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Great travel writers

The Best Books I Read in 2020

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Do you have a book addiction? Well I’m here to make it worse. I love a good reading list like a hobo loves Aqua Velva. As the year comes to a close, and as dark Berlin huddles beneath a pandemic sky, I’d like to take a moment to share my top reads from the past twelve months. Each book made my list because it was memorable, important, or just thoroughly enjoyable. And each is worth your time. I...

Cut Stones and Crossroads

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Ronald Wright traveled Peru in the 1970’s and 80’s, fresh from university with a degree in archaeology, feeding an obsession with the Inca Empire sparked by a random adventure novel he’d read in his teens. He expected to spend his time wandering ruins, but the ancient world of the Andes was alive all around him in the Quechua still spoken by its people, through the handwoven clothing they...

Travels With Myself And Another

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How did I live for 47 years without reading Martha Gellhorn? She’s best known in some circles for her brief wartime marriage to the writer Ernest Hemingway, much to her chagrin. But she is better known as a brilliant war correspondent and travel writer, though she wanted to be remembered as a novelist. She covered the Spanish Civil War, went ashore on the beaches of Normandy on June 7, 1944, and...

Will Europe End With Marching Boots — or Malaise?

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Where were you when the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989? I was sitting in the back room of our old house watching music videos on TV. We didn’t have the specialty channels back then, but the cable company was running a free promo all week, and we could watch the movie channel and the music channel for free. I was 17 years old, and glued to MuchMusic — the Canadian version of MTV — when the...

So It Goes by Nicolas Bouvier

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“So it goes” recurs like a refrain throughout this collection of essays, and I found myself wishing it would go on and on. Nicolas Bouvier is one of those legendary writers whose name circulates among travelers, but few of my North American road friends had ever heard of him. It was European friends who told me about his classic road trip book, The Way of the World. The twenty-four year old Swiss...

Not a Hazardous Sport

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Not a Hazardous Sport brings to a close Nigel Barley’s series of anthropological journeys that began with The Innocent Anthropologist and continued in A Plague of Caterpillars. This time, he leaves Africa behind and sets his compass for the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, where he hopes to live among the Torajan people, mountain pagans known for their elaborate ancestor cults and traditional...

A Plague of Caterpillars

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Nigel Barley returns to Cameroon in this hilarious follow up to The Innocent Anthropologist. “Returns” is a bit of a misnomer. In truth, he’d only just left. Barley spent 6 months in London upon completion of a year and a half of anthropological fieldwork among the Dowayo people, a group of mountain pagans. But he’d barely settled back into academic life when rumours reached him via the bush...

Getting the Drift in London

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I’d only been in London for a few hours, and I was already thinking I’d have to scrap a year’s work. We were at the British Museum, sitting one row away from Michael Palin and Sara Wheeler. The topic of their sold out talk was, “What Makes Great Travel Writing.” I’m finishing up a new book about Malta, and I expected to nod knowingly along with the speakers, patting myself on the back for a draft...

The Innocent Anthropologist

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Nigel Barley was a rather unhappy “desk anthropologist” at a British university. His fieldwork-hardened older colleagues never stopped reminding him of this, because back in their day, it wasn’t enough to camp out in a library cordoned off by stacks of journals. You had to get out and live with the natives. I can relate to Barley, in a sense. Not just because I read Anthropology at uni, but...

The Best Books I Read in 2018

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It’s that time again. I typically read about 100 books a year. Everything from travel literature to poetry, history, psychology, fiction and memoir. I love reading lists and recommendations, and I bet a few of you do, too. So at year’s end, I like to take a moment to share my top reads of the past twelve months. They made my list because they were either memorable, important, or just thoroughly...

Ryan Murdock

Author of Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. Host of Personal Landscapes podcast. Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Canada's Outpost magazine. Columnist at The Shift. Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

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