Recommended Reading

 

Human beings need stories.  I believe that need is hard-wired into us, which is why we tell stories about everything, including ourselves, and why we pay attention to other people’s stories, even ones we only overhear.

We’ve been telling and listening to each other’s stories for thousands of years. Whether they are fact or fiction, they give us a framework for understanding our world and living our lives.

We’ve been traveling even longer — so long that it is not  a coincidence that every culture in the world describes life as a journey.  This means every human story is a kind of traveler’s tale.

The book list that follows is a tiny (and quite recent) fraction of the travelers’ tales that our species has produced. There are thousands more. These are just a few of the ones I’ve liked in the intertwined genres of memoir and first-person travel writing. memoir. Titles are grouped by theme, and some appear in more than one category.

BOOKLIST — MEMOIR and TRAVEL MEMOIR  (© 2013 – Catherine Watson )

 

THE QUEST –  “HOLY GRAIL’’   MEMOIRS

“The Root of Wild Madder,” Brian Murphey

”Chasing the Monsoon,” Alexander Frater

“The Afghan Amulet,’’ Sheila Paine

 

“IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF….’’  (sub-set of QUEST)

“Blue Latitudes,’’ Tony Horwitz (following Capt. James Cook)

“Pagan Holidays,’’ Tony Perrottet (tracking ancient Roman tourists)

 

PILGRIMAGES – SPIRITUALITY and SELF-DISCOVERY

“The Cloister Walk,” Kathleen Norris

“Virgin Time,” and “A Romantic Education,’’ Patricia Hampl

“The Scent of God,’’ Beryl Singleton Bissell

“Traveling Mercies,’’ Anne Lamott

“The Kindness of Strangers,’’ Lonely Planet collection, ed. Don George

“Pilgrimage: Adventures of the Spirit,’’ collection from Travelers’ Tales

 

  “COMING OF AGE’’ and FAMILY MEMOIRS

“All Over but the Shoutin’,” Rick Bragg

“Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight,’’ Alexandra Fuller

“My Life in Orange,” Tim Guest

“The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio,” by Terry Ryan

“A Family Place’’ (a Hudson Valley farm), Leila Philip

“A Moveable Feast,’’ Ernest Hemingway

“The Florist’s Daughter,’’ Patricia Hampl

“The Color of Water,’’ James McBride

“The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit,’’ Lucette Lagnado

 

HOUSE MEMOIRS

“On Mexican Time,” Tony Cohan

“Sixpence House,” by Paul Collins

“A House in France,’’ Anne Barry

“The Caliph’s House,’’ Tahir Shah

“A Family Place’’ (a Hudson Valley farm), Leila Philip

 

LOVE STORIES and “FRENCH FOREIGN LEGION” TRIPS  (Travel  as escape)

“A Thousand Days in Venice,’’  Marlena di Blasi

“Eat, Pray, Love,’’ Elizabeth Gilbert

“Blue Highways,’’ William Least Heat Moon

 

 LANDSCAPES, RIVERS, CITIES  

“Talking to the Ground,’’ Douglas Preston (the Southwest)

“The Lost River,’’ Richard Bangs

“On the River,’’ John Madson

“Reading the River –  A Voyage Down the Yukon,’’ John Hildebrand

“Down the Wild River North,’’ Constance Helmericks

(See also  “Arctic Daughter,’’ by her daughter, Jean Aspen)

“Falling Palace,’’ Dan Hofstadter (about Naples)

 

OCEANS

“Alone at Sea,’’ Joshua Slocum

“The Water in Between,” Keith Patterson

“Sea Change,’’ Peter Nichols

“Coasting” and “Passage to Juneau,’’ Jonathan Raban

 

 FARMING, GARDENING, FOOD

“The Orchard,’’ Adele Crockett Robertson

“Driving Over Lemons – An Optimist in Andalucia,’’ Chris Stewart

“French Dirt –  The Story of a Garden in the South of France,’’  Richard Goodman

“Buffalo for the Broken Heart,’’ Dan O’Brien

“Miriam’s Kitchen,’’ Elizabeth Ehrlich

 

“STARSHIP ENTERPRISE’’ — aka VEHICLE MEMOIRS

Steamboats: “Life on the Mississippi,’’ Mark Twain

Cars:  “Riding with Strangers,’’   Elijah Wald, and “Drive,’’ a Seal Press anthology

Motorcycles:  “Jupiter’s Travels,’’ Ted Simon

Trains:  “The Great Railway Bazaar,” Paul Theroux

Animals:  “Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes,’’ Robert Louis Stevenson

THE TASK (includes APPRENTICESHIPS)  

“The Last Navigator,’’ Stephen D. Thomas

“The Little Piano Shop on the Left Bank,” Thad Carhart

“Words in a French Life,’’ Kristin Espinasse

 

CULTURAL/ HISTORICAL/ INVESTIGATIVE MEMOIRS

“The Emperor’s Last Island,’’ Julia Blackburn (Napoleon in exile)

“Bury Me Standing,” Isabel Fonseca (living with Gypsies)

“This Cold Heaven – Seven Seasons in Greenland,” Gretel Ehrlich

“Confederates in the Attic,” Tony Horwitz

“The Great Plains,” Ian Frazier

“Pagan Holiday,” Tony Perrottet

 

EX-PATS and IMMIGRANTS 

“Beyond the Sky and the Earth,’’ Jamie Zappa (teaching in Bhutan)

“Dear Exile,’’ Hilary Liftin and Kate Montgomery

“Words of a French Life,’’ Kristin Espinasse

 

“SURVIVOR’’ MEMOIRS –  HEALING, DISEASE, DISASTERS   

“The GlassCastle,’’ Jeannette Walls

“Road Song,”  Natalie Kusz

“Telling,” Patricia Weaver Francisco

“Bag Lady,”  Sandra Benitez

“A Match to the Heart,” Gretel Ehrlich

“Into Thin Air,’’ Jon Krakauer

“Note Found in a Bottle,’’ Susan Cheever

“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,’’ Jean-Dominique Bauby

“On Writing,’’ Stephen King

 

 NATURE and ANIMALS

“The Animal Dialogues,’’ superb essays by Craig Childs

“A Three-Dog Life,’’ Abigail Thomas

“Mind of the Raven –  Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds,’’ Bernd Heinrich

“About This Life,’’ Barry Lopez

“Wolves and Honey – A Hidden History of the Natural World,’’ Susan Brind Morrow

 

WAR STORIES

“The Things They Carried,’’ Tim O’Brien (semi-memoir about Vietnam)

“After Sorrow,’’ Lady Borton (also about Vietnam)

“The Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant’’ (superb military writing)