Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Quite simply a magical novel that leaves the reader questioning the meaning of the story and its symbolic animals. A book that inspires a strong desire travel to southern India (although the theme is based on emigration to Canada), yet at the same time poses deeper questions about religion and life’s struggles. A story simply so far-fetched it is like a children’s tale, yet so believable it has an intensity that is unexpected with the age of the main character.
Curious, different and engaging the Life of Pi tells the story of Pi, a young Indian boy whose zookeeping family emigrate from Pondicherry in Tamil Nadu to Canada, taking all their animals with them. The boat sinks in a storm and Pi is left stranded on the boat in the middle of the Ocean for 227 days with a hyena, zebra, orang-utan and a Bengal Tiger. In the end Pi is left with just the tiger and this is a story of survival and mental strength in the most unexpected and unusual of situations.
Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger
Arabian Sands is without a doubt an absolute classic of travel literature and explores the incredible journey undertaken by Wilfred Thesiger through the vast Empty Quarter, Yemen and Western Sands of Arabia. At the time of his travels the people of this region had never seen nor interacted with a European and his account of the time spent with the Bedouin Tribes there is invaluable insight into the stark and barren landscape of the region as well as the arduous lifestyle of the native people.
Highly adventurous and somewhat fearless, Thesiger faced huge challenges, finding strength to overcome them in his love for the region. This book is now considered fundamental in seeking to understand the Middle East as it is today and reminds us of a traditional way of life that is no longer present sadly.
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
The story of a successful woman who seemingly has everything that is supposed to tick the ‘happy’ life boxes (husband, house, good career etc.) yet finds herself seeking more fulfilment and excitement from life than the one she is living. She extricates herself from the life she has created and travels spending time in India, Italy and Indonesia, all of which bring different adventures and encounters.
I love this book because secretly we all wish to escape from the daily norm to exotic climes with romantic ideals to discover oneself but will probably never go through with it. It reminds us that from time to time it is worth some introspective assessment on what life is all about, to forget about the pressure from society and to remember what is really important. Plus the areas in which the scenes are set are stunning…always helps!
The Last Storytellers: Tales from the Heart of Morocco by Richard Hamilton
In the age of technology, television screens and cinemas the ancient practice of storytelling in Marrakech’s Djemaa El Fna square and the streets of the Red City has fizzled out as those looking for entertainment are no longer present. For those who have never been to Marrakech, it used to be commonplace to see crowds gathered around listening to a fable being told that conjured up exotic and fascinating visions and often have a moral lesson within the tale.
Thus Richard Hamilton, a BBC journalist with a love of Morocco, searched the medina and found some of the storytellers and in this book those wonderful stories that were passed down from generation to generation before are now in print. A fantastic read that will set your imagination alight and will definitely make you want to travel to Morocco!
Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje
After living in Canada for 25 years, Michael Ondaatje returns to his native Sri Lanka (Ceylon still when he wrote it), on a personal journey of self-discovery to reveal how his family’s history connects with his present and influences him. Having left at 11 years with his mother, his father remained and had since passed.
Through his research Michael takes pieces of the puzzle in the form of anecdotes, memories and even rumours from various friends and relatives to build a picture of his slightly eccentric family as it was but also mostly his father, whose true character remains somewhat mysterious throughout. Strong imagery of 1930s Ceylon and the pervading lifestyle makes this an intriguing read for lovers of the teardrop island and its history. There is a firm theme of the connection between looking introspectively and establishing one’s identity by understanding your own family history.