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5 of My Favorite Travel-Related Books

harp in foreground with books on shelves in background
Traveleidoscope: Travel-related books

A while back, I did a guest post for fellow blogger Shannon Simcox who has a wonderful book-centric blog called by By My Pen. For that post, she asked for five books that most influenced me. My list is created from a travel perspective and so I thought I'd share that list with you - enjoy!

As a travel blogger, I write about my adventures near and far. And as an avid reader, I tend to choose books with a travel or adventure related theme. I even use books as part of my research since sometimes, a place I’m either visiting or writing a post about won’t have a lot of information available. When that happens (and even when it doesn’t) I turn to books to fill in the information gaps - books, by authors who are either native to a place or have spent a lot of time in a place. While these types of books probably won’t offer suggestions about where to stay or what to do, they do offer a unique and nuanced insight into a culture that may not be obvious in a guide book. In addition to the travel connection, the books on my list have another common thread – adventure and/or exploration of the unknown.

1. The Sex Lives of Cannibals, J. Maarten Troost (2004)

This book chronicles the adventures of Troost during his time he lived in Kiribati, a small remote island in the Pacific. Troost hilariously describes how he adjusted to both cultural and dietary differences and how the islanders reacted to him. Troost also does some self-examination of his own behavior. I read this book when I was planning a trip to a different remote Pacific island, and Troost encapsulates the feeling of being an outsider in a remote place. Having lived in other countries, I appreciate some of the struggles of trying to adapt to a totally alien environment.

2. The Blood Strand, Chris Ould (2016)

When I was researching an upcoming trip to the Faroe Islands A couple of years ago, there wasn’t much information around about the isolated islands in the North Atlantic Ocean. And, since I was reading a lot of Scandinavian crime novels at the time (i.e., Jo Nesbo), I started searching for novels that might take place in the Faroes. Although Chris Ould is British, he captures that sense of “Scandi-Brit” or “Nordic noir”. The plot of Blood Strand involves Detective Jan Reyna, who left the Faroe Islands as a young child, but returns when his father is possibly involved in a crime. Reyna is now more British than Faroese and the theme of outsider comes into play. That "outsider-ness" also seems to reflect that sense of isolation of the Faroes.

3. West With the Night, Beryl Markam (1936)

A friend recommended to this book to me not long after it was re-published in the 1980’s. I was a flight attendant at the time so there was a connection to aviation, but I also related to Markham’s sense of adventure. Markham, who spent much of her childhood in Kenya, later became one of the first women bush pilots in Africa, but she was most famous for her East-West crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. I loved the book because of the aviation theme and the total unconventional arc of Markham’s life, including the controversial backstory of the whether Markham actually authored the book.

4. The Shining, Stephen King (1977)

The Shining will always be my favorite Stephen King novel. Like most of King’s novel, it’s psychologically frightening, but not necessarily violent. I also love how King dives deep into character development. Sure, it makes for a long book, but for me, the deliberate build up is necessary for the reader to appreciate The Shining's slow disintegration of Jack Torrance. In a twisted sort of way, The Shining is an adventure novel - the adventure of living in an isolated hotel for the winter – which turns in to a completely terrifying adventure.

5. Candide, Voltaire (1759)

I was a foreign language major in college and studied Voltaire extensively. I loved Candide and have read it in both English and French. It’s a political and religious commentary disguised as adventure parody. I think it really requires multiple reads (with at least one reading in French, if possible) to truly appreciate how brilliant it is. At the time it was published, it was banned because it was considered politically seditious and blasphemous, but it’s so cleverly written which is probably why it remains so widely read.

photo of stacks of books
Photo courtesy of Ed Robetson at Unsplash

What are your favorite travel-related books? Tell me about them on Facebook or in Traveleidoscope's comment section!

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