South America

Encompassing the fifteen countries that make up the continent of South America from Colombia and Venezuala in the north to Chile and Argentina in the South.

5 stars

Marching Powder by Rusty Young
Published:
2003
Countries: Bolivia
Blurb: Marching Powder details the bizarrely true story of Thomas McFadden who spent four and a half years in the infamous San Pedro prison in Bolivia. The book is written by an Australian backpacker who visits McFadden in prison before striking up a friendship and deciding to detail McFadden’s life and experiences within the notoriously corrupt prison and judicial system. As the title suggests, there are plenty of drug-related references and violence splattered throughout its pages which include “cocaine tours” for foreign backpackers that became so popular they ended up being written up in the Lonely Planet guides. Told in an honest and open fashion it’s hard not to like the one-time drug trafficker and this story will have you reading line after line into the wee hours of the night. 

4 and a half stars

Touching the Void by Joe Simpson
Published:
1988
Countries: Peru
Blurb: Touching the Void is an extraordinary story detailing two climbers near fatal attempt when scaling the Western face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. The raw and honest nature of the writing puts you up on the mountainside and despite not having an interest in mountaineering this is very much a story that will keep you riveted from the beginning to the climatic finish. It also provides a real glimpse into the mind set of mountaineers and despite having occurred close to 30 years ago, up in the mountains the passage of time matters not and the story is a powerful now as it ever was.

Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams
Published:
 2011
Countries: Peru
Blurb: Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time is a perfect blend of the author’s personal travelogue from trips taken in 2009 and historical information of the “discovery” of Machu Picchu by Hiram Bingham III. Written with a keen eye for detail and in humourous fashion, this is must read for anybody considering hiking the Inca Trail or visiting Machu Picchu, as it also provides a wealth of information not just on Machu Picchu itself but also on other surrounding archaeological sites and trails.

3 and a half stars

At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig by John Gimlette
Published:
2003
Countries: Paraguay
Blurb: 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.

3 stars

The Gringo Trail by Mark Mann
Published: 1994
Countries: Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Colombia
Blurb: Forging a path as one of the earliest backpacking books, Mann's travelogue details his journey 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.

The Lost City of Z by David Grann
Published:
2009
Countries: Brazil
Blurb: The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon is an extremely well written story which attempts to solve the 90 year old mystery of what happened to a group of British explorers who went missing in the Amazon basin whilst searching for a lost civilisation.

That Bear Ate My Pants! by Tony James Slater
Published: 
2011
Countries: Ecuador
Blurb: An, at times, very funny book which details the author’s 3 months spent working at an animal rescue facility in Ecuador. Whilst the book mostly devotes itself to the experiences he had among the many varied animals which he looks after, it comes into its own when describing his interactions with the other human inhabitants a the facility. As a self-published book, the purists might argue that the pacing is a bit off at times but as evidenced by the wide following he now has, the writing is of a good quality. His self-effacing and heart-warming writing style dishes up plenty of bite sized morsels for our consumption and this will appeal to those who are after a travel-lite story which focuses on a series of incidents involving the author chasing escaping animals and his resultant injuries.

Do Travel Writers Go To Hell? by Thomas Kohnstamm
Published: 
2008
Countries: Brazil
Blurb: Drawn instantly to this book due to its title, it consists of a small part expose on the travel guidebook writing industry but predominantly focuses on the author’s drug, alcohol and sex trysts, whilst attempting to update the north-eastern part of the Lonely Planet guidebook.At times, there are some genuinely funny parts and the book is well written but in the most part the author’s overdose of cynicism and forced depravity come across as somewhat contrived with a deliberate attempt to court controversy.