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The book I always think of in this regard is ‘The Sheltering Sky’, by Paul Bowles.  And the subsequent movie, with the devilish John Malkovich as, guess who, Port Moresby.  It inspired me to take the plunge and travel outside Europe, to Morocco, a place I’ve returned again and again, sure that would be so as soon as I read the book.

But there have been others - ‘The River’s Tale: A Year on the Mekong’, by Edward Gargan, added Yunnan Province in China to my first round-the-world destination list.  ‘Stranger in the Forest’, by Eric Hansen made up my mind where Borneo was concerned, later on.  Sitting at my desk at work one day in my small town library with the latest ‘Architectural Digest’ open in front of me resulted in my arrival not long afterward at what is still my all-time favorite hotel experience, 2 weeks spent in Georgetown, Penang (Malaysia) at the exquisite Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, a wealthy Chinese merchant’s home, then newly restored and just opened for guests.

I’d love to hear what others have read that sent them running for their suitcases, or to their computers or the library, the author’s enthusiasm contagious.  Fiction?  Memoir?  Travel essay?  Academic study?  Anything, tell us, please.

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Detectives and espionage thrillers. George Simenon in France, Eric Ambler all over and especially in Istanbul, an expanding list of Scandinavians going back to Maj Sjovall/Per Wahloo and including Mankell, Nesbo and Larsson; Arnaldur Indridadsen and others in Iceland, Brunetti and Montalbano in Italy...the list is endless and appears to be a real driver of our travel.


I've tried to think why, and I think it is in part because detective and spy novels, when well done, are of their time and place, and attempt to describe not the simplicities of "the Italians do this, the French do that" but the complexity of all these societies under the pressure of changing times. In a way, it's like learning about 18th century London with Hogarth and John Gay to puncture the glossy story we otherwise get.

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

People always laugh when I tell them this but the book that most inspired me to travel was Arthur C Clarke's "2001 a Space Odyssey".  It made me want to see the universe -- or at least Clavius Base on the moon.  It wasn't until later that I learned I'd have to settle for staying on the planet.  Little did I know those journeys would one day lead me to the home and friendship of the man who wrote the book that so inspired me.

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

I get booksellers' e-newsletters and paper catalogs and run across interesting travel-related items from time to time.  Many are on remainder sites so "quantities are limited" but when a post is fresh here, you'll likely get it if you want it.


Spotted today in the Daedalus Books catalog is one by Ian Buruma, Bad Elements: Chinese Rebels from Los Angeles to Beijing, "a dissident's eye-view of the world's most secretive superpower, observing, "Strange things happen when Chinese dynasties near their end."  Sale price, $2.98


An Island in Time, The Biography of a Village, by Geert Mak.   "This... town has more in common with an English village than with Amsterdam, and... Mak moved there to observe close-up how small-town life all across Europe was changing,...and the residents struggled to preserve their cherished way of life."     $4.98


More from Daedalus:  Nature in the South of France, sleeping in Spanish monasteriesRomeVenetian gardensParisPragueIreland, and an atlas of France.




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