As much as I love the real kind of travel – the kind that involves booking tickets, fixing an itinerary and packing clothes into a suitcase or backpack – I love the armchair kind of travel, too. You see, I love the world around me, am in awe of all the different types of places that exist therein, the multitude of people and foods and what not. I want to travel the world, to see most nooks and crannies of the world, but that is often not possible due to practical reasons. Hence, the indulgence in armchair travel in between trips of the real kind.
Here is a list of some of my most favourite books about travel. Each one of these books has been thoroughly enjoyed, as it has vividly brought to life the place/s described in my mind. Each one of these books has awoken in me a craving to actually see, feel and smell the place/s that has been written about in them.
If you have read any of these books, I hope this post will open up a healthy discussion on them and bring back lovely memories of the reading experience. If you haven’t read any of these, I hope you will pick them up now.
1. A Year In Provence – Peter Mayle
A Year In Provence was my first brush with travel books, and my first brush with Peter Mayle, post which I got hooked to both. There is so much beautiful writing packed into this very slim book, enough to make you fall in love with the quaint Provence in the French countryside and make you want to visit it. It is evident that Mayle writes from his heart in this book, and that he is just as much in love with Provence as any local, born and brought up there, could be. He writes about the little, unique things that make Provence the quirky, loveable town that it is. There are liberal doses of food in the book – of the hearty local cuisine – about which everything is charming.
2. A Thousand Days In Venice, A Thousand Days In Tuscany and The Lady In The Palazzo – Marlena de Blasi
I can’t stop recommending Marlena de Blasi’s A Thousand Days In Venice to all and sundry. I still remember the way it gripped my heart while I was reading it, and I want people to feel the same kind of magic through this book.
A Thousand Days In Venice is the author’s memoir of her days in Venice, how she discovered it little by little, and was charmed by it. Marlena writes from her heart, and her love for Venice shines through in every word. Like I said in my earlier review of the book, the language is sheer poetry. It was such a delight to read this book, to see the romantic Venice through Marlena’s eyes. This was one of the few books that I have read that made me sigh with pleasure.
I went on to read the other two travel memoirs by the author too – A Thousand Days In Tuscany and The Lady In The Palazzo – and loved them just as much too. This is a rare series in which all three books are equally special to me.
3. Under The Tuscan Sun – Frances Mayes
Frances Mayes’s Under The Tuscan Sun is another book that had me so delighted in its reading that I was sighing with pleasure all the time. This is another book that I just cannot stop recommending to people.
Under The Tuscan Sun charmed me. It worked its magic on me so that as soon as I was finished with the book, I was on the internet looking up flight tickets to Tuscany. Sadly, the trip has not materialised till date. 😦 I could relate to the way the author felt about the little things around her, and her love for Tuscany, so much that it was as if she had written the book after looking deeply into my heart.
I read the other Tuscany books by Frances Mayes too after this – Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life In Italy and Every Day In Tuscany: Seasons Of An Everyday Life. I also bought the coffee-table book In Tuscany, which had pictures of all the gorgeous places Mayes has written about in the other three books. Though I liked all three books in the series, Under The Tuscan Sun remained the best of all for me.
4. Bong Mom’s Cookbook – Sandeepa Mukherjee Datta
I read Sandeepa Mukherjee Datta’s Bong Mom’s Cookbook some time ago, and quite liked it. It is a light read about how the author, as a modern-day working woman, juggles work and putting healthy meals on the table for her children, at the same time trying to reinforce her Bengali roots and showcase them to the kids.
Yes, yes, I know what you are thinking. What is a cookbook doing in a list of travel books? Right? Well, let me tell you that as much as Sandeepa’s book enlightened me about Bengali cuisine and made me want to try some of the dishes in it myself, it made me crave to visit Calcutta. I have always wanted to visit Calcutta, a dream that has not yet come true. This book reignited that desire in me – to eat poochkas off the streets in Calcutta, to stand on Howrah Bridge, to buy books from those quaint second-hand-bookstores on the streets, to photograph Victoria Memorial, and to ride at least once on the trams there. The book brought Calcutta alive in my mind’s eyes, and now, I desperately want to see it in person!
5. A Town Called Dehra – Ruskin Bond
A Town Called Dehra is Ruskin Bond’s love letter to one of the places he grew up in – Dehra, or Dehradoon. It is an absolutely beautiful book, written with so much heart that it clearly shows. It made me want to visit the Dehra of Bond’s childhood, to experience life among the trees there, to see the wildflowers that used to spring up everywhere without any human intervention, to walk amidst the mountains and to breathe in the cool, unpolluted air.
It made me want to live the kind of unhurried, uncomplicated, warm life that Bond has written about. It made me want to rush to Dehra straight away, and have a heart-to-heart chat with Bond.
6. A Year In The World: Journeys Of A Passionate Traveller – Frances Mayes
A Year In The World is another one of Frances Mayes’s books that not only awoke the wanderlust in me, but made joy curl through me deliciously. This book is about the year of travel that Frances and her partner Ed undertook, in different parts of the world. It was mostly free travel, with the travellers flitting from one place to another as the fancy took them, without any fixed agenda in mind.
Mayes’s descriptions of the places they visit are delicious, with just the right amount of details. They offer just a tantalizing glimpse of these places, without getting boring or uninteresting. You feel like you are right there with Ed and Frances, enjoying each leg of the journey with them. Passion for travel comes through in each word.
This is another book that I cannot recommend highly enough to everyone, one I cannot stop recommending, actually.
7. Roads To Mussoorie – Ruskin Bond
Roads To Mussoorie is Ruskin Bond’s tribute to yet another hill station that he had the pleasure of living in for part of his life – Mussoorie. Bond builds up a charming picture of life in Mussoorie, describing its cinema halls, breakfast places, houses, people, and… ghosts, too. He also speaks about the quaint little places that surround Mussoorie, each with a charm of its own. There is love, humour and straightforwardness in each word of the book.
Like most travel books, Roads To Mussoorie made me crave to visit Mussoorie, to see the hill station with Bond.
What is your favourite mode of armchair travel? Which are your favourite books on travel?