Travel Reading List
Alongside travelling, I love reading. The two activities are inextricably linked in my mind, with holidays usually being the time when I can get through the most new books.
Planning a round the world trip with my family is a great excuse to read lots of books about the places we will be visiting.
I find that having some context of a place is the best way for me to travel, but it also has the added advantage of meaning that I am able to inform, educate and annoy my family as we travel.
I am also conscious that we need to make sure that we use this fantastic opportunity as the best form of “home schooling” possible. Our kids will be able to learn about new topics first hand in parts of the world that they would normally only read about. So I feel a sense of responsibility to make myself better informed about the places we are visiting, which takes us back to the start, i.e. it’s a really good excuse to do some reading.
Disclaimer – Each time that I enjoy a new book I will leave a link back to the relevant page on Amazon in case you should want to purchase your own copy. If you do choose to purchase from Amazon then I receive a small commission and you do not pay anything extra. This is one small way in which I am hoping to help fund our family gap-year, but everything that I write here is my own opinion and purely driven by my love of reading.
1.) Canada – Beauty Tips From Moose Jaw (Will Ferguson)
First up, I am going to read a book that I bought when my wife and I first visited Canada around 12 years ago. I will then be on the look out for books that help explore some of our other intended destinations.
A relatively light-hearted look at Canada, in the “Bill Bryson” style. I love all of Bill Bryson’s travel books and Canada is one of our first destination, so it seems a good place to start.
2.) Australia – The Dig Tree (Sarah Murgatroyd)
Found some quiet time on a recent trip to Cornwall, so now onto my second pre-RTW read, which this time is about the Australian outback. This book tracks an expedition from the 1860’s, exploring the continent in a bid to open up a North-South route:
This book has achieved one of the things that I was really hoping for, which is to give me a better understanding of early Australian history. It seems incredible to me how relatively recently it was still possible to go for a wander in Australia and bump into entireley unexplored regions.
It has also inspired me to want to add a trip to the outback into my itinerary. I don’t think you could read this book and not want to visit Cooper’s Creek, to at least get some sense of what this area might have been like when first visited by European eyes 150 years ago.
3.) Australia – The Commonwealth of Thieves (Tom Keneally)
Maybe it’s because England are currently playing Australia at cricket (and winning back the Ashes for us Poms), but thought I’d go back a bit further on my Australian history with this latest read. This time we’re starting at the very beginning of modern Australia, with the first convict ships despatched from England to New South Wales in 1781.
4.) Flying – Skyfaring – A Journey with a Pilot (Mark Vanhoenacker)
Time for a little secret – when I was a kid my dream was to become a pilot. I won’t bore you with all the practicalities, but my eyesight wasn’t good enough to join the RAF and my bank balance was way too poor to fund my way through a commercial pilot programme.
This book, however, has rekindled my enthusiasm for becoming a pilot…one day.
This book gives a fabulous insight into the daily life of a pilot and the amazing technology that makes it seem almost normal to fly 6 miles about the ground in a metal can.
This book has also given me the added benefit of being able to bore my kids with some more technical details of flight while we circle the globe…did you know, for example, that there are four different ways of measuring an aeroplane’s speed (ground speed, indicated airspeed, true airspeed, mach).
5.) Denmark – The Year of Living Danishly (Helen Russell)
As the title suggests, a humorous look at what it is like to live in the country that often tops world studies of “happiness”.
Whilst not technically part of our RTW itinerary, I read this book in preparation for our summer holiday this year, where we trialled a stay with Airbnb in a lovely corner of Jutland.
If nothing else this book gave me some great tips for ordering the best Danish pastries, but it was also encouraging to read about a nation that seems to share my own desire for achieving a good balance between work and family life.
6.) Sri Lanka – Elephant Complex (John Gimlette)
The best new book that I have read this year. An amazing insight into the distant and recent past of Sri Lanka. At times inspiring and at other times very depressing, but always gripping.
I feel that I have a much deeper appreciation of this country before we visit next year, and it has already added a few extra places to my must see list; hill country around Kandy and Nuwara Eliya; Trincomalee; Sigiriya.
It has also crossed at least one place off my list, with Negombo being described as Sri Lanka’s “watery Gomorrah” with a “long and unhealthy tradition of depravity”. Perhaps one to save for when the kids have left home.
7.) Guyana – Wild Coast (John Gimlette)
Having enjoyed reading Elephant Complex, I decided to go back through John Gimlette’s back catalogue for more inspiration.
Guyana isn’t on our RTW itinerary, but Wild Coast was a fascinating read all the same. Once again, JG’s writing and depth of research made Guyana come alive, but what I find most impressive in his books is the historical context behind each journey.
The story of Guyana ranges across British, Dutch and French history. with slavery providing the over-arching backdrop.
I can’t say that reading this book made me want to visit Guyana, which in any case sounds wildly inaccessible. But the book is all the more impressive in my opinion, because I now feel that I have already been there in some small way.
8.) USA – Not Tonight, Josephine: A Road-Trip Through Small Town America (George Mahood)
When the kids are all grown-up and I can afford to hire a convertible two-seater, then I’m planning an extended road trip across the USA. In the meantime, I enjoyed reading George Mahood’s account of his own road-trip.
Buying a dilapidated motor in New York state, George drives with a friend across the USA to California, and then back again.
I managed to devour this book in a few nights while sheltering from the cold on our NZ campervan trip, so I could almost empathise with some of the road-trip experiences that George went through. I’m not sure I could cope with sleeping in the back of a car for very long, but George makes it sound almost appealing.
This book has renewed my own desire to drive across the states, and it was a funny read.
9.) USA – The Last Englishman (Keith Foskett)
As well as driving across the states, I’d also like to hike one of the great trails, and this book by Keith Foskett recounts his thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail.
A 2,650 mile walk from Mexico to Canada sounds like a silly idea. It most probably is. But at the same time this is an inspirational read that takes you deep into the challenges that you’d face if you ever tried to follow suit.
As the title suggests, Keith Foskett is a fellow Englishman. The logistics involved in walking across 2,650 miles of wilderness are mind bending, especially when you add the complication of living on the other side of the Atlantic.
While this book has definitely renewed my ambition to tackle a long hike, it has most definitely made me consider starting somewhere other than the PCT. Crossing high mountain passes in the snow, carrying a week’s worth of food, sounds way beyond my own ability.
Hats off to anybody who has managed to complete the PCT. Reading this book has given me some appreciation of the level of pain involved and the sheer perseverance required.