Reading can take you around the world from the comfort of your living room. Well written books allow you to experience high risk adventures, or time-travel to moments in history.
I’m a fiction reader first, but try to balance my reading with nonfiction, memoirs and history. A travel plan inspires ambitious reading lists. I ease into the history and culture of my destination through fiction, then tackle the heavier stuff.
- Snow by Orhan Pamuk
FICTION-A Turkish poet who spent 12 years as a political exile in Germany witnesses firsthand the clash between radical Islam and Western ideals in this enigmatically beautiful novel. – Publishers Weekly
- Midnight at the Pera Palace by Charles King
NONFICTION – Istanbul sits at the crossroads of Europe and Asia and has been witness to remarkable history. In this book, Charles King brings to life the story of this city as it moved into the modern world. Written as a microhistory with the Pera Palace as its subject, this book is less about the elegant hotel than the city itself.
- Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernières
FICTION- In the small village of Eskibahçe everyone speaks Turkish, though they write it in Greek letters. De Bernières fills this weighty novel with intriguing characters – Armenians, Muslims, and Christians – all ultimately effected by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
- The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak
FICTION- Turkish novelist Shafak tackles Turkish national identity and the Armenian “question” in her signature style. The novel focuses on Kazanci women – Asya and her mother, Zeliha. The men of the Kazanci family either die young or disappear like Mustafa, Zeliha’s brother who emigrated to America. When Mustafa’s Armenian-American stepdaughter, Armanoush, who grew up on her family’s stories of the 1915 genocide, shows up in Istanbul the Kazanci women lament her family’s suffering, but have no sense of Turkish responsibility for it… – Publishers Weekly
- The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas
FICTION- Set in the heart of the exotic Ottoman Empire during the first years of its chaotic decline, Michael David Lukas’ elegantly crafted, utterly enchanting debut novel follows a gifted young girl who dares to charm a sultan—and change the course of history, for the empire and the world – from the Publisher
- Birds of Southern Africa by Ian Sinclair – a lightweight guide for most of the birds in Southern Africa.There were birding books at most of the game lodges but I was happy to have this book for my own notes and records.
- Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton
FICTION- The deeply moving story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son, Absalom, set against the background of a land and a people riven by racial injustice. Remarkable for its lyricism, unforgettable for character and incident, Cry, the Beloved Country is a classic work of love and hope, courage and endurance, born of the dignity of man. – from the Publisher
- The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony
NONFICTION- In 1998, prize-winning conservationist Anthony purchased Thula Thula, “5,000 acres of pristine bush in the heart of Zululand, South Africa,” transforming a rundown hunters’ camp into a wild animal preserve and a center for eco-tourism. In 1999, Anthony agreed to take in a herd of “troubled” wild elephants, the first seen in the area in more than a century. Winning their trust, becoming deeply attached, and even learning how they communicate, Anthony took enormous risks in the form of enraged elephants, distrustful neighbors, and poachers. – Publishers Weekly
- Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
NONFICTION- The world has lost a great man in Nelson Mandela, but his strength, principles, and sense of humor are captured in this autobiography.
- When the Crocodile Eats the Sun by Peter Godwin
NONFICTION- Peter Godwin, a renowned journalist, grew up in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), the son of a doctor and policeman. In this book he presents the tragic decline of his home country under Mugabe’s dictatorship paralleling the decline of his parents as they age.
- The Old Way by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
NONFICTION- Thomas was nineteen when her father took his family to live among the Bushmen of the Kalahari. Fifty years laterThomas returns to her experiences with the Bushmen, one of the last hunter-gatherer societies on earth, and discovers among them an essential link to the origins of all human society. – from the Publisher
- The Wilderness Family by Kobie Kruger
NONFICTION- Excellent memoir of a South African game warden family. You’ll laugh, cry and long for an African experience like Kruger’s.
- The Safari Companion by Richard D. Estes – the best general guide for learning about and observing wildlife.
- He Shall Thunder in the Sky by Elizabeth Peters
MYSTERY- An easy introduction to Egypt starring the ever-popular
Amelia Peabody in a pre-WW2 mystery.
- Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz
FICTION- Family saga set in Cairo during the British occupation. [Mahfouz was the winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature.]
- Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman’s Skiff by Rosemary Mahoney
NONFICTION- “Mahoney, who has been rowing for 10 year, brilliantly juxtaposes an account of her own palm-blistering hours on the Nile….with the diary entries of two Victorian travelers-Gustave Flaubert and Florence Nightingale.”
–Lisa Fugard, New York Times Book Review
- The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran
FICTION- This account of the life of Nefertari and Ramesses the Great is an easy introduction to the time of the pharoahs.
- Leap of Faith by Queen Noor of Jordan
NONFICTION- Queen Noor, the former Lisa Halabi, left the US and all she’d known to marry King Hussein of Jordan. Her story, and in particular, her perspective on the issues in the Middle East make this a must read book for anyone traveling to Jordan.
- The Sisters of Sinai: How Two Lady Adventurers Discovered the Hidden Gospels by Janet Martin Soskice
NONFICTION- Identical twin sisters, Agnes and Margaret Smith, travel extensively through parts of the world no “ladies” were expected to go and make one of the most important discoveries of modern time. The strength and intellect of these woman and the path that takes them towards their discovery make for an amazing read.
- John Adams by David McCullough
NONFICTION- The Pulitzer Prize–winning, bestselling biography of America’s founding father and second president that was the basis for the acclaimed HBO series, brilliantly told by master historian David McCullough.
- Dark Tide by Stephen Puleo
NONFICTION – In January, 1919, a fifty-foot tank filled with molasses exploded, sending waves of viscous goo through waterfront Boston and killing twenty-one people. Were Italian anarchists to blame or was it negligence by the tank’s owner, the United States Industrial Alcohol company? – The New Yorker
- The Given Day by Dennis Lehane
FICTION-Set in Boston during and after WWI, this engrossing epic brings alive a pivotal period in our cultural maturation through a pulsing narrative that exposes social turmoil, political chicanery and racial prejudice, and encompasses the Spanish flu pandemic, the Boston police strike of 1919 and red-baiting and anti-union violence. – Publishers Weekly
- The Outermost House by Henry Beston
NONFICTION- A chronicle of a solitary year spent on a Cape Cod beach, The Outermost House has long been recognized as a classic of American nature writing
- Little Women by Louisa May Alctt
FICTION- The classic novel follows the lives of four sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March—detailing their passage from childhood to womanhood, and is loosely based on the author and her three sisters. It has been read as a family drama that validates virtue over wealth, but also as a means of escaping that life by women who knew its gender constraints only too well. – Amazon
- Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick
NONFICTION- Mayflower rethinks the events and players that gave rise to a national mythology about Pilgrims living harmoniously with their Indian neighbors. Instead, Philbrick tells a story of ethnic cleansing, bloody wars, environmental ruin, and the deterioration of English-Indian relations. Mayflower provides a harrowing account of survival and, despite its grim themes, a celebration of courage. – Bookmarks Magazine
- The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent
FICTION – Martha Carrier was one of the first women to be accused, tried and hanged as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts. Like her mother, young Sarah Carrier is bright and willful, openly challenging the small, brutal world in which they live. Mother and daughter stand together against the escalating hysteria of the trials and the superstitious tyranny that led to the torture and imprisonment of more than 200 people accused of witchcraft.
Recommended Links for Traveling Readers
Around the World in 80 Books by Shelbi Westcott
A Year of Reading the World by Ann Morgan