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Top 5 Books for your Travels

By Martha Hales

One indulgent way to immerse yourself in the sensations and culture of a destination is to get stuck into a book set in the country you plan to visit. It can also be a real treat while you are on your trip to dip into an evocative story about your surroundings, which can really give you a different perspective and added insight. Here are some Travel Local favourite reads for 5 of our most popular destinations.

Married to a BedouinJordan

Married To A Bedouin by Marguerite van Geldermalsen
Putting Bedouin culture under the spotlight, this intriguing memoir is written by a New Zealander who met and subsequently married a Bedouin man and documented her transition into the community. It is an invaluable insight for bewildered foreigners faced with the mysteries of Jordanian Bedouin heritage and traditions, and expresses a brilliantly open minded approach to a completely different set of values. What is so fascinating and unique about this tale is that when Marguerite met Mohammed, he was living with his extended family in cave dwellings in Petra. In the 80s all the Bedouin of Petra were relocated out of the rose city, so this account deals with the fallout from this seismic change in the situation of this community.

Kenya

A Grain Of Wheat by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
Set in two timeframes, this book transports you alternately to the 1950’s Emergency during the time of the Mau Mau rebellion, and to the days leading up to Kenyan independence which finally came about late in 1963. It is a richly imagined portrayal of a community’s experiences during this time of political upheaval, and it gives the reader a very firm grounding in Kenya’s history, both as a nation and in terms of its people.

A Traveller's Literary CompanionCosta Rica

Costa Rica - A Traveller’s Literary Companion by Barbara Ras
For an unrivalled glimpse of Costa Rica from a Tico perspective, this is the book for you. A collection of short stories written by celebrated Costa Rican authors for a Costa Rican audience, this takes you beyond the guidebook and gives you a real flavour of the country, its people and the challenges they face. Apart from the slick tourist industry in Costa Rica, there is still a persistent poverty in this tropical land, and this book lays bare some of the struggles the population have had to face. Readers will gain an overview of the various regions of this country, and its geography and ways of life. However, it takes you so deep into Costa Rican heritage and worldview that you feel you have had the honour of a glimpse into the Costa Rican soul.

India

The God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Set in Ayemenem in Kerala, this multifaceted story delves deep into the intricacies of a multigenerational Indian family, and their struggles and victories. This is a story which weaves emotion and blood ties into a vivid depiction of life in Kerala, scattering the text with Malayalam words for added impact. The story carries you along with the characters, but it is wonderfully evocative of Kerala too, touching on local themes such as the caste system, Communism, and the Keralite Christian faith.

In Patagonia Argentina

In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin
Packed with anecdotes, snippets of history, and observations on the exhilarating surroundings, this is a bracing account of an arduous trek through this most majestic and wild of landscapes. This is the book that shot Bruce Chatwin to fame as soon as it was published, leaving its readers awestruck by the experiences and challenges faced by the author on his adventures. The book goes deeper than simple reporting on people encountered and places visited, though. There are many and various tangents which seem to expose the innermost imagination of the writer and transport the reader into another dimension beyond travel writing. He explores the history of the welsh in Patagonia, and reserves a special enthusiasm for the trail of Butch Cassidy.

Make it happen

Once you read an immersive book based on an exotic location you need to go there to experience the place for yourself. See itinerary ideas from our local experts by clicking on the links above.