I decided for the most part to try to get books that are set in the areas where I’m going for my trip. There’s something fun about having a fictional account of a place and then seeing it in person! For me, it adds a lot more context. And then I’ve been reading books about other people traveling, and catching up on some recent stuff I haven’t read.
Thank goodness for the invention of the Kindle. And the part where you can rent Kindle books from the library! I’ve got about 15 books with me at any given time, so there’s lots of reading to do!
Here are the books I’ve read so far on the trip (and yes, some of them are not set where I’m going)
First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers
This was an incredibly poignant account of the Cambodian atrocities under Pol Pot. Told from the author’s perspective as a very young child encountering the brutality of the regime, it gives personalization to it all. You hear about the killing fields, about Pol Pot, about the famines, etc, but reading it told through a seven year-olds eyes changed things. It made me appreciate more what the Cambodian people have been through to get to now.
The Glass Palace
This was a story set in the final days of King Thibaw of Myanmar, and tells the odyssey of a young boy who sees a young girl and follows her to the end of the earth. It was a great introduction to Myanmar geography, a great discussion of the old town of Mandalay, and went up through and past the Second World War. It was a long book, but a very good read!
Set in the US, this one wasn’t “trip” focused but was still a sobering read. This tells the tale of “The Circle” which is a company with very Google-like tendencies. (Though they specifically mention in the book that The Circle purchased Google, Facebook, etc, so of course it can’t be representative of any real company!) It makes you think about privacy, the role of privacy, and the right to privacy in our lives. In terms of talking about means of persuasion, some of the dialogue in here used really interesting persuasion techniques. A very good read!
Burmese Days: A Novel
This is a book based on George Orwell’s observations during a visit to Myanmar during the British colonial period. I think it does a great job of capturing the racism inherent in colonialism, as well as the “white man’s burden” seen through individuals.
The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost
To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy this one. It’s the story of a girl who doesn’t quite know what she wants to do with her life, so she discovers traveling and a different sort of adulthood than the typical American dream. This book has a strong thread of “travel helps you find yourself!” which is something I have a whole soapbox on. You are you no matter where you are – travel might reveal more of you, but you’re not going to find something that’s not there. At least in my opinion.
The Handmaid’s Tale
Thanks to the Hulu show, it seems like everyone is talking about this book! And of course, I’d rather read the book first, so now I’m ready to see the show when I get home.
What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding
This is thoroughly entertaining! Kristin, the author, has quite the travels and the book is very funny. However, I still hate the “I found myself through travel” message wound through the book.
Big Little Lies
I liked this one! It was a good mystery about who died and how, and it was a great “vacation” read! It’s set in Australia, and made me sad I skipped the country for this trip!
Small Great Things
This was a really interesting book, and a good perspective-changer on the role of race in America. I finished this one really quickly!
You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life
Lots of my friends recommended this one to me, and it’s a good read! It gets a bit repetitive, but on the whole, it’s really good! It’s a great reminder that the biggest thing holding you back from most of your dreams is you.
Cleopatra: A Life
If I’m going to be in Egypt, best to read about the most storied queen, right? This was an excellent book and really brought the historical Cleopatra to life more than the literature and plays about her ever have. It also was more interesting to read while sitting in Egypt. I started this one years ago and couldn’t make it through it. But then I made it to Egypt, and knowing I’ll see many of the monuments mentioned in the book in the next few days made it much more interesting!
Death on the Nile
This was the perfect book to accompany my tea at the Old Cataract Hotel on the Nile – where Agatha Christie wrote it!
The Haves and the Have-Nots: A Brief and Idiosyncratic History of Global Inequality
With as much traveling as I’ve been doing in the developing world, it has made me realize more and more how lucky I am to be on the “haves” side of global inequality. This was an awesome book that talks about causes, and had more than a few interesting stories and anecdotes to take away. One thing I loved was that they converted GDP per capita for each country into parity purchasing power per capita, so you could see income relative to cost of goods. A fascinating read!
Apartment in Athens
This is a story set in Athens in WWII of a family who is hosting a German officer. It’s a really interesting look at WWII from one of the theaters not commonly thought of in the war (Greece) as well as a look at the toll the war took on people around the world.
Spoiler: I decided to detour to Romania. Details to come. But seriously, you absolutely can’t go to Transylvania and not read Dracula! I read it a while ago, but if you’re thinking of going to Transylvania, The Historian is also a great read.
That’s it for now and what I’ve read so far on the trip! Any suggestions to add?
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Love your choices!
Ahhh I love The Historian!! So excellent. She wrote another book called The Swan Thieves – also excellent. It escapes me where it is set but ugh it was such a good read. I’m adding 4 of these books to my list – starting with The Handmaid’s Tail so I can watch the show 🙂 Great minds!