Sunday, August 21, 2011

Book Review: The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments From Lives on the Road

Published by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Published on: May 26, 2011
Page count: 304
Genre: Nonfiction
My reading format: Advanced reading copy in Adobe Digital Editions from NetGalley
Available formats: Hardcover

The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road

Paul Theroux, a travel writer for more than four decades, recently published this book, a compilation of his own thoughts on how travel is best accomplished and the writings of other travel writers. Each chapter covers a theme of traveling such as using trains, traveling alone, items a traveler must have and strange foods travelers have encountered around the world. Those writers quoted in the book include many I've heard of and many I haven't. And truthfully, I hadn't yet come across Theroux in my reading, so I like that by reading this I was exposed to people I'd never heard of before. A couple of them will make it on my "to read" list. 
I love to travel and I love to read, so when I love when I can combine the two either by reading while I'm traveling or reading about traveling while I'm at home waiting for my next trip. That's why this book caught my eye. 
I am surprised fairly often with what I read. A book turns out to be not quite what I expected, and many times that works out in my favor. I learn something I wouldn't have known otherwise, or enjoy the book than I thought I might. Sadly, that's not the case with The Tao of Travel. I wanted to know about Theroux's travels. That's why I picked up the book. I wasn't so much interested in hundreds of pages of quotes from other writers, which is what I got. The variety of experiences included in this book are vast, but reading quote after quote after quote was nearly enough to make me abandon this book before I'd even finished the first chapter. I pressed ahead because I thought surely the rest of the book wouldn't be the same way. Well, it was. There are 27 chapters in the book and finally, finally, finally in Chapter 26 I got to what I'd been hoping for all along. Theroux had five short episodes of interesting events/people/places he'd encountered over the years during his travels. Each of the five gave him cause to reflect and it changed his perspective on that trip as a whole. It was great stuff. Then, in the final chapter, he gives readers a list of 10 pieces of advice on traveling. I also liked that very much. Unfortunately, the two chapters at the end, though I liked them, weren't enough to make me like the whole book. 
However, I am curious enough about Theroux now to read some of this other books where he relates only his own experiences. And, I like writers who are willing to share advice with other aspiring writers, like he did in the last chapter. On that note, I found a YouTube video of the author that I really like where he does just that. So while I don't necessary recommend The Tao of Travel, I am interested to read more of what this writer has written. Are you familiar with him? What are his other books like?

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