As we approach the end of one of the strangest years in living memory, we reflect on a pastime that has helped many of us fill the long days of lockdown…reading.
Not all of the following books are directly related to travel, but they all have managed to metaphorically whisk us away this year.
We would love to hear what books you have enjoyed so why not join in the conversation on Facebook?
Coromandel by Charles Allen
Shalmali - Coromandel is a well written and beautiful travel account of South India, his journey through Tamil Nadu, meeting South Indian historians, local people and their stories, all interwoven with Dravidian history. Allen's books have seen a resurgence in sales recently, as he sadly passed away this August. Also, check out Vanishing Stepwells of India by Victoria Lautman - a coffee table size book with large pictures and layout, but with lots of text and information. Perfect for someone who is fascinated by stepwells (Baoli’s) and wants to read all about them. Or even for a reader wanting more information about stepwells in India, beyond the guide books, or even that guides know about. I also have to mention The Ivory Throne by Manu S. Pilau, a historical novel all about the House of Travancore (Kerala, India), covering a fascinating three centuries of Kerala’s history, a period of matrilineal succession, portraying the women in this household and the impact of the Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama on Kerala.
Pity The Nation: Lebanon at War by Robert Fisk
Marc - I've just finished reading Pity the Nation which was recommended to me by Sam, our Lebanese guide, as being the best book to try and understand the conflict in Lebanon. It’s a fascinating read.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
Jane - A moving narrative about a family affected by the civil war in Syria and are forced to flee for their lives. It's about the mental and physical issues of their situation and travels through Europe until they ultimately seek asylum in the UK.
The Overstory by Richard Powers
Tara - I'm still currently reading this one but I'm enjoying it so much. Here's the synopsis, “The Overstory is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of - and paean to - the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, Richard Powers’s twelfth novel unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. There is a world alongside ours—vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.”
The Offing by Ben Myers
2020 was the year many discovered the calming powers of nature, and this timely book is the perfect accompaniment. Set just after World War Two it follows a young man on a summer of discovery in North Yorkshire, and a chance encounter with an eccentric which alters his destiny.
I've also really enjoyed Underland: A Deep Time Journey. Robert Macfarlane is an author who urges us to look more closely at our immediate environment. In Underland, the great nature writer explores human’s underground worlds, from catacombs in Paris to the caves of the Mendips, and reminds us how strange and rich the world is.
Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Hayley - In light of the Black Lives Matter movement that kicked off this summer after the death of George Floyd, I wanted to educate myself about my own privilege and about racism in the UK. This was a hugely eye-opening read about structural racism, how racism isn't just a bar set by the actions of white nationalists and addresses an erased black history. This is essential reading for those who wish to be actively anti-racist and forces us to see colour in order to dismantle racist structures.