Top 5 travel books: the travel writing to pack this summer

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travel books

Travel writing is the perfect summer read – whether you’re heading to the beach, the mountains or simply looking for a bit of escapism from the comfort of your own desk. Business Optimizer names ten of our favourite travel books.

If you’re looking for some great reading for your vacation, you’ll love this list of favourite travel books from the Business Optimizer team. It’s our guide to the essential travel writing to pack this summer for insightful travelogues, inspirational tales and witty observations.

1. Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle by Dervla Murphy

The intrepid author regarded as Ireland’s most fearless travel writer sadly died earlier this year aged 90. Dervla Murphy’s death piqued a renewed interest in her books, especially her first book Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle. Published in 1965, this account of her six-month journey through Europe, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and over the Himalayas into Pakistan and India established Murphy as an exceptional new voice in travel writing.

2. Notes from a Small Country by Bill Bryson

This wonderfully charming and often acerbic commentary by an unashamedly anglophile American as he travelled around 1990s Britain was Bryson’s second travel book, a career he admits he fell into almost by accident. It was an immediate hit and Notes from a Small Island remains the best-selling British travel book ever. It was followed up twenty years later with another trip around the British Isles in The Road to Little Dribbling, but you can pick up any of Bryson’s travelogues and you can’t help but be amused by his trademark canny observations.

3. French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France by Tim Moore

Very much in the same vein as Bill Bryson, Tim Moore’s travel writing makes for laugh-out-loud reading. In French Revolutions, Moore sets off to tackle the 3,630 kilometres of the Tour de France a month ahead of the official riders.

4. Zero Altitude: How I learned to Fly Less and Travel More by Helen Coffey

The travel editor of the UK newspaper The Independent, Helen Coffey, spent years flying on a near-weekly basis – until she began researching an article about flygskam (or “flight shame”) in 2019. Zero Altitude: How I learned to Fly Less and Travel More is a personal account of how one frequent flyer became convinced to go cold-turkey on the vacation industry’s biggest convenience. The book succeeds in tackling a very important topic without being preachy – and will hopefully inspire other travellers to make similar lifestyle changes of their own.

5. Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town by Paul Theroux

This is the story of an overland journey across Africa traversing bush and desert, taking in Uganda and Malawi, countries where Theroux lived and worked in his youth. Although some of Theroux’s commentary has been criticised, Dark Star Safari nevertheless offers an amazing account of the veteran writer’s journey to Cape Town from Cairo the hard way.

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