I never go anywhere without a stack of travel books.
I’m obsessed with knowing as much as I can about a place. How did the environment evolve? How did that influence and impact the different cultures that moved into the area? Why did they come? Whey did they go? Who were they? I want to know about the politics, the art, the literature, the wars, the agriculture, the food…..anything and everything.
Knowing as much as I can about a place before I go – and learning more while I’m there – greatly enhances the quality of my experience.
Over the remainder of the year, Around the World in Eighty Years will, with your help, build out the ULTIMATE Travel Library. This wont be a library of travel literature per se but rather an evolving collection of the top books vital to understanding a new place – or an old place for that matter. We never stop learning.
This is an attempt at “crowd-sourcing” a broad diversity of opinion and input on books about place. So please feel free to join in and offer up your suggestions!
As this will be a work in progress, be sure to check back.
Today, travel books Europe : England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Notes from a Small Island
Of course. This famous little book is not to be missed. “Notes from a Small Island” is not meant to be a scholarly look at England. Instead, its a witty, informative and uproariously funny look at the nation Bryson adopted and lived in for 20 years.
A Land (Concord Library)
Archaeologist Jacquetta Hawkes sweeps through the whole of time to trace the English people as seen in the landscape. My one problem with the book is that it lacks maps. Published in 1951, this is one of the more beautiful books of geology, environment, history and culture I’ve ever read.
A History of Wales by John Davies
Ok. At over 700 pages, this is far from a light read. This sweeping history takes you from the Ice Age to 1992. For centuries, the Welsh maintained an independence from the English, holding on to language, culture and a legal system that hearkened back from the ancient days of the original Britons. It wasn’t until 1532 that the Welsh were forced into union with the English crown. Unsentimental but proud to be Welsh, the author dives into the mixed blessing of the union, the Industrial Revolution and the modern political movements that are slowly breaking apart the UK.
Paddy’s Lament, Ireland 1846-1847: Prelude to Hatred
It is never popular to say, but the fact is that the English perpetrated a genocide on the people of Ireland. While a fungus led to the destruction of the potato crop in 1846 the British government and wealthy class refused to aid, believing the Irish to be a subhuman species, and thus created a famine of tragic proportions. The death of millions ensued. A well-documented, well-written work that gets to the core of the powerful hatred the Irish continue to hold for the British government.
In Search of Ancient Ireland: The Origins of the Irish from Neolithic Times to the Coming of the English
A fabulously fun read tracing the history, archaeology, and legends of ancient Ireland from the end of the last Ice Age to 1167 A.D. when the English first arrived. Most of what you think you know about ancient Ireland is wrong and the vestiges of that great history remain in the form of festivals, folk customs, place names and more! Another book exploring history at once scholarly and full documented and well-written and accessible.
Highlanders: A History of the Gaels
How can a Scot, writing of Scotland NOT be biased? Keep that in mind while reading this primer to the history of the isles and glens of Scotland. That said, the author brings some of the heroes of Scottish legend out from the fantastic and sets them firmly down to earth, demonstrating that they were real people with real faults. This book is a tour of the past of the Gaels as well as an update on the realities of the present.