What's on Paula's bookshelf
1. Beyond the Blue Horizon: On the Track of Imperial Airways by Alexander Frater — For many years the Chief Travel Correspondent for the Observer, Alex follows the route of the first flights from London to Australia, stopping in what are now very remote places indeed.
2. Silenced Voices: Uncovering a Family's Colonial History in Indonesia by Inez Hollander — A powerful personal history intertwined with historical and literary accounts of the period of Dutch colonization.
3. Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks — Ex-foreign correspondent Brooks writes of a true historical plague event with emotional intelligence, examining the collision of faith, science and superstition in 17th century England.
4. The People Smuggler: The True Story of Ali Al Jenabi, the ‘Oskar Schindler of Asia’ by Robin de Crespigny — By the time I finished, I was completely invested in this portrait of a refugee from Hussein’s Iraq and how he managed to navigate the corrupt and shadowy world of fake passports, illegal border crossings and bureaucracy in his fight to get his family to Australia.
5. Secret Histories: Finding Orwell in a Burmese Teashop by Emma Larkin — Following in the footsteps of George Orwell during his posting to Burma as a policeman Emma Larkin investigates the Orwellian landscape created by Burma’s ruling generals.
6. Amsterdam: A Brief Life of the City by Geert Mak — Translated from the Dutch, an imaginative recreation of the lives of the early Amsterdammers, tracing the city’s progress from waterlogged settlement on the Amstel River to thriving modern conurbation.
7. Blood River: A Journey to Africa’s Broken Heart by Tim Butcher — Appointed Africa Correspondent for the Daily Telegraph in 2000, this is Tim Butcher’s intrepid recreation of Henry Morton Stanley’s expedition to the river Congo, a witty and passionate reflection on a place of mystery and a truly terrible colonial past.
8. From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium by William Dalrymple — A well-known travel commentator, in this title Dalrymple traces the AD578 journey of John Moschos, Byzantine monk, traveller and oral historian. I found this illuminating, going some way to explaining the deep historical context to the complexities of the modern Middle East.
9. A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East by Tiziano Terzani — Translated from the Italian, this follows the progress of a modern, sceptical and emotional pilgrim. Terziani spends a year travelling by foot, boat, bus, car and train throughout Asia, from Burma to Indonesia and many points between, consulting soothsayers and shamans along the way, immersing himself in traditional ways of life and beliefs.
10. One Foot in Laos by Dervla Murphy — Inveterate traveller with a keen eye and strong views on the impact of the West on indigenous culture, here Murphy treks through the high mountains in the north of Laos at a time when the country was beginning to emerge from the isolation of a closed communist state.