration, gets dispatched to the People’s Republic of China in order to prepare for a rapprochement of the United States and the PRC. Over the next few decades, he..
is this book about Germans for foreigners or for Germans?
Adam Fletcher is a young British dude who for obscure reasons decides to spend some time in Germany, first in Leipzig then in Berlin. He slowly gets to know the population and its peculiarities and eventually..
Are clichés funny enough to write a whole book about them?
Stefan Zeidenitz & Ben Barkow are authoring this issue of the „Xenophobe’s Guide“. The Guide is a well-known book series that deals with countries or rather inhabitants one at a time, trying to be funny and informative in the process. This issue..
Is this author trying to show us how to alienate ourselves from our surroundings?
Carol Kloeppel is an American journalist who gets a job working for a German news guy called Peter Kloeppel, only to eventually return home with him. Home to Germany. They settle down in Cologne, they marry and..
If migration basically means people moving from one place to another, can it really be a bad thing per se?
Cem Gülay is a German of Turkish descent who has published an autobiography about his abortive attempt at a „career“ as a criminal. While promoting his book, he travels all over Germany, reading mostly at schools and
Is it valuable to read something that is painful and can only hardly be proven?
Barbara Demick is an American journalist based in Seoul in the early 2000s. She interviews defectors from North Korea, concentrating on a mid-sized town outside of Pyongyang. The stories she gathers are those of several different people from..
Is this just one of those literary classics or can it really be included in a collection of travel books?
This is not a travelogue, it’s a novel. Daniel Defoe is a British writer in the early 1700s who comes across a fragmentary account of a sailor who got left on an island in the Atlantic. Daniel Defoe, looking for inspiration, takes these..
Can we read about warfare as if it was just an adventure?
At the outbreak of WW1, Gunther Plüschow, a young pilot in the German air force, gets dispatched to the German colony of Qingdao (they called it „Tsingtau“ back then). He is supposed to be one of only two pilots on guard against the..
Was this book meant for those interested in the history of Sino-European relations?
Today, George, Earl Of Macartney is most widely known for his role as the first official envoy of Britain to China. He arrived there in 1793, apparently refusing to kowtow before Emperor Qianlong, and when he tried to establish trade relations, he eventually failed..
Is being critical a bad thing, or does „loyal advice jars on the ears“ still hold true today?
John Pomfret is a young American student who decides to enroll at Nanjing University in the early 80s. At this point in time, China is still struggling with the early stages of the new policy of „Reform and Opening Up“. John Pomfret stays a while, starts..
Is it still a good book if we have to dig through poetic wordiness and outdated travel advice?
We’re in the 1980s, and German adventurer Achill Moser is in his early thirties. He embarks on two different trips through China, one of which is going to take him on foot from Turpan to Dunhuang in the Gobi desert, the other one..
Are all defectors automatically liars, and which version of the truth do we choose to believe?
Some time in the 1950s, Li Zhisui gets a job in Beijing as Mao Zedong’s personal physician. Actually, it’s not so much about „getting“ a job, but more like he’s being assigned a position whether he wants it or..
Was she just a traveler, or did she become a sort of archetype of all female Chinese travel writers?
In the mid-70s, San Mao is a young woman from Taiwan who adopts the English name „Echo“ and spends some time living in the Western Sahara with her Spanish husband José. This book is about her day-to-day adventures among the local population, and more than..
Is this book still banned in China, and if so, can this decision be at all justified?
Liao Yiwu is a Chinese writer and political activist who takes interest in the lives of the less fortunate around him. He meets up with different kinds of people all over the country and interviews them. He talks to those who..
Is it a good thing or a bad thing when travel writers start to write about writing?
Helge Timmerberg is a German travel writer in his fifties who ventures into India to follow the flow of the Ganges river. He takes trains and cabs into the mountain area around the source, smokes some weed, stops..
Once we have finished this book, will we then know what being a fan-boy is all about?
Christian Y. Schmidt is a German journalist and satirist who, after having lived in China for two years, decides to embark on a journey: he starts out in Shanghai and follows highway 318 all the way to Katmandu. He is not very fluent in Chinese but..
Was this dude the most educated of all 19th-century explorers?
Albert von Le Coq is a German archaeologist and explorer who ventures into Central Asia, much like Sven Hedin or Nikolai Mikhaylovich Przhevalsky before him, in order to..
Can this book be interesting to anyone except China-enthusiasts?
it’s the first year of the 20th century, and Karl Boy-Ed is a lieutenant of the German army in Beijing. He sees a bit of the city and of its surroundings, and he takes part in the defense of the foreign quarters against the..
When you’re trying to retell controversial historical events, should you reinvent dialogue?
Thomas Laird is an American Himalaya enthusiast who investigates the fate of American diplomat Douglas Mackiernan (1913-1950) and anthropologist Frank Bessac (1922-2010) in Tibet. They got caught up in the chaotic events of the founding of the People’s Republic of China and tried to..
Will having the correct ideology improve your writing, or is this totally irrelevant?
Otto Braun is a German communist who in 1932 gets dispatched by the Comintern from Moscow to China. He is supposed to help the Chinese communists establish themselves politically and militarily. Otto Braun adopts..
What happens when a cynic get outsmarted by an even bigger cynic?
Tuvia Tenenbom is a Jewish American author and theater guy who gets invited by a German publishing house (Rowohlt) to travel around Germany and write about his experiences. They know he is a cynic, and they invite him anyway. He thus..
Did this guy just hate China or did he want to satirically show how much can you brown nose a dictator?
Rewi Alley has been a friend of Communist China for some decades, living comfortably (and rather overweight) in a special compound in Beijing, when in 1966 he embarks on several trips through the country. His aim: to document..
Is this one of the great adventure stories of our time or rather just a huge editing fail?
Yu Chunshun is a regular dude from Shanghai. In 1988 he says goodbye to his family and starts walking all over China. The reason for this endeavor: it has come to his knowledge that an Englishman has announced the same plan. And Yu Chunshun, being a good patriot, wants..
Is China absurd, or does absurdity really reside in those who are always looking for the absurd?
Oliver Lutz Radtke is a German Sinologist – a scholar of Chinese culture. He has spent a considerable length of time in China, and now he’s here to tell us about it: Oliver Lutz Radtke on a plane with Chinese travelers, Oliver Lutz Radtke in language class, Oliver Lutz Radtke in a..
Is it possible to write a whole a book like a Roxette song, and if it is, should you read it?
Andrew McCarthy is an American actor, a recovering alcoholic, a divorced father and a dude who is about to get married again. But he’s also a restless travel writer. So when his new marriage looms at..
Just where exactly is the dividing line between the cultural expert and the ignorant visitor?
Volker Häring is an „old China hand“ from Germany, a dude who’s been staying in the People’s Republic for a few decades. He offers guided bike tours for foreign tourists, and sometimes he ventures out to explore new routes. This book is a collection of his..
Should travel writers deliberately look for interesting stories, or should they rather go with the flow?
Dennis Gastmann is a young German TV journalist, probably best known for his subtle use of humor in revealing political misgivings. After having done a show about different places in the world, he decides to walk from his home..
If you know China so well, how can you still fail to write a decent book about it?
Graham Earnshaw is a British journalist/entrepreneur who has stayed in China not only for a couple of years, but for a several decades. In 2004, after having read our old friend Edwin John Dingle’s account of his own travels through China 100 years earlier, he decides to..
If this is partly fabricated, why is it still so good?
Fritz Mühlenweg is an 28-year-old accountant when he goes on his first trip with Swedish explorer Sven Hedin. Their goal: gather information about Mongolia and Western China and possibly support a future flight service between..
Is this a great piece of poetic travel writing, or has it just been overly polished?
In 1953, Nicolas Bouvier, law student from Switzerland, and his friend take a Fiat on a road trip to Afghanistan. They make their way through Yugoslavia and Turkey, hang out in Iran for a while, and they eventually..
Why is Polly Greeks‘ book so much better than that of Nathan Hoturoa Gray?
In 2001, Polly Greeks is working as a journalist in New Zealand. She does and interview with Nathan Hoturoa Gray (who at the time is trying to walk the length of the Great Wall), falls in love with him and..
Why is this book not just a perfect adventure story?
Régis Evariste Huc is a French missionary in China during the first half of the 19th century, during a time when many parts of the country are off-limits to foreigners and tensions between the British Empire and China are just about to..
Will the search for the „Russian soul“ ruin what is otherwise a good book?
Wolfgang Büscher is a journalist who has a thing for walking, so it seems rather natural that he would decide to venture into Eastern Europe on foot. He starts in..
Why does esotericism often go hand in hand with ignorance, and just how bad can a book be?
5 dudes decide to walk the Great Wall. Their main objective: to be the First Westerners. Okay, so this is about 15 years after William Lindesay, and almost a century after William Edgar Geil, but..
What better person to tell you stories about China than the Emperor’s personal tutor?
Reginald Fleming Johnston is probably best known for his role as private tutor to the young Emperor of China, Puyi. Obviously, he was fluent in Mandarin and knew his way around..
Is this book just about a physical feat, or is there something more meaningful to it?
In the mid-80s, Englishman William Lindesay is primarily a jogger who has a thing for maps. He sets his eye on the Great Wall of China and comes up with a plan to span the entire thing on foot. He would be the first foreigner to ever..
What’s wrong with Bono, and why do I think you should use this book to smash bugs?
Gregor Sieböck is a young idealist from Austria who walks around the world to promote environmentalism. He sets out in Austria in 2003 and makes his way to the southern tip of Portugal. (Throw in a Camino there.) Then he does..
Is this just an epic journey through China in the 1980s, or does this writer also have some mad skills?
In the early 1980s, Vikram Seth is in his late twenties and studies at a university in Nanjing. He takes a school trip to the Northwestern parts of the country, where he miraculously gets..
How could an awesome feat like this turn into such an uninspiring book?
In the early 1900s, right before the downfall of the Qing Empire, Edwin John Dingle is a British journalist who comes up with the idea to traverse China on foot. He lands in Shanghai, takes a ship to Chongqing, and starts walking..
Has classic European explorer lingo turned this lady into a macho?
Alexandra David-Néel is already over fifty years old when she embarks on a trip to Lhasa in the early 1920s. She takes a Tibetan monk along (whom she apparently adopted), and they start from the province Yunnan, making it to..
Is it naive to hope for peace with the Khan?
A few years after the Mongol attacks on Eastern Europe, the Pope decided to send a cleric to the court of the Khan. That cleric was Giovanni DiPlano Carpini, and his mission (unlike that of Guillaume de Rubrouck a few years later) was to find out..
Is this an exciting adventure, or rather an expedition in coal?
In the mid-19th century, Ferdinand von Richthofen becomes one of the first Westerners to scientifically evaluate larger parts of China. He goes on several journeys through the country, and he seems to be always looking for..
Is this just a rather particular writing style, or is it another author distancing himself from his story?
Philippe Valéry is in his thirties when he decides to walk from Marseille in France to Kashgar in China. He gets a few sponsorships and starts on his trek, walking through..
Even if the words are beautiful, aren’t less words sometimes better?
Laurie Lee is a young man of just over twenty, when he steps out of his door and decides to walk to London. He then stays there for a year, works in construction and..
Is it possible for a traveler to be too intellectual, and how could this impact his writing?
Joachim Fest is one of Germany’s finest intellectuals of the 20th century. He is probably best known for his biography on Adolf Hitler (1973), and not many people have recognized him as a..
What happens to people and their towns when the water is about to come?
Yan Changjiang is a photographer from the Three Gorges region who lives and works in Guangzhou. He travels back home in 2002 to document the areas that will be flooded by the Three Gorges Dam, and after that, he comes back multiple times until..
Is this book only interesting to whose who care about mines?
In the mid 1800s, Irish-born American writer John Ross Browne sets out on several trips from California (a state since 1850) to the areas that would later become Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and..
What were German readers looking for in a travel book after World War II?
Heinz Helfgen is a former journalist turned POW who returns to Germany in 1946, only to find that things aren’t exactly easy work-wise. Thus, after struggling for a few years, he decides to support his family by..
Is this a poet distancing himself from the reader?
Theodor Fontane was a German poet from the 1800s who, among other things, enjoyed taking walks in the area around Berlin and writing about them. This book isn’t about one continuous journey. Instead, it..
How is it possible that sometimes 750 years don’t leave a trace?
Guillaume de Rubrouck was a Franciscan monk who got dispatched to Mongolia by his king, Louis IX of France. He was supposed to find out more about the Mongolians and see if they could be used against the Muslims. Well, they couldn’t, because..
Should this collection of diary entries be edited into a more readable book?
David Livingstone is a missionary and explorer who sets out to discover the source of the Nile. He starts in Sansibar, makes his way through some of East Africa, discovers a couple of lakes and rivers, but never finds the true source of..
Who in their right mind would have thought it was possible to cross the Bering Strait on foot?
Karl Bushby is a young British paratrooper who sets out to do something special with his life – he wants to walk all the way from Southern Chile to his home in Hull, England. So he flies down to Patagonia, walks to Central America, swims through..
An instant classic about China?
US-citizen Peter Hessler works as a correspondent for The New Yorker in Beijing. He gets a driver’s license and drives a rental car along some parts of the Great Wall, he rents a house in a small village in the mountains East of Beijing, and he chronicles..
Why is this book still so awesome after so many years?
Johann Gottfried Seume is neither particularly wealthy nor does he have a big name or an entourage, and his main mode of transportation consists simply of his own two feet. And while others might be a bit bloated and preoccupied with the immense task of..
Should this book be read like a grand homecoming story or like a trip abroad?
Bill Bryson, who lives in the UK, goes back to his hometown of Des Moines in the state of Iowa. He rents a car and drives around the States in two trips (one east, one west), looking for..
Is this an effort in soul searching or rather a classic work about China?
At the turn of the 20th century, Richard Wilhelm moves to China in order to take up a job as a missionary. During the next two and a half decades, he spends most of his time in Qingdao, a harbor city that was at that time..
Does true poetry flourish in the depths of the wilderness?
Matsuo Basho is a Haiku poet of the Japanese Edo-period who likes to wander about and write poetry in the process. He takes long solo hikes or goes on treks with friends, sometimes..
Was this a 14th-century fact finding mission or just another Medieval mystery tale?
Odorico da Pordenone was a Franciscan monk who lived in Italy during the Late Middle Ages. He was sent on a mission to proselytize the people of Asia, and..
Is this book at its essence more about contemplation or about adventure?
Driven by the memory of her own devout Buddhist grandmother, Chinese emigrant Sun Shuyun returns to China, in order to retrace the steps of..
Could nature have a greater friend than this guy from the 19th century?
It is the year 1867, and the American Civil War has only been over for about two years, when young botanist John Muir decides to take a walk from his home in Indiana to Florida. He apparently wants to find out more about..
If this was a good writer with a good story, then why did the editors not polish it a bit?
This book is both funny and truthful. TM doesn’t miss a chance to crack a joke, and he often finds the right words. In fact, I liked the following observation so much that I even..
These travel stories from 19th century Germany remain recommendable, but why?
Heinrich Heine is already a pretty successful German poet/journalist when he embarks on several journeys to Berlin, Poland, the Harz, the North Sea, Italy and England. He travels mostly on foot, and he..
Did this book redefine travel writing, or is it essentially just a boring stream of consciousness?
French-Canadian writer Jack Kerouac, who is based in New York City, undertakes a few road trips around the USA. Sometimes he is accompanied by friends, sometimes he stays in one place for a while, and sometimes he just..
Is this dude a missionary or rather just a spy?
Just prior to the outbreak of the first Opium War between Great Britain and the Empire of the Qing, German lutheran missionary Karl Friedrich August Gützlaff boards a British ship and goes on a few trips around the shores of the Chinese Sea. Obviously, he intends to..
Is this a book strictly for fans of mountaineering or can anyone find something enjoyable in it?
Obviously, this book is the story of an awesome feat, and thus it is pretty exciting to read. But it is more than just an adventure story: RM tells us about his motives and his doubts, he describes the..
Why is it so much fun to read Medieval travel stories that we know are at least partly untrue?
Jehan de Mandeville claims to have traveled around much of the known (and unknown) world of his time. Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, India, China – you name the place, and he almost surely..
How was an otherwise good travel book ruined by too much preaching?
German travel writer Andreas Altmann undertakes an overland trip around some parts of Southeast Asia. A few of the people he hangs out with are friends he knows from previous trips, but most of the people..
Why is it almost impossible not to like the coolest guy in the Antarctican ice?
Roald Amundsen originally didn’t want the Pole in the South, instead he wanted the one in the North. But when he found out that he wasn’t going to be the first up there, he chose to secretly..
Is this book trivial and fun, or is it just plain boring?
Michael Wigge, a young German TV-host, plans a trip covering some of Europe, the Americas and Antarctica – leaving his money at home. Thus, he has to come up with various ways to get free meals and places to stay, getting his hands on..
If this guy doesn’t write that well, then why will his words still leave you heartbroken?
Almost exactly 100 years ago, most places on Earth had already been conquered by man. So, naturally, explorers had to start to look for new challenges – the highest mountains, the most remote deserts, the..
Could we have expected this dancing/travel book to be a bit more rich in content?
Matt Harding is a young game designer based in Australia who suddenly starts “looking for something” and picks up the delightful hobby of traveling. He lives on a tight budget and tapes himself dancing in various places around the world, and the resulting..
Are we looking at a career-obsessed explorer or at a blueprint for Indiana Jones?
At the height of the Great Game between the Russian Empire and the British Empire, Swedish explorer Sven Hedin decides to follow in the footsteps of Ferdinand von Richthofen (who coined the term “Silk Road”) and Nikolai Mikhaylovich Przhevalsky. He thus embarks on an epic journey through those parts of…
Are the errors in this book due to poor editing or is this guy an expert who doesn’t know his craft?
Rob Gifford is a journalist with some 20 years of experience in China who decides to travel along the National Road 312 from Shanghai all the way to Khorgas on the border to Kazakhstan. This book is a compilation of some of his experiences on that trip, as well as..
Should you read these made-up travel stories as if they were Dada or just blabla?
It’s completely fictitious: the polar bear that took a dump in his backpack, the encounter with the busty Russian jet pilot, the hovercraft ride from Gran Canaria to Morocco – none of it ever..
Are these travel memoirs worth reading, or have they been flawed by political circumstances?
This book is a collection of essays and stories from Ji Xianlin’s years in Germany, his visits in India, Japan and Taiwan, and his life in China. I found his style of writing a bit weird at first: here was an outstanding scientist, an intellectual, who seemed to be continuously talking about..
Is China really that strange, or do we sometimes just want things to be a certain way?
Travel writer Stanley Stewart starts in Shanghai – and travels overland through China, all the way to Xinjiang and into Pakistan. He writes about what he sees along the ancient Silk Roads, talks to locals, checks out historical relics – and he even has..
What happened to this otherwise decent book that caused it to be so annoying?
Michael Olbert is a big fan of Bruce Chatwin, who in turn is a fan (and a personal friend) of Patrick Leigh Fermor. He is looking for guidance, but since Bruce Chatwin is long dead, he decides to trace Patrick Leigh Fermor’s footsteps..
Is there anything not perfect about this travel book?
Patrick Leigh Fermor is only eighteen years old when he decides to take a walk through Europe – all the way from Amsterdam to Constantinople (Istanbul). He walks for one year, picks up languages, talks to locals, learns about history, and keeps..
Does it matter to us if it all really happened this way?
Sometime in the early fifties, accomplished German writer Josef Martin Bauer comes across a guy who says he has escaped from one of the Soviet prison camps in Siberia. The story sounds hardly believable, but he..
Did conservative ethics turn this great adventure story into such a slow read?
Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta is only a very young man when he embarks on his hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. But he doesn’t stop there. Instead he goes on and on and on, and several travels during the next three decades will take him almost everywhere in..
Does humor always bring people together, or can it sometimes alienate us from our surroundings?
British ethnologist Nigel Barley does two years of field research in a small village of Cameroon. This might sound simple, but in fact it takes him two years to even get there, mainly because the bureaucratic obstacles are just too..
Is this a book about three ladies taking it slow, or is it an epic adventure?
Mildred Cable and two other British ladies working for the China Inland Mission decide to take it upon themselves to spread the gospel in the Western territories of Gansu and Xinjiang. They undertake several journeys by caravan, talk to the locals, and eventually..
Is this a book that you can enjoy even if you don’t give a damn about polar bears?
Hauke Trinks is a professor for experimental physics who enjoys a good Arctic adventure as much as he loves science. So it seems only natural to him to go on a one-year solo stay in an isolated bay within the Arctic Circle – to find out about..
Is there any such thing as a TV person who turned into a good travel writer?
Hans-Peter Kerkeling, German comedian, actor and presenter, finds himself in some sort of personal crisis. He thus decides to walk the Camino. Even though this doesn’t mean he has to walk every bit of the way..
How can an angry old lady who keeps making up stuff be so much fun?
Favell Lee Mortimer writes about different places all over the world. She introduces us to strange customs and weird people, and doesn’t seem very fond of most the things she finds. No wonder – she has never really left her home in good old..
Too much racism even for an imperialist?
During a time when Russia is rapidly expanding into Central Asia, geologist/adventurer Nikolai Mikhaylovich Przhevalsky gladly accepts a mission from the government: to explore and map the Mongolian and Tibetan regions of..
Is this a decent book that has been ruined by esotericism, or was it bad all along?
Shirley MacLaine, successful actress in her sixties, walks through Northern Spain. Over the course of 30 days, she adds blisters to her feet, talks to people on the road, makes friends with other pilgrims and eventually gets into a chase with the media, causing her to walk the last bit..
What makes this book such a pleasant read after more than two centuries?
Karl Philipp Moritz follows his „most fervent wish“ and embarks on a two month journey around England – mostly on foot. He spends quite a bit of time in London, then visits Richmond, Windsor, Oxford, Castleton and..
Could we have expected more from a book that advertises itself as being gonzo?
Thomas Kohnstamm, a wall street guy in his twenties, accepts a new job offer: to write a travel guide about Brazil, for a popular guide book called The Lonely Planet. He roams around Brazil, always on a tight budget and a tight schedule, and tries to..
Is this German classic really that awesome, or is it just overrated?
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe breaks out of the German literary circles to look for inspiration in the sunnier climes of Italy. This is a pretty popular thing to do at the time, even though..
Is this guy our average Joe from the Middle Ages?
This is an interesting book, but there is something to consider before reading it: Johann Schiltberger, much like Marco Polo or Jehan de Mandeville, whom I will be reviewing later, is a writer of..
What is so awesome about walking through an industrialized country, and why is this book the bomb?
I don’t think there is an English translation of this book available anywhere – so many of you will probably miss out on one of the finest pieces of travel literature that has ever been published
If Fleming is a more gifted writer, then why is this Maillart’s book better than his?
I am going to rate this one slightly higher than Fleming’s account, even though he is clearly the superior..
Would this book have been any better if he had done with a little less irony?
It is 1935, and China is deeply tangled up in the resistance against the Japanese occupation and the inner conflict between the Nationalists and the Communists. In February, Peter Fleming arrives in Beijing and meets up with..
Was this guy an evil proto-colonialist, or was he rather a sort of likeable dreamer?
This might very well be one of the most interesting books I have ever read. In August 1492, Christopher Columbus sets sail in Spain, aiming at..
Is this a joke, or is it just another candidate for the title of worst travel book ever?
In the fall of 1974, Werner Herzog hears about the French-German film critic Lotte Eisner being seriously ill in her home in Paris. He decides to walk from Munich all the way to Paris, thinking that this heroic act might..
If this is a great classic in Portuguese literature, why is it such a slow read?
This book was a big success in Europe during the 17th and 18th century. It was published a few decades after Fernão Mendes Pinto’s death and describes the quixotic ways..
A must-read for people interested in travel in China?
Whenever I pick up an old book, like something written during the 19th or 18th century, I feel myself hesitating for a moment, suspecting it to be another slow and painful read. But this one was a pleasant..
Is this the worst travel book that you could imagine, or is it just the worst travel book ever created?
How do you rate something that sucks one hundred percent? Oh yeah, you give it a..
Has Krakauer successfully captured the spirit of youth, or is he all about romanticizing a selfish child?
Jon Krakauer writes about Christopher McCandless, a young man who ventured out into the wilderness of Alaska in the spring of 1992, stayed there by himself for four months, and eventually died due to..
Is this travel book classic from the 1980s awesome, or is it just a tiny bit whacky?
British writer Bruce Chatwin roams through the Australian outbacks in order to find out about Aboriginal songs and their use as cultural “maps” for the nomadic people. He drifts all over the place, befriends the locals and..
Why is this one still so good today, even though a lot of it is untrue?
This could well be the most famous travel book of them all. It’s a slow read though..