[Jennie Couling | Contributing Writer]
Books are great: Through reading we can be transported to any place, any time, any life. While you might not get a tan reading these, any of these books will transport you to another place and culture for about the same price as a trip to the seaside.
Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta (2004)
Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found is author Suketu Mehta’s autobiographical experience of Mumbai and was a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for its portrayal of life in the city. Mehta looks at the criminal world of Muslim and Hindu gangs; follows the life of a bar dancer raised surrounded by poverty and abuse and looks behind the scenes of Bollywood. At over 500 pages, it’s not a short read, but that’s only because of the immense detail of Mehta’s descriptions.
The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith (1998)
Maybe a bit of an obvious choice, but it’s popular for a reason. No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is the first in a series of detective novels set in Gaborone, Botswana. The protagonist Mma Precious Ramotswe is the first female private investigator in Botswana and throughout the series solves a number of cases that explore rural life in Southern Africa, Christianity and traditional belief systems in contemporary Africa and women in nontraditional occupations. Not just books for middle aged women, the No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series are real page turners.
So Far From God by Ana Castillo (1993)
3) NORTH AMERICA
Set in the tiny village of Tome, New Mexico, So Far From God examines the lives of Mexican-American women on the borders. Sofi, a middle-aged single mother, and her four daughters, live at a crossroads between Chicano, Mexican, Spanish, and First Nations cultures. At the beginning of the novel, La Loca (Sofi’s youngest daughter) dies, sees hell, then comes back to Tome to live. So Far From God examines the supernatural and the real; the comic and horrific in an easy but rewarding read.
The City of Your Final Destination by Peter Cameron (2002)
4) SOUTH AMERICA
The City of Your Final Destination follows the story of Omar Razaghi, an academic who has won an award to write the biography of an obscure but celebrated author Jules Gund. Razaghi must win the trust of Gund’s literary executors before he can go ahead with his book. He makes the decision to travel to Uruguay to try and persuade them in person but struggles to convince Gund’s widow to agree. The City of Your Final Destination has vivid descriptions of the beautiful country of Uruguay and has also been turned into a film.