By Sudha Mathew
“To read a writer is for me not merely to get an idea of what he says, but to go off with him and travel in his company.” – Andre Gide
When I travel, I usually carry a book related to the place I am traveling to. It gives an added dimension, a deeper layer to my experience of that place. The books are not always about travel; sometimes fiction or even romantic novels set in my destination. But there are far more instances when I can’t travel but desperately want a holiday. Then I escape into a world created by these books. Some of them introduced me to cities even before I set foot in them. Here’s a shortened list of my favourite books and the city or country they’re linked to. The list is no particular order. I’d love to hear suggestions for these as well as other regions.
Delhi – City of Djinns by William Dalrymple
Kerala – Where the rain is born by Anita Nair
Mumbai – Maximum City by Suketu Mehta, Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry
Bengal – The Shadow Lines by Amitava Ghosh, Glimpses of Bengal by Tagore – I have read this twice and will read it again I’m sure.
Life and Food in Bengal by Chitrita Banerjee – I experienced severe cravings for strange foods that I had never heard of before.
Bath – (Chick lit alert) Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer and quite a few of her Regency Era novels
London – Far too many to list here but let me mention some classic English authors who were the reason for my sense of déjà vu on my first trip there. Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Arthur Conan Doyle, PG Wodehouse
Florence – A Room with a View by EM Forster
Venice – Donna Leon mysteries
Provence – A year in Provence by Peter Mayle
Tokyo – After Dark – Haruki Murakami, Rei Shimura series by Sujata Massey
Tokyo & Kyoto – Sano Ichiro series by Laura Joh Rowland. Gorgeously detailed books set in 17th century feudal Japan where the central character is a samurai detective called Sano Ichiro with a feisty wife.
Botswana – No 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Australia – In a sunburned country by Bill Bryson (Almost all his books are well researched and engaging.)
Travelogues that pass through many countries
Asia – In Xanadu & Over the Holy Mountain by William Dalrymple
China & Tibet – From Heaven Lake by Vikram Seth