My favourite reads: Emmanuel Samoglou

I love travelling to faraway corners of the world, but for those stretches of time when I can’t visit the places I dream about, I do the next best thing: I pick up a book and read about them.

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts published by Abacus. Courtesy Little, Brown
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Here are five books that have satisfied the hunger when I was unable to lift anchor and set sail. Emmanuel Samoglou is multimedia editor for The National

The Happy Isles of Oceania by Paul Theroux (1992)

I read Theroux’s account of paddling the remote, sparsely populated islands of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean while I was stranded on one myself. The vivid depictions of places such as the Trobriands, Tonga, Tahiti, and their people made me forget I was pinned down by a job and short on money. Theroux’s writing is honest and engaging.

Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick (2009)

As Demick points out, North Korea is often described with humour, but for those who’ve been forced to endure its brand of totalitarian rule, life there is nothing to envy – despite what dictators want them to believe. Still, even after describing the horrors of life since the Korean War, I found myself wanting to visit the city of Chongjin, where Demick’s characters lived before defecting.

Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History by Robert Kaplan (1993)

American writer Robert Kaplan travels through the often turbulent Balkans, examining the "ancient hatreds" and how they continue to shape events. As with many good books, Balkan Ghosts has its proponents and detractors, but as a student, it inspired me to hit the road for two months, travelling overland from Athens to Istanbul.

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (2003)

I'm only a third of the way through, but Mumbai has made its way onto my "must-visit places" list. This is the only fiction on my list, but is inspired by true events. Shantaram tells the tale of an Australian bank robber and drug addict who escapes from prison and flees to India. As with most great travel writing, Roberts details the warts with the same energy as the beauty.

Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey into Bhutan by Jamie Zeppa (1999)

I was given a copy of this book when Google and Wikipedia were still in their infancy and information on this Himalayan nation was scarce. In this engaging memoir, Zeppa recounts the events that led her away from Canada, age 24. Teaching English over three years, she fights homesickness and then falls in love with a Bhutanese man.


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