Part fiction, part non-fiction, Charles Nicholl's The Fruit Palace was a book begging to be written on the Great Cocaine Story from the 1980's. Setting out to report on the who, how and why of Colombian cocaine smuggling, Nicholl propels himself to the forefront of the story, in typical gonzo fashion. In the process he he samples plenty of product, deals with loads of shady characters and puts himself squarely in harms way in order to try and get the scoop.
I recall reading this book circa 15 years ago and being much more impressed than 2nd time round. Marks' autobiography details his life as a marijuana smuggler in the mid-80's portraying himself as an all-round "nice" guy whilst trying to convince us that weed (and hash) should be legalised. The book provides good insight into the lifestyle that accompanies a drug smuggler, glamourising the events that occurred, and also providing what, on the face of it, is a startlingly amount of detail on other individuals also involved in this trade.
Following faithfully in the footsteps of Graham Greene and his cousin as they embark at Sierra Leone in 1935 before setting off on a 4-week walk through Liberia and Guinea, Butcher and his companions David, Johnson and Mr Omaru likewise take on the West African jungle interior, travelling by foot through this much maligned and worn torn part of the world.
Honeymoon with My Brother is a memoir of two brothers experiencing your run-of-the-mill, mid-life Republican backpacking crisis after the elder is jilted by his fiance a couple of days before his wedding. Deciding to plunge ahead with both a party for those already committed to arriving for the celebration and then onward to a honeymoon already paid for, sans the bride, what begins as a two-week break manifests itself to a two-year voyage of self discovery.
Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven is a cautionary tale of how not all backpacking trips end up as something you want to tell all your friends about when you get back home. Taking place in the mid 1980's on the cusp of mainland China opening up to independent travel, Gilman writes of the naivety of youth as she and one of her friends from University head out on a one-year trip round the world. However, things quickly begin to unravel as they experience a culture shock well beyond anything of their imaginings.
Written in diary format but resembling nothing like the dry diary entries of our own travel journals, Kevin and I in India is a funny account of four months' backpacking through India and Nepal in the mid 1980's. Despite having been written 30 years previously, this is a book that hasn't aged at all, with the complexities of travelling through India as relevant today as they ever were.
How Not to Travel the World: Adventures of a Disaster-Prone Backpacker is a travel memoir written by well-known travel blogger Lauren Juliff of www.neverendingfootsteps.com. Suffering from an anxiety disorder, Juliff's memoir is an inspiring and uplifting account of the first five years of her travel experiences around the world, since she first left the UK in 2011.
Backpack is a "chick-lit" psychological thriller telling the story of a young English girl, Tansy, who decides to go travelling after the death of her alcoholic mother. After her boyfriend Tom breaks up with her just prior to leaving, Tansy decides she will travel to exotic South East Asia on her own, in order to prove her independence and win him back. As she begins her travels, though, there are reports of a killer on the loose who is murdering blonde British girls in South East Asia. Will Tansy live long enough to win Tom back, or is there some other mysterious dark-haired, scruffy suitor who will win her affectations. All is about to be revealed.
Glory in a Camel's Eye (also known as Valley of the Casbahs) is a beautifully written account of Tayler's 2001 arduous trek on foot and camel through the Draa Valley in South East Morocco. A book conjuring up wonderful desert landscapes, this is a modern-day version to rival Arabian Sands which, in similar fashion to Thesiger's book, laments the lost nomadic life of the Bedouin Ruhhal that Tayler journeys with.
The Gringo Trail forged a path as one of the earliest backpacking books detailing Mann's travels with his girlfriend and friend on South America's infamous backpacking route in the early 90's. From the get-go, drugs feature heavily throughout the book, but the focus remains on the actual travelling and history of the region, which all combined, make this a good insight into the backpacking scene from this earlier time.
It's Only the Himalayas is Sue Bedford's debut travelogue regaling her outrageous tales during a year spent backpacking with her bestie around the world. Packed full of hilarity, this is a book that will delight both older backpackers looking back nostalgically at misspent youths and those thinking about embarking on their own wild travels themselves.
Indonesia, Etc. is an intelligently written travelogue doused in sociological observations gathered from 13 months' travelling through the sprawling archipelago and islands of the world's fourth most populous country. Able to also draw on extensive periods of time previously spent living in the country, Pisani showcases the history and people's of this extremely diverse and complex country, and goes some way to explaining how this kaleidoscopic nation has been able to remain united for so long.
My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth reads like a failed gonzo experiment of the author's 10 day "solo" tour of North Korea undertaken in 2014. A relatively short read told with boorish humour and interspersed with a large number of photographs, Simmons' narcissistic book is at times interesting but provides little by way of new material on the hermit kingdom of North Korea.
Vroom with a View: In Search of Italy's Dolce Vita on a '61 Vespa is a very amusing travelogue through Northern Italy as seen from the back of that most iconic of Italian motor scooters - the mighty Vespa. Meandering via the back roads through bucolic countryside and visiting the best tourist spots the regions of Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany and Lazio have to offer, Vroom with a View provides a breezy armchair escape to one of the most loved parts of the world.
At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig: A Riotous Journey into the Heart of Paraguay is an extremely comprehensive and wry look at more than 500 years of Paraguayan history. In what was Gimlette's first travel literature book, he has shown a wonderful eye for the absurd and fascinating and put together what in all likelihood is the best all round book on Paraguay's unique history that exists today.
The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War is a remarkable historical travelogue that blends the life of Gavrilo Princep, the man who shot dead Archduke Franz Ferdinand Karl Ludwig Josef von Habsburg-Lothringen in 1914, thereby setting in motion events that started the First World War, with that of the author's own experiences and memories from time spent reporting on the Bosnian War between 1992 and 1995. Delivering a lively history lesson that reaches far beyond a simple retelling of the assassination, The Trigger is essential reading for anyone interested in Balkan and World War I history.
Elephant Complex: Travels in Sri Lanka is an unforgettable travelogue centred around a wide range of vignettes assembled by Gimlette as he travels around the country formerly known as Ceylon. Providing a wealth of information on the country's ancient history, colonial era and most especially its civil war, this book provides a great primer for anyone looking to visit the country and understand why it is indeed, paradise damaged.
In Search of Captain Zero: A Surfer's Road Trip Beyond the End of the Road is a bodacious account of Weisbecker's slow-travel South, from Mexico to Costa Rica, in search of a vanished surfing buddy. Comprising a hybrid of the movie Point Break and the book Mr Nice, spliced with a touch of gonzo travelling for good measure, this book proves beyond doubt that the surfing gods truly do exist.
Following on from his two wildly successful walking travelogues, Wood delivers yet again an imminently likeable and interesting book which charts his 2,900km journey through Central American highlands, jungles, remote wilderness and urban ganglands. This time, he is accompanied the entire way by his Mexican friend, Alberto, who provides a more consistent counterpoint to his own experiences and ensures that Walking the Americas is a worthy addition to the Levison Wood book stable.
Nightmare in Laos is a frighteningly true story of an Australian couples 10 month stay in Laos' Foreigners Prison, after they were falsely arrested in 2000 for stealing sapphires. Danes' story provides reasonably graphic descriptions of the conditions within the prison and her dealings with other prisoners, the Laos authorities and Australian embassy staff. Told in an emotionally charged fashion, this is a book that will leave you seething with frustration at the injustice of the situation that they find themselves in.