Oceania and Australasia

Consisting most of the South Pacific, Australia and Papua New Guinea, this area includes all of island nations that make up the geographical regions of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.

4 and a half stars

Tracks by Robyn Davidson
Published: 1980
Countries: Australia
Blurb: A wonderfully written account of one woman's camel journey accompanied by her dog through the outback of Australia. Made into a movie starring Mia Wasikowski, the book is written with compassion and understanding for the aboriginal people with whom she at times travels and is a must read for anyone who needs proof that ordinary people are capable of achieving extraordinary things if they are willing to work hard enough for it.

Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff & James Norman Hall (Novel)
Countries: French Polynesia, England
Blurb: Mutiny on the Bounty is a must read for lovers of historical novels, south sea adventures and ripping good yarns. Set in the late 18th century, there's probably very few people who haven't heard of this famous story based around true events. What might be less known is just how good this story is and how it sweeps you up with the amazing descriptions of the most beautiful of islands, Tahiti. An all time classic that is definitely one to savour.

4 stars

The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost
Countries: Kiribati
Blurb: There’s a lot to be said for a dead beat lay-a-about who manages to extract cash from people by writing about his experiences whilst trapped in the life of a house husband on an equatorial atoll in Kiribati. Appealing for its political incorrectness, this book is bitingly funny, although the title of the book is very much a misnomer, conjured up either by the author or editor in order to elicit more interest in the book. Whilst you won't be too much the wiser about Kiribati life on completion of this book, you are guaranteed to be entertained.

Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook has Gone Before by Tony Horwitz
Countries: Pacific North West, French Polynesia, New Zealand, Australia, Niue, Tonga, United Kingdom, Alaska and Hawaii
Blurb: A wonderful book retracing Captain Cook's epic three voyages from the 18th century. Horwitz's Blue Latitudes providers plenty of historical context to Cook's earlier journey's, whilst also ensuring that his own are not overshadowed. Seamlessly switching between the two, Horwitz's well-researched book (eighteen months of which was spent travelling) finely balances both history and fun and is a must read for anyone with an interest in one of the world's most famous explorers.

The Penguin History of New Zealand
Countries: New Zealand
Blurb: The best book on New Zealand’s history that you will find, as written by its preeminent historian. The most popular New Zealand book in 2004, this is simply the go to book on New Zealand for both pre and post European colonisation. King is able to adroitly navigate the interactions between Pakeha and Europeans in order to present them in as unbiased way as possible in order to highlight that the Treaty signed by the indigenous people of New Zealand was one in which the full implications were not fully understood. The resultant Land Wars thereafter were entirely predictable. Whist very readable, The Penguin History of New Zealand is still a detailed and weighty tome as it covers its prehistoric past up to current times and is certainly not one to be picked up lightly.

In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
Countries: Australia
Blurb: Bryson goes down under and details his travels through the Australian outback and its “civilised edges” in his usual humorous and insightful fashion.  What shines though is his pure love of the place and its people, even when detailing the numerous gruesome and painful ways in which the countries non-human residents can kill you. Packed full of Australian history and vernacular, this will have you speaking the lingo like a fair dinkum Aussie larrikin in no time before grabbing your swag to go bush yourself.

3 and a half stars

Where the Hell is Tuvalu? by Philip Ells
Countries: Tuvalu and Kiribati
Blurb: Ells describes the two and a bit years that he 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.

Fat, Forty and Fired by Nigel Marsh
Countries: Australia, Italy
Blurb: A warts and all story covering Marsh's year off from work as he looks to reconnect with children, wife and self after being made redundant. As befits someone who has previously done stand-up comedy, there is plenty of laugh out loud moments of which some are cringe-worthy given how close the strike to home.  Whilst a superficially a light hearted approach to a life changing event, the book covers off some deeper issues and themes that face not only the author himself, most probably all of us. This most probably is of more appeal for those of us questioning our 9 to 5 existence and of a certain age (cough… 40’s… cough) and is one that I definitely enjoyed.


A Land of Two Halves by Joe Bennett
Countries: New Zealand
Blurb: Having relocated from Britain and lived in New Zealand for the past 16 years, Bennett decides to hitchhike his way around the country to help him make a decision whether he will continue to stay living there. The path of his journey is somewhat dictated by where the people picking him up are heading which ensures that he visits a number of places that are off the usual tourist trail and makes for a more authentic exploration of the country. Imparting a fair amount of history on each place as he goes, this story is as much a story about the people he meets as it is the journey per se, and whilst some may find his attitude towards some of these people condescending, it is all the more forgivable as he his is just as quick to turn his razor wit inwards on himself.

Kiwi Tracks by Andrew Stevenson
Published: 1999
Countries: New Zealand
Blurb: Leaving the long nights and his girlfriend behind him in Norway, Stevenson heads to New Zealand to hike its nine Great Walks. Contrary to what you’d think, the book doesn’t actually provide any real information about the tracks but instead concentrates on his interactions with fellow hikers and New Zealanders he meets along the way. Kiwi Tracks begins brilliantly and there are a lot of funny incidents to get it moving. However, as it progresses Stevenson goes off track and sucumbs to his own melancholy ending up focussing too much on delivering a ham fisted account of interactions between Pakeha and Maori as well as his own issues. A pity, as this book could’ve been a lot better and there are some geniunely funny bits that will get you laughing.

Kite Strings of the Southern Cross by Laurie Gough
Countries: Fiji (and Bali, New Zealand, Malaysia, Canada, Morocco and Italy)
Blurb: Returning to an island paradise in Fiji to reconnect with her lover, Gough cleverly weaves a collection of short travel stories into the wider narrative of a love story during her time on Taveuni. While there is no denying that Gough can write some wonderfully lyrical, almost poetical passages, unfortunately, her constant railing against male chauvanism and different customs and religions she encounters, makes her come across as whiny, extremely opinionated and self absorbed, the result of which only left me feeling cross about how good this book could have been.