Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage (by: Alfred Lansing)
An amazing must read. Luck, grit, and a whole lot of good group management at work in “one of the greatest adventure stories of our time.” You will never take your hot coffee for granted once you read this!
The Ends of the Earth: An Anthology of the Finest Writing on The Antarctic (edited by: Francis Spufford)
If you just want a little taste of several different piece about the Antarctic, this is it. Each piece is just enough to teach you something new and keep you entertained. And, it is a great way to compare our perspective of the continent now with the vision of the early explorers like Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen.
Let’s Not Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood (by: Alexandra Fuller)
A touching and quite personal account of growing up as a white African.
Africa (by: Richard Dowden)
My favorite Africa book so far. So many countries and so many stories are beautifully laid out in this book. If you’ve always wanted to visit but haven’t had a chance, this book will make you feel like you spent a decade there.
The End of Poverty (by: Jeffery Sachs)
Written by one of the leading figures shaping the debate on international development policy – another must read if you have any interest in international economics, poverty reduction, or sustainable development.
Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War (by: Leymah Gbowee)
The first 30% percent of this book was by far the most interesting, but it is a really great read and an important story that doesn’t seem to have gotten enough attention in the press. Especially pertinent to every American.
The Trouble with Africa (by: Robert Calderisi)
A great overview of the development challenges in sub-Saharan Africa. Written from the perspective of a veteran World Bank employee.
Purple Hibiscus (by: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)
A lovely novel set in Nigeria – all about finding your own path.
Trek (by: Paul Stewart)
Interesting true story of a group of 4 trying to drive from Kenya to England across the Sahara in the 1950’s. Trust me, you’ll always keep a bottle of water in your bag after reading this one.
A Continent for the Taking – the Tragedy and Hope of Africa (by: Howard W. French)
Super interesting personal account of several African countries throughout the 1990’s. Great overview.
New News out of Africa – Uncovering Africa’s Renaissance (by: Charlayne Hunter-Gault)
Not so much recommended as just read – this book contains some interesting background, but you have to be willing to wade through a fair amount of irrelevant biographical information from the author.
The Lives We Have Lost: Essays and Opinions on Nepal (by: Manjushree Thapa)
A haunting recount of life in the country during the Maoist revolution and after the King’s assassination in 2001.
Poor Economics: A radical rethinking of the way to fight global poverty
(by: Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo)
A good read if you are at all interested in international economics and poverty reduction. It is a case by case look at some of the most accepted and influential development beliefs of our time – what has worked and what hasn’t. Conclusion: it is all about context. …but we already knew that.
Palpasa Cafe (by: Narayan Wagle)
Another one of the best books I have read so far on this trip. It is a witty novel, possibly filled with more truth than any newspaper account of the Maoist insurgency.
Into Thin Air (by: Jon Krakauer)
Jon Krakauer seems to be going with me on my trip — if you’re going to Everest region you HAVE to read this book. It is a personal account of the 1996 disaster that killed the largest number of people ever in one year. Lots of mistakes made and lessons learned.
Forget Kathmandu (by: Manjushree Thapa)
Personal, confrontational, and informative. This book provides a great overview of Nepal’s royal and recent history.
Beyond the Sky and the Earth (by: Jaime Zeppa)
A biographical novel about her time spent teaching in Bhutan. The story offers insight into the culture challenges of life in the Himalayas.
High Religion (by: Sherry Ortner)
This is the book to read for an overview of Buddhism in the Himalayas.
Massacre at the Palace (by: Jonathan Gregson)
In 2001 Nepal was shaken by the mass killing of the royal family, including the King, Queen, and Crowned Prince. Many accounts called the killing a homicide/suicide on the part of the Crown Prince, others called it a conspiracy. This book takes a look at the events and theories and tries to piece together an in depth account of what actually happened.
Travels Through Sacred India (by: Roger Housden)
This book gives such a well laid overview of the religions and religious forces at play in India. For such a huge and complex subject, Housden lays everything out in a simple and easy to follow format. Definitely a must read if spiritual exploration is part of your India journey.
The Journey Home, Autobiography of an American Swami (by: Radhanath Swami)
A coming of age story about how India’s mysticism and pull changed one man’s life path.
Curfewed Night (by: Basharat Peer)
A first hand account of the Kashmiri civil war.
The God of Small Things (by: Arundhati Roy)
So cleverly written and such a touching story.
First There is a Mountain (by: Elizabeth Kadetsky)
A lovely personal account of quite possibly the most important man in modern yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar.
Committed: A Love Story (by: Elizabeth Gilbert)
Of all the things India makes you question, marriage is a big one. Coming from the U.S.A. where a marriage for reasons other than “love” is an alien concept, the economic realities of arranged marriages really makes you reexamine what is means to be husband and wife. In this book, Gilbert takes us through her own journey and gives us a lot of fuel for discussion on the merits of marriage.
1000 Splendid Suns (by: Khaled Hosseini)
A story that has all too much truth in it for many South Asian women. This is an important book to read if you have any interest in gender issues in South Asia (particularly related to Afghanistan during its rule by the Taliban).
The Reluctant Fundamentalist (by: Mohsin Hamid)
Such an easy and enjoyable read that touches on many aspects of today’s American and South Asian cultures.
A Fine Balance (by: Rohinton Mistry)
This is a beautiful novel set during the “Emergency” in India. Eye opening and heart wrenching, it is a must read for anyone traveling here.
Only Love is Real: A Story of Soul Mates Reunited (by: Brian Weiss)
Take a glance at any of the English book stands in Delhi and you will see this name all over the place. If your pondering the role of love and connection in life, this is a great place to start your Brian Weiss fascination. This story gives us a look at regression hypnosis, the role of soul mates and is an interesting place to begin the internal debate about free will vs. fate.
The White Tiger (by: Aravind Adiga)
An interesting novel and easy read that gives the reader some great insight into what it means to survive in India.
The Hungry Tide (by: Amitav Gosh)
A great story about the importance of human connections and finding ones’ self, set amongst the backdrop of Calcutta and the Indian east coast.
Holy Warriors: A Journey into the Heart of Indian Fundamentalism (by: Edna Fernandes)
Reading just 2 to 3 chapters of this book will be enough to convince even the most hardened cynic of the interconnectedness of religion and politics in the subcontinent. One can not exist here without the other, and these stories illustrate that perfectly. This is a great read for anyone wanting to learn more about the complex social and religious context within which India is trying to develop.
In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India (by: Edward Luce)
A thorough overview of modern day India, it’s challenges and opportunities for development.
Holy Cow (by: Sarah Macdonald)
Funny and entertaining.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: A Spiritual Autobiography
Beautifully enlightened and inspiring, as usual.
Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux
(by: John Neihardt)
Such an easy and important read. This book is full of historical curiosities and written from the first person perspective of a man that lived through the West changing hands, the battle of Little Big Horn and the fall of Custer.
Travelers’ Tales American Southwest: True Stories
(by: Barbara Kingsolver, Douglas Preston, Tony Hillerman, and more)
A wonderful collection of true short stories that take place in the American Southwest. The collection is full of adventure, intrigue and a whole lot of humor.
We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People
(by: Peter Van Buren)
A first hand account of what it meant to be a U.S. government worker in Iraq after the war. Full of unbelievable stories and insights.
Farewell to Manzanar (by: Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston & James D. Houston)
An interesting biographical account of one woman’s childhood years spent in a Japanese internment camp during WWII.
What the Dog Saw (by: Malcolm Gladwell)
No real explanation needed. Everything by Malcolm Gladwell is worth reading.
Daughters of the Earth (by: Carolyn Niethammer)
Slightly scattered in focus, but an intriguing look into the lives of Native American women from throughout the United States. An easy and worthwhile read.
Under the Banner of Heaven (by: Jon Krakauer)
In this book Karkauer delves in the world of Mormon fundamentalism with a critical eye but most importantly with profound respect for the victims created when religion is used for personal gain or vengeance. The story is a great reminder to all Americans that we should take a good hard look within our own borders and history before reaching out to condemn others.
Ishi in Two Worlds (by: Theodora Kroeber)
A great look into the culture of the Native American tribes that inhabited California’s coast before the arrival of gold-hungry pioneers, as told through the life experiences of the “last know wild man.” Until I read this book, I had no idea how little I knew about the Native American culture and the influence of pioneers on their heritage.
Into the Wild (by: Jon Krakauer)
Poignant and beautifully written, this book needs to be read by anyone that has, or has had an adventurous spirit. Krakauer does a cunning job of pointing out that the only difference between the people that we call “fools” and the people that we admire for their bravery, might be nothing more than luck and circumstance.
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