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Ten travel books I'd recommend to anyone

Posted by somtam2000 on 3/7/2009 at 08:15 admin

When I'm travelling on longish trips I read a lot -- not always about the countries I'm travelling in. So here's some of my favourite titles that I just grabbed off he shelves -- one I'm reading now (the Malay Archipelago) and others I've read many times!

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Set in Africa's Congo during the colonial period, this was a (very) rough base for the hit Vietnam epic Apocalypse Now. The book is far far far better than the movie! Ideally read on the bank of a river. |

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
I was a very late one to Capote and while I've read this now a couple of times, my first reading was in a single very long sitting, at a streetside pho stall in Saigon. Towards the end of the day a cyclo driver joined me and waxed lyrical about who he loved the book -- and the movie. |

River of Time by John Swain
While I've read many books on the Indochinese conflict, this, and perhaps Ravens by Christopher Robbins are two of the very best. Swain does an incredible job of capturing war-era Phnom Penh. Fascinating and heartbreaking. |

Before Kampuchea: Preludes to Tragedy by Milton Osborne
I've mentioned this in another thread -- it delivers a fascinating insight into the period before and after the Khmer Rouge period. You'll struggle not to think -- wow, I wish I was there in the 50's! |

Krakatoa by Simon Winchester
While the erruption of the volcano is the focal point of the novel, this is just a great rollicking travel tale with a fabulous insight to colonial-period Indonesia. |

The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher J. Koch
Still on Indonesia, and also made into a movie, this is a vital bit of reading if you want to get a bit of an insight into some of Indonesia's most tumultuous years. |

The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton
While de Botton has his share of detractors, I really loved this book and have read and reread it numerous times. his talk of appreciating the colours of the places you travel in, in particular, is excellent. Fascinating yet not too hard on the brain. |

The Shadow of the Sun by Rysard Kapuscinski
A man sadly no longer with us, Kapuscinski was the Polish foriegn correspondent for the entire world and while he wrote a bunch of books, this is his best. A grade travel experiences through Africa. Read it in Africa, Asia or at home! |

The Carpet Wars by Christopher Kremmer
Kremmer traces the ongoing issues through central Asia and the Middle East through the travails and experiences of carper merchants. Sounds dry and boring but you couldn't be further off the mark -- one of my absolute favourites.

What I'm reading now:
The Malay Archipelago by Alferd Russel Wallace
Peer only to Charles Darwin for the knowledge he garnered from the world around him, Wallace's experiences in 19th century SE Asia are simply fascinating. Bali really has changed a lot! |

#1 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,789
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Posted by MADMAC on 3/7/2009 at 12:59

The Ravens - if you are going to Laos, this is a good read on the Secret War.

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Posted by christay2009 on 12/12/2009 at 22:25

I just picked up Heart of Darkness for 99p and The Ravens for a staggering £9.00 second hand! [i think it is out of print in the UK as i can only find second hand copies]

On my fairly recent trip i read Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee in one day of idling. A good read, although it is far from a light-hearted holiday read. I also finally got round to reading Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell. For me, this is a must read. I have just finished reading Burmise Days also by Orwell. It is, what seems like, a good glimpse into colonial era Burma and another good read.

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Posted by Mike_V on 13/12/2009 at 18:18

#4 Mike_V has been a member since 2/11/2009. Posts: 11

Posted by Mike_V on 13/12/2009 at 18:19


What I meant to post was the Heart of Darkness is available on Project Gutenberg.

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Posted by Archmichael on 13/2/2010 at 12:17

Two personal favorites (in addition to some noted above):

"Travels with a Tangerine" by Tim Mackintosh-Smith (Mackintosh-Smith set out to replicate the travels of Ibn Battutah of Tangier, who left in 1325 to make a pilgrimage to Mecca and did not return for almost 30 years).

"Bitter Lemons" by Lawrence Durrell (about Durrell's time in Cyprus in the early 1950's).

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Posted by Saphir on 25/11/2012 at 22:26

My goodness - such a list could almost be endless! Just a few of my favourites, for what it's worth...........
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle Haruki Murakami
My Life As A Fake Peter Carey
The Alchemy of Desire Tarun J Tejpal
Reef Romesh Gunesekera
The Secret History Donna Tartt
anything by Paul Bowles
The Romantics Pankaj Mishra
The Beach Alex Garland
Heroes & Villains Angela Carter
Running in the Family Michael Ondaatje
Eating the Flowers of Paradise Kevin Rushby
Paul Theroux take your pick
oh this is ridiculous.......I could go on and on and on and you're probably not reading this anymore blah blah blah

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Posted by ellencarroll on 26/2/2013 at 06:09

Thanks for this nice collection.
I have read Heart of Darkness. It's a great read.

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Posted by fondo on 27/2/2013 at 00:12

The list certainly is endless! For me, recent re-readings include Alec Waugh's Bangkok and A Dragon Apparent by Norman Lewis. The Eland Press is great if you like your travel narrative a bit old.

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Posted by Starving_Sound on 8/3/2013 at 15:13

It might be a long time since mentioned but you can get The Ravens on Amazon Kindle for 1.50 now.

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Posted by MADMAC on 8/3/2013 at 21:34

I hated Heart of Darkness. It's written in that oh so annoying, pontificating style of post modern writers. I'll take Hemmingway over Conrad any day of the week.

For a good, long story to read on your hammock in the middle of nowhere while mosquitos are straffing you, Game of Thrones is excellent.

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Posted by Starving_Sound on 8/3/2013 at 21:38

LOVE Game of Thrones and apart from the Dragonlance books - that I read when younger - I never really liked fantasy books. But once I got halfway through the first season of the show I bought the box set of novels minus Dance of Dragons. Glad I waited to read them because I couldn't have stood the wait - eleven years? - for Dance of Dragons - which I'm halfway through now.

Or rather The Song of Fire and Ice books.

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Posted by antoniamitchell on 9/3/2013 at 02:07

I second Travels with a Tangerine.

I also loved The Age of Kali (William Dalrymple) and Into the Heart of Borneo (Redmond O'Hanlon) which is brilliantly funny.

Right now, I'm currently enjoying Ghost Train to the Eastern Star (Theroux), which is a retracing of the route of The Great Railway Bazaar, 30 years on. I think Theroux's become a better observer as he got older - more perceptive and less of a jerk than I used to find him in his earlier books (which I still enjoyed, but they frequently made me want to smack him).

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Posted by Starving_Sound on 9/3/2013 at 02:27

Oh - books about traveling. Well, everybody needs to check out the true book In Search of Captain Zero: A Surfer's Road Trip Beyond the End of the Road by Allan Weisbecker. An amazing book.

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Posted by somsai on 9/3/2013 at 12:51

I hadn't seen this post before, a belated thank you Somtam. I've only read Heart of Darkness and Ravens, will probably start with Carpet Wars because I liked Bamboo Palace and follow it up with River of Time. You've inspired me to read some books.

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Posted by cactuschild on 10/3/2013 at 05:54

Will definitely be checking out some of these :-)

For what it's worth, I've got a few of my own recommendations...

For Cambodia - First They Killed my Father by Loung Ung & Off the Rails in Phnom Penh by Amit Gilboa
For Vietnam - Catfish & Mandala by Andrew X. Pham & When Heaven & Earth Changed Places by Ly Le Hayslip
For Thailand - Traveler's Tales Thailand by James O' Reilly

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Posted by daawgon on 10/3/2013 at 13:22

I just finished listening to the audio book, Snakehead - extremely interesting

Here's what the library says:

Summary - The rise and fall of an unlikely international crime
>> boss--Sister Ping--and the intricate human trafficking network she
>> created from her business in New York City's Chinatown , together with
>> a panoramic tale about the gangland gunslingers who worked for her,
>> the immigration and law enforcement officials who pursued her, and the
>> generation of penniless immigrants who risked death to realize their
>> own version of the American dream

Author Keefe, Patrick Radden, 1976-
>> Title The snakehead [downloadable ebook] : an epic tale of the
>> Chinatown underworld and the American dream

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