I don’t really know what defines a travel book anymore. Theroux, Didion, even the singular contribution of Bowles—all canonical writers that writers like me are supposed to look up to. But those types of books I admire more for their writing than for instilling any will to travel. The best travel books then are the least pretentious. Books like The Beach or Shantaram affected my longing to visit Thailand or India far more than anything high-handed. But it’s perhaps the same reason guidebooks are almost extinct—technology has cut into the degree of fascination we have of a place before we visit it. As someone who grew up with one foot on either side of the tech divide, I find classics like The Great Railway Bazaar more as a guide for prose writing than adventuring, and find more wanderlust in the pages of horribly written dimestore hackery like The Da Vinci Code.
Dave Besseling’s latest book is Laid in India
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