Andrew Sean Greer, the author of Less, has followed up that Pulitzer Prize-winning comic novel with Less Is Lost, a sequel that tracks struggling gay novelist Arthur Less on a Southern road trip. Below, Greer names six of his favorite travel novels.
Travels With My Aunt by Graham Greene (1969)
This is one of Greene's mere "entertainments," as he called his comic novels, but I think it's one of his best books: a life-affirming story of a grumpy old aunt who drags an utterly average man across the world. Out from under the shadow of his colonial novels and their problems, Greene shines, and shows travel as a mischievous, life-changing event. Buy it here.
The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold by Evelyn Waugh (1957)
More an inner journey than an outer one, this is a fictionalized account of Waugh's own mental collapse on a cruise to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). It's also a hilarious and unsettling portrayal of our sense experiences and how they fool us. Buy it here.
Journey to the End of the Millennium by A. B. Yehoshua (1997)
An adventure novel in which the "travel" is into a world we Westerners think we know well: our own. In 999 A.D., a Jewish merchant and a learned rabbi sail from North Africa into deepest, darkest France. Philosophical, beautifully written, and extraordinarily eye-opening about how the early Christian world was seen as a dangerous alien landscape. Buy it here.
The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin (1987)
Chatwin, a favorite of mine, despaired of ever finishing this blend of fiction and nonfiction until his editor said, "Show me your notes" and suggested interspersing them with the text. The result is extraordinary and often imitated. You wonder how it could be done any other way. Buy it here.
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell (1956)
Charm can get you through anything. It certainly seems to have gotten Durrell though his family's sudden move from England to Corfu, where his eccentric siblings and biological obsessions are stranger than anything on the island. A classic and a joy to read. Buy it here.
Mara and Dann by Doris Lessing (1999)
Is it a travel novel if it's our world but set in the future? Perhaps this is a bookend to Yehoshua: a sci-fi classic in which two young siblings flee danger in a future Africa. Traveling north to supposed safety, they see a world that is much like our own will be if climate change goes on unabated. Chilling, thrilling, and unputdownable. Buy it here.
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