The 86 Greatest Travel Books of All Time

While I was at first surprised to see that Robert D. Kaplan’s great travel books such as Ends of the Earth and Eastward to Tartary weren’t on the list, it turns out that he was a member of the “all-star literary jury”! Check it out.

About Curzon

Lord George Nathaniel Curzon (1859 - 1925) entered the British House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 1886, where he served as undersecretary of India and Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Viceroy of India at the turn of the 20th century where he delineated the North West Frontier Province, ordered a military expedition to Tibet, and unsuccessfully tried to partition the province of Bengal during his six-year tenure. Curzon served as Leader of the House of Lords in Prime Minister Lloyd George's War Cabinet and became Foreign Secretary in January 1919, where his most famous act was the drawing of the Curzon Line between a new Polish state and Russia. His publications include Russia in Central Asia (1889) and Persia and the Persian Question (1892). In real life, "Curzon" is a US citizen from the East Coast who has been a financial analyst, freelance translator, and university professor; he is currently on assignment in Tokyo.
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4 Responses to The 86 Greatest Travel Books of All Time

  1. Rommel says:

    Still, Theroux got at least 2 of his books mentioned and he was on the panel. An outrage I say!

  2. I was pleased to see Rory Stewart’s “The Places in Between” on the list- that has to be my favorite recent travel book of all.

  3. Agreed with Rommel. Kaplan should have had at least one on there, especially if Theroux gets several.

    Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron and In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin are favorites, and it is good to see them here. Wish I had time to read them all …. .

  4. Alfred Russel Wallace says:

    I agree that Rommel: McPhee was a juror too, and he got a book on the list. Harrumph!
    The glaring omission to my mind is Darwin’s ”˜Voyage of the Beagle’. This was phenomenally successful in its time, and is still a fascinating read.
    Nansen’s book is a great read too. Roland Huntford wrote a review of a book about Nansen in Nature in 1998 that had the following précis of Nansen’s trip, which I still think is one of the funniest book reviews I have ever seen:

    When it became clear that Fram would not drift over the North Pole, Nansen and Hjalmar Johansen left the ice-locked vessel at latitude 84° 14′, established a new farthest-north record, and began a hairraising, hazardous journey of nearly 400 miles across the shifting, breaking ice of the Arctic Ocean towards Franz Josef Land, the position of which had not yet been precisely established.
    With no idea where they were when they found land, Nansen and Johansen built a windowless stone hut in which a hibernatory third polar winter was spent, STILL SHARING THE SAME SLEEPING-BAG AND STILL NOT ON FIRST-NAME TERMS. In the spring of 1896 some basic instinct drove them south rather than to the west where they thought Spitsbergen and salvation lay.
    Dogs were heard, a man was seen, and Nansen met Frederick Jackson, leader of the North Pole expedition sponsored by the English newspaper magnate Albert Harmsworth, in an Arctic version of the encounter between Stanley and Livingstone. Against all odds, Nansen had turned defeat into victory. Since leaving Fram, he and Johansen had travelled 700 miles across the polar ice and had met Jackson just before attempting the crossing to Spitsbergen which they might well not have survived.