I recently spent one month travelling the south of India, from Chennai in the east to Varkala in the west. On my journey, I did a lot of reading. Much of it was related to India as I felt it would be a good time to learn about this vast and fascinating country. I’m going to list the books below, along with a short description/review.
- Neither Here nor There, by Bill Bryson. Buy. I’ve read a few of Bryson’s books in the past and really enjoyed them, but this was by far the best. I laughed out loud countless times. His was of describing the various places in Europe that he visited was absolutely hilarious, particularly when things start going wrong, which they often do. He can put a funny spin on anything. Consider this rather depressing passage:And to think that this was written in 1991, long before millions of Chinese tourists were unleashed upon the world!
- Lonely Planet – South India. Hmm… I can’t seem to find a link for this one. I never buy guidebooks but given the complexities of travelling in India, I picked up a second hand 2014 copy of LP’s guide to South India. It was, to be honest, crap. Total waste of money. Full of silly grammar errors and useless information.
- The Great Railway Bazaar, by Paul Theroux. Buy. I’ve read a couple of Theroux’s books on my travels and immensely enjoyed all of them, but this one was a particular highlight. It details his travels around the world by train, with one chapter for each train journey. Unfortunately, much of the route is no longer viable – can you imagine trying to cross the Middle East on a train these days? His descriptions of the landscape are beautiful and the conversations with other passengers often funny and always engaging. I particularly enjoyed the sections in India.
- The Summer of Crud, by Jonathan LaPoma. Buy. A novel about two young men crossing America by car. Sort of an On the Road updated for the 21st century. I didn’t really enjoy it. I reviewed it here.
- Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World, by Niall Ferguson. Buy. A fantastic book about the incredible British empire that was so vast that it covered a full quarter of the world at its peak. Ferguson explores how an insignificant nation, whose “navy” was just a bunch of pirates, conquered the globe, and how that led to the world we have today – for better or worse. As the most important part of the Empire, India dominates much of this book.
- The Taste of Conquest: The Rise and Fall of the Three Great Cities of Spice, by Michael Krondl. Buy. Did you know the knights of Britain and France would have sat around a table in a castle eating food that tasted more like an Indian takeaway than anything we’d consider British or French today? Spice has long been imported to Europe, and three cities dominated that trade – at least for a while. This great book explores the histories of Venice, Lisbon, and Amsterdam through the prism of spice. (The author also narrates partly from Kochi, where I visited last week.)
- The Good Father, by Noah Hawley. Buy. I can’t get enough of Noah Hawley’s books. Or his TV shows. He’s the guy who wrote Fargo (not the movie). Two years ago, I read his novel, Before the Fall, and was very impressed. This book is just as good. It’s about a man who finds out his son assassinated the man who was all but certain to become president of the United States. He’s determined to prove him innocent, but the son claims to be guilty.