Travel and books belong together like, well, pina and colada. Deirdre Mullins chooses her Top 10 Travel Books, starting with one by Ireland's greatest travel writer, Dervla Murphy.

1. Full Tilt by Dervla Murphy (1965)
Murphy left Ireland for India in 1963, straddling an iron bike and packing a pistol. This book is a memoir of her travels as she cycled across Europe, through Iran and Afghanistan and over the Himalayas to Pakistan and India. A lone woman travelling was an unusual sight at that time and Murphy was subsequently the focus of attention through all the countries that she visited. Completely undaunted by bizarre situations, this book is a wonderful and often humorous portrait of the places that Murphy visited and their people. This is the first publication by the internationally renowned Irish travel writer, who has been an inspiration to female travellers all over the world.

2. The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton (2004)
Travel books can tell us where to go but The Art of Travel tells us how and why. It is not a travelogue or an informative list of places to visit; this book is a philosophical look at travelling and shows us how we can find the activity more fulfilling. De Botton focuses on concepts relating to our inner world and how they are affected by the act of travel.

3. On the Road by Jack Kerouac (1957)
On the Road is based on the travels of Kerouac and his friends as they journeyed across America during the late 1940s. Through the eyes of Sal Paradise (Kerouac), the reader is transported from New York to Denver to San Francisco and LA, where its characters live life against a backdrop of jazz, poetry and drug use. It's considered a defining work of the Beat Generation.

4. Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson (1995)
There are many fantastic Bill Bryson books out there, and any of them could be on this list. Notes from a Small Island is his farewell journey across the length and breadth of Britain, which he did before he moved back to America. Bryson writes with humour and nostalgia and offers insights into modern Britain from an outsider's perspective. His quest was to analyse exactly what he loves about the country that was his home for 20 years.

5. The Beach by Alex Garland (1996)
The Beach is a classic story of paradise found and lost. Richard, an English backpacker, lands in Thailand in search of an earthly utopia, which he finds by way of a secluded beach on an unknown island. After initially being captivated by the idyllic beach life, cracks begin to show and the island turns out to be a dystopian experience. The Beach is symbolic of the escapism that travel can provide and helped inspire a whole new generation of students to head off backpacking in Asia.

6. Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck (1962)
In 1960 John Steinbeck and his French poodle Charley set out in a pickup truck and travelled around America. This chronicle of their trip roams along back roads and highways and lingers in small towns, big cities and the American wilderness. As with all his work, Steinbeck writes beautifully and in an absorbing way, with particular attention to the natural world and his encounters with people.

7. The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia by Paul Theroux (1975)
This is Theroux's first book, which many believe to be his finest. It's a recollection of his four-month rail journey through Europe, Asia and the Middle East. For rail enthusiasts it is a must-read as it features some of the world's greatest rail lines, including the Trans-Siberian and India's Grand Trunk Express. Theroux encounters a variety of places, food, cultures and people along the way.

8. Venice by Jan Morris (1960)
Welsh writer Morris is celebrated for getting under the skin of Venice in this beautifully written novel. The Times aptly described the book as "a classic love letter to Italy's most iconic city". As well as the glorious descriptions of the city, the book is full of historical facts and is well-researched. Morris' most famous quote describes Venice as "a cheek-by-jowl, back-of-the-hand, under-the-counter, higgledy-piggledy, anecdotal city, and she is rich in piquant wrinkled things, like an assortment of bric-a-brac in the house of a wayward connoisseur, or parasites on an oyster-shell".

9. The Global Soul by Pico Iyer (2000)
Iyer explores the cultural consequences of globalisation and cultural displacement. He goes to the 'in-between' places such as malls, airports, self-contained hotels and introduces their inhabitants, the global souls, who live in several countries and hold multiple passports. Iyer tracks this phenomenon of the 21st century with intelligence and a sense of spirituality. But he is unable to offer a solution for the discontent afflicting these souls, whom he describes as "full-time citizens of nowhere".

10. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (1926)
The Sun Also Rises is widely held as one of Hemingway's finest novels. Set in the 1920s, the novel depicts a group of American expatriates as they immerse themselves in life in Europe. The main characters are Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley, who journey from the crazy wildlife of Paris to the brutal bullfighting rings of Spain. It's a story of disillusionment of the post-World War I generation and brings in themes of unrealised love and spiritual disconnection.

Deirdre Mullins

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