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Top travel reads

Want to know what the travel pros read on vacation? Thought you might. That's why we've collated a few of the team's recommended reads, perfect for beach or balcony, just in time for summer.

As a bunch of well-traveled folk we have read our fair share of books while 30,000ft up in the air, relaxed on a beach, or perhaps even while bumping along a gravel road in Africa or Asia. So we thought we’d gather a few of our top travel reads as recommended by the Scott Dunn team and share them with you, just in time for your next trip. And not to forget our junior guests, we have a few fantastic books for children too.

Below you’ll find out which books we love, why we love them and what they’re about.

Adults books

The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh

About the book:
Frances Irvine, left penniless after her father's sudden death, is forced to emigrate from England to South Africa in the 1880s. In this barren country, she meets two very different men - one driven by ambition, the other by ideals. When a smallpox outbreak sends her to the diamond mines, she is drawn into a ruthless world of greed and exploitation, of human lives crushed in the scramble for power. But here, at last, she sees her path to happiness. Torn between passion and integrity, she makes a choice that has devastating consequences...

Why it’s great:
This is a beautifully written book where you can’t help but be touched by the extraordinary journey into the unknown that Frances takes. It’s a fascinating insight into South Africa’s turbulent past and the mining industry which has formed such a divisive cornerstone to this fascinating and spectacular country.

Louisa – Africa Specialist

A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby

About the book:
"A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush" is the chronicle of two ill-prepared and ill-mannered Englishmen who attempt to scale one of Afghanistan’s toughest peaks. The journey takes in many adventures and meetings with extraordinary characters whilst offering a great window into the world at that time.

Why it’s great:
I love the book because despite all of their failings, Eric and Hugh manage to orchestrate an incredible journey across a beautiful and fascinating part of the world. Eric Newby describes the journey with a huge amount of humor and even when things are descending into utter farce he never loses the incredible sense of wonder that infects us all when we travel to un-seen lands.

Dominic - Travel Specialist

God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

About the book:
It is the story of Rahel and Estha, boy/girl twins growing up in Kerala. It covers their story from seven years old through to when they are reunited at 30. Beautifully written the book examines how duty, traditions and laws can tear a family apart. Truly heart-breaking, it gives the reader an insight into modern India, while focusing on loyalty, abandonment and innocence – but ultimately it is about love.

Why it’s great:
I loved this book because it totally swept me in – you are transported to all the colors, chaos and smells of India. The chapters when the twins are young are written as seen through the eyes of children, whereas the chapters during their adult lives has lost the innocence and India in all its rawness and the brutality of life out there is brought to light. The characters – the twins, their mother and her lover were all people I genuinely cared about and in the end I was left heartbroken by the injustice of it all… the book stayed with me long after I had read the last page.

Bee - Marketing Manager

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

About the book:
The book is set in 1939 in Nazi Germany and is written by ‘Death’ himself, as he moves throughout the book taking souls with him along the way. It is the story of a foster child, Leisel Meminger, growing up with her foster parents. She has a fascination with books and a penchant for stealing them. She is taught to read by her accordion playing foster father for whom she forms a tight and heart-wrenching love. During the bombing raids she shares her stolen books by reading them to her neighbors in the underground shelters to take their minds off the raids. She also forms a strong bond with a Jewish escapee who is seeking refuge in the basement of the house.

Why it’s great:
This book is totally captivating, historic in parts, amusing and in places heart-breaking, but a fabulous read and very difficult to put down. One of my favorite reads of all time, although as it is total escapism, I would only read it on a vacation that was a fly and flop, or of course on the plane.

Nikki – PA to Founder

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

About the book:
A perfect vacation read set in the Deep South of America in the turbulent 1960s. With racial tensions running high, the story is based in the town of Jackson, Mississippi. On finishing college, Skeeter returns home to Jackson where a series of events cause her to risk everything by revealing the truth behind the society families that rule the town. Instead of following expectations to stay at home and find a husband, Skeeter embarks on secret meetings with the black maids of the town where she compiles their lives and experiences into her long awaited book and exposes the secrets of their white employers.

Why it’s great:
I was hooked from the first page! A fast paced, exciting read that really makes you think about the inequality and racial tensions of the time. The characters are believable and you feel great empathy for Skeeter and the maids of the town. This was one of the first books I have read about this era of history and it certainly won’t be (and hasn’t been!) my last!! Highly recommended, emotive and brilliantly written – a must read!

Michelle – Travel Co-ordinator Manager

The Island by Victoria Hislop

About the book:
This is a love story that unravels gradually. It tells the tale of Spinalonga in Crete and a beautiful woman who finds out she has leprosy and the impact it has on her husband and her children and the whole village. It’s tragic, historical and so touching. It is told through the eyes of the next generation, which is what makes it so moving.

Why it’s great:
It gives you a real appreciation of what our grandparents and forefathers went through and how they coped with such difficult situations. I am not Greek but I love it!!

Debbie – Ski/Med Travel Co-ordinator

The Moment by Douglas Kennedy

About the book:
This story is about an intense love affair between two people living in Berlin during the Cold War, a city under the threat of the Stasi and pre the wall coming down. The main character, Thomas Nesbitt, is an American writer who moved to Berlin to collect material for his travel book, he rents a room from a drug addicted artist and gets a job at a radio station. Petra is from the other side of the wall and has many dark secrets, however after a chance encounter, Thomas loves her unconditionally and finds himself moving dangerously between the two torn halves of the city. This is a story with many twists and turns which keep you guessing right to the last pages.

Why it’s great:
I love this book because it’s evidently well researched, giving you a brilliant insight into life under the Cold War with an epic love story. I couldn’t put it down with all its bluffs and double-bluffs, the perfect book to take your mind away on vacation!

Bella - Marketing

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hossein

About the book:
Fifteen year old Mariam is sent to Kabul to marry Rasheed. Nearly two decades later, a friendship grows between Mariam and a local teenager, Laila, as strong as the ties between mother and daughter. When the Taliban take over, life becomes a desperate struggle against starvation, brutality and fear. Yet love can move a person to act in unexpected ways, and lead them to overcome the most daunting obstacles.

Why it’s great:
"A Thousand Splendid Suns" tells a wonderful and intensely moving story of how two modern Afghan women overcome great challenges. This book is a remarkable and beautifully crafted novel, there were chapters in this novel which literally make you hold your breath.

Jenny – Ski/Med Specialist

The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh

About the book:
A richly written novel that begins with the 1885 British invasion of Mandalay, with the capture of the Burmese king, queen and court. Ghosh then takes you on a journey through the next 100 years to modern-day India and Burma (Myanmar). The story follows Rajkumar, a young peasant boy, on a journey out of his homeland through rubber estates in Malaya, businesses in Singapore, estates in Burma – and his marriage to the breath-taking Miss Dolly – from 1870 through to World War II. Each character’s tale is inextricably woven with the others, resulting in a fascinating insight into a side of both wars that is rarely told.

Why it’s great:
This book encapsulates everything I love about the Far East – the smells, the sights, the color, the culture. Ghosh manages to evoke the dusty streets of 19th century Burma, the dense teak forests with their logging elephants, along with the human side of this fascinating period of history. As well as being hauntingly beautiful– it really is the most wonderful love story and the perfect companion to any vacation to Asia.

Olivia – Far East & Australasia Specialist

Pao by Kerry Young

About the book:
The book follows the story of Yang Pao who arrives in Jamaica, aged 14, from China in 1938. Along with his mother and brother he lives with Zhang, the 'godfather' of Chinatown, who mesmerizes Pao with stories of glorious Chinese socialism on one hand, and the reality of his protection business on the other. When Pao takes over the family's affairs he becomes a powerful man. He sets his sights on marrying well, but when Gloria Campbell, a black prostitute, comes to him for help he is drawn to her beauty and strength. As the political violence escalates in the 1960s the lines between Pao's socialist ideals and private ambitions become blurred.

Why it’s great:
I like it because although it’s a fictional book yet it details much about Jamaican history and in particular about Manley coming to power and the time when Jamaica gained its independence. It’s an interesting read with a good story line that keeps you gripped as a reader and takes you away from Kingston to many of the islands beautiful places!

Gemma – Oceans and Islands Specialist

The Lion by Joseph Kessel

About the book:
A coming of age book retelling the story of the friendship between a little girl and her lion. Based in Kenya in the late 40s/early 50s, the story is being told through the eye of an adult and gives you an insider’s view of life in the early days of safari, park life and the interaction between Europeans and the Maasai community. Translated from French.

Why it’s great:
I love feeling the heat of a hot day in Africa and imagining what it would have been like in the early days of safari life in Kenya. I also was a bit of tomboy when I was growing up and identified with Patricia’s view on life. In France it is one of those books that you get "forced" to read. I still have my copy from way back when and do re-read it when I go on vacations.

Cecile – Travel Co-ordinator

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

About the book:
"The Poisonwood Bible" tells the story of an American evangelical Baptist who takes his wife, four daughters and unrelenting beliefs to the Belgian Congo in 1959 during a state of both political and social upheaval as the Congolese seek to gain independence from Belgium. Each chapter is told by either the wife or one of the four daughters and perfectly captures their differing views of their life in the Congo. This is a tale of one family’s tragic undoing and its remarkable recovery over the course of thirty years in postcolonial Africa.

Why it’s great:
This is a beautifully descriptive book which perfectly combines humor and sadness while providing a historical and political examination of the complicated and tragic history of the Belgian Congo. Kingsolver does a fantastic job of differentiating between the five different characters who are telling the story to explicate the complicated and tragic history of the Belgian Congo.

Rose – Africa Specialist

Childrens books

A Fish Out of Water by Helen Palmer

About the book:
"A Fish Out of Water" is the story of a boy who goes to the pet store to buy his fish, Otto. He is given advice on how much to feed his new pet – never more than a spot. Even with this good advice he ends up over-feeding his new friend and this starts an adventure that sees the police, the firemen and others trying to help out.

Why it’s great:
It’s a classic children’s book accompanied by fun illustrations. With each page turned, the adventure gets bigger (and bigger and bigger), introducing lots of new characters along the way. The look of sheer disbelief on a little one’s face as the story progresses is priceless. Give it a go; something may happen, you never know what!

Shannon - Marketing

Big Red Bath by Julia Jarman and Adrian Reynolds

About the book:
Bath time is always good fun but for Ben & Bella things get even more interesting when some of their furry and feathered friends decide to join them! With the bath filling up rapidly where will their bubbly adventure take them!?

Why it’s great:
A beautifully illustrated book that children can’t help but join in with a wonderfully written story that never dulls; no matter how many times you read it.

Kate - Childcare Recruitment and Operations Executive

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