There are books and then there are travel books. Not necessarily travelogues, these are classic pieces that bring alive places, people and all things associated with travel. And even if you do not get to actually reach out to your travel agent and do your bookings, you do experience the aura of the chosen destinations, as you turn the leaves of these eminently readable books on places and people. The list has to begin with Bill Bryson, who is an antidote for almost every ailment.
1. Down Under - Bill Bryson
Bryson travels to Australia in this one, and has the reader hooked from the very first line! 'Flying into Australia, I realised with a sigh that I had forgotten again who their Prime Minister is. I am forever doing this with the Australian PM-committing the name to memory, forgetting it (generally more or less instantly), then feeling terribly guilty'. This is Bryson, who for most is hugely addictive!
2. In Patagonia - Bruce Chatwin
Patagonia, at the southernmost tip of South America is the soul of this masterpiece. Chatwin is at his best in writing so evocatively, and recounts the history and culture of its people with immense beauty.
3. A Short Walk in the Hindukush - Eric Newby
A classic like none other! Newby explores the Nuristan Mountains in eastern Afghanistan with his keen eye for detail, wit intact, and absorbing descriptions of an area not-too-familiar to most readers.
4. On the Road - Jack Kerouac
A great piece of 20th century writing. The novel, seen by most as autobiographical, describes the road trips Kerouac made with his friends across America, and is now considered a masterpiece on the 'Beat' Generation. The novel remains a favourite across generations for the sheer rawness of it.
5. The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America - Bill Bryson
Who else but Bryson could begin a book with 'I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to'. He has you tightly in his grip, as the reader travels with him across the real America. Bryson is a god-send for the days when you're down and out. One cannot put the book down until the last page has been turned!
6. Following Fish - Samanth Subramaniam
The book takes the reader across nine coastal states 'following fish'. Samanth is a gifted writer and a delightful raconteur. Rightly so, the book won the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize 2010.
7. From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium - William Dalrymple
This is my most favourite of all of Dalrymple's books (and I have read them all). He retraces the route that John Moschos, a sixth-century monk had travelled through Eastern Byzantium, and finally reaching Constantinople. Dalrymple simply sparkles in this one!
8. Slowly Down the Ganges - Eric Newby
The river Ganges comes alive in this book. Newby, accompanied by his wife travelled the 1200 mile distance from Haridwar to the Bay of Bengal. The book is laced with Newby's signature style of writing, and his anecdotes leaves one begging for more!
9. Banaras: City of Lights - Diana Eck
The book helps you discover the many aspects of the beauty of Banaras, rightly subtitled 'The City of Lights'. Eck's authoritative work remains one of the best books on the city for its sheer scope and fine writing.
10. London: A Biography - Peter Ackroyd
Yes, this is technically a 'biography' of the city, but I do take the liberty of including it in this list, as it is a sheer delight to discover, and re-discover, London through the pages of history!
Sanjana is Head of Publishing at Amaryllis Publishing, a literary fiction and non fiction imprint that targets a readership and authorship, so far largely untapped.