- (1) Without you, there is no us
- (2) The best women’s travel writing
- (3) The glass palace
- (4) The white Masai
- (5) Little Princes
- (6) On the trail of Genghis Khan
- (7) Chinese lessons
- (8) The last train to Zona Verde
- (9)People who eat darkness
- (10) Nickel and dimed
No matter how much time you spend on the road, some days you’re bound to be stuck in everyday life with a serious case of wanderlust and no plane tickets booked (yet). When that happens, pick up one of these 10 books that could inspire your next destination and illuminate a new corner of the world.
(1) Without you, there is no us
Although Kim wants to inspire her students to dream beyond the hermit kingdom, she is hesitant to give them hope. “I hope they have forgotten everything I inspired in them,” she writes.
The future of North Korean youth may appear bleak, but the book offers a glimpse at the lives of North Korea’s elite families, through their sons’ education. Every book I read about North Korea makes me want to see the country before – if – it ever opens up.
(2) The best women’s travel writing
Blair Braverman’s Rangefinder Girl, which was published in volume nine, charts her trek through the Namibian bush in search of the dangerous, endangered black rhinoceros. “Maybe this is about Rhinocerous,” she opens the tale, “But it is just as much about the smell of myrrh, or the warm grit of water from a desert spring – how it coats the mouth with salt, as if even the land was sweating.”
The descriptions are vivid and the stories engaging – short enough to read one while waiting for the bus, numerous enough to lose yourself in adventure after adventure at a stretch.
(3) The glass palace
The story is set in various parts of Burma (as it was then known), India and Malaya, and writer Amitav Ghosh weaves a rich tapestry of setting and culture during the era.
(4) The white Masai
It is a fascinating, almost unbelievable fish-out-of-water account that illustrates a great deal about Samburu tribal life, including all the bits Hoffman struggled to reconcile. The book has been made into a movie, and Hoffman has also penned a sequel, Reunion in Barsaloi.
(5) Little Princes
The language is easy to follow and his character quickly grows likeable, and by the end I found myself rooting for Grennan, his little princes, and his unexpected love story.
(6) On the trail of Genghis Khan
He grapples with wolves, horse thieves, and the unforgiving conditions of the steppe, and weaves a comprehensive historical narrative into his adventures. This is a thick book so take your time with it!
(7) Chinese lessons
The stories are marked by injustice and pain – one classmate is made to publicly shame and denounce her father, another is made to labour in the fields for resisting a party-arranged marriage. Yet Pomfret makes it sound like an exciting time to be in China, witnessing first hand the events that shaped it in the 1980s. This was an excellent primer on Chinese culture and politics before I first visited the country.
(8) The last train to Zona Verde
(9)People who eat darkness
What follows is a nation’s frantic search for a blonde, blue-eyed beauty that her family fears may have met a tragic and violent end. People who eat darkness is as chilling and macabre as its title suggests, and riveting for that reason.
(10) Nickel and dimed
Journalist Barbara Ehrenreich works as a waitress in a diner, a motel chambermaid, a home cleaning lady and on Wal-Mart’s retail floor, reporting on the poverty faced by workers in these industries. For the most part, Ehrenreich reports, these are hardworking, dignified individuals, an integral part of the American experience the world has come to know. I’ll tip better the next time I visit the States for sure.
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