Decades ago, when I was in School, we had Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island as part of Non-detailed syllabus, which i read within a few days of receiving.. And then, went on to read Travels With A Donkey In The Cévennes as well [it was a story of Robert and his donkey Mosestine going across the mountainous region of France] and Around the World in Eighty Days by the French writer Jules Verne, which was fun to read and then watch as well. All these plus Enid Blyton/Robin Cook/others got me hooked on to reading. Over the years, I have continued to read, sometimes multiple books at the same time.
If you asked me where did I travel during the early years of life, I would have to say “Travel” to me initially meant school vacations, some of them were to nearby towns for a few hours, others were a day or so.. It was much later, in College that the trips were for 5+ days, to towns far away from home. I truly am blessed to have parents who let me go on every single trip, near or far, short or long and did not question why I wanted to go, or who else was coming along…. Since then, I have travelled quite a bit within our country, though I know I haven’t seen/experienced even a fraction of what is out there.
Infact, it used to be a joke at home that they could lock me up in a room with music and books, and I would be happy! This holds true even today….
When I initially began exploring new authors, I was gifted Bill Bryson’s Down Under by an uncle. That was it, I was hooked to his travel stories and wanted to see more of the world… I went on to read quite a few books by Bill… I continue to seek new authors, read insights into their world, and of course Travel is something I cherish and get excited about.
A friend in the Navy gifted me The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho– a book that is revered by many, but to me it did not make much sense or leave an impression. I enjoyed the parts where the shepherd boy travels from Spain to Egypt.. And then came a phase when I used to contribute travelogues to a Holiday company’s blog, in return for which I got books- some were hardcore Travel, while others were aspects related to travel… Gosh, every time I got a parcel I was excited and looked forward to getting lost within the pages.
Few of the other books that remain etched in my mind are On the Road, by Jack Kerouac which follows the main character Sal, as he travels from New York City heading west, making friends, and partying the night away at times.. The beauty of this book is that as the days roll by, he becomes a better person and more confident as well, which is something I have experienced over the years. Oh, and how can I forget Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert – I read and watched the movie as well.. While it is fun to walk through the lanes of Italy and Bali, that is all I remember of it.. Now, Shantaram By Gregory David Roberts on the other hand is a book that paints quite a picture, and even though it has been years since i read it, I do remember the details well- Prabaker or Lin and Karla. Another author who writes well is Mark Tully- No Full stops in India and our very own Kushwant Singh- Delhi & Train to Pakistan… probably the only book I have read on the Indian monsoons was Chasing the monsoon by Alexander Frater..
Dark Star Safari By Paul Theroux is one of the few by this author that I enjoyed… Now, The Beach by Alex Garland is a book I loved, where I discovered the world of backpackers and how at times too much thinking/analysing can ruin things for you.. At a book sale, I picked up In A Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson , another of his books based on Australia, sharing his experiences with the jelly fish, or the forgotten coastal towns and the mines… He does not disappoint… Then there is The Divided Island, Samanth Subramanian [non fiction book on Srilanka and war] and Empress of the TAJ: In Search of Mumtaz Mahal by Timeri Murari [a book that combines Travel with history and people beautifully]
Another author who I enjoy reading is William Dalrymple – be it his City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi (1993), Nine lives or The Age of Kali… How can I not mention Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City [ nonfiction book based on Bombay]. And then there is The Hungry Tide & The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh [such visual treats through words].. Amidst all these, I did manage tor read Travel blogger Shivya Nath’s The Shooting Star: A Girl, Her Backpack and the World about her adventures/incidents/troubles across the countries she has visited…
Sigh… How can I talk about Travel books and not mention Pico Iyer, who I discovered thanks to a dear friend of mine, first book I read was – Lady and the Monk.. I am now looking forward to reading his latest- A Beginner’s Guide to Japan: Observations and Provocations. Few other books that I have enjoyed over the years were Seven Years in Tibet: My Life Before, During and After is an autobiographical book by Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer… Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail Cheryl Strayed, her personal journey [1,100-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail], Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah Macdonald based on her experience after backpacking across India.. I should also mention Orhan Pahmuk’s books, especially Istanbul…
Apart from these, I have used the odd Lonely planet guide and other such guides before planning a trip, but those are far & few between.. More for information and advice/tips… But then, these days, the online world provides so much information & interesting tips, pointers/warnings that we all rely on them. Few travel blogs are as good as books, keeping me engaged with the content ..
Phew, the list is endless.. I can go on about travel and books. But the bottomline is, be open to reading new authors, take in new perspectives & go out in the world to create memories that you share with others….
Off I go to finish some work, the book am currently reading and start Pico Iyer’s Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells…
What are some of your favourite travel books?