Funny Travel Books
When I started in this business a publisher once told me to only publish, if it made you cry or it made you laugh - twice. But making a list of funny travel books is a surprisingly contentious task, because making jokes about the people you travel amongst, goes against the whole purpose of travel writing which is to understand and empathise. Any writer who sort to elevate their own culture by belittling others would automatically go straight into our bin, not just because it is offensive but because it automatically reveals their failings as both writer and traveler. The only way out of this conundrum is to turn the humour against yourself, and most especially about our hidden expectations of the heroic traveler or our banal tourist industry, but there is always a real danger of becoming excessively self-obsessed in the process. They are dangerous waters to chart but there are some heroic examples out there of those who managed to get it right, such as Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad, Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, Eric Newby’s A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals and Chris Stewart’s Driving over Lemons.
But those who manage to inform whilst entertaining us must get my final vote, so into the final hat goes Nigel Barley’s "The Innocent Anthropologist", Peter Mayne’s "A Year in Marrakech" and Redmond O’Hanlon’s "Into the Heart of Borneo". But only one thing is really certain, and that is each and every passionate readers will have their own list.
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by Barnaby Rogerson