The first time I ever read the phrase "write about the things you know," was in A Girl Can Dream, one of Betty Cavanna's iconic novels for teenage girls written in the 1940s and 1950s. Being not only a promiscuous reader but also someone who reads to the exclusion of all else, I feel justified in saying, without undue immodesty, that I know books.

I love to read, from the novels of Iris Murdoch (if I had to pick one to begin with, I'd suggest A Fairly Honourable Defeat) and Robert Heinlein (Red Planet is one of my favorites) to Nathaniel Philbrick's works of nonfiction (you can't go wrong with any of them) and Jane Hirshfield's poetry (especially the poems in Given Sugar, Given Salt). In fact, I love to read so much, I wrote a whole series of books reflecting my devotion to words, plots, ideas, and characters. My latest installment concerns books for, as the subtitle says, "travelers, vagabonds, and dreamers." You probably think I must love to travel as well as to read; otherwise, what qualifies me to write such a book?

The truth is I am not an enthusiastic traveler. In fact, aside from work, I barely travel at all. I've always feared that what Ralph Waldo Emerson said in Self-Reliance is true: "Traveling is a fool's paradise.... I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from."

But to blame Emerson for my lack of lust for travel is romantic in the extreme, and also disingenuous. Here's why I don't travel: I am stymied by the most mundane activities that it entails—choosing dates, buying maps, checking air or rail fares, and packing a suitcase. I am frustrated by my inability to speak any language but English and fear that I am too old to learn a second (or third).

I am also made extremely anxious by the simple act of leaving my house. (A particularly harsh psychiatrist might diagnose it as agoraphobia.) I can manage visits to coffee shops, bookstores, and libraries quite well, as long as the visits are short, but being away from home overnight still makes my psyche queasy.

In one sense, then, I am totally the wrong person to write a book about travel. Talk about chutzpah! But on the other hand, I am absolutely the perfect person to do it. I am, to use an au courant phrase, an inveterate virtual traveler. I've always loved armchair travel and stories of dashing and daring explorers. Some of the books I've most enjoyed over the years are those that have given me a sense of being in another place and time, whether they're nonfiction, mysteries, historicals, or science fiction and fantasies.

It took about two solid years of reading, of trolling the 900s in the library and spending hours at new and used book stores, before I began to actually winnow down the lists of books I read into what became my latest book. And those two years were wonderful: discovering (or rereading) authors of travel and fiction like Sara Wheeler (Antarctica, Chile, Greece), Michael Mewshaw (North Africa), Moritz Thomsen (Ecuador), Gavin Young (China), Tobias Schneebaum (Peru, New Guinea), Dervla Murphy (Cuba, India, Ireland, Nepal, Peru, Siberia), Daniel Alarcón (Mexico), and Colin Cotterill (Laos), among so many others, was a great treat and a rare privilege.

So I think I can say with some justification that in writing Book Lust to Go I was, in accord with what I read years before in A Girl Can Dream, writing about the things I know. To paraphrase a former recent president, it all depends on what the meaning of the word "know" is.

Sasquatch Books just published Nancy Pearl's Book Lust to Go: Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds, and Dreamers. Pearl is also the author of Book Lust; More Book Lust; and Book Crush.