Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Pillars of Hercules” as Want to Read:
The Pillars of Hercules
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Pillars of Hercules

3.90  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,108 Ratings  ·  136 Reviews
"[THEROUX'S] WORK IS DISTINGUISHED BY A SPLENDID EYE FOR DETAIL AND THE TELLING GESTURE; a storyteller's sense of pacing and gift for granting closure to the most subtle progression of events; and the graceful use of language. . . . We are delighted, along with Theroux, by the politeness of the Turks, amazed by the mountainous highlands in Syria, touched b
Paperback, 528 pages
Published October 29th 1996 by Ballantine Books (first published 1995)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
A Walk in the Woods by Bill BrysonEat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth GilbertBlood River by Tim ButcherInto the Wild by Jon KrakauerInto Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Favourite Travel Books
60th out of 1,325 books — 2,923 voters
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth GilbertA Walk in the Woods by Bill BrysonThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann ShafferInto the Wild by Jon KrakauerChocolat by Joanne Harris
Best Traveling Vicariously
164th out of 1,194 books — 1,119 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
May 01, 2012 Buck rated it really liked it
Paul Theroux is not a nice man. It isn’t nice to say that Albanians look “retarded”. It isn’t nice to point out that Greece is a welfare case sponging off the EU and milking a cultural legacy it has dishonored with its parochialism. And it certainly isn’t nice—it is, in fact, downright impolitic and a bit sinister—to take such obvious pleasure in despising Israelis.

But nice people, as a rule, don’t write great travel books. They write "heartwarming tales" full of spiritual uplift and multicultur
Feb 05, 2008 Oceana2602 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: travelers
Theroux amuses me.

I know that not everyone likes his sarcasm and that he is seemingly never content with where he is (but then, which great traveler is ever contempt with where he is? Isn't that why we travel?). I find him intelligent and entertaining, and because I don't always agree with him, he makes me look at the world in a new and interesting ways. That he managed to do that when he wrote about Europe, my home, shows even more what a great writer he is.

The Pillars of Hercules is everythin
Rex Fuller
Reminded myself why I swore off of Theroux’s travel books years ago. Although I finished this one, like the others, it was not so much travel as a report on the four inches between his ears while going to the ports of the Mediterranean. Hoped to get a kind of update on many of the same places I had been–especially in Turkey–and was disappointed to get Theroux’s egotistical and misanthropic attitude towards everything. My recommendation: avoid his travel books (there are vastly more palatable tra ...more
Andrew Rosner
I think a person approaching Theroux's travel literature for the first time is likely to be surprised at how curmudgeonly he can be at times. If you can get past that, you'll find he's also intelligent, articulate, and a keen observer of humanity. Most importantly, he possesses an almost fatal sense of curiosity. Who else would dare journey to (gulp) Albania??? But if you want to learn about life under the Hoxha regime and its apocalyptic aftermath, this is a good place to start. There's a lot m ...more
Jenny Brown
Dec 03, 2011 Jenny Brown rated it it was ok
I'm about 1/3 the way through and yes, he is one cranky old man and annoyingly full of himself. This isn't anything new, but in the past he was also a very good travel writer. This, alas, is no longer true.

In this book he's become lazy. He goes from place to place getting on one boat or train after another and interacting only with the people he randomly encounters: the proprietor of the he hotel, others waiting for transport, the lunatics who accost strangers in public places.

It's as if he's g
Jon Stout
Jan 29, 2009 Jon Stout rated it liked it
Having enjoyed several of Paul Theroux's books, especially Sir Vidia's Shadow, I thought a tour of the Mediterranean would be great. I like Theroux's rough and ready (former Peace Corps) style of travel, except occasionally when he goes luxury class.

Starting from Gibraltar, Theroux has to zigzag in order to cover the islands and to avoid political conflict. I was surprised to remember how much violent discord there is in the Mediterranean. He zigzags in the former Yugoslavia, unable to transit M
Michelle Warwick
Dec 11, 2012 Michelle Warwick rated it did not like it
I'll confess from the start that a travel memoir is just not my kind of thing and so I probably started reading this book rather resentfully.

I just so desperately wanted to be proved wrong. Sadly I was not.

This book delved into the dull minutiae of his trip to the extent that I was simply bored by it. The book contained sweeping generalisations about the countries, cultures and people he encountered on his travels and there were no great insights that I could glean.

I suppose now is the time t
Ricardo Ribeiro
Aug 10, 2014 Ricardo Ribeiro rated it it was ok
Shelves: traveling
What I like in this book and this author: the writing and traveling style, the areas chosen for his wanders. What I don't like: everything else. I don't like his arrogant ways - it's not nice from the author to call someone judgmental when he is a great example of a judgmental person. Then we have the sheer ignorance. I have news for Paul Theroux - to mention just a couple examples from the top of my memory: Mostar is in Herzegovina, NOT in Bosnia. It was the Croats NOT the Serbs who bombed the ...more
Jeremy Forstadt
Jun 30, 2012 Jeremy Forstadt rated it it was amazing
In THE PILLARS OF HERCULES, Paul Theroux travels a well-trodden path, for once, and one which has perhaps been excessively romanticized in the past. In contrast to many of the other regions of the world in which he has traveled and of which he has written, the Mediterranean has a long literary history consisting of native writers and expatriates alike. In much of this book, Theroux manages to skirt the most touristed regions of Mediterranea while seeking out the landmarks and icons (some living) ...more
Feb 02, 2011 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the account of Paul Theroux's travels to the countries along the shores of the Mediterranean. The contrast between the living conditions and cultures in such a small area is striking. Some of the places he visits are Italy, the Greek Islands and Athens, Albania, Croatia (in 1995 while the war is going on), Turkey, Israel, Egypt and Morocco. Some of the many things I value in his books are his visits with writers. This time, it is Naguib Mahfouz and Paul Bowles. As usual, he doesn't take ...more
Sorin Hadârcă
Jul 30, 2014 Sorin Hadârcă rated it really liked it
Great journey. I liked the way Mediterranean coastal towns in Spain, Croatia, Israel and Tunisia were described as being more alike than their inland neighbors. Plus Theroux is a great travel companion: he meets people. Not just celebrities like Mahfouz or Bowles but also taxi-drivers, farmers, street vendors. Puts you on a move...
Sep 26, 2011 Paul rated it really liked it
If you like travel books, and I do, Paul Theroux is hard to beat. In this book he travels around the entire coast of the Mediterranean by bus, train, and boat, no airplanes.

He gets the difference between traveling and being a tourist. He is interested in the places he visits and the people he meets, and very critical. He doesn't suffer fools gladly and touristy places annoy him. He can be sarcastic and cutting, but he also provides many unexpected insights. For example, I have a whole new persp
Mar 05, 2015 MBJ rated it it was amazing
It has been more years than I can remember since I last read an analog book – an actual physical book that I held in my hands, turning pages and highlighting pithy passages in yellow. My husband recently came across a dog-eared copy of The Pillars of Hercules: A Grand Tour of the Mediterranean that his mother had passed down to him. I never met my mother-in-law, but heard much of her love of reading and great writers. So I made an exception to my digital-only rule and decided to take on this tra ...more
Apr 15, 2014 Raghu rated it really liked it
Reading this travelogue almost twenty years after it was written in 1995, I still found it not only very enjoyable but also quite educational. On the one hand, I could see how things have changed so much for the better now in countries like Croatia, Bosnia and Israel. On the other hand, countries like Syria, Greece and Egypt have slipped into bigger problems while nothing much seems to have changed in Algeria, Italy and Cyprus. This book is a classic Paul Theroux travel book. Even though he trav ...more
Gretchen Salmon
Apr 28, 2009 Gretchen Salmon rated it it was amazing
One of my all-time favorite books! I love travel literature, and Paul Theroux is one of the best. Traveling to a place that I've always been fascinated with, and reading his account, I felt that I was almost there with him. Definitely recommended.
Devan Lipsey
Apr 12, 2014 Devan Lipsey rated it really liked it
This was another great book from Paul. I had low expectations for this book - how much more can be written about travel around the Mediterranean? Yet, I found this to be one of the better travel books from Mr. Theroux. I think the timing of his travel made this a better book than I would have expected. It is recently after the demise of the Soviet Union, the Balkan states are feuding, 9/11 has yet to enter our conscience and the Internet and cell phones are in their infancy. This makes for still ...more
Aug 23, 2013 Die rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bettbuch
Und wann schenken sich Autoren endlich die einleitende Äußerung zur Beschreibung eines Dschungels, ein Dschungel sehe nicht so aus, wie man sich das vorstellt?

Wir Nichtdschungelerkunder wissen es alle! Schon längst!
Vikas Datta
May 27, 2015 Vikas Datta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Phenomenal romp around this ancient sea and among the varied lands and cultures that encircle it... Vintage Theroux
Sep 14, 2014 Peter rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel
A wonderful Tavel book, framed by a great premise/goal, to circle the Mediterranean, from Gibraltar to Morocco. As someone tired of traditional tourism, Theroux supplies a refreshingly skeptical view that ends up feeling more honest than single note raves of overseas transcendence.

The author is on literary pilgrimage as well, and visits the homes of authors living and dead in each nation, as well as the settings for novels.

Not many readers will have the 18 months free or the resources to take a
May 03, 2007 peter rated it it was ok
Theroux is a cranky old man. I can't say that I would like to travel with him.
Michael Bond
May 26, 2015 Michael Bond rated it really liked it
This is the first travel book I have read, and I was basically pleased. It is far from being a description from a travel guide, but provides one person's accounting of what people are doing and thinking in these places. I felt that he was fair enough to give praise, or at least remain neutral, where he deemed it warranted. Usually he did not find it warranted. There is an apparent kinship between authors, since he spent plenty of time seeking them out, something I would not think to do. I certai ...more
Joe Mossa
Feb 02, 2016 Joe Mossa rated it liked it

i cant decide whether paul is very brave or very careless. he travels into some very dangerous places, takes rides with scary characters and manages to stay safe to continue is traveling and fascinating story telling. i wished he would have spent more time in italy but i appreciated his descriptions of venice. he said, although it does smell as rumored, it is a fascinating and beautiful place. his tales of israel and the constant war between arabs and jews were frightening. i will read more of
Jeroen Vogel
Apr 26, 2015 Jeroen Vogel rated it liked it
Traveling the entire coastline of the Mediterranean Sea off the beaten path is only possible outside the tourist season, when towns normally full of foreign visitors are empty and returned to their permanent inhabitants. Paul Theroux had decided to travel from Gibraltar to Morocco, without losing sight of the sea unless there was no other choice.

Starting out, he finds himself traveling through Spain, where he commits to watching bullfights in order to get a feel for its misplaced popularity, and
Nandasiri Wanninayaka
Aug 21, 2014 Nandasiri Wanninayaka rated it it was amazing
I just finished reading The Pillars of Hercules by Paul Theroux. Honestly, I started reading the book for the simple reason that I had nothing else to read. But after the first few pages, I was glued to the book and finished the book within two weeks. It is that interesting.

The Pillars of Hercules is the third travel book I have read, the first two being Lassana Lankawa by ………………. and Seeing Ceylon by R. L. Brohier. Paul Theroux travels in all the countries around except Libya and writes about h
Jun 10, 2014 Meg rated it really liked it
Last year I gave a talk about my trip to Morocco where I told a story about how I accidentally bought a carpet. A couple came up to me afterwards and told about how the same thing happened to Paul Theroux in this book. Well, I said, then I'm in good company. If an experienced traveler as Theroux can be suckered, then I'm in good company! Theroux tells his carpet story near the end of the book. He wasn't, in fact, sucked in. With 30 years of travel experience at the time of the writing of this bo ...more
Sep 13, 2010 Mira rated it really liked it
Shelves: part-read
Read this a bit more and its making me want to travel back to albania. I was glad to be seen as not completely one of the vampish overly made up women that you are expected to be in the man hunting years of your life. It allowed me to be removed from any potential set up. My young relatives constantly kept urging me to wear eye and lip liner like some kind of chola. Happy they then thought I was some kind of retarded dag when I didnt give in. Lots of laughs on my sister's end of things too consi ...more
Mar 01, 2011 Dvora rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Travel book is one of my favorite genres but as big as his reputation is, Theroux is not one of my favorite travel writers. In fact, I doubt I will read any more by him. I read his book about Patagonia some years ago and was surprised at how arrogant and negative he was. He didn't like any place he went. How did he get to be such a famous and popular travel writer? This book was no better. Oh, he writes well, but I don't enjoy his arrogance, and what is the point of traveling or reading about so ...more
Sharon Styer
Nov 13, 2012 Sharon Styer rated it really liked it
This was a wonderful journey of a read. Paul Theroux spent 17 months traveling around the Mediterranean. I have not traveled there myself and found I did not have many countries placed in their rightful spots. I now have a clear image of the area together with Paul's adventure stories to accompany each country.
Here are a few insights I enjoyed: " On those shores were the four great Empires of the world; the Assyrian, the Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman. All our religion, almost all our law,
Mar 20, 2013 Ashley rated it liked it
I've liked Paul Theroux's travel writing since I was in college, when I read Kingdom by the Sea, his account of traveling around England by foot. I love that he's grumpy, opinionated, straightforward, and difficult. And when he's on, he's really funny. I laughed out loud several times over the course of this book. But damn, it was tough going until he got to the war-torn countries. I'd say the first half of the book, spanning Spain, France, Italy, and the various islands, were some of Theroux's ...more
Aug 29, 2007 Sesh rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
A moving account from the master of travel writing. In "The Pillars of Hercules", Mr. Theroux carts us once again on a buoyant ride by train, bus, and ship on a great round trip from Gibraltar on the European end of the Mediterranean to Tangier on the African end, via Spain, France, Corsica, Sardinia, Italy, Yugoslavia, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Israel, Egypt and Morocco.

Readers who are familiar with Mr. Theroux's other travel books("The Great Railway Bazaar", "The Old Patagonian Express",
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Travel Author Paul Theroux 3 23 Nov 02, 2013 05:12AM  
  • The Lost Heart of Asia
  • On the Shores of the Mediterranean
  • Trieste and The Meaning of Nowhere
  • Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese
  • Bitter Lemons of Cyprus
  • Falling Off the Map: Some Lonely Places of the World
  • Night Train to Turkistan: Modern Adventures Along China's Ancient Silk Road
  • The Road to Oxiana
  • Dinner with Persephone: Travels in Greece
  • Pass the Butterworms: Remote Journeys Oddly Rendered
  • Arabia (Picador Books)
  • The Size of the World
  • From the Holy Mountain: A Journey among the Christians of the Middle East
  • The Marsh Arabs
  • Abroad: British Literary Traveling Between the Wars
  • Pagan Holiday: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists
  • Full Circle
  • Continental Drifter
Paul Edward Theroux is an American travel writer and novelist, whose best known work is The Great Railway Bazaar (1975), a travelogue about a trip he made by train from Great Britain through Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, through South Asia, then South-East Asia, up through East Asia, as far east as Japan, and then back across Russia to his point of origin. Although perhaps best know ...more
More about Paul Theroux...

Share This Book