BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS
A few years ago, I spent 10 days with my sister in Hawaii. We met in Maui in mid-winter and toured several of the islands—relaxing on the beaches, going to luaus, taking dinner cruises, and (of course) shopping. Totally removed from our day-to-day lives, it was easy to forget the rest of the world wasn’t similarly on vacation. Hawaii being the laid-back place it is, we fit right in. It was a bit of a jolt then to emerge from our hotel one fine Monday morning and see people wearing business clothes, bearing brief cases, and scurrying into busy offices.
As a tourist—and especially as one who frequently travels with a group or on tours arranged by others—I’m quite aware that I move in a bubble and what I experience is vastly different from the lives led by the inhabitants of the areas I visit. For this reason and also because I love to read and feel I owe it to myself to venture beyond my favorite who-dun-its, I always read about the countries I visit, both before and after my trips.
The photo safari in Africa was a wonderful tour at a pivotal time in my life and I enjoyed every minute of it, but I soon realized that the bubble I’d been in while in Hawaii was nothing compared to the one I was in while touring southern Africa. Our group flew from one well-appointed camp to another, stayed in tents with indoor plumbing, slept in comfy beds, ate bountiful tasty meals—and all of this in spite of the fact that some of the areas we passed through (or, more accurately, flew over) were experiencing crushing poverty, turbulent politics, and entrenched social injustice. Had I known nothing of these countries but what I experienced first-hand, I would have had a terribly skewed view of the lives of the people there.
Hence, this page. Most of the books reviewed are ones that have helped me better understand the places I’ve been as seen through the eyes of natives or long-time residents. I encourage you to check them out or find others more to your liking—but at any rate to expand your knowledge of the places you go if you, like me, are able to visit these fascinating places only briefly.