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10 Books to Accompany an Adventure

Discussing books in Borneo. Amelia McKinlay

Perfect for your pack, these stories will inspire and entertain you. 

When I’m spending a long time in an isolated location, reading is one of my favourite ways to pass the time. It transports me into another world and allows an insight into situations I have never experienced. While in Borneo, I was able to read a number of books, each teaching me something completely different. Reading is relaxing and I found it was one of the few ways I felt like I could fully switch off and enjoy my down time.  

Every night I would climb under my mosquito net and lie on my mouldy (but comfortable) mattress, ready to digest someone else’s thoughts and feelings. Given the limited electricity in the camp, my Kindle was very useful. (It only needed charging every couple of weeks, and it allowed me to download many books before my trip and save a great deal of packing space. The backlight also meant I could read at night without disturbing anyone trying to sleep.)

Below are 10 books I recommend to take with you on an adventure. They are a mixture of fiction and non-fiction about wildlife, extraordinary upbringings and fascinating adventures.

1. Don’t Let’s Go Down to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood – Alexandra Fuller 

One of my favourite books of all time, Alexandra Fuller recounts her turbulent childhood growing up in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi in the '70s and '80s. 

2. Travels on my Elephant – Mark Shand 

While living in India, I was privileged enough to meet the elephant featured in this story. Only much later did I pick up this book and read about Mark Shand’s incredible adventure around India on the back of Tara the elephant. 

3. State of Wonder – Ann Patchett 

Transport yourself deep into the Amazon rainforest and go on an adventure with scientist Marina Singh. An interesting book with brilliant descriptions of the Brazilian jungle.

4. The Grass is Singing – Doris Lessing 

A beautifully written novel about domestic life in Zimbabwe, formerly known as Rhodesia, and the truths of apartheid-ruled life by Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing. 

5. Love, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story – Daphne Sheldrick 

A remarkable memoir by Dame Daphne Sheldrick, renowned for her incredible conservation work in East Africa with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. A heartwarming memoir set against the backdrop of the Kenyan bush.

6. And the Mountains Echoed – Khaled Housseni 

Khaled Housseni’s wonderful storytelling never fails to amaze me. This book is about strong family bonds and offers an insight into Afghani culture and history.

7. My Family and Other Animals – Gerald Durrell 

The first book in a trilogy written by British naturalist Gerald Durrell. It is a light-hearted autobiography about growing up on the island of Corfu, Greece and his fascination with natural history.

8. Educated – Tara Westover 

One of the biggest books of 2018, Educated is about a nonconventional upbringing set in Idaho that I found impossible to put down.

9. Purple Hibiscus - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche is a Nigerian novelist and one of my favourite authors. I would whole heartedly recommend any book written by her including Purple Hibiscus, a moving story about adolescence and political and social unrest in Nigeria.

10. Elephant Whisperer – Lawrence Anthony

An accurate and magical description of life on a South African game reserve, this book describes Lawrence Anthony’s experience with a herd of wild elephants.

I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have and take one on your next adventure!

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Published in Volunteer Abroad Blogs
Amelia McKinlay

Amelia McKinlay is a master's student based in London, passionate about conservation and the environment. She has lived in five countries around the world. Previously, she blogged for Verge about volunteering at DAKTARI Bush School and Wildlife Orphanage in Limpopo, South Africa. Currently, she's researching tropical forest ecology in Borneo, Malaysia.

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