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The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road
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The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  728 ratings  ·  126 reviews
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...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published May 19th 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2011)
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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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
Tuck
Apr 12, 2012 Tuck rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: essays
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...more
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...more
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.
Scott Nelson
Loved. A smart survey of travel lit.
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...)
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...more
Koa
Marking this book as "read" is kind of a lie. I did read parts of it, but definitely not all or even close to that. I was looking for more of a cover-to-cover read about travel and philosophy and didn't realize that this more closely resembles a reference book. Each chapter has a theme, like say trains, and then is essentially just a gathering of quotes about traveling on trains from various works and various authors. I'm not saying they aren't worth reading or aren't interesting, but it's just...more
Melody
I felt like the book jumped around a lot and the author patted himself on the back too much.
Kate
Cannot resist Mr. Grumpus Theroux...
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...more
Grace Tjan
A Quiz
Who Says What: Writers on Travel and Travel Writing

The Sayings


1. “Any country which displays more than one statue of the same living politician is a country which is headed for trouble.”

2. A country’s pornography is a glimpse into its subconscious mind.

3. A nation’s shitting habits are the key to all its citizens’ attitudes.

4. “Literature is made out of the misfortunes of others. A large number of travel books fail simply because of the monotonous good luck of their authors”.

5. “The subjec...more
Manu Prasad
Whenever I take a vacation, I arrive as a tourist and like to think that I leave at least partly converted into a traveler. I am forever envious of travelers, many of whose journeys serve as a purpose in itself. This book is an excellent little guide to what the author mentions in the preface - paraphrasing the Buddha - "You cannot travel the path before you become the path itself", and how travel is also a way of living, and thinking.
In addition to excerpts from various works by different trave...more
Paul
It has the right ingredients, writers and their travels, complied by a writer who has travelled and written about it for a good portion of his life, the mixing was thorough, sections such as The Pleasures of Railways, Travellers who never went alone to Imaginary Journeys and Travellers Bliss, with nuggets of travel wisdom from luminaries such as Evelyn Waugh, Freya Stark and Samuel Johnson sprinkled in. But in the end it didn’t turn out to be quite as enjoyable as I hoped.

I think Theroux is a gr...more
Lee
This is an interesting mix of observations about travel and travel writers. It is a good introduction to some travel writers whose books I can add to my to-read list (Dervla Murphy, Pico Iyer).

Some chapters are of more interest than others, but there's nothing to stop readers from picking and choosing. For me, some of the most entertaining topics were found near the end of the book.

Some favorite quotations from the book:

In conversation with Paul Theroux, Pico Iyer said this is what he brings w...more
Betsy
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...more
Chelsea
Book 2/50 in 2013.

Rebecca West on the divided self, "'Only part of us is sane: only part of us loves pleasure and the longer day of happiness, wants to live to our nineties and die in peace, in a house that we built, that shall shelter those who come after us. The other half is nearly mad. It prefers the disagreeable to the agreeable, loves pain and its darker night despair, and wants to die in a catastrophe that will set back life to its beginnings and leave nothing of our house save its blacke...more
Reva
Traveller and travel writer Paul Theroux published The Tao of Travel in as less of a traditional travel book and more of a discourse on writing about travel and about the concept of travel itself. I did not expect this book to be a collection of quotations on the misery, loneliness, and joys of travel – really, on the paradox that travel necessarily brings to a traveller given the variety of sights in the world and people seeing the sights. He includes insightful observations from centuries of t...more
Alex
This was either the best or worst book to read while on my summer road trip, I can't decide.

Pros - While traveling, reading one of the all time great traveler's favorite travel quotes was pretty inspiring. This book is essentially a compendium of travel wisdom, stories, anecdotes, and horrors under chapter headings like, "Travel As An Ordeal" or "Travelers' Favorite Places". It certainly added to my To Read list, and was a comfort and inspiration at times on my journey.

Cons - There is no narrati...more
Mike
Some of this was interesting to me; a lot of it was not. My favorite chapters were the ones with short encylopedia-type entries or short book reviews. My least favorite parts were the chapters full of short excerpts from travel books (by Theroux and others). I almost always find short excerpts from books annoying. I skipped right over the excerpts from Theroux's own books, because a) I've already read those books (every single one of them), and b) Theroux as a travel writer is at his very most u...more
Lisa
Paul Theroux, a master of travel narration, has traveled for nearly fifty years, having journeyed to every continent except Antarctica. This gem of a book compiles antidotes and wisdom from Theroux’s and other writer’s joys and tribulations of venturing out into unknown territory.
Insightful observations about the art of travel are chosen from: Samuel Johnson, Paul Bowles, Evelyn Waugh, and Robert Louis Stevenson, to name a few.
Near the end of The Tao of Travel, Theroux includes a list of places...more
Benm
Read this over the course of 8 months.

Inspiring, but the author gets in the way and is a bit academic in his references (in my book..., in his book..., I thought...) Most of the quotes and outtakes from other books were worthwhile though.

Thank you Richard for the recommendation!
Stephanie
I"m not sure where I got this book. It was on my shelf. It is a compilation of travel quotes & essays. very entertaining. I added some travel books to my to-read list, especially women travelers in the early 19th century.
Bookreaderljh
This book was different than I thought it would be. I had expected reviews of different travel books but it really looked much more at instances of travel writing and how the different experiences of travel have been written about (foods, customs, hardships, nature, etc.) It also dealt a lot with how different writers expressed their views on travel from many different view points. The authors and books referenced spanned a very large period of time and though there was a lot of volume - no one...more
Tonia
Just picked this up in the library and it is a GoodReads book of 2011. Very cool! I shall keep you abreast of my opinion.

My assessment of very cool turned into a disappointment that this is a book of quotes and quick verses on travel writing. Had I not taken it out of the library I believe I would have enjoyed it more. This is a book that you can pick up, open to a random page, then read quotes and snippets until you are ready to do something else. As this was a 'return in three weeks' book, it...more
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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...
The Great Railway Bazaar Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town The Mosquito Coast Riding the Iron Rooster The Old Patagonian Express: By Train Through the Americas

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“The wish to travel seems to me characteristically human: the desire to move, to satisfy your curiosity or ease your fears, to change the circumstances of your life, to be a stranger, to make a friend, to experience an exotic landscape, to risk the unknown..” 52 likes
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