Pico Iyer’s must-read travel book? A Graham Greene novel.

The Quiet American, Graham GreenePico Iyer was the most recent contributor to National Public Radio’s series “You Must Read This.” On Monday he elucidated — in beautiful prose only Iyer is capable of — the reasons why Graham Greene’s novel The Quiet American is a book he never travels without. “[I] have it always with me in my carry-on, a private bible,” he says.

And why? Not just for Greene’s almost eerie talent for predicting the outcomes of political and military tangles in Vietnam. “What touches me in the book is something even deeper and more personal,” says Iyer. “The novel asks every one of us what we want from a foreign place, and what we are planning to do with it. It points out that innocence and idealism can claim as many lives as the opposite, fearful cynicism. And it reminds me that the world is much larger than our ideas of it.”

The above link will take you to the transcript of Iyer’s mini-essay. Read it now, not just to encourage yourself to reread Greene’s classic, but also for a mid-week taste of the very best kind of writing — travel or otherwise.

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