The thirsty demand for book recommendations is part-and-parcel of long term travel. While iPods and laptops are great time-wasters on an endless bus journey, nothing satisfies like the pages of a good book. When I travel, I try and limit my reading to non-fiction. After all, to travel for travel itself is so fundamentally indulgent that the least I can do is try and learn as I go! Most of the books I buy or trade are therefore non-fiction, but I've been handed some great fiction to read during my journey and have included those as well. In addition, I've included some of my favorites from home at the end of the list.
I will surely update this list at the end of my trip, but these are the books that have stood out during the last 15 months.
Some of the Best Books that I Enjoyed on my RTW:
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen and David Relin. Pat Hatry, a fiery, inspirational partner at my former law firm gave me a signed copy of this book as a going away gift, and I loved it so much I mailed it to my brother from Bariloche, Argentina (garnering myself a marriage proposal from the postman in the process). You read this book for the story, not the writing - but the story envelops you wholeheartedly. An "against-all-odds" tale of Mortensen's efforts to educate girls in Afghanistan, address the cultural prejudices he witnesses in North America and tackle the crippling poverty he witnesses on his trips to the Middle East.
Leaving Microsoft to Change the World by John Wood. If you enjoyed Three Cups of Tea, read Wood's account of his metamorphosis from corporate executive at Microsoft to philanthropist extraordinaire. While Mortensen's personality often served as a deterrent to the success of his endeavours (he was notably disorganized and often forgot about the commitments he made to speak to a crowd), Wood's business acumen and the many skills he developed at Microsoft enabled his organization Room to Read to become extremely successful. Room to Read is now building schools, bilingual libraries and providing scholarships in 9 countries, and their innovative approach to fundraising and development (local R2R chapters in Europe, North America and Australia (among other countries) raise a considerable amount of the funds; communities receiving schools or libraries must co-invest portions of the materials or labour in order to ensure a vested interest in the project) has translated into a lot of happy children and community pride. For me, the idea that the scholarships for girls included not only the books and cost of schooling, but school uniforms, schools and bookbags was particularly touching; it is rare that an organization's attention to detail is so thorough and effective.
The Devil's Picnic: Travels through the Underworld of Food and Drink by Taras Grescoe. Disregarding the introduction, which I thought detracted from the overall book, The Devil's Picnic is an informative, highly entertaining read. Travel with Grescoe as he criss-crosses the globe in search of forbidden foods and drink, and laugh with him as he tries his hand at them upon arrival. With a colourful history of each "devil's dish", from raw-milk cheeses in France to mate de coca in Bolivia to moonshine in Norway, it's a really fun read. Of course, the fact that Grescoe is from my hometown of Montreal doesn't hurt either!
Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky.
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Born in Montreal, Canada, Jodi Ettenberg is a former new media and technology lawyer who quit her job after 5+ years of working…
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