Paul Theroux is one of the best travel writers, if not the best in the English-speaking parts of the world.
In his half-a-century long travel writing he published 40 books, hundreds of articles, and other literary pieces.
He loves to travel, but enjoys train voyages mot. The Great Railway Bazaar is one of his all-time best descriptions of a very long train travel through the U.S.S.R.
In this luxury bound book printed on fine glossy paper, there are parts on his philosophy of travel, miscellaneous pieces from other writers, excerpts from travel books, and reminiscences.
The part where he describes how Sir Richard Burton, the only living European who found his way to the “Headquarters of the Muslim Faith” (Mecca), is most captivating, followed by chapter 24 titled Evocative Name, Disappointing Place. Some of the cities mentioned are – Casablanca, Baghdad, Timbuktu, Mandalay, Marseille, Sao Paulo, and Biarritz.
These cities may have been very interesting long ago, but certainly, without any plan and/or control, have grown ugly, too crowded and uncomfortable for the traveller, may be even for long time locals. I can vouch for Marseille.
Chapter 25 deals with dangerous, happy and alluring places; Bali, Thailand, Maine, Hawaii for happy; Alaska, Greenland, Sakhalin fur Alluring; Nairobi, Addis Ababa, and Kabul for dangerous.
In this superbly written book he quotes Vladimir Nabokov, Evelyn Vaugh, Mark Twain, Pico Iyer, and Ernest Hemmingway among many others, and displays an extraordinary knowledge of backgrounds other travel writers, even those who claimed to be travellers but really never left home, and those who wrote “travel; books” after reading the books of other authors.
Paul Theroux’s The Tao of Travel should be on the reading list of all who like to travel, and used as a reference in the future.