I travelled around the world for some thirteen months and always had a book to hand for those moments when the emotional switchback ride of constant auditory, visual and physical contacts became too much. Also, when the discomfort of travel by plane, train, bus or truck wracked my frame, a book took me out of myself.
One of the joys of arriving in a town visited by fellow travellers is that there’s an opportunity to exchange reading material. I stayed for over two months in Ladakh, so there I was instrumental in setting up a book exchange. This also served as a meeting place, and during my further travels I sought out similar places wherever and whenever I could. Singapore was different: at the time a row of secondhand book stores could be found at the bottom end of Orchard Road. These have gone the way of much of the city-state – replaced with a featureless tower.
These books are listed in the order I read them. One, Blue Highways, has a whole post because it was a great source of understanding in the early months of my journey. It’s also the only book I didn’t return to a book exchange and can be found on my book shelves here in Jakarta.
The few words I’ve added are taken from the entries in the diary I kept, and which I’m gradually posting online Jakartass Travels. The places (in bold) are categories and/or tags for my posts there. Reading those sections give some notion of my awareness of who I was at the particular time and place the books were to hand. (Note t&p = ‘easy’ train and plane read, and not one for my bookshelves.)
Flight: London to Delhi
The Passion of Molly T – Laurence Sanders t&p
Daughter of Tibet – Rimchen Dolma Taring (1970)
A Journey In Ladakh – Andrew Harvey (1981)
Christine – Stephen King t&p
Blue Highways – William Least Heat-Moon (1983)
Mussolini: His Part In My Downfall – Spike Milligan
Coils – Roger Zelasny t&p
Freedom At Midnight – Larry Collins & Dominique Lapierre t&p
The Honourable Schoolboy – John Le Carré
The Mint – T.E. Lawrence
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
One for my bookshelf
India – ‘on the road’
World According To Garp – John Irving
Empire Of The Sun – J.G. Ballard
The Seduction Of Peter S – Laurence Sanders t&p
The Name Of The Rose – Umberto Eco
fr. diary 30.9.85
For mental stimulation I have read almost constantly – all train and plane volumes I’ve missed out on whilst training and planing: Robert Ludlum and his ilk. Pure entertainment and escapism, not that I want to be entertained or escape from here – just yet.
Aquitaine Progression – Robert Ludlum t&p
White Mandarin – Dan Sherman t&p
Saladin – Andrew Osmond t&p
Second Saladin – Stephen Hunter t&p
Night Work – Irwin Shaw t&p
Twilight Strike – Michael Stewart t&p
Strange Evil – Jane Gaskell t&p
Return Of The Native – Thomas Hardy
Long Voyage Back – Luke Reinhart t&p
A long book for people who like short words.
Dead Secret – Alan Williams t&p
Understrike – John Gardner t&p
The Nostradamus Traitor – John Gardner t&p
Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
Penang to Bangkok train
Claudius, The God – Robert Graves
(Noted that Robert Graves had just died aged 90)
Mixed Company – Irwin Shaw
Well crafted, dour short stories about World War II
Family Trade – James Carroll t&p
The Dancing Dodo – John Gardner t&p
The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe – Douglas Adams
An alternative Lonely Planet book.
The Retreat of Radiance – Ian Moffit
Very fine thriller, descriptive narrative of the ‘new’ China.
A Small Town In Germany – John Le Carré (a reread)
Black Heart – Eric Von Lustgarten t&p
750 pages of pap, sex and violence.
Green Ice – Gerald Brown t&p
Witty account of emerald heist interwoven with love affair
Heritage – Peter Driscolles t&p
570 pages, family saga set in OAS Algeria.
Baraka – John Ralston Saul t&p
Deftly written tale of arms smuggling – oil companies
Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia – William Shawcross
Horrifying account of arrogance, blind militarism
Angel Of Death – Thomas Perat t&p
Absolute crap. Appalling plot, poorly told.
Slapstick – Kurt Vonnegut
As usual, humane and humorous
Year of The Golden Ape – Colin Forbes
Action filled thriller, excellent t&p and lazy afternoon read.
The Queen’s Gambit – Walter Tevis t&p
A compelling read of a girl chess prodigy.
Other Women – Lisa Alther.
Sharp sympathetic characterisation of two modern women in need of reinforcement.
The sort of book that makes you nod in acknowledgement.
Empires Of The Sky – Anthony Sampson
Account of growth of international air travel, cartels and politics
The Water-Method Man – John Irving
Clever writing, sharp, bizarre, astute, familiar
The Case of Lucy Bending – Laurence Sanders t&p
His familiar engrossing read of human frailty
Singapore & Fiji
The Fourth Deadly Sin – Laurence Sanders t&p
Another comfortable detective story,
Love Songs – Laurence Sanders t&p
Psychological thriller of sexual emotions, better than the blurb indicates. Good characterisation is Sanders forte.
Ride A Pale Horse – Helen MacInnes t&p
USA v KGB
Death Beam – Robert Moss t&p
The Sweetheart Deal – Robert Rosenblum t&p
Law & order v. the mob & morality, with a good sting ending.
Original Sins – Lisa Alther
Good sense of character and generations
Shindler’s Ark – Thomas Keneally
Booker prize winner and deservedly so. Real life history of flawed anti-Nazi hero
The King’s Commissar – Duncan Kyle t&p
Cross referencing fall of Tsar in 1917 and merchant bank in 1983
The Dream Traders – E.V. Thompson
Good narrative of early Hong Kong and background to Chinese Opium War