22 September 2010

List Love 1 (updated October 14, 2013)

Updated in August 2016, to show changed status of books. Books are shown in red.

I have a mania for lists, especially lists of books, films and travel destinations. I enjoy reading them and either agreeing or (sometimes violently) disagreeing with them. Sometimes I check these lists against my own lists, and sometimes I check myself against the lists:
How many of these books have I read or want to read?
How many of these films do I own on DVD?
How many of these travel destinations are on my bucket list?
Etc.

While I don’t look at “best of”, “greatest” or “must see/do/read/watch” lists as absolutes, I do consider them to be indicators, if not of quality then at least of taste and popularity within certain demographic groups. I decided it would be an interesting feature for this blog to take a look at book lists and how they relate to myself: how many of the books I have read or want to read, how many I am not interested in reading, and so on. This looks set to be an endless task, because the lists keep accumulating and there is plently to choose from.

For someone who loves lists I am remarkably unorganised, so this is not going to be a regular feature, but I do plan to post a list with my statistics and possibly thoughts on it every now and then, and since I am suffering from a bad case of the travel bug right now but have very little money for travelling, I am starting with:



This is an aggregated list, published on the World Hum travel website. I recommend heading over there and taking a look at the lists used to make up the aggregated list and the criteria used. The criteria were a bit iffy, because in my opinion bestsellerdom is not the best criteria for a book’s endurance, but what the he**, this is only for fun!

I have linked to my reviews of the books I have read and reviewed, or noted that a review is upcoming when that is the case.

I would love to hear about your take on this list: Do you agree with it, are there books you would add or remove, how many have you read, etc.? Please leave links if you like. 

Starting with the top 10 most often listed books, in order of popularity:

  • In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin. Status: TBR
  • The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux. Status: Read, permanent collection. Theroux is a grumpy old git, but he sure can write!
  • A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby. Status: Read, permanent collection. Very enjoyable, contender for my favourite travel book of all time.
  • Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck. Status: Read, permanent collection. Eenjoyable and insightful, contender for my favourite travel book of all time.
  • Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon. Status: Read, permanent collection. Very enjoyable, contender for my favourite travel book of all time.
  • The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron. Status: Read, permanent collection (looking for an edition with photos)
  • A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor. Status: Read, permanent collection
  • In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson. Status: Read, wishlisted. Review (blast from the past) will post in December 2011.
  • The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen. Status: TBR
  • Video Night in Kathmandu by Pico Iyer. Status: Read, permanent collection

Hmmm, I only have 2 books to go to finish this list! Maybe it’s time I did something about it.

As for the others,

I have read and have in my permanent collection:

  • Among the Russians, by Colin Thubron. Another contender for my favourite travel book of all time.
  • As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, by Laurie Lee.
  • City of Djinns, by William Dalrymple. So much history and information, and well written too.
  • A Dragon Apparent, by Norman Lewis.
  • Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey. Another contender for my favourite travel book of all time.
  • In Siberia, by Colin Thubron 
  • Kon-Tiki, by Thor Heyerdahl (I have both the English translation and the Norwegian original)
  • The Places in Between, by Rory Stewart.
  • Road Fever, by Tim Cahill
  • Slowly Down the Ganges, by Eric Newby
  • Travels With Myself and Another, by Martha Gellhorn. A very uneven travelogue, the African chapter is too long and frequently boring but with interesting observation in between.
  • Two Towns in Provence, by M.F.K. Fisher (I have now read both books)
  • Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes.

I have read and do not own:
  • Bitter Lemons of Cyprus, by Lawrence Durrell  
  • Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing. (I want this for my permanent collection). My favourite survival tale.
  • Full Circle, by Michael Palin. (I want this for my permanent collection)
  • Holidays in Hell, by P.J. O’Rourke. I didn’t like his politics, but found the essays interesting.
  • Notes From a Small Island, by Bill Bryson. Frequently whiny and the self-deprecating humour was lame. Would remove from the list.
  • Nothing to Declare, by Mary Morris. A well-written but uneven “finding-myself” book. Would remove from the list.
  • Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen). Another contender for my favourite travel book of all time.
  • Roughing It, by Mark Twain.
  • Seven Years in Tibet, by Heinrich Harrer. I read this as a teenager and remember hardly anything about it. Maybe it’s time for a reread?
  • The Art of Travel, by Alain de Botton. This is more about travel philosophy than about travel and I would say it doesn’t really belong on this list.
  • The Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain.
  • The Lost Continent, by Bill Bryson. I found this somewhat mean and didn’t like it much. Would remove from the list.
  • The Motorcycle Diaries, by Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Bought, read and donated.
This makes 33 out of 100 that I have read.

To be read:
-owned:
  • Balkan Ghosts, by Robert D. Kaplan 
  • Brazilian Adventure, by Peter Fleming 
  • Iron and Silk, by Mark Salzman
  • The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, by Tom Wolfe
  • Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenso. Discovered that it was more or less fiction and decided not to read it. Donated.
  • West With the Night, by Beryl Markham
  • Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer  
  • Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin
  • Full Tilt: Ireland to India With a Bicycle, by Dervla Murphy 
  • The World of Venice, by Jan Morris 

-not owned:
  • A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson
  • A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
  • A Winter in Arabia, by Freya Stark
  • An Area of Darkness, by V.S. Naipaul
  • Arabian Sands, by Wilfred Thesiger
  • Arctic Dreams, by Barry Lopez
  • A Turn in the South, by V.S. Naipaul
  • Baghdad Without a Map, by Tony Horwitz
  • Beyond Euphrates, by Freya Stark
  • Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, by Rebecca West
  • Coasting, by Jonathan Raban 
  • Coming Into the Country, by John McPhee  
  • Dark Star Safari, by Paul Theroux
  • Golden Earth, by Norman Lewis
  • Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell
  • Hunting Mister Heartbreak, by Jonathan Raban
  • Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer
  • Life on the Mississippi, by Mark Twain
  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard
  • Riding to the Tigris, by Freya Stark
  • River Town, by Peter Hessler
  • Sea and Sardinia, by D.H. Lawrence
  • Terra Incognita, by Sara Wheeler
  • The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer, by Eric Hansen
  • The Old Patagonian Express, by Paul Theroux
  • The Pillars of Hercules, by Paul Theroux
  • The Rings of Saturn, by W.G. Sebald
  • The River at the Center of the World, by Simon Winchester
  • The Sex Lives of Cannibals, by J. Maarten Troost
  • The Size of the World, by Jeff Greenwald
  • The Soccer War, by Ryszard Kapuscinski
  • The Songlines, by Bruce Chatwin
  • The Worst Journey in the World, by Apsley Cherry-Garrard
  • Their Heads are Green and Their Hands are Blue, by Paul Bowles
  • When the Going was Good, by Evelyn Waugh
  • Wrong About Japan, by Peter Carey


Need to find out more before I decide I want to read:
  • A House in Bali, by Colin McPhee
  • Chasing the Sea, by Tom Bissell
  • Down the Nile, by Rosemary Mahoney
  • Facing the Congo, by Jeffrey Tayler
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson
  • Four Corners, by Kira Salak
  • Great Plains, by Ian Frazier
  • In Trouble Again, by Redmond O’Hanlon
  • Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, by Suketu Mehta
  • No Mercy, by Redmond O’Hanlon
  • Old Glory, by Jonathan Raban
  • The Lady and the Monk, by Pico Iyer
  • The Log From the Sea of Cortez, by John Steinbeck
  • The Long Walk, by Slavomir Rawicz
  • The Muses Are Heard, by Truman Capote
  • Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere, by Jan Morris
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsig


Decidedly not interested in reading:
  • Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert


And, finally:

12 books not on the above list that I would put on a list 
of my favourite travel books:

My Family and Other Animals, by Gerald Durrell (if Under the Tuscan Sun belongs on the above list, so does this book). My absolute favourite travel book ever.
The Whispering Land, by Gerald Durrell
Behind the Wall: A Journey through China, by Colin Thubron
The News from Tartary, by Peter Fleming
Crusader, by Tim Severin
My Journey to Lhasa, by Elizabeth David-Neel
Eight Feet in the Andes, by Dervla Murphy
Touch the Dragon, by Karen Connelly
Empires of the Indus, by Alice Albinia
The Roads to Sata, by Alan Booth
Coming Home Crazy, by Bill Holm
Travels on my Elephant, by Mark Shand

5 comments:

George said...

Wow! Where to start... Usually I prefer shorter lists (10 BEST PRIVATE EYE NOVELS, etc.) A list this big is hard to get one's head around.

My favorite current tavel writer is Paul Theroux. Yes, he's cranky. But the guy's prose can capture a foreign in setting vividly. Loved GHOST TRAIN TO THE EASTER STAR.

George said...

After studying this list, I'm not sure Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson should be on it. A "travel" book, it isn't. Unless you're counting traveling in a drug-induced, reality-addled haze. It's a classic, but you'd have to be in the mood for something really, realy different.

George said...

Friends who are far more knowledgeable than I am about travel books consider Evelyn Waugh's WHEN THE GOING WAS GOOD the best travel book ever written. I like Eudora Welty's comment: “One place understood helps us understand all places better."

George said...

Nancy Pearl has a list of some of her favorite travel books on National Public Radio: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130191275

Bibliophile said...

Thanks - I am putting her book on my wishlist.