When our family traveled around the world, a friend in my Book Club challenged me to read a novel set in every country we visited. It was a great idea and fun way to immerse myself in a country’s culture and landscape before we even arrived. Most of my choices were enjoyable reads and offered a window into a new adventure.
Of course, if you want to read about our journey around the globe and the adventures we encountered, pick up a copy of “From the Rut to the Ledge.”
I’ve offered a description for the books I highly recommend. Happy reading!
New Zealand and Australia – The Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough. A classic, epic piece of historical fiction that follows several generations of a family as they emigrate from New Zealand and set up their lives in the rural Australian Outback.
Thailand – The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker (only a mention of Bangkok and mostly set in Burma) and Modoc by Ralph Helfer (technically set in several countries, but since we spent a week volunteering at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, I wanted to learn more about these beautiful beasts.)
Cambodia – When Broken Glass Floats by Chanrithy Him. This memoir opened my eyes to the haunting Khmer Rouge regime and its near-obliteration of the intellectuals and upper-class citizens of Cambodia just a few decades ago. Him recalls her own family’s story as a young girl barely surviving and her incredible redemption story following the conflict.
Vietnam – Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X. Pham. A wonderful, adventurous memoir about a Vietnamese-born American visiting his homeland, his extended family and their culture for the first time as a young adult by bicycling through the country.
Hong Kong – The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee
Kenya – Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen. A classic set in the 1920’s, the romanticized picture of British-colonized Kenya came to life when our family visited the author’s home, now a museum, in the outskirts of Nairobi.
*Bonus Kenya book: I had already read Circling the Sun by Paula McLain, based in a similar period with some of the same characters from Out of Africa. Although it’s historical fiction, I actually enjoyed it more than Out of Africa.
Egypt – Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
Turkey – Books of Ephesians, I Timothy and II Timothy in The Bible. During our time in coastal Turkey, I re-read the books penned by Paul and Timothy as they grew the Christian church in that region. As I walked the streets and marveled at the Roman ruins in Ephesus, I was struck by the similarities that our culture still faces two thousands years later.
Croatia – Girl at War by Sara Novic. Another haunting but powerful memoir of a young girl who survives a war and revisits the Croatian-Bosnian region as a young adult determined to understand her past and the pain and loss of her family.
England – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. I introduced my son to Harry Potter while we spent the final month of our journey in England. Nothing is more magical than imagining Harry entering Platform 9 ¾ on his way to Hogwarts. A must-read for every family, in my opinion.
Suzanne Rutledge has always had an itch for adventure and a good story. She was the public affairs and communications manager for Coca-Cola Enterprises for nearly ten years which took her around the world to places as far as Antarctica. While raising their son, Luke, she and her husband, Mitch, decided to quit their jobs, get out of their comfort zone, and explore life around the world. Their memoir, “From the Rut to the Ledge,” is available on Amazon and you can read more about their adventures at www.ruttotheledge.com.