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Alexandra David-Néel's "My Journey to Lhasa"
China

Alexandra David-Néel

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…

Graham Earnshaw's "The Great Walk of China"
China

Graham Earnshaw

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…

Fritz Mühlenweg's "Strangers on the Path of Pensiveness"
China

Fritz Mühlenweg

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…

Nicolas Bouvier's "The Way Of The World"
Afghanistan

Nicolas Bouvier

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…

Polly Greeks's "Embracing the Dragon"
China

Polly Greeks

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…

Régis Evariste Huc's "Travels in Tartary, Tibet and China"
China

Régis Evariste Huc

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…

Wolfgang Büscher's "Berlin - Moscow"
Belarus

Wolfgang Büscher

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…

Nathan Hoturoa Gray's "First Pass Under Heaven"
China

Nathan Hoturoa Gray

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…

Reginald Fleming Johnston's "From Peking to Mandalay"
China

Reginald Fleming Johnston

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…

William Lindesay's "Alone on the Great Wall"
China

William Lindesay

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…

Gregor Sieböck's "Wanderer Of Worlds"
Austria

Gregor Sieböck

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…

Vikram Seth's "From Heaven Lake"
China

Vikram Seth

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…

Edwin John Dingle's "Across China on Foot"
China

Edwin John Dingle

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…

Dennis Gastmann's "Walk to Canossa"
Germany

Dennis Gastmann

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…

Giovanni DiPlano Carpini's "The Story Of The Mongols Whom We Call The Tartars"
France

Giovanni DiPlano Carpini

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…

Ferdinand von Richthofen's "Expeditions In China"
China

Ferdinand von Richthofen

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…

Philippe Valéry's "On The Silk Road"
Afghanistan

Philippe Valéry

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…

Laurie Lee's "As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning"
France

Laurie Lee

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…

Joachim Fest's "Contre-jour"
Italy

Joachim Fest

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…

Yan Changjiang's "Three Gorges Diary"
China

Yan Changjiang

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…

John Ross Browne's "Adventures in the Apache Country"
USA

John Ross Browne

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…

Heinz Helfgen's "I'm Cycling Around The World"
Caribbean

Heinz Helfgen

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…

Theodor Fontane's "Walking Tours Through The Mark Of Brandenburg"
Germany

Theodor Fontane

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…

Guillaume de Rubrouck's "Account of the Mongols"
France

Guillaume de Rubrouck

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…

David Livingstone's "Travel Diaries"
East Africa

David Livingstone

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…

Helge Timmerberg's "Shiva Moon"
India

Helge Timmerberg

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…

Ma Jian

Author: Ma Jian (马建) Title: Red Dust. A Path Through China. (红尘)

Carol Kloeppel's "Dear Germany"
Germany

Carol Kloeppel

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…

Cem Gülay's "No Döner Country"
Germany

Cem Gülay

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

Barbara Demick's "Nothing To Envy"
North Korea

Barbara Demick

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…

Daniel Defoe's "Robinson Crusoe"
Brazil

Daniel Defoe

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…

Gunther Plüschow's "The Adventures of the Aviator of Tsingtao"
China

Gunther Plüschow

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…

George, Earl Of Macartney's "Our First Ambassador to China"
China

George, Earl Of Macartney

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…

John Pomfret's "Chinese Lessons"
China

John Pomfret

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…

Achill Moser's "The China Adventure"
China

Achill Moser

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…

Li Zhisui's "The Private Life Of Chairman Mao"
China

Li Zhisui

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…

San Mao's "Stories From The Sahara"
Sahara

San Mao

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…

Liao Yiwu's "The Corpse Walker"
China

Liao Yiwu

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…

Karl Bushby's "Giant Steps"
Canada

Karl Bushby

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…

Christian Y. Schmidt's "Alone Among 1.3 Billion"
China

Christian Y. Schmidt

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…

Albert von Le Coq's "Retracing Hella's Marks In East-Turkestan"
China

Albert von Le Coq

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…

Karl Boy-Ed's "Beijing And Its Vicinities In The Year 1900"
China

Karl Boy-Ed

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…

Thomas Laird's "Into Tibet"
China

Thomas Laird

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…

Otto Braun's "Chinese Notes"
China

Otto Braun

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…

Tuvia Tenenbom's "I sleep in Hitler's Room"
Germany

Tuvia Tenenbom

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…

Rewi Alley's "Travels in China"
China

Rewi Alley

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…

Yu Chunshun's "A Hero's Travels Through China"
China

Yu Chunshun

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…

Oliver Lutz Radtke's "Welcome to Presence"
China

Oliver Lutz Radtke

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…

Andrew McCarthy's "The Longest Way Home"
Austria

Andrew McCarthy

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…

Volker Häring's "A Bus Called Wanda"
Cambodia

Volker Häring

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…

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's "Italian Journey"
Italy

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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…

Patrick Leigh Fermor's "A Time of Gifts / Between the Woods and the Water"
Germany

Patrick Leigh Fermor

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…

Josef Martin Bauer's "As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me"
Central Asia

Josef Martin Bauer

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…

Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta's "The Travels"
Central Asia

Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta

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…

Nigel Barley's "The Innocent Anthropologist"
Central Africa

Nigel Barley

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…

Mildred Cable's "The Gobi Desert"
China

Mildred Cable

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…

Hauke Trinks' "Life In The Ice"
North Pole

Hauke Trinks

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…

Hans-Peter Kerkeling's "I'm Off Then"
France

Hans-Peter Kerkeling

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…

Favell Lee Mortimer's "The Clumsiest People in Europe"
Fiction

Favell Lee Mortimer

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…

Nikolai Mikhaylovich Przhevalsky's "Mongolia and the Land of the Tanguts"
China

Nikolai Mikhaylovich Przhevalsky

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…

Shirley MacLaine's "The Camino"
Spain

Shirley MacLaine

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…

Karl Philipp Moritz' "Journeys of a German in England in 1782"
UK

Karl Philipp Moritz

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…

Thomas Kohnstamm's "Do Travel Writers Go To Hell"
Brazil

Thomas Kohnstamm

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…

Michael Olbert's "Chatwin's Guru And Me"
Germany

Michael Olbert

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…

Johann Schiltberger's "The Bondage and Travels of Johann Schiltberger"
Central Asia

Johann Schiltberger

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…

Michael Holzach's "Germany For Free"
Germany

Michael Holzach

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.

Ella Maillart's "Forbidden Journey"
China

Ella Maillart

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…

Peter Fleming's "News from Tartary"
China

Peter Fleming

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…

Christopher Columbus' "Logbook"
Caribbean

Christopher Columbus

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…

Werner Herzog's "Of Walking In Ice"
France

Werner Herzog

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…

Fernão Mendes Pinto's "Pilgrimage"
China

Fernão Mendes Pinto

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…

Johann Christian Hüttner's "News from the journey of the British delegation through China"
China

Johann Christian Hüttner

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…

Paulo Coelho's "The Pilgrimage"
France

Paulo Coelho

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…

Jon Krakauer's "Into The Wild"
Canada

Jon Krakauer

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…

Bruce Chatwin's "Songlines"
Australia

Bruce Chatwin

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…

Reinhold Messner's "Everest Solo"
Himalaya

Reinhold Messner

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…

Peter Hessler's "Country Driving"
China

Peter Hessler

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…

Johann Gottfried Seume's "Stroll To Syracuse In The Year 1802"
Austria

Johann Gottfried Seume

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…

Bill Bryson's "The Lost Continent"
USA

Bill Bryson

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…

Richard Wilhelm's "The Soul Of China"
China

Richard Wilhelm

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…

Matsuo Basho's "The Narrow Road To The Deep North"
Japan

Matsuo Basho

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…

Odorico da Pordenone's "The Travel"
Central Asia

Odorico da Pordenone

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…

Sun Shuyun's "Ten Thousand Miles Without A Cloud"
Central Asia

Sun Shuyun

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…

John Muir's "A Thousand-mile Walk To The Gulf"
Cuba

John Muir

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…

Tim Moore's "Travels With My Donkey"
France

Tim Moore

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…

Heinrich Heine's "Travel Pictures"
Germany

Heinrich Heine

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…

Jack Kerouac's "On The Road"
USA

Jack Kerouac

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…

Karl Friedrich August Gützlaff's "Journal of Three Voyages along the Coast of China"
China

Karl Friedrich August Gützlaff

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…

Marco Polo's "Description Of The World"
Central Asia

Marco Polo

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…

Jehan de Mandeville's "The Travels"
Central Asia

Jehan de Mandeville

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…

Andreas Altmann's "The Price Of Lightness"
Cambodia

Andreas Altmann

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…

Roald Amundsen's "The South Pole"
South Pole

Roald Amundsen

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…

Michael Wigge's "To The End Of The World, Without Any Money"
Belgium

Michael Wigge

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…

Robert Falcon Scott's "Diary"
South Pole

Robert Falcon Scott

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…

Matt Harding's "Where The Hell Is Matt?"
Africa

Matt Harding

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…

Sven Hedin's "In The Heart Of Asia"
China

Sven Hedin

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 Northwestern China that were unknown or scarcely explored until then.

Rob Gifford's "China Road"
China

Rob Gifford

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…

Helge Schneider's "Globus Dei"
Fiction

Helge Schneider

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…

Ji Xianlin's "Wandering Around The World"
China

Ji Xianlin

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…