I am contacting you, O! Wise reader after some time; and what desperate and dangerous times are these!
Death is in the air and we are abound with worry, fear and overwhelming reporting, both true and false, about Corona scare.
As the house becomes claustrophobic and the dreams of that golden summer vacation are being buried, I thought if one can’t step of the home physically, atleast one can travel around the world digitally and magically through the world of books.
Yes, books have the power to instantly transport us to any corner of this fascinating planet, and even beyond.
So here is list of books that I have loved and would recommend everyone to read in this time.
All these books are either much loved travel accounts or unbelievable real-life adventures that will leave you on the edge of your couch.
These books are available as e-books on apps like Anybooks (free) or Amazon Kindle app, Play books app, Kobo app etc.( paid).
So, sit back, hold the armrest of your couch tightly and fly along with me to distant parts of the earth…
1) In Xanadu by William Dalrymple :- If there is any book about travel that has made me want to chuck my job and to travel with gay abandon, then it is this book, which made what Dalrymple is today – a famous and respected author. It is an interesting, humorous and amazing account of his endeavor to repeat Marco polo’s iconic journey from Jerusalem to Xanadu in inner Mongolia (china) in 13th century. Xanadu was then the capital of Kubla khan, the grandson of Chengis khan. It’s a ruin now and Dalrymple, young and just out of the college, made this epic journey with a female friend. Together they crossed nations like Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan! And met different cultures, delays, red tape and unexpected events…If only my life could be like this.
2) The worst journey of the world by Apsley cherry-garrard:- This masterpiece of real life adventure deals with the true and personal account of the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition lead by Captain Robert Scott from 1910-1913, in an attempt to reach south pole for the first time. Cherry-garrard was the youngest crew member and writes from the heart about the life on the ship and later of hardships on the white continent of Antarctica. Everything was going fine, except Roald Amundsen cut through the chase. Scott was forced to go fast and ultimately he and four others died in a blizzard just 11 miles from the depot where Cherry-Garrard and others waited for them. Also, they died with the knowledge that Amundsen had beaten them to become the first man to reach south pole. Read it to know about the great age of exploration of poles of the earth. It’s a tale of adventure, of exploration, of grit and of loss.
3) Turn Right at Machu-picchu by Mark Adams :- All right, I am fascinated by Machu-Picchu, well who isn’t? One of these days I am going to be there, till then though, I burrowed into this delightful book that has two stories running parallel – one describes the events that happened when in 1911 Hiran Bingham discovered Machu-Picchu and the world was dazzled, he became a superstar an the discovery was exalted as rhe most important of the century; however both – the importance of Machu-picchu in Inca history and Bingham’s stature has taken a downward toll since then; and the second story is of Mark’s own attempt to emulate Bingham’s steps to this site. Mark, a newspaper editor decides one day to do this the hard way – to go through the original Inca trail to Machu-Pichu and hires an experienced guide- John. What happens next is hilarious and is very well written by Mark. An absolute joy for the lovers of travel, history and reading.
4) Into Thin Air by John Krakauer :- Rise to the dazzling heights of Mount Everest along with this book, that is a personal account of Krakauer of the disaster that struck on Everest in May 1996 when eight climbers perished, among them were – Rob hall, the famous climber and expedition guide and Scott Fischer, another Everest guide. What went wrong? Who was to be blamed? Had it become a race and Everest a commercial playground? These concerns are true in today’s time too, but they were first raised by Krakauer through this book, which makes your adrenaline rush. The mountain is described exquisitely and it’s dangers are narrated beautifully, of course Krakaeur was himself present there as the events unfolded.
5) A short walk in the Hindukush by Eric Newby :- It’s 1956 and Eric Newby is itching to leave his job in fashion and explore world, so what does he do? – he resigns, take a diplomat friend along and together they attempt to go to a place where very few have gone and climb a mountain that nobody has done, it does not matter that they have no previous climbing experience and do it! Yes this is what exactly happened and Eric Newby went on to become one of the most reverred travel writer of Britain – What an adventure and what a life! Yes this is all true and this book is the account of that life changing adventure, troubles and events. The region was – Nuristan (previously Kafiristan) province of Afghanistan, an unexplored region even today and the mountain was – Mir Samir, a tall peak in the Hindukush mountains. A book not to be missed by travel aficionados.
6) KonTiki by Thor Heyerdahl :- There is a reason that there is a Kontiki museum in Norway and Thor Heyerdahl is a legend there and the reason is – how many people you can name who built a primitive raft of tree wood and set sail in it across 8000kms in Pacific ocean just to prove a theory? Well there is only one and that is Thor, an adventurer and ethnographer in his own right. In 1947, he and five other like- minded fellows built a primitive raft of Balsa wood, based on account of old texts and stories, and set sail from Peru to Tuamotu island in French Polynesia braving the mighty pacific, storms, hunger and even whale sharks to prove Thor’s theory that French Polynesia was colonised by people sailing from South America in such rafts thousands of years ago; and not from Asia as thought. Though, the theory could not be proved, this adventure caught everyone’s attention in the world and this book is a riveting account of that epic journey.
7) Don’t Go there by Adam Fletcher :- There is matter and there is anti- matter, there is climax and anti-climax. This book is antithesis of travelling as here the author chooses, deliberately, to travel to those places of the world where nobody would normally go. This is a hilarious book and the writing is superb and laced with British humour. Adam travels along with his eccentric girlfriend Annette to North Korea then to Chernobyl and to Moldova and what not. It is his attempt to understand himself, his relation with his girlfriend and the world and we say – Bravo!
8) The Dig Tree by Sarah Murgatroyd :- This one chronicle a very important piece of Australia’s history – The Burke-Wills expedition. Turn back to 1860 when most of the Australia’s population lived around the coast and that too majorly in South. Nobody knew what lay at the centre of the continent – was there an ocean there or a scorching desert? An expedition was launched to find out under the leadership of Robert Burke and his able deputy William wills. It is said that Burke was ill suited for it and expedition poorly equipped, and as the the time would tell that the 19 men on it suffered immensely in the hot Australian outback. But despite all odds they crossed the Australian continent for the first time in history and covered a distance of 3200 kms. The book gives accurate description of their adventures and interactions with the Aborigines. Unfortunately both Burke and Wills perished in the end due to thirst and hunger. A very good read I would say.
9) Touching The void by Joe Simpson :- It is perhaps one of the best survival stories ever told and proves that man can achieve the impossible when the situation demands. It tells the true story of Joe Simpson’s story when in 1985 he fell into a crevice on the 20000 feet high Peruvian mountain Siuala grande after breaking his leg during the climb with his partner Simon Yates. After joe breaks his leg, Simon helps him for some time but at one turn he falls off the edge and Simon finds himself in a situation when he has to decide whether he would save his friend or die with him. With a heavy heart he cuts the rope and Joe falls off the mountain. Thinking that joe has died Simon returns alone to the base camp and decides to wait for 3 days. Meanwhile, Joe falls 150 feet into a crevice and survives. Then begins the ultimate survival story…Joe climbs out of the crevice and crawls down the face of the mountain for three days and three nights with the broken leg and no food and water, and reaches the base camp in near- death condition just hours before Simon leaves. This story is of grit, determination and friendship. What would you do? Would you cut the rope? Joe has said repeatedly since then that he doesn’t hold Simon guilty and would have done the same.
10) Over the Edge of the World by Laurence Bergreen :- Enter the world of 1500’s and the two naval superpowers of the world – Spain and Portugal- are in a contest for supremacy. This is the Tale of the first circumnavigation of the earth by Ferdinand Magellan and his crew from 1519-1522. The ultimate travel story leads one to that era. Magellan was given the commission by the king of Spain to find a westward route I.e. through American continent to reach the spice islands of East indies ( today’s Moluccan islands of Indonesia) for trade. Magellan started confidently, there was only one problem though -Pacific ocean. Yes; nobody knew that it existed! This voyage lead the humanity to know for the first time about the true dimensions of Pacific ocean and the earth itself. This is a great story filled with rebellion, difficult conditions and death of Magellan in Philippines. Ultimately, just 19 men returned to Spain but what they did changed history forever.
So these are my best picks about travel and real life adventure. Hope the reader would like this list and embark on a journey of the world from his or her couch.
The Kneedy traveller.