Lists are odious, but emotionally useful. They acknowledge the fact that our time on earth is limited; they apparently winnow out what is most useful; they allow us to believe our tastes are less arbitrary and more significant than they are; they allow us briefly to play God, which is always fun.
In the sunlit years when I made part of my living as a travel writer (not a great living, but a great life), I was always careful to read the work of former colleagues. Naturally, I had a few favorites. It would be fairer to list more.
The list that follows, in chronological order, came about because a friend asked for recommendations. Some are memoirs of daring journeys. Some are prosaic journeys that became poetic books. Some are profound meditations on Foreign Places. Some are great collections.
All, for me, are unforgettable.
The Innocents Abroad (Twain, 1869)
Travels With a Donkey (Stevenson, 1879)
In Darkest Africa (Stanley, 1890)
Sailing Alone Around the World (Slocum, 1899)
The Worst Journey in the World (Apsley-Gerrard, 1922)
The Book of Puka-Puka (Frisbie, 1929)
Journey Without Maps (Greene, 1936)
The Traveller's Tree (Fermor, 1950)
The Spanish Temper (Pritchett, 1954)
Arabian Sands (Thesiger, 1959)
Their Heads Are Green and Their Hands Are Blue (Bowles, 1963)
An Area of Darkness (Naipaul, 1964)
The Great Railway Bazaar (Theroux, 1975)
Time Among the Maya (Wright, 1989)