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Glancing through my bookcase

19 July 2012 miscellaneous 2 comments

Today, I have tidied my bookcase. Pretty hard work. But, in doing this, I have reviewed the travel books that I have bought from far away. Some have been written in Romanian, too, but I bought a lot of English travel books. Many of them are purchased from India, the largest producer of books in English in the world where prices are really low … In fact, each time I travel to South Asian countries like India and Nepal, I got my backpack filled with new books. But, until my next trip, here are some books I have read and liked… Which travel books have you read and would you recommend to others?

Kevin Sites – “In the hot zone – one man, one year, twenty wars” – bought from thePhilippines. An American reporter trampled by American “patriots” for having fed images with American soldiers killing already wounded and defenseless Iraqi partisans. He receives an offer from Yahoo to film for a year in all the countries affected by wars – fromSri Lanka andNepal toLebanon, a short update regarding the conflict situations in the world.

Louise G. Koke – “Our hotel in Bali” – bought in Bali. The history of the first hotel in Kuta built by a young American couple who built the Kuta Beach Hotel in 1936 – not only the stories of early tourism in Bali, but also a snapshot of the life in Bali before the appearance of millions of tourists, another “virgin”civilization.

Ma Jian – “Red Dust – a Path through China” – bought in thePhilippines – 1983. Ma Jian wants to run fromBeijing – he is a rebel, is long-haired, wears jeans, and is interested in the retrograde art of the West. His wife divorces and takes the child, his girlfriend cheats on him. Ma Jian will leave towards the west ofChina (an area known as Western Turkestan or Uigurstan travelling along and acrossChina for over three years.

Stephen Schlesinger & Stephen Kinzer – “Bitter Fruit” – bought in theU.S. – the story ofU.S. intervention inGuatemala in the 1950’s with the purpose to overthrow of the democratically elected government ofGuatemala. This book explains many wars that have destroyedCentral America in the years 60-80.

Aidan Hartley – “The Zanzibar Chest” – bought in theU.S. – a bloody history of Eastern Africa (fromSudan toZanzibar) in 80s and 90s.

Tony & Maureen Wheeler – “Unlikely Destinations – Lonely Planet the story” – bought inIndia, I think.  Lonely Planet’s story from the moment when the Wheelers meet and get married inEngland until 2005 when Lonely Planet is already a phenomenon.

Dan Cruickshank – “Around the World in 80 Treasures” – bought inHolland – a BBC producer is going to shoot 80 wonders of the world for a BBC documentary.

Roxana Valea – “Through Dust and Dreams” – bought inRomania – after graduating from an MBA inItaly, the Romanian Roxana Valea gets a dream job for many in the country – inLugano,Switzerland, working for Indesit. Despite this “dream job” Roxana falls in love with Africa after a short trip toNamibia. She quits the job, finds 2 Englishmen on the Lonely Planet forum, so, she leaves to Africa by car, discovering the world south of theSahara.

Emil Ghitulescu – “All Roads Lead to Kabul” and “All Roads Lead to Darfur” – the memoirs of a Romanian ambassador in Pakistan / Afghanistan and Sudan, one of the few Romanian ambassadors that have left something behind – I saw for myself the translation into Romanian of the poem “Noli me tangere” of the poet-hero of the Philippines, Dr. Jose Rizal on a column in Manila (Ghitulescu was also an ambassador to the Philippines), but he has also erected the statue of Eminescu in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan.

Didier Regnier – “The Adventure of the Grand Raid” – received as an award in I don’t-know-which-school-grade in the ’80s. It is one of the books that have marked me the most and that has made ​​me dream to “conquer” the world – a reality show in which teams of the main Francophone television stations in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Quebec leave around the world from Cape Town to the Tierra del Fuego through East Africa, Arabia, India, China, Japan, Canada, U.S., Latin America, each week being required to present a documentary filmed that week. The best documentaries are voted by the viewers, and those who are in last place for three consecutive times are eliminated. It is the first time when Communist China opens. (1984)

Ion Chirila – “Twisting Time Zones” – 1980. The second fundamental book that has opened my dream to travel – Chirilă – certainly the greatest sports journalist or columnist as he calls himself – has also written a less known “tourist” book which has, unfortunately, not been republished in the last three decades. I do not have it any longer, I do not know whom I lent it to, but, along with other books by Chirilă, it has made ​​me want to twist the timezones.

Cleo Odzer – “Patpong Sisters” – bought inThailand – an American, a former hippy ofGoa, “settles down” and starts to prepare her PhD degree in sociology. Topic? The girls inBangkok’s red district – Patpong. A behind-the-scene book from Patpong with and about the girls there.

Pico Iyer – “Video Night in Kathmandu” – bought inIndia. A travelling document book in the 80’s – immediately after the post-hippy period, but also a pre-internet one, Pico oscillates betweenNepal and Bali, being one of the pioneers of independent travel toChina.

Farzana Versey – “A journey interupted – Being Indian in Pakistan” – bought in India – an Indian, but Muslim  journalist visits Pakistan several times trying to make herself better understood – she is seen as Pakistani in India, and as Indian in Pakistan. She also visits the tribal areas of the North West Frontier, but also the culturalLahore where she interacts with all sorts of people. Much political bullshit, however.

Elisabeth Bumiller – “May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons” – bought inIndia. Elisabeth joins her husband which was sent by “The New York Times” as a special correspondent toIndia. Elisabeth a journalist herself, enters the world of women and of the customs ofIndia. A true handbook that introduces you to the fascinating labyrinth of Indian customs, but also to the condition of the woman in the subcontinent.

Sarah MacDonald – “Holly Cow!” – bought in India. Here you need a toilet at hand because you’ll laugh yourself… The author is an Australian working as a DJ in Sydney. But her husband is sent to India to be a correspondent for an Australian newspaper (similar to the story above). But, unlike the American Bumiller, the book of the Australian lady is funnier – from the “hugging mother” whom she asks to grow her breasts which then cannot be stopped from growing by the high tech medicine in Sydney to the Bollywood stories, everything is there.


William Sutcliffe – “Are You Experienced?” – bought inIndia. I read it on the trains and buses inIndia. You need to travel there to read this book … you will laugh so hard that you will fall under the train couch (on top of some sleeping Indian). The super story of a backpacker who accidentally got toIndia because he wanted to sleep with his best friend’s girlfriend who had left on the “gap year” toIndonesia. If Liz (the girl) joins finally an ashram with a sex guru, Dave (he) arrives to southernIndia…

Heinrich Harrer – “Seven Years in Tibet” – bought inNepal. A classic Oscar film, a special world. The film is inspired from the book, but the book is completely different…  and carries you into another time on another planet – in theTibet before the Chinese occupation. Absolutely fascinating.

Deborah Rodriguez – “Kabul Beauty School” – bought in thePhilippines – a beauty school inAfghanistan? Well, yes, an American goes toKabul in 2003, where she opens the “KabulBeautySchool” crossing cultural and language barriers, entering the cloistered Afghan world.

Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin – “Three Cups of Tea” – bought in thePhilippines. “Here, inPakistan andAfghanistan, we drink three cups of tea to do business: the first you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, and the third, you join our family and for our family and we are prepared to do anything – even die “. In 1993, Greg Mortensen goes to Pakistan to climb K2. He fails, but, moved by the kindness of the local people, he promises to return and build a school. He will build 55 schools especially for girls in the land where the Taliban movement was born.

Ernesto Che Guevara – “Motorcycle Diaries” – bought in Cuba, I think. Il comandante was a backpacker. Along with a friend, he backpacked in Latin America before meeting Fidel and entering history. But visiting Latin America on a motorcycle inspired him in what he will do later.

David Stanley – “Eastern Europe on a shoestring – Lonely Planet 1988” – bought in Thailand. It is THE HISTORY BOOK OF THE END OF COMMUNISM. ” I have seen books and documentaries about Gorby, Revolutions and Walls. But the 1988 Eastern Europe Lonely Planet guide reminds you about a thousand details of life before 1989 that you have forgotten, but you rediscover, stunned. Although it was supposed to be a tour guide, is a real history book.

But there are more where these came from, they are not the only ones.



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Până acum există "2 comentarii" la acest articol:

  1. Andreea says:

    Nice. I’ve wrote some of the titles down to buy them when I have the occasion. I tend to read a lot of travel literature, it helps me go on when I’m not able to travel. I wish there was more titles translated in Romanian so I can recommend them to friends. Some of the titles that I would recommend:

    – I really like Paul Theroux. He’s somewhat controversial so you either like his style or you don’t. Some people take offense in the way he depicts different places but I think he writes beautifully. I would recommend “The Great Railway Bazaar” which is considered a classic in travel literature. It’s about a train trip from London all the way to Japan and back. It was written more than 30 years ago but some of the places still ring the same. But the one I liked the most is “The Old Patagonian Express: By Train through the Americas” also about a train travel from Boston to Argentina.

    – Bill Bryson is an American that writes funny travel books; he mostly pokes fun at himself. I’ve read “Neither here nor there” (travel through Europe), “A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian trail”, “In a Sunburned Country” (travel in Australia), “Notes from a Small Island” (travel in UK) and “The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America”. It’s true that his destinations are more mainstream and not so exotic but I think he’s worth reading,

    Another one that I really liked was “A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East” by Tiziano Terzani who in 1993 is told by a fortune teller at Bankgog airport that he shouldn’t travel by plane in 1996 and so he decides that in that year he would travel around Asia by train/bus/boat etc, anything but plane travel; everywhere he goes he consults a fortune-teller.

    • Imperator says:

      Thank you for additions. I have the “Great Railway Bazaar”. I just did not have time to read it, but after your comment, I will do my best :) I will also look for Terzani’s book . Sounds really interesting :)

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