I’ve just put down a book by Vikram Seth and picked up another written by the son of Tenzing Norgay (yeah, the first man ever to climb Everest). Claire, a fellow travel blogger recently wrote about a love-hate relationship with travel blogs. I think I’m developing the same with all these travelogues I’m reading. I’m trying to convince myself that if I can’t go, atleast I can read, but that is little consolation.
This post also marks the creation of a new Travel Books page on my blog, back by popular demand! This page will be my virtual travel bookshelf, if you may, and I’ll look forward to reading suggestions :)
Here are four unlikely accounts set in distant lands that have inspired me to travel, among other things:
1. A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah.
Perhaps an unlikely candidate for a travel book, A Long Way Gone is the heart-wrenching story of a child soldier turned peace advocate for the UN. In a recount of his own childhood, Ishmael Beah paints a touching portrait of war-torn Sierra Leone, and the circumstances that made him take up arms. It’s been 3 years since I first read it, and I still shudder to think of the silent drones the book leaves you with. I often wonder how the country has transformed since its dark days.
2. From Heaven Lake, Vikram Seth.
It’s not everyday that you can follow an Indian author hitch-hiking from China, via Tibet & Nepal, to India. In this gripping travelogue set in the 1990s, Vikram Seth occasionally delves into the political regime of a country where people are trapped by a system that no one can freely talk about, even today, though never denying the kindness extended to an unwanted foreigner like himself. From Heaven Lake delighted and frustrated me, sometimes simultaneously, and found me thinking about its characters beyond the pages of the book. I imagine the same journey would be near impossible to undertake today.
3. Seven Years in Tibet, Heinrich Harrer.
Set in the 1950s, Seven Years in Tibet is the unlikely story of an Austrian man welcomed by HH Dalai Lama, then a young boy, into the Forbidden City of Lhasa. Heinrich Harrer introduces us to a culture that is both beautiful and fragile, and to the spiritual teachings of Buddhism. The book left me wandering in the surreal landscapes of the roof of the world, and wondering how Tibet would’ve been if history had taken a different course.
4. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer.
A bone-chilling account of a Mount Everest climbing expedition in 1996, of which the author, Jon Krakauer was a part. He takes his readers on the icy slopes of the mighty Himalayas, through the storms that the climbers brace, to the peak that only a handful manage to conquer. A tragic recount of the lives that were lost on the conquest, Into Thin Air left me pondering the human obsession with extreme adventure, while a part of me yearned to embrace its isolated territories.
What are some unlikely books that make you want to set out on your own adventure?