Polo dictated these tales to a scribe, a writer of romances named Rustichello, while the two men shared a cell in a Genoese prison. Just how much Rustichello added to the text nobody knows. Yet most of what Polo tells us about his overland journey to Asia checks out. He traveled during a relatively peaceful time, so this is not a book about taking physical risks. Nor is it as accessible to modern readers as many of the books on this list. Yet it is without question the founding adventure book of the modern world. Polo gave to the age of exploration that followed the marvels of the East, the strange customs, the fabulous riches, the tribes with gold teeth. It was a Book of Dreams, an incentive, a goad. Out of it came Columbus (whose own copy of the book was heavily annotated), Magellan, Vasco da Gama, and the rest of modern history.