Sunday, November 17, 2013

Five top inner-journey travel books

Paul Theroux is the author of many highly acclaimed books. His novels include The Lower River and The Mosquito Coast, and his renowned travel books include Ghost Train to the Eastern Star and Dark Star Safari. His latest book is The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari.

For The Daily Beast Theroux tagged five top books in which "what is illuminated is the landscape and the people—the place rather than the traveler or the trip," including:
Bad Land
by Jonathan Raban

“What I felt all the way was this was like a scale model of immigrants to America,” Raban has said elsewhere describing this book. “It was the story of America written in one particular landscape.” In the beginning of the book he describes himself as an emigrant “trying to find my own place in the landscape and history of the West.” He chose an unlikely and pretty much unwritten-about place, the dry, flat expanses of eastern Montana. This is a book about a part of America that no American could have written: we don’t have Raban’s objectivity, his passion, or his sense of alienation. He is also widely read and intensely curious—curious in the way of a foreigner in America.

Travel, history, biography, and autobiography, this highly original portrait of prairie America, published in 1996, is also about the people who traveled there and who learned to adapt to the rigors of the weather, the stubborn soil, the great oceanlike emptiness that inspires Raban to view the landscape as an inland sea, in which the emigrants are like solitary voyagers. Intensely observant, curious to the point of nosiness, Raban gets to know them, examines their family histories, their dreams, the images that have been painted of the land, the photographs, the guidebooks, and he describes the journey itself—the emigrant train, filled with distinct individuals, whom we come to know, confronted by a new climate.
Read about another book on Theroux's list.

Bad Land is one of Fred Pearce's top ten green books.

--Marshal Zeringue