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Round the World Reading List.

I get so much more out of my travel when I have the chance to read about each place before and during my visit.  Setting the stage with historical and political context, getting excited about the mood and culture of the place, feeling a connection through personal stories, whatever!  I lean toward nonfiction, especially if it reflects my passions (social justice, Christianity, and food, to name a few), but I love the occasional page turner beach read too.

Can you help me make my travel reading list??  I'd love to hear about anything that would be fun to read in any of the regions I'm planning to visit!  My hope is that this becomes a living document that changes with all your feedback!

(Of course, if I'm asking you for your recommendations, I may as well return the favor -- I included but crossed out the books I've already read that I'd recommend you read in these places!  For more of my book recommendations, here I am on goodreads!)

In or near Oaxaca, Mexico
1. Frida by Bárbara Mujica
2. The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande
3. Tangled Routes by Deborah Barndt
5. The Years with Laura Diaz by Carlos Fuentes
6. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

In or near Cuba
1. Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur
2. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
3. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

In or near Bolivia/Argentina
1. Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano
2. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
3. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
4. Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
5. Traveling With Che Guevara by Alberto Granado

In or near New Zealand/Australia 
1. In a Sunburned Country (aka Down Under) by Bill Bryson
2. I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
3. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
4. Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before by Tony Horwitz

In or near Singapore
1. The Rainbow Troops by Andrea Hirata

In or near Thailand (and/or Burma/Myanmar and/or Southeast Asia in general)
1. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
2. First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung
3. Off the Rails in Phnom Penh by Amit Gilboa
4. We Were Soldiers Once... and Young by Harold G. Moore, Joseph L. Galloway
5. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
6. Bones That Float by Kari Grady Grossman
7. Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof

In or near India
1. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
2. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
3. Sold by Patricia McCormick
4. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
5. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
6. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
7. The Blue Notebook by James A. Levine
8. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

In or near South Africa/Namibia/Botswana/Zimbabwe
well, kinda near.  Africa's really big.  and there are a lot of good books that take place there.
1. Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
2. Conversations With Myself by Nelson Mandela
3. My Son's Story by Nadine Gordimer
4. Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
5. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)
6. King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild (Congo)
7. A Thousand Sisters by Lisa J. Shannon (Congo)
8. Do They Hear You When You Cry by Fauziya Kassindja (Togo)
9. We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families by Philip Gourevitch (Rwanda)
10. It's Our Turn to Eat by Michela Wrong (Kenya)
11. The Zanzibar Chest by Aidan Hartley (Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Somalia)
12. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
13. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith (Botswana)
14. A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah (Sierra Leone)
15. What is the What by Dave Eggers (Sudan)
16. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)

In or near Israel/Egypt/Jordan
1. Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey
2. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
3. In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars by Kevin Sites
4. The Day Christ Was Born by Jim Bishop
5. Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
6. Exodus by Leon Uris
7. My Life by Golda Meir
8. The Day Christ Died by Jim Bishop
9. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
10. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
11. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

In or near Turkey/Italy/Spain/Portugal/Morocco
1. The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon
2. Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
3. Break of Day by Colette
4. Perfume by Patrick Süskind
5. The Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi by Elif Shafak
6. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

In or near England/Iceland
1. Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis
2. Gold by Chris Cleave
3. A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken

General travel books
1. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
2. You Shall Know Our Velocity! by Dave Eggers
3. What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman
4. Backpacked by Catherine Ryan Howard
5. The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner


  1. Great list! For in/near Botswana, I would recommend the #1 Ladies Detective Agency series. It's fictional but gives an enjoyable sense of the culture. We actually just posted four book recommendations too:

    1. Great idea, Michelle! I read the first one a while back, but had completely forgotten about them! I should definitely get back into the series! Look forward to checking out your list!!

  2. Nice list. Here is a list of what I've been reading while living and traveling around SE Asia. I update the list as I travel (or plan to travel) to new countries. Also Holy Cow is a popular read for travelers heading to India.

    1. Oh awesome, I will check it out! Thanks so much for the recommendations!!


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