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.
After his hugely successful book and TV series Walking the Nile, Wood appears set for a life of suburban bliss, drinking wine and eating cheese in Gordons Wine Bar, believed to be London's oldest wine bar and prior place of residence for Rudyard Kipling in the 1890's. Aided by what one can only imagine as far too many glasses of vintage port, Wood realises he isn't quite ready to hang up the hiking boots just yet and that the lure of just "one more" walking escapade needs to be undertaken, this time along the mighty Himalayas.
The Caliph's House is an interesting story about a family's year spent in Casablanca renovating an old, sprawling Moroccan villa. Told with honesty and humour, Shah details the many missteps along the way and provides good insight into some of the customs and superstitions of Morocco which together make this an extremely pleasant way to while away the time.
Hunter S. Thompson's legendary road-trippin novel follows Raoul Duke and his Attorney, Dr Gonzo, on their drug-fuelled search for the American Dream in Las Vegas. The book that birthed gonzo journalism, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is widely considered as an American literary classic and one which deserves to read again and again in order to enjoy, understand and then simply enjoy once again.
Where the Hell is Tuvalu? describes the two and a bit years Ells spent working as the People's Lawyer, or the People's Liar as came to be known, in the world's 4th smallest independent nation during the mid 1990's. Focusing on his job and ex-pat life among the Tuvaluans, Ells self-deprecating humour makes this an interesting read and stands almost alone as the only travel book written on this country.
Walking the Nile is an extremely good travelogue detailing Levison Wood's 9 month journey from the source of the Nile in Rwanda's Nyungwe Forest to the Mediterranean Sea in Egypt by foot. Travelling close to 6,700 kilometres through tropical forests, swamps, mangroves and deserts, Wood's achievement amidst civil wars and bureaucratic nightmares fully deserves to rank among the best of modern day exploration feats.
Lost on Planet China is J. Maarten Troost's hiliarious travelogue on his travels around China trying to come to grips with and understand this vast and complex country. Honest and at times unflattering, this is not your run of the mill fluff piece extolling the virtues and beauty of the country but instead shows what the country is like from the eyes of a first time visitor.
Hawks stumbles into something like a mid-life crossroads and decides that the two things he wants most in life is to meet his soulmate and to find lovely house abroad somewhere. For most of us, this simply would have been an ill-advised thought over a pint and a bag of crisps. But for a man who has made his name out of taking on wagers such as lugging a fridge around Ireland or attempting to beat all eleven members of the Moldovan soccer team at tennis, it is inevitable that this course of action will be put into practice.
River of Time is a beautifully written memoir by an English journalist living in the lands of the Mekong during the wars in Indo-China in 1970-1975. An outstanding and moving account of personal experiences during one of the most tumultuous periods of recent history, River of Time is essential reading for anyone interested in the haunting history of this region
The Dead Yard ain't no usual travel book, oh no, but I love it. Part social commentary, travelogue and historical account of the Jamaica that exists behind the sand, sun and sex that most tourists only ever experience, this is an impressively comprehensive and accessible narrative of a country still struggling to break free of the slavery shackles binding Jamaicans today via its class and racial divides.
Iranian Rappers and Persian Porn provides glimpses of life in Iran from the viewpoint of a young British backpacker as he is showered with hospitality from nearly all he meets during his journey in and around the country in 2007. Travelling mostly by bus and train, Maslin's journey is an on-the-ground account of the changing attitudes of people within the country towards those in control and one which has resulted in him being banned from visiting Iran again.
New Europe by Michael Palin is the companion book to the TV-series of the same name which was filmed in 2006 and early 2007. As the name suggests, Palin visits those countries in what used to be called Eastern Europe, as they look increasingly to the west and inclusion within the European Union. Told with Palin's usual witty style, this is an enjoyable whirlwind tour that takes you through 20 countries that once were on the other side of the iron curtain.
From the Holy Mountain is a superb travelogue of Dalrymple’s 1994 journey in the present day Middle East, as he frequents places visited in the late 6th century by the medieval Monk, John Moschos in what was then the Byzantine Empire. Delivering a splendid account of how Christian communities have been impacted over time as Islam has ascended to become the predominant religion, Dalrymple’s story is a reminder of the importance that Christianity used to play in this region and that is in danger of being completely erased from this part of the world.
Where Soldiers Fear to Tread is an extremely interesting and frightening account of Burnett's time working for the United Nations during the 1998 flood relief operations in Somalia. Whilst mostly a first person story about the difficulties and experiences he endures, Burnett also provides an indictment on how the UN treats those in the field, as well as the issue of Western aid that is sure to have you questioning the role of foreign intervention in third world countries.
It's Every Monkey for Themselves is Vanessa Woods' warts and all story of her year spent in the Cielo Forest in Costa Rica researching behavioural ecology of Capuchin monkeys. Focusing primarily on the upright primates that inhabit the "monkey house", rather than the those in the wild, the book abounds with plenty of adult-themed content and comes across as something like what the 1990's TV series Melrose Place might've been, had it been set in the jungle.
Concerned at the rate at which the Appalachian wilderness is disappearing, Bill Bryson teams up with his long-forgotten college friend, Stephen Katz, to walk the granddaddy of hiking trails, The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, more commonly known as the Appalachian Trail or AT. Told in Bryson's usual humourous fashion, this story of two middle-aged mountain men shambling down the pathway munching on Snickers bars is an extremely fun read and one that brings the AT to life.
In Xanadu is a superb first travelogue by William Dalrymple, which describes his 1986 retracing of Marco Polo's journey from Jerusalem to Inner Mongolia in present day China. Dalrymple's amazingly ambitious journey via the Silk Road is a sheer delight to read and provides a wealth of historical information and no small amount of humour for us to enjoy along the way.
King Solomon's Mines is a classic adventure novel that introduced the great white hunter Allan Quartermain to the world in the late 19th century. Written in personal narrative format (despite being fiction), the novel was hugely successful and tells the story of a group of Englishmen who set of into the hinterland of deep dark Africa in search of fabled treasure and the missing brother of one of their party.