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Paul Theroux celebrates fifty years of wandering the globe by collecting the best writing on travel from the books that shaped him, as a reader and a traveler. Part philosophical guide, part miscellany, part reminiscence, The Tao of Travel enumerates “The Contents of Some Travelers’ Bags” and exposes “Writers Who Wrote about Places They Never Visited”; tracks extreme journ Paul Theroux celebrates fifty years of wandering the globe by collecting the best writing on travel from the books that shaped him, as a reader and a traveler. Part philosophical guide, part miscellany, part reminiscence, The Tao of Travel enumerates “The Contents of Some Travelers’ Bags” and exposes “Writers Who Wrote about Places They Never Visited”; tracks extreme journeys in “Travel as an Ordeal” and highlights some of “Travelers’ Favorite Places.” Excerpts from the best of Theroux’s own work are interspersed with selections from travelers both familiar and unexpected:  Vladimir Nabokov           J.R.R. Tolkien  Samuel Johnson               Eudora Welty Evelyn Waugh                  Isak Dinesen  Charles Dickens               James Baldwin  Henry David Thoreau       Pico Iyer  Mark Twain                     Anton Chekhov  Bruce Chatwin                  John McPhee Freya Stark                      Peter Matthiessen  Graham Greene                Ernest Hemingway  The Tao of Travel is a unique tribute to the pleasures and pains of travel in its golden age.


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Paul Theroux celebrates fifty years of wandering the globe by collecting the best writing on travel from the books that shaped him, as a reader and a traveler. Part philosophical guide, part miscellany, part reminiscence, The Tao of Travel enumerates “The Contents of Some Travelers’ Bags” and exposes “Writers Who Wrote about Places They Never Visited”; tracks extreme journ Paul Theroux celebrates fifty years of wandering the globe by collecting the best writing on travel from the books that shaped him, as a reader and a traveler. Part philosophical guide, part miscellany, part reminiscence, The Tao of Travel enumerates “The Contents of Some Travelers’ Bags” and exposes “Writers Who Wrote about Places They Never Visited”; tracks extreme journeys in “Travel as an Ordeal” and highlights some of “Travelers’ Favorite Places.” Excerpts from the best of Theroux’s own work are interspersed with selections from travelers both familiar and unexpected:  Vladimir Nabokov           J.R.R. Tolkien  Samuel Johnson               Eudora Welty Evelyn Waugh                  Isak Dinesen  Charles Dickens               James Baldwin  Henry David Thoreau       Pico Iyer  Mark Twain                     Anton Chekhov  Bruce Chatwin                  John McPhee Freya Stark                      Peter Matthiessen  Graham Greene                Ernest Hemingway  The Tao of Travel is a unique tribute to the pleasures and pains of travel in its golden age.

30 review for The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road

  1. 4 out of 5

    Quo

    The gifted novelist John Gardner, whose Nickel Mountain I enjoyed & reviewed at this site, once stated that there are only two kinds of novel: Someone goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town. Paul Theroux's compendium on travel, The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road details what transpires when novelists & other literary writers go on a journey, i.e. the musings of countless authors, Theroux included, on the experience of travel. The book does not recommend destinations The gifted novelist John Gardner, whose Nickel Mountain I enjoyed & reviewed at this site, once stated that there are only two kinds of novel: Someone goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town. Paul Theroux's compendium on travel, The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road details what transpires when novelists & other literary writers go on a journey, i.e. the musings of countless authors, Theroux included, on the experience of travel. The book does not recommend destinations & doesn't really cover logistics in any meaningful way, though some are included but rather represents a thematic or topical approach to travel, with a wealth of reflective commentary from the likes of Paul Bowles, Mark Twain, Samuel Johnson, Graham Greene, Freya Stark, Jan Morris, Wilfred Thesiger, Somerset Maugham, Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck & many other writers. Curiously perhaps, there is no coverage of extra-terrestrial or space travel including moon walks, though Theroux states in his preface that "the image in my mind was of flight". That said, Paul has always been partial to overland travel & particularly journeys via train. One can read The Tao of Travel cover to cover but it also seems fitting to browse through the various chapters independent of each other, as one might peruse a cookbook or perhaps an anthology of poetry or fiction. There is even coverage of authors who wrote about places they had never visited, Franz Kafka's Amerika as an example or V.S. Pricthett's Dead Man Leading, written years before he'd actually visited Brazil where the novel is set. A section is included detailing the thoughts of those who abhor distant travel, except that of the imaginary sort, an example being Henry David Thoreau who was quite happily rooted to his own little cabin in Massachusetts & the landscape that surrounded it.Thoreau made a sacrament of walking & was a constant analyzer of his own experience. This sacramental walking must not be confused with mere physical exercise, Thoreau says, but is more akin to Yoga or a spiritual activity. "Two or three hours of walking will carry me to as strange a country as I ever expect to see. A single farmhouse which I had not seen before is sometimes as good as the dominions of Dahomey." Thoreau, who avoided traveling on ocean, in desert or through wilderness, belittled foreign travel, persuasively insisting that it was not necessary. "There is in fact a sort of harmony discoverable between the capabilities of the landscape within a circle of 10 miles' radius, or the limits of an afternoon walk, and the threescore years & ten of human life. It will never become quite familiar to you."The Tao of Travel is rather seriously researched, as in the case of comments regarding Edgar R. Burroughs of Tarzan fame and also Saul Bellow's Henderson the Rain King, both set in Africa, an area never experienced by either author. In fact Bellow's novel is an odd sort of parody in which the author was scolded by a University of Chicago ethnology professor whose course Bellow had taken, this being just another example of travel based solely of culled sources & on the imagination. One of the features that I have always enjoyed with Theroux's own travel books is the manner in which he introduces the reader to books he or she may not be aware of, an example being Nirad Chaudhuri's The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, causing Theroux to declare that "No better book has been written about India." And, I first learned of Carlo Levi's wonderful Christ Stopped at Eboli, a book I later read & enjoyed while reading Theroux's The Pillars of Hercules. In this anthology of travelers' tales, the author indicates that beyond reading Levi's non-fiction account of his time serving as an M.D. in Eboli, Theroux journeyed to Eboli, the place where Levi is buried, in an attempt to better comprehend the author's life & times. While one British homesick traveler is said to have mused: "Isn't abroad awful?", most of those cited in Paul Theroux's handbook of travel observations see it differently, including Mark Twain who declared that "travel is the enemy of prejudice." In The Rings of Saturn W.G. Sebald intones: "But here is the point--the native of a place seldom remarks on what he or she takes for granted", the point being that a traveler to a place invariably may view it differently than a longtime resident. Meanwhile, regarding the reveries of travel to a distant land vs. the actual prospects & privations to being there, Wilfred Thesiger in Arabian Sands comments while traveling by camel in the spirit of Richard Burton & H.M. Stanley:I faced another difficult night & the nights were far worse than the days. I lay with my eyes shut, insisting to myself, "If I were in London I would give anything to be here"...No, I would rather be starving as I was than sitting in a chair somewhere in England, replete with food, listening to the wireless & dependent upon cars to take me through Arabia. I clung desperately to this conviction. It seemed infinitely important. Even to doubt it was to admit defeat, to forswear everything to which I had held.In describing Jonathan Rabin's book Bad Land Theroux describes the book as a highly original portrait of Prairie America, combining travel, history, biography & autobiography in which the author describes how people adapted to the rigors of weather, the landscape of an inland sea in which the emigrants to these parts are like solitary voyagers. Here is a sample of Rabin's writing:This is magnificent thunderstorm territory. The only time in my life when I have been seriously afraid of lightening was in eastern Montana on a dirt road miles from anywhere...The distant storm winked & winked again. Like photo-flashes going off in the face of some celebrity on the far side of a city square, these blips of white light seemed no business of mine, and I drove on...Closer now, the lightening flashes were like the skeletal inverted leaves of ferns & when the thunder came I took it for some gastro-enteritic flare-up in the car engine--a blown gasket or a fractured piston.Paul Theroux's The Tao of Travel is a collection of fascinating fragments that form a comprehensive & purposeful traveler's almanac. I have enjoyed this book over a great deal of time, pulling from it what might be termed analects for those interested in travel of any sort. Ultimately however, I frequently return to a quote from T.S. Eliot: "The end of all of our travels will be to arrive at the place where we began but to know the place for the first time." Amen!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Birgit

    I have a confession to make – the reason why I wanted to read The Tao Of Travel was simply because I love traveling and I love writing. To find these two themes in one book lured me in and admittedly I started reading with a slightly more critical eye than I usually do. One of the best known travel writers of our time, Paul Theroux, takes the reader on a wonderful tour of the genre in this collection of not only his own, but of other writers' works, ranging from the well-known, such as Mark Twain I have a confession to make – the reason why I wanted to read The Tao Of Travel was simply because I love traveling and I love writing. To find these two themes in one book lured me in and admittedly I started reading with a slightly more critical eye than I usually do. One of the best known travel writers of our time, Paul Theroux, takes the reader on a wonderful tour of the genre in this collection of not only his own, but of other writers' works, ranging from the well-known, such as Mark Twain, to the underappreciated, such as Samuel Johnson. While it's usually risky to compile such an anthology without making the result look like a wild and inconsistent mix, this one is an utter delight. This great compilation of quotes and excerpts dips into themes like railway travels, travelers who never went alone, traveling as an ordeal, and even imaginary journeys, and it is seasoned with travel wisdoms by people like Freya Stark and Robert Louis Stevenson. Apart from being a wonderful book that is not only a philosophical guide, but also reminiscent of the early days of ethnological works, it literally made me want to grab a notebook and hop onto the next train to a far away land. I expected a lot when I first opened this book and I got more than I could have ever asked for. In short: This work belongs on every travelers bookshelf. Delightful and profound!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Aravind P

    The essential Tao of Travel (according to Paul Theroux) 1. Leave home 2. Go alone 3. Travel light 4. Bring a Map 5. Go by land 6. Walk across a national frontier 7. Keep a journal 8. Read a novel that has no relation to the place you are in 9. If you must bring a cell phone, avoid using it. 10. Make a friend Interleaved with travel wisdom tidbits, Theroux has compiled every nuance of a traveling, sourcing from various travel literature including his own. Essentially traveling is a rebellion against our u The essential Tao of Travel (according to Paul Theroux) 1. Leave home 2. Go alone 3. Travel light 4. Bring a Map 5. Go by land 6. Walk across a national frontier 7. Keep a journal 8. Read a novel that has no relation to the place you are in 9. If you must bring a cell phone, avoid using it. 10. Make a friend Interleaved with travel wisdom tidbits, Theroux has compiled every nuance of a traveling, sourcing from various travel literature including his own. Essentially traveling is a rebellion against our urge to conform with our life and its comfort zones, a natural trait of our species to move. He quotes Albert Camus "What gives value to travel is fear. It is in fact that, at certain moment when we are so far from our own country, we are seized by a vague fear, and the instinctive desire to go back to the protection of old habits. This is the most obvious benefit of travel. At that moment we are feverish but also porous, so that the slightest touch makes us uiver to the depths of our being. We come across a cascade of light, that is eternity. This is why we should not say that we travel for pleasure. There is no pleasure in traveling" Most of the writers are travelers too. Including those who just sat at their armchair and let their mind travel. He has tried to give all the aspects of travelling by quoting their ordeals, inspirations, epiphanies, fear, miseries, magical moments etc. This is a book that pushes you out of the home, tries to reason with the philosophies of a traveler and a tourist and tries to make a point on what that wide gap is between the two..

  4. 4 out of 5

    Treena

    I love Paul Theroux's travel books (not so keen on his fiction except for The Mosquito Coast) but this is a bit of a swizz. It is essentially a collection of quotes from his and others' books. A great 'snippet' read, maybe okay for bed if you're sleepy but can't be read for too long at a time as it would be like reading a dictionary in one go.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tyler Hill

    I'm not generally the type of person who is inclined to break out the highlighters while reading, or circle favorite passage to revisit of quote at a later time, but this book screamed for me to do that, so I gave in. Part retrospective, part exploration of the vast and varied world of travel writing, the Tao of Travel attempts to distill the essence of travel (or more importantly the essence of good travel writing) down in a single tidy volume. It's an ambitious task, and while I'm not sure The I'm not generally the type of person who is inclined to break out the highlighters while reading, or circle favorite passage to revisit of quote at a later time, but this book screamed for me to do that, so I gave in. Part retrospective, part exploration of the vast and varied world of travel writing, the Tao of Travel attempts to distill the essence of travel (or more importantly the essence of good travel writing) down in a single tidy volume. It's an ambitious task, and while I'm not sure Theroux really succeeds, its still worth the read. To be honest, after reading the first chapter of two, I was a little worried that the book would be dominated by quotes from Theroux's previous book. Sort of like the "flashback episode" of a favorite TV show that pads out the season by simply presenting the "best of" of bygone episodes. But, while I did appreciate many of the quotes, the book soon changes format to look at various concepts and themes within travel ranging from traveling by foot to travel in which the traveler barely leaves their own home town to travels to the most distant corners of the globe or travels of epic length. Some chapters are more interesting than others, obviously, and some chapters end before you'd like them too... but all are worth the read. And all will make you want to break out the pen or highlighter.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gaylord Dold

    Mifflin Theroux, Paul. The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road, Houghton Harcourt, New York, 2011 (285pp. $25) Before too much of the 19th century had exhausted itself in revolution and bloody war, travel, which had once been the province of solitary wayfarers, was being transformed into an industry, thanks largely to the efforts of Cooks in London. Travel, from the times of Herodotus and later the Romans, was a dangerous undertaking, only for the intrepid who would voluntarily en Mifflin Theroux, Paul. The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road, Houghton Harcourt, New York, 2011 (285pp. $25) Before too much of the 19th century had exhausted itself in revolution and bloody war, travel, which had once been the province of solitary wayfarers, was being transformed into an industry, thanks largely to the efforts of Cooks in London. Travel, from the times of Herodotus and later the Romans, was a dangerous undertaking, only for the intrepid who would voluntarily endure hardship, uncertainty, loneliness and even death in order to catch glimpses of exotic places, unheard-of-tribes, and perilous landscapes full of wild beasts and cannibals. By the 1830s, however, English touring companies were packaging European vacations, promising smart itineraries, clean hotels, good food and informative guides. Pretty soon Cooks was selling books providing detailed information on hotels, routes, train schedules and food. Tourism had been born. Paul Theroux’s book, The Tao of Travel, is a magical compendium of scribbling, thoughts, sidelong glances, poetic forays and compelling arguments concerning the metaphysical and physical nature of travel itself, the history of travel writing, along with exemplars of the greatest insights and observations of both modern and ancient travelers, each introduced by Theroux’s own marvelous “take” on travel and travel writing. The physical book itself is a marvel, consisting of a faux-grainy-leather cover with an amazing little “strap” to hold the book closed, presumably making it suitable for the backpack. Its paper is onionskin, and the print is a classic type set off by superb illustrations, maps and italics. An excellent index refers gthe reader to numerous writers and their works. As a pastime it is unsurpassed; as reference work it will lead the reader to countless books both mainstream and recondite. There has been no book like it produced for the mass market that I can recall. Theroux’s avowed aim, stated explicitly in a lovely preface, is to show “in its approaches to travel, ways of living and thinking too.” Thus, the Tao, an ancient Chinese mystical “path” towards peace and freedom, becomes a metaphor for ways of undertaking both the spiritual and existential side of human life, which is to sah, the “importance of elsewhere.” As Chekhov once said, “If you’re afraid of loneliness, don’t marry,” so too it might be said, if you’re afraid of loneliness, don’t undertake real travel. And so we confront the first Tao of travel: eave home and travel alone---admonitions modern tourists won’t countenance, considering that one Hilton Hotel is much like another, down to the sheets and the food, which is also to say that most modern tourism consists of staying at home from thousands of miles away. I know people who fly to the Caribbean in a jumbo jet and say at a Holiday Inn, eat hamburgers and swim in the pool. The Tao of Travel is divided into 27 discrete chapters with titles like “It is Solved By Walking,” Everything is Edible Somewhere,” Evocative Name, Disappointing Place,” Dangerous, Happy, Alluring,” Travel as Ordeal,” and even “Staying Home.” At regular intervals, the book launches into a section called “Travel Wisdom,” bits of philosophy from famous travelers like Henry Fielding, Robert Louis Stevenson Freya Stark and Claude-Levi Strauss, each of which is carefully chosen to illustrate some travel dynamic that has caught Theroux’s always perceptive eye. One great joy of this book is to find hidden gems of travel literature that one hasn’t read, then dream a out finding it in a dusty bookstore, or in the “storage” section of the public library. All of the great travelers are represented: Sir Richard Burton, who learned Arabic and hennaed his skin in order to be the first and only infidel traveler to penetrate the inner sanctum of Mecca on hajj; Joseph Conrad and Mark Twain’ Geoffrey Moorhouse, who crossed the Sahara solo in the 1970s and, beset by bandits and short of water, nearly died; Bruce Chatwin, whose travels in Patagonia and the Australian Outback are legend; and the inimitable William Wordsworth who, despite a delicate constitution and constant bouts of flu, managed to walk an astounding 180,000 miles in his life, mostly in the English countryside and Europe. The travel narrative is the oldest in the world. Theroux himself has been at it for 50 years and has written some of our boldest, most idiosyncratic, keenly observed and ingenious books. From the “Old Patagonia Express” to “Dark Star Safari", Theroux has walked the walk and followed the path. So be it: Leave home, travel alone and light, take a map, go by land, walk across a frontier, keep a journal, read a novel that has no relation to the place you’re in, make a friend. And needless to say, be out of touch. Bravo Theroux!!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Murdock

    The world’s greatest living travel writer does it again. But this isn’t like any of Paul Theroux’s other books. Rather than take you on a journey to the world’s forgotten corners, he’s taking you on a trip through travel literature. The book examines travel through many different lenses, and through the eyes of some of the greatest literary travelers in the genre. Well chosen excerpts explore themes like travel by railway, travel as ordeal, imaginary travel, bizarre foods, and the fears and neuro The world’s greatest living travel writer does it again. But this isn’t like any of Paul Theroux’s other books. Rather than take you on a journey to the world’s forgotten corners, he’s taking you on a trip through travel literature. The book examines travel through many different lenses, and through the eyes of some of the greatest literary travelers in the genre. Well chosen excerpts explore themes like travel by railway, travel as ordeal, imaginary travel, bizarre foods, and the fears and neuroses of famous travelers. Quotes are taken from Theroux’s own books, and from greats like Freya Stark, Evelyn Waugh, Sir Francis Galton and more. I like to think that I’m extremely well read in this genre, but I ended up with a shortlist of new writers and classics to track down. This is the kind of book you can enjoy at random, or in short sips. But if you’re like me you’ll read it cover to cover in one long all-night blast. I couldn’t put it down. Perfect for the person who likes books or travel—or preferably, both.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Kelly

    Theroux is a master travel writer and this is a compilation of writings from explorers, travelers, writers, and the wandering minds. It will make you want to travel and teach you about the best and worst of travel (often they are the same). I particularly enjoyed his 10 essentials for travel and Rosenblum's Rules for Reporting.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lize

    This is a fascinating collection of travel writing, from a vast array of sources--Paul Theroux’s own books as well as authors as diverse as Evelyn Waugh, Fanny Trollope, Jack London, Jon Krakauer and William Burroughs. It’s all cleverly arranged into a variety of chapter topics dreamed up by Mr. Theroux, such as “The Things They Carried,” “Travelers Who Never Went Alone,” “Perverse Pleasures of the Inhospitable,” and “Evocative Name, Disappointing Place.” It must have been quite an organizationa This is a fascinating collection of travel writing, from a vast array of sources--Paul Theroux’s own books as well as authors as diverse as Evelyn Waugh, Fanny Trollope, Jack London, Jon Krakauer and William Burroughs. It’s all cleverly arranged into a variety of chapter topics dreamed up by Mr. Theroux, such as “The Things They Carried,” “Travelers Who Never Went Alone,” “Perverse Pleasures of the Inhospitable,” and “Evocative Name, Disappointing Place.” It must have been quite an organizational undertaking, and yet it seems to be just enough, all bound up in what looks like a large Moleskine notebook—itself ready to travel. The effect is like a marvelous cocktail party, full of some of the world’s most interesting people and Mr. Theroux is making the introductions--if he’s done his work well, you’ll find someone you want to go home with, or at least get to know better. I certainly did. I got my second introduction this year to Freya Stark, and some completely gonzo passages by Redmond O’Hanlon in the “Everything is Edible Somewhere” section had me hooked. There are few things better than a book that makes you want to read more books. It’s also a goldmine of travel-related quotes, from authors who don’t mess around: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on those accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” --Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad (1869) “You are simply not lonely enough when you travel with companions. Spells of loneliness are an essential part of travel. Loneliness makes things happen.” --Jonathan Raban, Driving Home (2010) But possibly my favorite bits were Theroux’s own wry, biographical comments on some of the authors—Thoreau, for instance: “And then there is Walden, the last word in solitude. Or is it all theoretical? Thoreau’s cabin was only a mile and a half from his house in Concord, where his adoring mother waited, baking pies for him and doing his laundry; and throughout the Walden experience he went home most days.” There’s an awful lot to like in these 272 leather-bound pages. If you tend to wander, as I do, you’ll find yourself in very good company.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tuck

    a hard to classify travel book, sort of an annotated notebook of theroux's reading, notes, life-thoughts, life-learnings and reminisces from his many years traveling and thinking. publishers weekly and library journal gave it lukewarm recces, but this is destined to be a treasure of the age and will reward dippers, re-readers, notetakers, bibliography miners, arm chair travelers, home-tourists, and theroux lovers. has many many excerpts of other travel writings and theroux's considered commentar a hard to classify travel book, sort of an annotated notebook of theroux's reading, notes, life-thoughts, life-learnings and reminisces from his many years traveling and thinking. publishers weekly and library journal gave it lukewarm recces, but this is destined to be a treasure of the age and will reward dippers, re-readers, notetakers, bibliography miners, arm chair travelers, home-tourists, and theroux lovers. has many many excerpts of other travel writings and theroux's considered commentary on them and in his snarky but educated way of telling. plus the book itself is so lovely physically, in faux leather, gold leaf, b/w illustrated, like a travel journal, or a bible, so 'soft-sided', but durable. here is his "essential tao of travel (chapter 27): 1. leave home 2. go alone 3. travel light 4. bring a map 5. go by land 6. walk across a national border 7. keep a journal 8. read a novel that has no relation to the place you're in 9. if you must bring a cell phone, avoid using it 10. make a friend"

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sjj

    This was not an easy read for me. The book primarily contains quotations from other travel writers and occasionally includes the author's reflections on his own travels and his philosophies on traveling. Sometimes it was interesting enough to hold my attention all the way through a chapter, and other times I just had to skip to the next chapter (each chapter has a travel theme). When I started the book, I probably would have given it three stars. After finishing it, I am giving it four stars bec This was not an easy read for me. The book primarily contains quotations from other travel writers and occasionally includes the author's reflections on his own travels and his philosophies on traveling. Sometimes it was interesting enough to hold my attention all the way through a chapter, and other times I just had to skip to the next chapter (each chapter has a travel theme). When I started the book, I probably would have given it three stars. After finishing it, I am giving it four stars because I did learn interesting facts about some of the travel writers whose quotations were included -- and some of the other authors I found so interesting that I have purchased their books to read! So in the end, I am pleased with this book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    When I learned that Paul Theroux, one of my favorite travel writers, had written the Tao of Travel I rushed to get a copy. At first I was disappointed that Theroux would waste his considerable talent on a compilation of other travel writers of note. But, as I got into his very personal critiques and reflections on the greats like Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry David Thoreau, Sir Richard Burton and Joseph Conrad I looked forward to eaves dropping on the “long conversation” about travel writers. Th When I learned that Paul Theroux, one of my favorite travel writers, had written the Tao of Travel I rushed to get a copy. At first I was disappointed that Theroux would waste his considerable talent on a compilation of other travel writers of note. But, as I got into his very personal critiques and reflections on the greats like Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry David Thoreau, Sir Richard Burton and Joseph Conrad I looked forward to eaves dropping on the “long conversation” about travel writers. Theroux talks about the little known realities of some of the greats. Edgar Rice Burroughs who created the Tarzan character had never been to Africa. Steinbeck did travel with his dog Charlie for three months, but he who also indulged in conjugal visits from his wife along the way. The book reads like a tabloid reality check on “who’s who” in the travel writing genre. Theroux also talks about the paradoxes of travel, the wisdom of travel and its perverse pleasures. As usual, Theroux pulls no punches in his discussion of his peers or precursors. I confess in the end I enjoyed what felt like ”Happy Hour with Paul” even though he slandered my home town, Los Angeles, lumping it in with Bombay and Tokyo “which are known for their ugly buildings and bad air.” Linda Ballou Author of Lost Angel Walkabout-On Traveler’s Tales

  13. 4 out of 5

    Raghu

    Author Paul Theroux looks at travel as a way of life and a way of thinking as well. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading his many books, which display his scholarship, wit, humor and irreverence. This book, however, is not a new one on his travels. It is an anthology of travel in general, a collection of insights and observations on life and travel, a sort-of guidebook on ways to view travelling, a reminiscence of travel and a reading list of great works on travel. At times, it is even philosophica Author Paul Theroux looks at travel as a way of life and a way of thinking as well. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading his many books, which display his scholarship, wit, humor and irreverence. This book, however, is not a new one on his travels. It is an anthology of travel in general, a collection of insights and observations on life and travel, a sort-of guidebook on ways to view travelling, a reminiscence of travel and a reading list of great works on travel. At times, it is even philosophical and metaphysical. For example, Theroux says in the first chapter itself that we can look at travel as a state of mind, as something that is entirely an inner experience. Travel can be a solitary experience, where solitude is positive, reflective and meditative. Travel can be anonymous, adventurous, an ordeal, optimism in action, a waste of time, voyeuristic, intrusive, transformational and even a love affair. This book contains extracts from many of the author’s as well as other prominent travel writers’ books which explore the above mentioned aspects and facets of travel. I found it a delightful and educational book. It makes me want to keep it as a reference book on Travel. In this review, I would like to touch on some extracts from the book which caught my fancy. Paul Theroux was mostly a solitary traveller and a great believer in travelling alone. He says that it is hard to see clearly or think straight in the company of other people. Travelling in the vast wilderness of the Patagonia, he thoughtfully remarks, “What is required is the lucidity of loneliness to capture that vision which, however banal, seems in your private mood to be special and worthy of interest. Loneliness makes things happen”. He quotes Freya Stark on the subject as saying that Solitude is a deep necessity of the human spirit. It is the ignorance of this need which is the cause of decline in poetry and many other deeper affections of the spirit in our culture. I have myself done a lot of solitary travelling around the world in my life. I have often wondered about solitude and how it promotes thinking. There are those, even Paul Theroux perhaps, who criticise our hyper-connected world, a world in which we can communicate constantly and instantly over the internet. They say that this makes us forget carving out spaces for solitary contemplation. On the other hand, I feel that solitude means being alone with your thoughts and being able to reflect on them deeply. If so, then, being on-line is a retreat for reflection and solitude, a place to think and ponder important social, political and personal issues! Exotic food is another colorful aspect of travel. In the chapter, ‘Everything is edible somewhere’, Theroux talks about the ‘weird stuff’ that one can eat in different parts of the world. For a vegetarian like me, it was often bordering on the macabre! Theroux writes about eating sparrows in Burma, snake and turtle in China and ordering an owlet for a meal in China, but setting the bird free once it was taken out of the cage to be cooked. The book has quotes from many authors on some of the strangest meals they have encountered - porcupine liver, muskrat, alligator tail, sperm whale’s brains, octopus tentacles, black-ant larvae and so on. I suppose one has to be an adventurous non-vegetarian to appreciate this chapter fully! Theroux writes about Mort Rosenblum, who was covering the Biafran civil war in the 1960s as a foreign correspondent. Mort was an extensively travelled man. The young Paul Theroux asks him to provide him with some rules of the road that have served Mort well in over forty years of writing in distant places. Mort gives him ten rules out of which I thought one rule that would be very useful for modern day intrepid reporters who venture behind terrorist sanctuaries. It says, “ Learn French and Spanish, and then some other foreign languages. And then learn to say,’Don’t shoot, I am a reporter’ in at least a dozen of them. This might help but is no guarantee of your safety”. Theroux confesses that he couldn’t wait to leave home and be on the road even as a young boy. One would then imagine that he wouldn’t take kindly to people who never leave their hometowns or living ‘the death of a homely routine’, as he puts it. But he shows that he is able to appreciate many distinguished writers and thinkers, who never left home and never really wanted to be elsewhere. In the chapter ‘Staying Home’, he pays homage to people like Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson and Henry Fielding, all of whom made a virtue of being non-travellers. For those who feel that they missed out a lot in life by not exploring the world through travel, one chapter in the book comes as a welcome palliative. This chapter reflects on the fears, neuroses and other conditions of people which make them compulsive travellers. The author says, “...in the pathology of travel, many journeyers who seem in pursuit of a goal, are driven by demons, attempting to flee, often unsuccessfully, some condition of the mind…”. The great explorer, Sir Richard Burton, is quoted as saying, “ Men who go in search of the source of a river, are merely looking for the source of something missing in themselves and never finding it”. A large number of travellers have been depressives or bipolar types capable of serious gloom. David Livingstone sulked in his tent for days on end, John Speke shot himself, Fridtjof Nansen and Meriwether Lewis were both suicidal, Jack London was alcoholic, Somerset Maugham described himself as ‘violently pessimistic’ and Evelyn Waugh suffered from paranoia and persecution mania. The final chapter lists ten points as the ‘essential Tao of travel’. They are: “Leave Home, Go Alone, Travel light, Bring a map, Go by land, Walk across a national frontier, Keep a journal, Read a novel that has no relation to the place you are in, If you must bring a cell phone, avoid using it and finally, Make a Friend”. I find that I adhere to nine out of these ten in my travels. The one about cell phone usage is something I wouldn’t like to implement. An enjoyable book both for the couch potato and the compulsive traveller.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Gary Davis

    This was not your typical travel book, or Theroux book. Rather than a work on travelling through space, this was about travelling through time and space in the company of interesting travellers from the past. It made me think about how I travel, who I travel with, and why I travel at all. It is a philosophical look at travel in that it seems to involve a lot of thinking about travelling. There were some interesting similarities (and differences) with Alain de Botton's 'The Art of Travel (which I This was not your typical travel book, or Theroux book. Rather than a work on travelling through space, this was about travelling through time and space in the company of interesting travellers from the past. It made me think about how I travel, who I travel with, and why I travel at all. It is a philosophical look at travel in that it seems to involve a lot of thinking about travelling. There were some interesting similarities (and differences) with Alain de Botton's 'The Art of Travel (which I also enjoyed). Just what is it about travelling that is so important to so many people and so unimportant to others? How did our current desire to travel evolve? Is there a right way to see the world beyond your doorstep? Read this book, not to answer these questions, but to think about them in company with great travellers of the past.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Meera Sapra

    This doesn't feel like one book but a collection of books, since it reflects the authors' love for travel and the travel books he's read. I really like how he combines his own personal travel narrative with that of other travel writers' experiences. And I like how he does this across a variety of themes such as the hardships of travel, traveling solo versus with other people, train travel, travel and food and so on. This seems more than just a travel book considering the different kind of life a This doesn't feel like one book but a collection of books, since it reflects the authors' love for travel and the travel books he's read. I really like how he combines his own personal travel narrative with that of other travel writers' experiences. And I like how he does this across a variety of themes such as the hardships of travel, traveling solo versus with other people, train travel, travel and food and so on. This seems more than just a travel book considering the different kind of life and travel experiences and the depth at which these have been explored. I read this book while I was traveling for a month and I would recommend it to everyone who loves to travel.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    A little dry and choppy, but good insights into the world and history of travel literature. Hopefully has inspired me to read more "proper" travel lit above and beyond just "Eat, Pray, Love" and the like (As much as I love it...)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Cannot resist Mr. Grumpus Theroux...

  18. 4 out of 5

    Terrell Plotzki

    A book of mostly Paul Theroux quotes by Paul Theroux. Indulgent much?

  19. 4 out of 5

    Scott Nelson

    Loved. A smart survey of travel lit.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Connie

    Love travel, love travel writing, and love reading from the best. Paul Theroux nails it for me every time. There is a lot of humor and a lot of truth in the quotes of those who have gone before!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Melody

    I felt like the book jumped around a lot and the author patted himself on the back too much.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hugh Roberts

    Paul Theroux selects excerpts from some of the best travel writers in his Enlightenments but tops and tails them with perceptive analysis about why people travel and what they gain from the experience. I especially like his reference to the Buddhist saying ‘You cannot travel the path before you have become the path itself’ which, while being a bit gnomic, goes some way to answer how and why we travel and what we gain from the experience. The best travel books are not always about travelers as su Paul Theroux selects excerpts from some of the best travel writers in his Enlightenments but tops and tails them with perceptive analysis about why people travel and what they gain from the experience. I especially like his reference to the Buddhist saying ‘You cannot travel the path before you have become the path itself’ which, while being a bit gnomic, goes some way to answer how and why we travel and what we gain from the experience. The best travel books are not always about travelers as such, but rather people (whether the authors themselves or others) with a task to do. Their readability stems from how they got to connect with the people who helped them achieve their task, from research needed to write a book, to the survival techniques within an alien culture. I am not sure that Theroux always achieves this while his perception of place remains culturally specific to his own frame of reference, but they are always a good read. Finding a way to write a travelogue as something other than a traveler, and learning the timing, wit and brevity to tell tales about places visited, (tall or otherwise but always based in fact!), is for me the essence of good writing when seeking to combine the genres of Travel and Mindfulness through empathy. By and large Paul Theroux achieves this though this book should be read in context of his other titles relating to specific countries visited.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Pina Marek

    To be entirely honest, here and there, I struggled through the book, wishing I have never picked it up - because even though I didn't want to read it anymore, for some reason, I just couldn't stop. Then there were passages which I hoped would never end. I think the geniality of this book is that for everyone, I-wish-it-to-end-already and I-wish-it-to-never-end passages are going to be different. If I'm to speak for myself, if you were to read anything from this book, read chapters No 25, 26, and To be entirely honest, here and there, I struggled through the book, wishing I have never picked it up - because even though I didn't want to read it anymore, for some reason, I just couldn't stop. Then there were passages which I hoped would never end. I think the geniality of this book is that for everyone, I-wish-it-to-end-already and I-wish-it-to-never-end passages are going to be different. If I'm to speak for myself, if you were to read anything from this book, read chapters No 25, 26, and, most important part of the whole book, a one-page-short chapter No 27. Then, don't forget passages named "The Travel Wisdom of...". If you, however, want to enjoy the one last chapter and understand it as the author meant it, as easy as it might sound originally, you need to get through the whole book as the previous two hundred and eighty-odd pages are quite important for the whole picture Paul Theroux painted with this book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Scribe

    Difficult one to rate this, as it's something of a miscellany of notes. If you like miscellanies or want a good reference /introduction to a wide variety of travel thinkers, then this is a fascinating book. My reading list just doubled, picking out the references which interested me most. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on visits to imaginary places, and the more personal and soulful aspects of travel, and walking. I was a bit sad that Laurie Lee didn't make an appearance as "As I Walked Out. Difficult one to rate this, as it's something of a miscellany of notes. If you like miscellanies or want a good reference /introduction to a wide variety of travel thinkers, then this is a fascinating book. My reading list just doubled, picking out the references which interested me most. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on visits to imaginary places, and the more personal and soulful aspects of travel, and walking. I was a bit sad that Laurie Lee didn't make an appearance as "As I Walked Out..." was one of the books that got me into walking narratives. Also, travel seems to be largely a white male thing? Freya Stark sounds like an interesting lead though, as well as some of the Eastern monks. Quotes and notes taken at https://exmosis.net/pad/text/book_not... Otherwise, I guess you would know fairly early on, or from a stick flick, if this was a book for you.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Paul Theroux's The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road is a feast for those, like me, who love travel literature. Ever since I was a child in Cleveland, and we were too poor to travel, I have wanted to hit the road and see the world. And I did, to a certain extent, but I still love reading books even about places which I do not intend to visit. The Tao of Travel is like a bibliography of the greatest books about travel. There are excerpts from Theroux himself, as well as from oth Paul Theroux's The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road is a feast for those, like me, who love travel literature. Ever since I was a child in Cleveland, and we were too poor to travel, I have wanted to hit the road and see the world. And I did, to a certain extent, but I still love reading books even about places which I do not intend to visit. The Tao of Travel is like a bibliography of the greatest books about travel. There are excerpts from Theroux himself, as well as from other writers such as Dr Johnson, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Francis Galton, and Freya Stark. I will give this book an honored place on my bookshelf whenever I want to explore some odd corner of the world. I know now that I will not live to see many more places, but as long as I can travel and wish to travel, life retains for me an exhilarating spice.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Armelle

    An odd little book... Short chapters, each containing either excerpts from other writers, or Theroux’s musings about other writers, on a particular theme or subject. Some are as mundane as “what they took with them,” while others are more philosophical discussions on the meaning of travel. It’s not a bad book to read a couple of pages at a time, but it’s probably not something you’re going to sit and read for an extended period of time.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Fox

    Quite possibly the ultimate travel book about travel, equally readable on a beach or at base camp halfway up a mountain. The short, bite-sized sections need not be read sequentially, and contain quotes, excerpts, lists, and random memories and musings from Theroux. Buy a paperback copy, throw it in your backpack, and mark it up with your own thoughts/feelings/observations. Then pass it on to someone else, and let them do the same.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Albert

    There are all sorts of travelers, and they travel for myriad reasons. Famed travel writer Paul Theroux has collated various thoughts on travel from travel writers spread out over the past 400 years. Lots of great nuggets and thoughts to be enjoyed, especially reading excerpts from travel writers who actually hated travel. Who knew?

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ken Mcmillan

    Basically a laphams quarterly without the nice pictures. I find that such publications are hit and miss and i fly over sections that make no sense except perhaps to the author. Fabulous in parts. Dreary in others but a great source for further reading with books and authors i had never realised existed

  30. 4 out of 5

    Monica Rodriguez

    A collection of quotes and small excerpts from his own work and other travel writers as well. Describing both the lovely things about travel and the sometimes harsh truth, it defines what it is to be a traveler versus a tourist. The collection made me smile and fed my sense of travel. It made me want to go on a new adventure.

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