Recommended Travel Reads

Not only do I love to travel, I love to read about travel. Good travel writing is escapism at its finest – whether at home or on the road. I especially like to read about a place while I’m in that place.

And since I’m in Africa, I’m reading all types of literature about Africa. Here’s a few of my favorites I want to share with you:

When the Crocodile Eats the Sun by Peter Godwin

My favorite book in a long while, Godwin takes us on a personal journey with his family and his upbringing in modern-day Zimbabwe. Godwin provides great insight into the political tragedy that is Zimbabwe over the last 20 years.

In particular, it has helped me understand why white Zimbabweans continue to stay and struggle in a country that is determined to strip them of their livelihoods. It also offers a personal family story that is fully of honesty. I read the book in about 2 days and cried a several times.

#1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

Smith has created a fiction franchise out of his Mma Ramotswe character and her home-spun approach to solving mysteries in rural Botswana. I read the first book I the series, which I thought was a fun “light” read. When so much of writing about Africa is depressing, I like the fact that Smith offers a playful take on living in an Africa.

Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town by Paul Theroux

A true travel narrative, Theroux takes us with him as he traverses the African continent. I love the detail in his writing and his insightful questions about the poverty, corruption and aid that he sees all around him. I also feel a kinship with his perilous overland journey, having one too many close encounters on the blacktop myself!

Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

Recommended to me by my friend Maryanne, Disgrace has won both the Nobel Prize for Literature, as well as the Booker. (In fact, Coetzee is the only author who has won the Booker Prize twice.) At first I didn’t get it – why is this book was so acclaimed?

I think perhaps because I had just finished Philip Roth’s The Human Stain and there were similarities between the two stories: professors who were forced to resign their tenures in shame and their self-serving morality.

But then, then the second half of the book got intense. Really intense. And I finished it feeling enraged. Now I get it. Writing that can make you feel an emotion so strongly is truly gifted. Read it.

Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton

Another South African entry and a classic on every high school’s reading list. The tale was sorrowful throughout, although it offered bits of generosity that uplifted the reader. What struck me most is that it was published in 1948 and offers a stark description of how South Africa’s crime problems started.

Do any of these tales appeal to you? Then off to the library you go — You won’t be disappointed!

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This entry was posted on Saturday, October 15th, 2011 and is filed under Erin Right Now, Social Issues.

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