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Arts & Books

The 10 best travel memoirs

See the world from the comfort of your own home with accounts of voyages of discovery on and off the beaten track

1. Viva South America! A Journey Through a Restless Continent

This is South America described by the people who live there. Oliver Balch spends a year talking to prisoners and miners, dance teachers and displaced farmers, about life as they see it.

£10.99, Faber & Faber

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2. Exit into History: A Journey Through the New Eastern Europe

A book that takes you on an intimate journey through Eastern Europe at a time when the dust was still settling from the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Eva Hoffman travels from the Baltic to the Black Sea, building a compelling portrait of a region uncertain about its future.

£16, Faber & Faber

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3. Journey Without Maps

When Graham Greene embarked on his trek into Liberia in 1935, the interior of the country was still unmapped. Undeterred, he managed to walk  through the entire country, writing a remarkable account of exploring a place that almost killed him.

£8.99, Vintage Classics

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4. Arabian Sands

Capturing a period when the Bedouin way of life was in decline, Arabian Sands is an extraordinary record of explorer Wilfred Thesiger’s odyssey through the aptly named “Empty Quarter” of Arabia. The book is a must-read classic for anyone travelling to, or hoping to better understand, the Middle East.

£9.99, Penguin Classics

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5. Notes From a Big Country

Bill Bryson’s warm style makes him a pleasure to read and his reflections on everything from gardening to the death penalty provide a welcome narration to any journey stateside.

£8.99, Black Swan

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6. In Patagonia

In Patagonia chronicles a remarkable trip through South America. Told in Bruce Chatwin’s meandering style, with 97 short untitled pieces that jump from one experience to the next, the structure seems appropriate for a book that is all about nomadic wanderings.

£8.99, Vintage Classics

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7. On the Road

Jack Kerouac’s inspirational novel based on the travels undertaken by him and his friends across America during the late 1940s. Full of jazz and Americana, it tells a story of a generation trying to find meaning outside the mainstream.

£7.19, Penguin

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8. Ghost Riders: Travels with American Nomads

Inspired by Kerouac, the young, broke Richard Grant set off to roam America, scraping together money for beer and motels, and selling his stories along the way. This book is an account of years spent on the road, as Grant tries to unpick his own impulses to wander.

£10.99, Abacus

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9. A short Walk in the Hindu Kush

Travelling doesn’t get more memorable than this. Sparked by a telegram to a friend, Eric Newby and his companion set off from Mayfair to Afghanistan, where they wander the wilderness completely unprepared, but with plenty of wit.

£8.99, HarperPress

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10. The Great Railway Bazaar

For anyone smitten with the romanticism of rail travel, this book by Paul Theroux has it all. Theroux’s epic journey was made in the 1970s, travelling routes such as the Orient Express, the Khyber Pass Local, the Delhi Mail from Jaipur, the Golden Arrow to Kuala Lumpur, and the Trans-Siberian.

£10.99, Penguin

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