Tag Archives: reading list

Reading List: South Africa


Don’t wait until next year to book South Africa! WIT Agent Nancy just returned from an extensive trip to the country of rich culture, dazzling vineyards and amazing wildlife. Tune in again to hear her feedback soon!

But for now, get a taste of South Africa with our recommended reads:

Percy Fitzpatrick, Jock of the Bushveld. The classic children’s story about a man and his dog.

Anthony Sher, Middlepost. The tale of a Lithuanian-African anti-hero and magic realism akin to Don Quixote.

Jim Coetzee, In the Heart of the Country. A dark work by a Nobel-prize-winner about a young woman trapped on a lonely farm.

Nelson Mandela and Richard Stengel, Long Walk to Freedom. Mandela’s famous prison diaries later compiled with Time magazine editor Stengel.

Alan Paton, Cry, The Beloved Country. The classic novel of a rural Zulu parson’s heart-breaking search for his son in the criminal underworld of the city.

Nadine Gordimer, Selected Stories. Winner of the 1991 Nobel Prize for Literature, which delves into extraordinary lives of ordinary South Africans.

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Reading List: Russia!

Read before you go! Russia has always been a mysterious draw for Americans, enjoying a steady popularity among travelers, artists and journalists alike. Check out some of our favorite literature from the area:

Peter Waldron. Russia of the Tsars. Waldron recounts the exploits of Peter the Great, the Tsars and the splendor of their capital city, St. Petersburg, in this lively, well-illustrated and compact overview of the largest and most diverse empire of its day.

Masha Gessen. The Man Without a Face, The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. A Russian-American journalist living in Moscow, Masha wp2Gessen demolishes the many myths and legends surrounding Vladimir Putin and his transformation from unexceptional KGB bureaucrat to the most powerful man in Russia. No fan of the man, who she calls a “hoodlum turned iron-handed ruler,” Gessen is brave — and optimistic that his time will soon come.

Robert Chandler. Russian Short Stories. This fine collection of tales captures the sweep and soul of Russian literature, including works by Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Chekhov and Tolstoy along with lesser-known greats.


wp5David Remnick. Lenin’s Tomb. A gripping eyewitness tale of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Remnick, the Washington Post reporter on the scene, combines fine historical scholarship with great storytelling.

Clifford Gaddy. Mr. Putin, Operative in the Kremlin. Drawing on a range of sources, including their own personal encounters, two fellows at the Brookings Institution describe six of Putin’s most essential idetities: the Statist, the History Man, the Survivalist, the Outsider, the Free Marketeer, and the Case Officer.

Orlando Figes. Natasha’s Dance, A Cultural History of Russia. In this lively cultural history, Figes looks at both the great works by Russian masters and longstanding folk traditions. The title is drawn from a scene of Tolstoy’s War and Peace in which a European-educated countess performs a peasant dance.

Michael Farquhar. Secret Lives of the Tsars, Three Centuries of Autocracy, Debauchery, Betrayal, Murder, and Madness from Romanov Russia. A scandalous tell-all about Russia’s ruling class. Farquhar skips over the dryer parts of history to deliver the jaw-dropping morsels about Catherine the Great’s affinity for young lovers and Peter the Great’s proclivity for beheading his subjects.

W. Bruce Lincoln. Sunlight at Midnight: St. Petersburg and the Rise of Modern Russia. A wonderfully written, informative portrait of St. Petersburg, focusing on the city’s development in the 18th and 19th centuries as Russia’s “window on the West.” Highly recommended for travelers with an interest in the character and significance of the city and its monuments.

Patricia Herlihy. Vodka, A Global History. A professor of history at Brown, Herlihy tracks wp3our fascination with this most versatile of spirits from its mysterious 14th-century Slavic origins to today’s global dominance in this brief yet thoroughly entertaining, erudite and illustrated history. A volume in the lively Edible History Series.

George Hamilton/Judith Gordon. The Art and Architecture of Russia. An elegantly written introduction to the art and architecture of Russia. Published in 1954, it’s a good handbook for the traveler that goes beyond Moscow and St. Petersburg. Includes 314 black-and-white illustrations.

Olegs Yakovlevichs Neverov. The Hermitage Collections. This sumptous visual survey celebrates the museum, its history and collections.

Robert Massie. Peter the Great, His Life and World. In this Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, Massie portrays the giant of history who transformed Russia from backwater tsardom into a major empire.

Robert Massie. Catherine the Great. Eager readers of Massie’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Peter the Great will not be disappointed by this latest, an old-fashioned tale of politics, power and 18th-century Europe, drawing effectively from the ambitious Catherine’s own memoirs.

wp1Vladimir Nabokov. Speak, Memory. Nabokov’s richly imagined memoir wonderfully evokes cultural life among the well-to-do in turn-of-the-century St. Petersburg. Nabokov called his childhood home, now a museum off St Isaac’s Square, “the only house in the world.”

Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin. The Captain’s Daughter and Other Stories. This collection of short stories from the Russian poet and master storyteller opens with his famous novella, The Captain’s Daughter, set against the events of the Pugachov uprising during the reign of Catherine the Great, and contains eight additional tales, all rendered in Pushkin’s simple, elegant prose and beautifully evocative of the caprices of Tsarist Russia.

Debra Dean. The Madonnas of Leningrad. Dean effortlessly interweaves two epochs of a woman’s life — Marina’s wartime experiences as a young guide at the Hermitage during the Siege of Leningrad and her life as an 82-year-old Seattle resident struggling with Alzheimer’s. A remarkable debut novel.

Boris Akunin/Andrew Bromfield. The Winter Queen. Akunin sets a suspected murder among the glitterati of late 19th-century Moscow in this first book in the series of clever detective novels starring the rascal Erast Fandorin, wildly popular in Russia.

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Reading List: Istanbul

Read before you go! Today we’re taking a look at the multilayered land of Turkey. Almost no other country has such a diverse abundance in history, culture, and people. Check out some of our favorite literature from the area:

Pamuk, Orhan. Istanbul. Turkey’s most famous writer overviews Turkey’s most notable city. Excellent overview on the modern city.

Orhan Pamuk. My Name is Red. The first Pamuk novel you should read. A fiendishly devious tale of intrigue and romance, set against the backdrop of 16th century Istanbul.

Judith Herrin. Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire. A brilliant study of the history of the Byzantine empire, chronicling from the rise in the 4th century to siege of Istanbul in 1453 by the Ottoman Turks.

Umberto Eco. Baudolino. A fictional account following a gifted multilingual liar and his adventures with Emperor Barbarossa, with priest-kings, and the siege of Constantinople.

David Fromkin. A Peace to End All Peace. Chronicles the fall of the Ottoman Empire and brings to light how the modern Middle East and Turkey developed.

Agatha Christie. Murder on the Orient Express. The classic novel by Agatha Christie about the muder of European’s most famous train line. Follow detective Hercule Poirot as he sleuths out this mystery.

Ann Marie Mershon. Istanbul’s Bazaar Quarter: Backstreet Walking Tours. A unique collection of walking tours that delve into the hidden world of the bazaar—its workshops, caravanserai, gardens and courtyards.

Greg Malouf. Turquoise: A Chef’s Travels in Turkey. Follows chef Greg Malouf through spice markets, soup kitchens, and delicious restaurants for the enticing flavors of the Mediterranean.

Elif Shafak. The Bastard of Istanbul. A colorful tale of Asya and the four sisters of the Kazanci family against the backdrop of Turkish identity.

Hilary Sumner-Boyd. Strolling through Istanbul. A classic walking guide through Istanbul’s magnificent history, complete with anecdotes, hidden gems and secret histories.

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Reading List: Indonesia

Read before you go! Today we’re taking a look at some recommended reading of one of the growing tourist destinations, Indonesia! Take a look at some of these jewels from and about Java, Bali, and other popular locations.

Lyall Watson. Gift of Unknown Things. Examines symbiotic relationship of a community and its environment on an unnamed island.

Tim Flannery. Throwim Way Leg. A scientific expedition into Papua New Guinea.


Simon Winchester. Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded. A fascinating, interdisciplinary look at the 1883 eruption of Krakatau from the author of the Professor and the Madman.

Tom Severin. In Search of Moby Dick. Search for the globe’s last whale-hunters in the remote village of Lamalera, in Nusa Tenggara.

Christopher Koch. The Year of Living Dangerously. A stark account of a journalist living in Sukarno’s Indonesia during 1965.


Helen & Frank Schreider. Drums of Tonkin. A team of husband and wife documents their 1963 voyage from Sumatra to Timor.

Jose Manuel Tesoro. The Invisible Palace. A nonfiction account of the murder of a journalist in Yogyakarta during the Suharto regime.

book3Giles Milton. Nathaniel’s Nutmeg: True and Incredible Adventures of the Spice Trader Who Changed the Course of History. A depiction of 17th century Indonesian trader Nathaniel Courthroupe and his struggle to save a nutmeg-laden island from the Dutch.

Interested in booking a trip to Bali or any one of Indonesia’s gorgeous islands? Call us for more details, 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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Reading List: Pacific Northwest & the Columbia River

Time for another reading list from your agents! Today we’re taking a look at some of our favorite nature and historic books on the Pacific Northwest and the Columbia River…

Robin Cody. Voyage of a Summer Sun: Canoeing the Columbia River. A canoe trip from the headwaters of Columbia to Astoria

William L. Lang and Robert C, Carriker. Great River of the West: Essays on the Columbia River. Essays from historians and anthropologists on the history, culture, and mythos of the river.

Robin Cody. Another Way the River Has. Old and new essays about life on and around the Columbia River, from Estacada to Ilwaco.

John Logan Allen, Marjorie Burns, and Sam Sargent. Cataclysms on the Columbia. All about geology of the area, Bretz floods, etc

R. Gregory Nokes. Massacred for Gold. The 1887 massacre of 30 Chinese on the Oregon side of Hells Canyon.

William Dietrich. Northwest Passage: The Great Columbia River. Another engaging history of the Columbia river.

Bill Mercer. People of the River: Native Arts of the Oregon Territory. An insightful and compelling study on the rich artistic heritage of Native Americans and their unique designs, materials, motifs.

Marge and Ted Mueller. Fire, Faults, and Floods: A Road & Trail Guide Exploring the Origins of the Columbia River Basin. Fifty-three trails on and over cliffs, walls, potholes, caves, and rivers through the Pacific Northwest. Includes maps, photographs, and illustrations. 

Planning a trip to the PNW? Call us for more details! Wittravel is based in Portland, Oregon, giving us a terrific base from which to design a “naturesque” vacation just for you.

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Reading List: New Zealand

New Zealand: Hiker’s Paradise, Land of Kiwi Birds and Kiwi Smoothies. Let’s take a look into what makes NZ tick:

Alexander Elder.Straying from the Flock: Travels in New Zealand. Love ir or hate it, a great travel memoir about New Zealand.

Scott Cook. NZ Frenzy: New Zealand South Island. An off-the-beaten-path guide to New Zealand’s south island.

Kate Llewellyn. Lilies, Feathers and Frangipani. A short book written in journal-style, revealing odds and ends about NZ culture.

Joe Bennett. A Land of Two Halves. The amusing account of Bennett’s hitchhiking and wandering in the countryside.

Keri Hulme. The Bone People: A Novel. One of the best-known NZ novels, this is the story of a half-Maori artist and her journey into culture clashes, mystery, and love.

Katherine Mansfield. New Zealand Stories. A collection from one of the finest kiwi authors.

Andrew Stevenson. Kiwi Tracks: A New Zealand Journey. One traveler’s journey into the primeval forests, glaciers, beaches of NZ armed with only a rucksack.

Polly Evans. Kiwis Might Fly. A motorcyclist’s account through the landscapes of NZ.

Witi Ihimaera. Whale Rider. A bittersweet story about a Maori girl and her destiny, against the backdrop of heavy subjects such as seixism, tradition, faith.

Michael Cooper and John McDermott. Wine Atlas of New Zealand. A guide to navigate through Pinots, Savs, and Rieslings of the Hawkes Bay region.

Gregor Paul. Redemption: How the All Blacks Defied History to Win the World Cup. The story of NZ’s All Black rugby team and their victory in worldwide soccer. 

Alexander Stewart. New Zealand—The Great Walks. As is to be expected in a land of stunning natural beauty, there are some amazing walks and trails to explore in New Zealand. Here’s a comprehensive guide from the Milford Track to lesser known walks.

Almost all of our agents have traveled Australia and/or New Zealand. Call for more information about these gorgeous destinations at 800.821.0401 or email info@wittravel.com.

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Reading List: Thailand

Thailand: Realm of backpackers, massages, rides with elephants. But exactly how much do we now about the Land of the Smiles? Read these informative and intriguing pieces for insight into the country and culture.

David Wyatt. Thailand: A Short History. A detailed account of the region, from prehistory to modern day.

Carol Hollinger. Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind. An amusing, brilliant depiction of Thai people from the perspective of an American who lived there for five years.

Karen Connelly. Touch the Dragon: A Thai Journal. A Canadian’s take on everyday life in rural Thailand.

Larry Habegger. Travelers’ Tales Thailand: True Stories. Personal narratives of travelers with an intimate touch.

Botan. Letters from Thailand. One of Thailand’s most enduring novels, this book, first published in 1969, is one of the few portrayals of immigrant Chinese life in the country.

Susan Fulop Kepner. The Lioness in Bloom: Modern Thai Fiction about Women. An https://i1.wp.com/www.ucpress.edu/img/covers/isbn13/9780520089037.jpganthology on about various feminist topics—from sexuality and loneliness to injustice and oppression.

Thongchai Winichakul. Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation. A unique perspective of Thailand’s history and politics as shaped by its geography.

Kay Halsey. Food of Thailand. A collection of delicious Thai dishes brought to print by an award-winning food author.

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