If you see any of these in the hostel swap shop, grab ’em while you can….

On the Road

Jack Kerouac In a nutshell: The all-American roadtrip novel. Why I love it: Kerouac’s story revolves around his capers with his Beat Generation mates, Neal Cassady (fictionalised as Dean Moriarty), Allen Ginsberg (Carlo Marx) and William S Burroughs (as Old Bull Lee), freewheeling, train-hopping or hitching through 1950s America and Mexico inspired by jazz, poetry, drugs and girls. It was Kerouac’s lust for life and spontaneous decision-making in a land that still had opportunity that many still cling to. And while the world has changed greatly, the ideology of independent travel remains the same: freedom, friends, new experiences, music, the occasional excess, and memories that never fade. I was reading On The Road as my friends and I tailgated Kerouac, albeit 47 years behind, down the west coast of North America, from Canada to Seattle, San Francisco and Big Sur, to Tijuana and Mexico. As he reached the border I was right there with him. “Just beyond you could feel the enormous presence of whole great Mexico,” writes Kerouac, “and almost smell the billion tortillas frying and smoking in the night. We had no idea what Mexico would really be like.” Colin Delaney

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Hunter S Thompson In a nutshell: Genius. Why I love it: Arguably the best work from the late, great, godfather of Gonzo. Based very loosely on real events, Thompson and his attorney endure a savage and hallucinogenic journey to Vegas, searching for the American Dream through clouds of mescaline, acid, amyl, raw ether, tequila, rum and pot. An endlessly funny and often insightful look at the death of the dreams of the Sixties, the trademark clarity and wit of the man who chose to be blown from a cannon at his own funeral is gripping from beginning to end. Andrew Westbrook

The Sun Also Rises

Ernest Hemingway In a nutshell: American ex-pats living in Europe go to watch a bull-fight. Why I love it: The book is 80 years old, yet it’s surprisingly modern; all the characters do is get drunk and talk about sex, a bit like a Contiki tour, only with more style and wit. The main character, Jake Barnes, has a crush on a posh English girl called Brett Ashley, but because of his “war wound” (he’s impotent), she ends up shagging the hot young bullfighter instead. Hemingway devoted his life to telling tales about blokes doing tough outdoorsy things like fishing, mountain climbing and hard drinking. Unfortunately, his lifestyle caught up with him and, like Kurt Cobain, he eventually committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with a shotgun. Kieran Oakley

Down Under

Bill Bryson In a nutshell: Hilarious and perceptive book about Oz by travel writing king. Why I love it: Okay, our buddy Bill does speed through Australia, is equally quick to turn Aussies into caricatures and is a big scaredy cat. But Down Under is laugh-out-loud-then-tell-the-rest-of-the-bus hilarious. With so much travel writing knocked out snobbishly by upper class twits, it’s refreshing to have a genuine populist comedian putting a pen in his backpack. The book is also brilliantly researched (66 titles in the bibliography) and cuttingly perceptive. Perhaps above all I love it because I write gooder after reading Bryson (which, clearly, I haven’t done for a while). Everyone visiting http://www.tntdownunder.com/article/2437918549.html[Australia] must read it. Then all his other books. Damian Hall

The Beach

Alex Garland In a nutshell: Escape the crowds. Why I love it: Richard arrives in Bangkok. Fed up of the routes most backpackers blindly follow, the Englishman sets off in search of a legendary beach, armed only with a map given to him by a mysterious neighbour. Published in 1998, the first year I went travelling, this fast-paced adventure touched a nerve. Despite being butchered by Hollywood and inspiring a backpacker invasion of Thailand, the original reminds you why it is so good being on the road. Andrew Westbrook

Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad In a nutshell: Apocalypse Now in the Congo. Why I love it: An English captain takes a rusty old ferry up the Congo River to pick up a cargo of ivory. But what sounds like a simple job turns into a nightmare as he deals with cannibals, disease, and evil white slave traders, until finally he starts to question his own sanity. Conrad’s 90-page novella was published in 1902 and has been incredibly influential, inspiring films (Apocalypse Now), TV series (Lost) and even games (Star Wars: Battlefront 2). If you don’t mind a bit of archaic English (including use of the word ‘nigger’) and want to know what it was like travelling in Colonial Africa in the 19th century, this book is for you. Kieran Oakley

Into The Wild

Jon Krakauer In a nutshell: True story of dreamy adventurer who takes a fateful trip into Alaskan wilds. Why I love it: It tells the story of Christopher McCandless, a Jack London-loving middle class idealist who, disillusioned with society, donates all his money to charity, changes his name to Alexander Supertramp and hitches into the American west. Nearly two years later, he’s found dead in the Alaskan wilderness. Though a cautionary tale, Krakauer’s yarn appeals strongly to anyone who shares both a taste for ‘the wild’ and a distaste for aspects of contemporary life. Now a Sean Penn film, I read it every year and buy it for all my friends. They say they love it too. Both of them. Damian Hall

Motorcycle Diaries

Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara In a nutshell: The making of a martyr. Why I love it: Before devoting his life to revolutionary exploits and adorning students’ walls and bodies across the world, Ernesto Guevara was a student doctor. Craving a break from his studies, the Argentine hit the road for seven months, travelling all over Latin America on a motorbike with his mate. Great for a rare glimpse into the developing consciousness of a cultural icon while also a funny and freewheeling account of his road trip. Andrew Westbrook

Great Railway Bazaar

Paul Theroux In a nutshell: A very long train journey made easier with lots of slightly racist jokes. Why I love it: You don’t have to be a train-spotter to enjoy this account of Theroux’s four-month journey across Asia by train. The grumpy travel writer (and, yes, he is Louis’ dad) starts in Europe and makes his way across the Middle East, India and Asia, before returning on the Trans-Siberian. Brilliant for its insights into travel in the 1970s, before package tours and travel guides, and when roughing it meant enduring serious discomfort. Kieran Oakley

San Sombrero

Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner & Rob Sitch In a nutshell: A satirical guidebook. Why I love it: The Aussie team behind such spoof guides as Molvania and Phaic Tan recently turned their backpacks to little- known Central American country San Sombrero: a land of carnivals, cocktails and coups. San Sombrero’s multicultural demography is roughly “55 per cent Spanish origin, 23 per cent Melato, 14 per cent Black and the rest are CIA operatives.” The currency is the crapeso – but post-it notes are also legal tender. If you’ve become disillusioned staring into guidebooks and love a good stereotype, read San Sombrero. Colin Delaney