An Armchair Traveler’s Reading List

June 30, 2020
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“What did you do on your summer vacation?” For many of us this pandemic year, the answer is going to be: not much. But even if we can’t take the long-distance holiday our wanderlust desires, there’s nothing stopping our imaginations from roaming. To aid you on your journey, we’ve compiled a selection of travel writing from around the globe that can transport you from India to Dollywood to the Hebrides and back again to your own armchair. Bon voyage!

Isolarian: A Different Oxford Journey by James Attlee

“Attlee grabs our hand and drags us down Cowley Road in Oxford, determined to prove that it is not a stuffy, medieval, Masterpiece Theatre town. All the messy glories of Cowley Road—pubs and porn shops alike—come to life in this work, which becomes a meditation on home and the nature of pilgrimage.” National Geographic Traveler

The Appian Way: Ghost Road, Queen of Roads by Robert A. Kaster

“A wonderful preface for any traveler planning an outdoorsy day in Rome or, especially, a trip through southern Italy. Kaster’s enthusiasm for the road and the people (past and present) who populate it is contagious.” Library Journal

Volcanoes and Wine: From Pompeii to Napa by Charles Frankel

“Geologist Charles Frankel goes looking for answers in Volcanoes and Wine, blending history, geology, and viniculture in an illuminating tour of some of the most curious winegrowing locales on earth…Frankel’s book is well-researched, with the right blend of history, science, and wine.” Terroirist

Freud’s Couch, Scott’s Buttocks, Brontë’s Grave by Simon Goldhill

“Wryly funny, deeply thoughtful musings on literary pilgrimage–why readers visit writers’ houses, and what, if anything, we gain by it. . . . Part travel memoir, part literary inquiry, with a large dose of history and frequent dashes of dry humor, this book will appeal to bookworms, Anglophiles and anyone who loves to visit historical sites but rolls their eyes at the overpriced rubbish in the gift shop.” Shelf Awareness for Readers

Spiral Jetta: A Road Trip through the Land Art of the American West by Erin Hogan

“I was never quite sure what Hogan was looking for when she set out . . . or indeed whether she found it. But I loved the ride. In Spiral Jetta, an unashamedly honest, slyly uproarious, ever-probing book, art doesn’t magically have the power to change lives, but it can, perhaps no less powerfully, change ways of seeing.” New York Times

Love of Country: A Journey through the Hebrides by Madeleine Bunting

“[An] excellent history book. . . . [Bunting’s] depth of engagement gives authenticity to the writings and substance to the arguments. . . . Almost the perfect marriage of travelogue to the inner landscape of political ideas and cultural reflections that makes this such a super read. I cannot think of a more intellectually challenging or rewarding travel book in recent years.” New Statesman

Pilgrimage to Dollywood: A Country Music Roadtrip through Tennessee by Helen Morales

“Part quirky travelogue, part study of celebrity culture, part autobiography, Pilgrimage to Dollywood is a witty and self-aware account of being transplanted into an alien culture and deciding to revel in its (and one’s own) otherness.” Times Higher Education

Spring, Heat, Rains: A South Indian Diary by David Shulman

“Shulman disappears for pages at a time into sensuous latticework dream. . . . He isn’t some hippy-dippy pilgrim on the shaggy-yoga road past Om through the Veil of Maya. He is a married man, and middle-aged, and full of obdurate facts. He has been to Berlin and Ispahan. He has read Mandelstam and listened to Haydn. He wears Western culture like a pair of pajamas. Yet his India is sensational, the Other as monsoon.” Harpers

The Dune’s Twisted Edge: Journeys in the Levant by Gabriel Levin

“The five essays that make up this book . . . excavate the historical and literary roots of contemporary Israeli culture, Jewish and especially Arab, in order to show that today’s entrenched divisions are not eternal. . . . It is reassuring to know that in a land of walls, a poet, at least, is able to cross borders freely.” Barnes and Noble Review

Traveling in Place: A History of Armchair Travel by Bernd Stiegler

“Stiegler forces us to consider the beauty and uniqueness of our common abodes. . . . The locations of Stiegler’s brief chapters or  ‘legs’ range from monastic cells to the artist’s studio, with authors including Samuel Beckett and Walter Benjamin. Although the reason for these travelogues ranges from sickness to boredom, they tell us more about their authors than any other genre. With unmatched uniqueness and stunning insightfulness, Stiegler gives readers of a philosophical bent noteworthy food for thought.” Booklist


All of these books are available from our website and your favorite bookseller.

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