From the historical and geographical to modern travel tales with a twist, Karma Group’s Literary Luminary, Philip Blackwell, shares his recommendations of reads that transport you to other realms.
1. Lotharingia: A Personal History of Europe’s Lost Country by Simon Winder
This is a hilarious and compelling story that retraces a huge number of ambitious characters that tried and failed to grapple with ‘Lotharingians.’ A group of descendants who ultimately became Dutch, German, Belgian, French, Luxembourgers and Swiss. Over many centuries, not only has Lotharingia brought forth many of Europe’s greatest artists, inventors and thinkers, but it has also reduced many-a-would-be conqueror to helpless tears of rage and frustration.
2. Turbulence by David Szalay
A brilliant short-story collection that brings together 12 peoples’ lives as they travel on planes around the world. This is a nuanced and deeply moving sequence, that tracks a range of diverse protagonists as they circumnavigate the world in twelve plane journeys, from London to Madrid, Dakar to Sao Paulo, to Toronto, to Delhi, to Doha, en route to see lovers, parents, children, siblings, or just to getaway. An examination of how our lives intersect in the modern world.
3. Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
All world leaders are constrained by their geography as their choices are limited by mountains, rivers, seas and concrete. If you’ve ever wondered why Putin is so obsessed with Crimea, why the USA was destined to become a global superpower, or why China’s power base continues to expand, the answers lie here. In ten chapters, using maps, essays and occasionally personal experiences, Tim Marshall looks deeply at one of the major factors that determines world history – geography.
4. The Immeasurable World by William Atkins
One-third of the earth’s land surface is desert, most of it desolate and inhospitable. From the prophets of the Bible to Marco Polo, Lawrence of Arabia to Gertrude Bell, travellers have often seen deserts as cursed places to suffer rather than enjoy. Travelling to five continents over three years, visiting deserts both iconic and little-known, William Atkins discovers a realm that is as much internal as physical.
5. The Only Gaijin in the Village by Iain Maloney
In 2016 Scottish writer Iain Maloney and his Japanese wife Minori moved to a village in rural Japan. This is the story of his attempt to fit in, be accepted and fulfil his duties as a member of the community, despite being the only foreigner in the village. Even after more than a decade living in Japan and learning the language, life in the countryside was a culture shock. Told with self-deprecating humour, this memoir gives a fascinating insight into a side of Japan rarely seen.