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Top Ten Travel Books as selected by Ron Mader

The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin

This book established the late author as one of the finest writers in the English language. It also redefined the travel writing genre. Set in Australia, the book is a mixture of fact and fiction and seeks to answer timeless questions such as why humans love to travel. Is the wandering life aberrant or truly the norm? Chatwin makes the case that travel is that what makes us human.

Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon

A masterpiece of travel writing, this book journeys along the backroads of the United States. The author says he wanted get to know the little towns and he recalls the extraordinary people who helped guide him toward a greater sense of place.

La Loca de Gandoca (The Crazy Woman from Gandoca) by Anacristina Rossi, Educa Publications, 1999

This Spanish-language novel is a meditation on the dangers of tourism development masquerading as ecotourism. Set in rural Costa Rica, the book attacks sham ecotourism as well as government and NGO bureaucrats reluctant to take a stand. Funny, sad, savvy and highly-recommended.

The New Key to Costa Rica by Beatrice Blake and Anne Becher

This classic guidebook highlights environmental conservation, biodiversity and responsible tourism in the spotlight with practical tips for the traveler. It's one of my all-time favorite books. Several editions ago it introduced a ratings guide to ecotourism lodges based on their commitment to conservation and their fostering of local economies and cultures. The focus of the current edition highlights less the "green" hotels and puts more emphasis on communities.

Green Dreams by Stephen Benz

Mainstream media usually gives Latin America a raw deal. What passes as "hard news" highlights violent crime, political uprisings and natural disasters, while "soft news" (particularly tourism features) tout escapism from cruise ship extravaganza to resort paradise. This book is a welcome contrast and documents the author's desire to explore natural wilderness. It is a first-hand review of ecotourism on the ground in the Americas and raises pertinent questions for travelers and locals.

Moon Handbooks: Honduras by Chris Humphrey

Honduras appears to have it all — great beaches, virgin forests, coral reefs, archaeological sites and colonial towns — but it takes a good guidebook to figure out where to go. This third edition provides all the needed traveler tips as well as informative sidebars that explain the changing culture.

Scratching the Surface: Impressions of Planet Earth from Hollywood to Shiraz by Jeff Greenwald

A collection of 31 tales which span the globe in this anthology of travel writing at its finest. Insightful, inquisitive and inspiring, Greenwald reminds readers of the transformative potential of exploring areas off the beaten path. Readers accompany the author around the world, and it's hard to sit still after reading this book.

Last Resorts: The Cost of Tourism in the Caribbean by Polly Pattullo

Tropical paradise might be a victim of its own success. This book reviews the social and environmental impacts of tourism industry and explores how to bring greater benefits to the region. Whether Caribbean society is turned into entertainment spectacle or given new respect depends on creating more positive interactions among locals and travelers.

The Quest for the Other by Pierre Van Den Berghe

Ethnic tourism in Chiapas comes under scrutiny in this well-written tome by anthropologist Van Den Berghe. San Cristobal has long been one of the hotspots on the "Gringo Trail" but never has one book attempted to explore the impact with much depth. Published the same year as the Zapatista Uprising, the book could use an update, but as is, it's an enlightening and engrossing tale.

The Gringo Trail by Mark Mann

The Gringo Trail is a riotous mix of humor and scandal. It documents the travels of three Brits who go to South America for different reasons. The author reviews the tendency of backpackers to stick together in hostels and not mix with the locals. Mann's visit to an indigenous village in Amazon was one of the seeds for Tourism Concern's Community Tourism Directory.

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