David Reynolds

Top 5 Books about Travel

First published in The Big Issue, 7 September 2020

Blue Highways (1982), William Least Heat-Moon.  With Kerouac’s On the Road, one of the two best US road books.  Illuminating observations of people and places as Heat-Moon drives in a long, wavering rectangle on back roads around the US.

Homegoing (2016), Yaa Gyasi.  A gripping novel that tells the stories of two sisters from the Gold Coast (Ghana), one a slave, the other a slave-trader’s wife, and their descendants through seven generations – beginning in Africa in the 1760s, ending in Harlem in the 1950s.

South from Granada (1957), Gerald Brenan.  A vivid portrait of life in a mountain village in Andalucia in the 1920s – a way of life that has now disappeared – interrupted occasionally by visits from members of the Bloomsbury Group.   

A Beer in the Loire (2018), Tommy Barnes.  The funniest travel book ever, funnier even than Three Men in a Boat – a true story and inspiration to anyone in search of a new life.  Tommy and his girlfriend travel to France, move into a large, draughty house and set up a brewery.  They acquire a mad dog and other animals – and girlfriend becomes pregnant… 

But Beautiful (1991), Geoff Dyer.  Imaginative, beautifully written scenes from the lives of great jazzmen – Monk, Mingus, Ben Webster, Chet Atkins, Lester Young and others – interspersed with sublime accounts of Harry Carney, Duke Ellington’s long-serving baritone sax player, driving the Duke from gig to gig while the rest of the band travel by coach.