Asia Travel Summer Reading List

Jul 1st, 2010, 02:13 PM
  #1  
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Asia Travel Summer Reading List

Okay, to take a break from all the intense trip research, history lessons, reservations, etc, I thought I'd like to relax at the beach with a pina colada and some novel/memoir type books set in India. I just borrowed these from my public library:

Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi
Dreaming in Hindi

Thought it might be a good idea to compile a list here on the Asia board - feel free to add your own recommendations for India or wherever!
Nutella is offline  
Jul 1st, 2010, 02:38 PM
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I read the first of those and give it a lukewarm thumbs up.

Now reading, on the recommendation of Thursday, Ted Conover's The Routes of Man; it contains a wonderful chapter on China's new infatuation with the automobile. Much of the book is so very distressing.

http://www.tedconover.com/

I was a little disappointed with Peter Hessler's Country Driving.

I mentioned this book before, but it was so fascinating that I will mention it once again:



http://www.amazon.com/Nothing-Envy-O...4&sr=1-1-fkmr1
ekscrunchy is offline  
Jul 1st, 2010, 03:14 PM
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I am currently reading

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

so far i like it
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Jul 1st, 2010, 03:20 PM
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Shantaram is a real page-turner. Despite how long it is, we couldn't put it down. (Ok, excpet for one long section in Afghanistan.)
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Jul 1st, 2010, 06:15 PM
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Shantaram -- after the first 5 pages I said who has time for this poorly written nonsense?, but 500 pages later I was still reading.

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (which won the prestigious Man Booker prize) is a very funny, but biting, look into social class in modern India.

Into the past, I have read Passage to India again and again. Dated, but so current and timeless. I also like the Seige of Krishnapur for history plus philosophy.
marmot is online now  
Jul 1st, 2010, 07:08 PM
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I highly recommend Q&A. It's very different from the movie and much much better. (Slumdog Millionaire)
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Jul 1st, 2010, 09:19 PM
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Burmese Lessons by Karen Connelly. I love her writing so recommend these titles as well: The Lizard Cage and Touch the Dragon, a Thai Journal.
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Jul 1st, 2010, 09:31 PM
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These kinds of lists are always fun and challenging--I recently read a truly fine short story collection by Daniyal Meenuddin, a Pakistani writer raised in Lahore AND Elroy, Wisconsin, IN OTHER ROOMS, OTHER WONDERS. The writing is elegant, the stories deeply moving.

I haven't read Jhumpa Lahiri's new novel, but loved THE NAMESAKE and her short story collection, INTERPRETER OF MALADIES. Both capture the dilemma of the contemporary Indian immigrant in this country.

THE DEATH OF VISHNU Manil Suri vividly defines the social and religious devision of today's India by setting his novel in a Mumbai apartment house. It's often funny, awful-- and very sad.

And, of course, THE RAJ QUARTET Paul Scott, which I haven't read in years but impressed and moved me deeply--in a completely distinct way from Salman Rusdie's MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN,a brilliant, fantastical work. I kind of think of it as a seminal novel about modern India.
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Jul 2nd, 2010, 12:33 AM
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"Beneath a Marble Sky" a lovely historical novel of the time before and after the building of the Taj Mahal. I guarnatee it'll make atrip to Agra Fort and the Taj even more wonderful and enjoyable.
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Jul 2nd, 2010, 12:34 AM
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Oh yes-- "A Fine Balance" by Rohinton Mistry. You'll never think of Indira Gandhi in the same way...among many many other points.
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Jul 2nd, 2010, 03:16 AM
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A Fine Balance is a truly superb book!

I also recommend the two Jane Gardam companion novels, set in part in Hong Kong:

Old Filth and The Man with the Wooden Hat.

Since India seems to be a theme here, this is also worth reading:

http://www.umrigar.com/space_between.html
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Jul 2nd, 2010, 05:53 AM
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I'm dipping into an oldie but goodie - William Dalrymple's "The Age of Kali". And working my way through Ayaan Hirst Ali's "Infidel". When not planning...

[eks - you're reading??? What about some writing! lol]
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Jul 2nd, 2010, 05:58 AM
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Just finished Dalrymple's "White Moghuls. Excellent! He's such a great writer and this book reads like a novel, albeit a sad one.
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Jul 2nd, 2010, 07:20 AM
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THE WHITE TIGER is a book that really grabs you by the lapels. I loved the narrator's fresh, distinctive, mordantly sarcastic voice. My friends either seem to be enthusiasts, as I am, or find it very off-putting. I haven't heard any middle-of-the-road assessments.

IN OTHER ROOMS, OTHER WONDERS is a subtler and a quieter pleasure. Story by story, it grew on me. Plus, since political and social tensions render a trip to Pakistan unlikely for some of us, the book offers a hassle-free way to travel there.

I too failed to get excited about COUNTRY DRIVING. I drifted away from it but will certainly give it another try since I am a Hessler fan. His RIVERTOWN remains a personal favorite.

I agree that BENEATH A MARBLE SKY is a delightful choice for beach reading. Now I'd like to look into A FINE BALANCE given the recommendations here.

520, if you liked Jhumpa Lahiri's earlier books, do get hold of UNACCUSTOMED EARTH. I particularly liked the first story about the relationship between an adult married daughter and her widowed father.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali's book INFIDEL is a must. What an extraordinary woman!

In Indonesia for the first time, I am just now reading book 1 of THE BURU QUARTET by Pramoedya Ananta Toer -- THIS EARTH OF MANKIND. The prose is remarkable -- ferverish yet lucid. I am hooked.

Now I have to look up some of the other intriguing references above...
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Jul 4th, 2010, 08:21 AM
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Has anyone got any other recommendations for books relating to Indonesia? Are any of the books set in Bali good? Lonely Planet recommends several...
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Jul 4th, 2010, 11:22 AM
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Anyone read "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet? There's a long review in the NYT today: http://tinyurl.com/2aeuc2m

Sounds interesting, but I'm spending most of my reading time on guidebooks right now.
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Jul 4th, 2010, 08:47 PM
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Thanks, Marya; I plan to read UNACCUSTOMED EARTH, but have a high pile before I get to it.

Glad you appreciated IN OTHER VOICES, OTHER ROOMS; it was a finalist for the 2010 Fiction National Book Award. The stories have lingered in my mind.

I've put A FINE BALANCE on my list to read before our India trip--or while we're there.

Indonesia/Bali--TALES OF A FEMALE NOMAD Rita Golden Gelman is a travel memoir of a 48-year-old woman on the verge of divorce (and for most of the book divorced) who sets off to live out her fantasies of experiencing other worlds; she travels through Mexico, Central America, and many other remote places, but eventually more or less settles in Indonesia--spending much of the time in Bali. For some reason, I never warmed to her, but many have.
NOTHING ENVY, ORDINARY LIVES just won the UK's Samuel Johnson prize, a very prestigious and lucrative award. It sounds quite special.

THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS etc. is getting a lot of review attention but don't know anyone who's read it...

I've heard Ayaan Hirsi Ali interviewed several times and she did sound extraordinary--not sure when I'll get to INFIDEL...

Not Asia related--in any way--but does give quite a surprising perspective on Sweden, Stieg Larsson's THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, a completely compelling and very gritty read with serious themes and fascinating characters, despite prosaic writing--thought the second book THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE cartoonish, but many say the third THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNETS NEST is the best so am going to read it.
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Jul 4th, 2010, 11:36 PM
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Marya, My favorite Indonesia based fiction is still The Year of Living Dangerously, by Christopher Koch. I've read it several times and the longer I live in Java the more I appreciate it. Of course it was a very good movie too, but the book is deeper and better.

I'm also a great fan of Lord Jim and many of Conrad's Asian based stories like Typhoon.

I read all the Bali books but I can't say that any one has really struck the nerve of recognition. Still searching there.

Since we're going pan-Asia I would add Saint Jack by Paul Theroux: Singapore during the Vietnam era when it was less than squeaky clean. Wonderful movie too with Ben Gazara.
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Jul 6th, 2010, 02:44 PM
  #19  
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Nice list, thanks everyone for contributing.

I just finished "Jeff in Venice..." and while I really enjoyed the book, it didn't exactly give me a warm fuzzy feeling about my upcoming visit to Varanasi. Did make me want to return to Venice though!

Also, reserved "Beneath a Marble Sky" from the library based on the above recommendations.

p.s. Any way to add other country tags to this thread? Or is it too late?
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Jul 16th, 2010, 01:02 PM
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Marmot, given your recommendation, now I am definitely going to read THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY. Saw the film many years ago and just dimly remember being thrilled and unnerved by it.

520, at first acquaintance, I found found Rita Golden Gelman's book enjoyable and her travels admirable, but my interest cooled after I joined her email list and received numerous unfocused and disorganized messages.

Although I haven't gotten on the the Stieg Larsson bandwagon, at least not yet, I saw lots of people reading his books on international flights and sitting b the pool on Bali this summer. Lots of readers of different ages and from different cultures. My husband is a fan.

Nutella, just a caution that BENEATH A MARBLE SKY is fun background reading on the Taj Mahal yet not a great book. And since you tagged your opening post 'India' but some of us breezed by that tag, let me atone for that lack of discipline by now plugging an India-themed book that I am just finishing -- J. G. Farrell's THE SIEGE OF KRISHNAPOUR. It is part of Farrell's "Empire trilogy." However painful the subject of British imperial folly and decay in India, Farrell wrote beautifully.
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