Literary giants like Ernest Hemingway and Charles Dickens usually reside upstairs in the Literature and Fiction Department. However, many notable novelists have written travelogues documenting a particular country at a specific point in history. These books reside in the History Department. If you cannot escape the Los Angeles heat this summer, wander down to Lower Level 4 and let a great writer whisk you away to another time and place.
Charles Dickens and his wife spent half of 1842 traveling throughout the United States, a trip which inspired the novel Martin Chuzzlewit. While he loved certain cities like Boston, he despised America's violent culture, poor American manners, and filthy habits like spitting tobacco in public.
Naipaul, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Literature, was born to Indian parents in Trinidad and Tobago. This controversial work, the start of a trilogy, details his first trip to India in the early 1960's. He frankly discusses how his yearlong journey shattered the mythical ideal of India he had imagined as a child. Initially banned in India, it nonetheless is considered a classic in travel writing.
Rebecca West made three separate trips to Yugoslavia (1936, 1937, 1938) and intended to write a rather short book about them. Instead she wrote a more complex and perceptive work, which is a travel book, but also a history of the Balkan region, with analysis and commentary. This book is as relevant and insightful today as it was back then.
When he was a poor struggling writer, Henry Miller set off for Greece. This adventure took place between World War I and World War II, at a time when civilization seemed to be at a major crossroads.
Imagine setting off in a 40-foot sailboat from California across the Pacific with just a small crew and your spouse. Now imagine doing this in 1907. This is exactly what Jack London did. His adventures are documented here, along with historic photos of exotic locales including Hawaii and Tahiti.
Years before writing the novels which would make him famous, including A Suitable Boy, Seth was a postgraduate student in China. In 1981, he hitchhiked home to New Delhi, India via Tibet. His trek is documented here, with tales of bureaucrats, rides on donkey carts, and extreme climates. He speaks warmly of the Chinese people and dedicates the book to the people he "met along the way".
Hemingway's larger-than-life adventures shaped his fiction, from driving an ambulance in World War I to serving as a correspondent during the Spanish Civil War. This book documents a month-long safari he took to East Africa in 1933. While the details of the hunt are not for everyone, he writes beautifully about the African landscape.
The British novelist Greene made his first trip outside Europe in 1935, spending four weeks walking from Sierra Leone through the interior of Liberia (with the help of guides and porters). The area was largely unmapped at the time and one of the few parts of Africa without Western influence. Having become terribly ill along the way, Greene's journey was truly life-changing.
Wharton and her husband moved from the United States to France in 1906. A prolific writer of both novels and travelogues, this book documents their journeys "flying" through France in a "motor-car" with companions like the novelist Henry James. Cars were still very much a novelty when this book was published in 1908.
Gertrude Stein moved to Paris in 1903 and called France home until her death in 1946. This book contains witty, humorous observations about Paris, the French people, and France's many poodles. It is made more poignant by the fact that she wrote it in 1938 and 1939. By the time of its publication in 1940, France had fallen to Germany, and the culture Stein loved was under threat.
In 1899 Stevenson and his family traveled around the Hawaiian Islands, where the sickly writer experienced a time of relative good health. The work reflects his personal observations and reactions to a place that would drastically change.
Lawrence met his future wife in Germany in 1912, and they traveled together across the Alps. His impressions of Italy, just before World War I, are recounted here. The focus is on the Italian countryside and its people rather than on Italy's well-known cities.