Contemporary Author: Paul Theroux

Paul Theroux, born in 1941 in Medford, Massachusetts, is an incredibly prolific American author who has written numerous travelogues, long and short fiction, magazine articles, and more. Many people are familiar with him by way of his novel The Mosquito Coast, which was made into a 1986 movie starring Harrison Ford.

Theroux is equally known for his many nonfiction books about his railway and other travel experiences. The Great Railway Bazaar chronicles his first major trip, circling from England to Europe, the Middle East, India, Asia, Russia, and back to England. In The Old Patagonian Express, he travels from Massachusetts all the way down to Patagonia. My personal favorite, The Happy Isles of Oceania, follows his travel by plane, train, and kayak (!) around Meganesia (Australia and New Zealand), Melanesia, and Polynesia. His most recent book is Ghost Train to the Eastern Star (2008), which retraces The Great Railway Bazaar.

I am most familiar with Theroux’s travel books. He is a witty and astute observer, often highly acerbic, critical, and seeking. When I read his experiences, personal as they are, I feel as though I am really seeing a place – he does not rhapsodize like a tourist brochure; he relates sights and smells and sounds and people as he encounters them, no sugarcoating and no bullshit. Some will not like this approach, but I enjoy the (sometimes brutal and necessarily subjective) honesty. He has given me so much information about so many places, most of which I will never see other than through his eyes. Because of Oceania, though, I dream of Aitutaki


You can find more information about Theroux at the fan site, and in an excellent National Geographic Traveler interview.