Must Read Travel Books – Fact and Fiction

Here’s a list of some of my favourite travel books, both fiction and non-fiction, that are really worth a read….

1.     “Snowing in Bali: The Incredible Inside Account of Bali’s Hidden Drug World”

by Kathryn Bonella

This book has you riveted from the start, especially since I’ve been to Bali and I would never have believed what goes on in the upmarket hotels and around the pools where families and holidaymakers are innocently relaxing and playing. It’s the true story of how Kathryn Bonella gained unprecedented access to Bali’s drug traffickers in the paradise island, from the incredible highs of the drug barons, their partying and drug-fuelled lifestyles down to the terrible lows of the jail inmates on death row.


2.     “The Lonely Planet Story: Once While Travelling”

by Tony and Maureen Wheeler

This is a highly readable book about the start of the Lonely Planet Guide Books and how it traces Tony and Maureen Wheeler’s personal story, business history and the evolution of the travel publishing company into a million-dollar industry from its humble beginnings as a self-published travel guide.


3.    “Shantaram

by Gregory David Roberts

This is a novel based on a true story of Gregory David Roberts who was an armed robber and heroin addict, who escaped from prison in Australia and arrived in India, living in a slum, where he set up a free health clinic whilst also joining the mafia and working as a money launderer amongst other things.  He learnt Hindi, and ended up in jail, then acted in Bollywood before entering Afghanistan and fighting the Mujahadeen.  The prison guards trashed the first two versions of this book but his will-power in getting the novel finished overcame everything in his extraordinary story.


4.     “Mrs P’s Journey: The Remarkable Story of the Woman who Created the A-Z maps”

by Sarah Hartley

This is an enchanting story of Phyllis Pearsall, an artist and daughter of a flamboyant Hungarian/Jewish Immigrant and an Irish Italian mother, whose often traumatic childhood did not stop her from becoming one of Britain’s intriguing entrepreneurs and self-made millionaires.  She was divorced after an unsatisfactory marriage and to support herself became a portrait painter, and in trying to find her patrons’ houses, she became frustrated at the lack of proper road maps in London.  She decided to do something about it and trod the 23,000 streets in London on foot, during the course of one year, often leaving her house at dawn to do so.  This is an account of her amazing journey.


5.     “A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East

by Tiziano Terzani

In 1976, warned by a fortune-teller in Hong Kong not to fly in 1993 as he ran a risk of crashing in a plane, some 16 years later Tiziano Terzani  had not forgotten.  So he took to travelling by road, rail and sea only.  He consulted fortune-tellers, shamans, magicians, palmists and seers all over Asia, in a bid to see into his future.  It’s a story of adventure and self-discovery and each story celebrates the mystical and unknowable, and the fortune-teller did save him from the air crash!


6.     “Seven Years in Tibet”

by Heinrich Harrer

This is one of my favourite books and films.  It’s the true story of how Austrian Olympic climber, Heinrich Harrer, escaped across the Himalayas into Tibet during the Second World War.

Heinrich Harrer was already one of the greatest mountaineers of his time, when war broke out when was climbing in the Himalayas.  He was imprisoned by the British in India, as he was Austrian, but succeeded in escaping into Tibet.  He settled in Lhasa, the Forbidden City, where he became a friend and tutor to the current Dalai Lama when he was a child.  Heinrich spent seven years gaining a more profound understanding of Tibet and the Tibetans than any Westerner before him.  This has been made into a wonderful film starring Brad Pit, and is an incredible story of courage and also self-discovery.


7.    Into the Wild”

by John Krakauer

In 1992, Christopher McCandless, only 24 and recently graduated from college, disappeared, leaving his family and trust fund behind, and headed off with the intention of surviving alone in the wilds of Alaska on a voyage of self-discovery.  Some four months later his emaciated corpse was found with an SOS note beside him.  The author explores this story of obsession in discovering the outer limits of the self, leaving civilisation behind to seek enlightenment through solitude in nature.  This has also recently been made into a very thought-provoking film by Sean Penn.


Author: Debbie

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