Journey by the Book

Daniel Van Tassel


A Guide to Tales of Travel Your compass is pointing at the magnetic field of travel. Journey by the Book is a tool enabling the pathfinder—whether tenderfoot or veteran scout—to explore...

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A Guide to Tales of Travel

Your compass is pointing at the magnetic field of travel.

Journey by the Book is a tool enabling the pathfinder—whether tenderfoot or veteran scout—to explore uncharted seas and territories in the kingdom of travel.

Author Van Tassel discusses a vast sampling of travel narratives. If the story uses a voyage, pilgrimage, or journey as pivotal for its meaning and structure, it will figure prominently in the array of tales he tallies.

The book defines categories of travel literature and discusses the gamut of impulses prompting travel, travel writing, and travel reading.

The tales of travel summoned, explored, and scrutinized for the armchair traveler extend from imaginary journeys to very real ones, including:

  • The Odyssey
  • Gulliver’s Travels
  • Rime of the Ancient Mariner
  • Road trips and tramps by Twain, Steinbeck, Kerouac, Pirsig, Bill Bryson, and others
  • Exotic adventures recounted by Polo and Newby
  • Epic voyages logged by discoverers Captain Cook, Conrad, Dana, and Heyerdahl
  • Marathon journeys by Theroux, Naipaul, Davidson, Simon, and Hoffman
  • And assorted other tales varying by mode and direction of travel

Multifaceted travel accounts, ranging from novels and guidebooks to travelogues and travel-oriented magazines and sketches, are all testaments to what the travel story can do: stoke and satisfy a reader’s wanderlust. It’s your turn.


“A wonderful read and a remarkable piece of creative scholarship, Journey by the Book offers profound insights into the works of selected authors who through the centuries have enlightened untold millions of readers with accounts of travels to real or imagined places. With uncanny wit, wisdom, and playful use of language, with curiosity and respect for the ‘kingdom of travel literature,’ the author wove his take on the travel tales of others into his own cohesive voyage.”—Richard Ezra Probert, author of Archie’s Way, That Good Night, and, most recently, Whereabouts Unknown. 

Journey by the Book is wonderful. In lively, engaging prose it celebrates both kinds of travel—literal, physical travel undertaken to explore the world, and literary travel where stories and tales take us deeper into the interior world of the imagination, memory, and language. Dan Van Tassel is a highly knowledgeable and enthusiastic tour leader to classics of travel literature, from Homer’s Odyssey to modern excursions in the genre, offering brief, insightful, and very readable introductions to each. All aboard!”—Charles Bergman, author of numerous books including Every Penguin in the World, Wild Echoes, and Red Delta.

Product Details:
Page Count: 192 
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Publish Date: July 26, 2022
Imprint: Sunbury Press
Genre: TRAVEL / Essays & Travelogues

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Customer Reviews

Based on 3 reviews
Reading as a Journey

The author of Journey by the Book, Daniel E. Van Tassel, is more like a porter than a travel guide in that he sorts through our baggage and invites us to take a cozy seat. The author then preps us for the discoveries of travel by providing sketches of twenty great literary journeys. The variety of journeys is stunning and we are guided to those that call for more exploration. Carl Hoffman’s The Lunatic Express invites just such an experience. Van Tassel shares how Hoffman lived on the “edge of disaster” by exploring the world via the worst, most dangerous conveyances. The author’s account of Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods might prompt you to set out on your own Appalachian Trail. The Odyssey and Gulliver’s Travels are classics, of course, and many cover mythic and psychological journeys. Much ground (and many a sea) is covered. Thankfully, the reader travels at no risk.
Van Tassel’s thesis is correct: “In an epistemological sense, all reading is synonymous with travel, for, in the activity of reading, our minds leave our present situation and depart for another." Being introduced to numerous journeys through the world and its literary time span in a series of studious yet accessible chapters got me traveling anew. This book is total fun for the variety of its travels and the many insights the author offers to the reader.

Ralph Yernberg, Pastor Emeritus, reader, and determined literary traveler lives in Minnesota.

Shared Travels: A Review of Journey by the Book

Thanks to author Van Tassel, I've had the pleasure of trips down memory lane and around the world. In Back to Barron, where he recounts and relives childhood adventures growing up in a small Wisconsin town in the 1940’s and 50’s, the reader goes back in time. Because I grew up in a small Midwestern town myself, in the words of Yogi Berra, it was de ja vu all over again. In Journey by the Book, I was enabled to navigate the wider world and the inner self. Journey "explore[s] unchartered territories” both around the globe and in our hearts and minds. It covers a wide range of travel literature, from imaginary journeys to documented trips of all sorts. Vicariously, but seemingly for real, you accompany authors such as Marco Polo, Coleridge, Twain, Steinbeck, Kerouac, Conrad, and Heyerdahl as they trek, tramp, and sail on their respective journeys. I read Travels with Charley many years ago but didn’t “connect” with the book. Because of Van Tassel’s inspiring insights on it and Heart of Darkness, I plan to reread both those books. I also have a new list of books I want to enjoy, including The Lunatic Express by Carl Hoffman, The Kon-Tiki Expedition by Thor Heyerdahl, Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, and A Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain. And owing to Van Tassel’s analyses of them, I have a new and better understanding of books I have read.
Richard Waters, among other vocations and pursuits, a writer of poetry, short stories, and plays and a former bookstore owner in Northfield, MN.

Traveling via Journey by the Book

This book is a sweeping overview of the long history of travel narratives, with each chapter
devoted to a particular text. The works surveyed include classics such as Pilgrim’s Progress and
Gulliver’s Travels and modern works by Bill Bryson, Paul Theroux, William Heat-Moon, Jack
Kerouac, and others. Van Tassel is contagiously enthusiastic as he describes each journey,
reflects on the way the author structured the work and found meaning, and invites the reader
to travel geographically and on further reading adventures. The book is very accessible to the
general reader: based on a lot of reading and research, but direct, breezy, and invigorating, like
a seasoned traveler sharing a good tale.
John D. Barbour, author of Journeys of Transformation and other books and Professor of
Religion Emeritus, St. Olaf College