Book Reviews

I never manage to read as much as I want when I’m at home and living a normal life, but when I travel that all seems to change. Hopefully I’ll be able to share the best books (and maybe some of the bad ones) on this page.

*New* 17th July 2012 – Suzanne Collins´ The Hunger Games

Another book I picked up at an exchange which wouldn´t have been a preference but through lack of choice was something I picked up. It´s pretty much a teen book and it comes across that way in the writing. I never got into Harry Potter and being male never batted an eyelid at Twilight. This however made quite a nice easy read, despite the preposterous story and naive, hollow characters. I doubt I´ll be reading the follow ups but was worth seeing what the hype was about.

*New* 17th July 2012 – Giles Foden´s The Last King of Scotland

I normally don´t read books after I´ve seen the movie because the basic premise is too similar and I get bored. However I picked up this book at an exchange in Belize and wasn´t at all disappointed. The overall tale is the same but told in a much different manor while the lead character, Doctor Nicholas Garrigan lacks the similarities as played by James McAvoy. If you´ve enjoyed the movie and not read the book, it´s worth it.

*NEW* 17th July 2012 – Various Authors´ Ox Travels

I came across this book due to the introduction by Michael Palin. Inside are many short tales by major travel writers as well as some lesser known ones. Stories like these are what made me want to travel and despite the lack of Latin American stories (the part of the world where I read the book) it really revved up my enthusiasm for travel.

29th May 2012 – Rusty Young’s Marching Powder

This book came recommended by so many people when I said I planned a trip to South America. I may have read it on the way while in Central America but it’s a captivating story of a British national caught smuggling cocaine out of Bolivia and his resulting experiences in the topsy turvy world of the Bolivian prison system.

From having to buy your own cell to running tours through the prison to travellers, this book was jam packed full of tales which made it impossible to put down. Possibly the South American Shantaram – every traveller to the region should probably read it.

9th May 2012 - Pedro Juan Gutierrez’s Dirty Havana Trilogy

The only way to describe this book is in the title and you can judge it by it’s cover. It’s a dark and seedy account of life in the Cuban capital during the economic crisis years of the 1990s. The author takes matters to such deep and sexual levels that many people would probably find offensive. Despite that I struggled to put it down with short tales forming chapters of just a few pages that kept you wanting to find out more.

If you’re planning to visit Cuba any time soon or are interested in the country, I’d recommend it. Otherwise, it’s probably not for you.

30th March 2012 - Christopher Brookmyre’s A Snowball in Hell

This is the follow up book to A Big Boy Did it and Ran Away which has to go down as one of the best books I’ve ever read. I love how the author uses Glasgow as a setting, picking out pieces of lesser known detail to create rich characters and set a scene, in particular the use of the cartoon character Rank Bajin.

The sequel to the book picks up with some familiar chatacters such as Angelique de Xavia and the amazing bad guy Simon Darcourt. This time he’s got a vengeance and is willing to go to extraordinary dark depths to get what he wants, the perfect criminal mastermind. I don’t want to give too much of the story away but I was utterly hooked on what was going to happen next.

One word of small warning however. You show read ‘A Big Boy’ first, if you’ve spent time in Glasgow it will be easier to get to grips with some of the references but if you haven’t I still recommend you persevere. The second book is much easier on these references, however the story does bounce around quite a lot (something I really enjoy) which is not to everyone’s tastes.

16th February 2012 – Dom Joly’s The Dark Tourist

I always thought of Dom Joly as the man shouting “HELLOOOO!” very loudly down a giant mobile phone (in fact this was the first thing I did when I got my iPad) but it turns out he’s an incredible travel writer. I’ve always been interested in some of the quirkier and darker sides of destinations to get an understanding of the history of the place so this book was perfect for me.

Joly gives a humourous and personal account of his time visiting some the world’s less glamourous tourist locations such as North Korea, Chernobyl and assassination locations of the USA at the same time as informing you as a reader. The book is topped off with him finding how he went to the same school in Lebanon as Osama bin Laden.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in travel or history and am already looking forward to the next book about the world’s mythical monsters.


3 thoughts on “Book Reviews

  1. Stumbled across your blog whilst trying to google my way through my last week at work – I leave for my career break next Friday to South America.
    If you get a chance have a read of The Cloud Garden by Tom Hart Dyke and Paul Winder. It was recommended to me by the same person that recommended Marching Powder and didn’t disappoint.
    Great blog on Ecuador by the way, my first stop, made me even more keen to get there – thanks!

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