Books on the Road: My Reading List

One of my favorite things about traveling is how there is suddenly time to read, a lot. Back home, I’d have to make time for even the best of books, but on the road, opportunity always seems to present itself in the form of a long bus ride or, even better, an inviting hammock. Here is a list of my book choices to date. I try to mix the easy reads with the more deep and thought provoking. Suggestions are always appreciated.

The Drifters – James A. Michener: Six young adults from varying backgrounds and nationalities find themselves in each others company in Southern Spain miles from home. They each have their own reason for being there, but each is enjoying themselves while they figure out their place in the world. Set in the late 1960’s, its an awesome read which still holds relevant themes today. Definitely my favorite book of the trip so far.

The Beach – Alex Garland: I traveled through southern Thailand and inevitably ended up on Koh Phi Phi Leh, filming location of The Beach. I’d never seen the film but was intrigued by its popularity. Since the book is always better than the movie, I decided to give it a go. The author was dead on in his depiction of Thailand’s backpacker trail and it’s quite the page turner as well.

First They Killed My Father – Luong Ung: First hand account of a young girl’s life during the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia and the genocide that followed. She goes through many horrific years before her tenth birthday. Really an eye opener as to what humans are capable of and a must read for anyone planning on a visit to Cambodia.

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald: I read this in high school but had completely forgotten the plot line. I was reminded of it when I saw a poster for a new upcoming film adaption featuring, once again, Leonardo DeCaprio. Figured I should refresh my memory before even considering watching Hollywood’s version. Quick read that touches on the reality of life versus the illusions we create.

Guns, Germs, and Steel – Jared Diamond: Practically a summary of the last 10,000 years of human history attempting to answer one question, why do people of Eurasian decent hold most of the world’s wealth and power. He argues against the superiority of a race, and instead looks toward necessity and inherent advantages in a people’s environment, which lead to Eurasians having superior guns, germs and steel. It’s a very technically read and at times can feel like a textbook, but nonetheless, I find it fascinating.

Do Travel Writers Go to Hell? – Thomas Kohnstamm: Follows the adventure or misadventure of a Lonely Planet travel writer after he quits his day job and travels through Brazil gathering info for the holy grail of guidebooks. Running low on cash, he gets himself into some sticky situations and basically destroys the myth that guidebook writers have it made. Entertaining read but it also helps one realize that even your “dream job” might not lead to living the dream.

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