Books about River Journeys

These voyages of discovery and wonder have been inspiring writers for generations

February 2018 • Jules Verne

Books about River Journeys

Many of our most popular cruises travel along rivers, allowing you to discover changing cultures from the comfort of one of our vessels. These voyages of discovery and wonder have been inspiring writers for generations. Discover some of our favourite river journeys in the pages of these incredible books and be inspired to travel with Jules Verne.

Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain

Mark Twain is perhaps best known for his Huckleberry Finn novels, which are filled with delightful glimpses of the Mississippi River and life on its banks. This in-depth knowledge came from the time Twain spent working on a steamer travelling along the Mississippi. In his memoir, Life on the Mississippi, he tells the story of this time, both before and after the American Civil War, recounting in detail his experiences of piloting a steam boat.

Beginning with a history of the river, Life on the Mississippi, ties the past with Twain’s training, as a young man. The second half of the novel moves forward several years, as Twain relates his trip on a steamboat from St Louis to New Orleans. While describing the river and the new cities, Twain makes wry observations on greed, tragedy and architecture.

Mississippi River from above

Travellers today can complete the second half of this journey on our Ol’ Man River  cruise from Memphis to New Orleans.

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

One of the most famous books about river journeys, Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile sees everyone’s favourite Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, solve a murder from the waters of the Nile. Travelling on a cruise boat in 1920s style, Poirot employs his famous little grey cells to uncover the murderer of Linnet Ridgeway.

Like much of Christie’s work, the novel is plot-driven. However, few who have been lucky enough to cruise down the Nile will be able to deny that the book captures Egypt and the river with precision and clarity.  The action’s dramatic crescendo is expertly juxtaposed with serene descriptions of the Nile and its environs.

Relive the 1920s charm on a Nile River cruise with Jules Verne. On A Royal Steamer Restored cruise, passengers travel on a genuine 1918 steamer, adding authenticity to the experience.

Nile river cruise

The Secret Life of the Seine by Mort Rosenblum

The celebrated foreign correspondent Mort Rossenblum invites the reader to board his boat on the Seine. Exploring the river from source to mouth, Rosenblum weaves together his travel narrative with historical anecdotes and portraits of the eclectic cast of characters who surround him. Capturing the beauty of the river and the countryside, the love that the author feels for his subject is palpable.

The reader is swept along on Rosenblum’s journey.  The carefully painted details and vignettes of life on the river – both now and in the past – immerse the reader in his journey. Thanks to his command of his subject matter and his subtle style, it is easy to imagine yourself on the waters of the Seine as you read this book.

A Seine River Cruise allows you to experience the journey Rosenblum embarks on in his book. Explore the Seine from Paris to the English Channel on our Impressions of the Seine cruise, taking in the towns and cities that have inspired artists for centuries.

Seine River, Paris at sunset

The Danube: A Journey Upriver from the Black Sea to the Black Forest by Nick Thorpe

Flowing from West to East, from Christian to Muslim, from central Europe to the Black Sea, the Danube has been an important travel link for centuries. It has also been the locus for a vast, prosperous and varied past. In this book, Nick Thorpe expands widely on topics around this famous river, such as the beluga sturgeon, ancient Roman archaeology, plum brandy, and the Habsburg dynasty.

Thorpe carried out copious historical research for this book, studying the literature of the Danube thoroughly. This is complemented by interviews with shopkeepers, ferrymen, waitresses and other local characters. Thorpe knits together the quotidian and the historical with vivid descriptions and careful observations, inviting the reader to explore by his side.

A cruise along the Danube River opens up all the history and drama described in Thorpe’s book. Follow along in his footsteps on our Black and Blue Cruise, which takes you on a European river odyssey from the Black Sea to Austria.

The Lover by Marguerite Duras

A ferry across the Mekong Delta is the backdrop to this modern classic, published in 1984. Vietnam, with all its inconsistencies and contradictions, is the perfect setting for this confrontational novel. The book shines a spotlight on the vagaries of love, seduction and colonialism in equal measures. The dark twisting waters of the Mekong are a physical embodiment of the complicated feelings with which Duras grapples throughout the novel.

The English translation by Barbara Bay retains the sparse prose and narrative design of the original.  Life as a penniless westerner in 1930s Indochina is unflinchingly described in this story of a teenager who is seduced by a wealthy Chinese man, based upon a similar relationship Duras had in her youth.

Explore the Mekong River on a cruise with Jules Verne and travel along the river into Saigon for yourself. On our Images of the Mekong cruise, you will travel the length of the river from Ho Chi Minh City through My Tho and Cai Be, to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Mekong River, Southeast Asia

If you’ve been inspired to take a river journey for yourself, download our brochure or read more online. For more inspiration check out our blog.