I have always sought “written” influences throughout my travels, whether for personal pleasure or as part of overseas professional & business collaborations. The most memorable, influential and valued to me, have always fallen into a category I would describe at “historical non-fiction with a human twist.” The key distinction being; where the regional events of those times serve not as a focal-point, but rather an elemental backdrop to the human experiences lived at a personal, familial or community level.
These, once in my early “dirty hippie” days, focused primarily within the US during the 20th Century – particularly in the Western US, but later turned to “overseas markets” as my desire for human experiences turned towards recognition we are a global community, each with our own “flavor” of regional experiences; past, present and future, which are the basis for almost every one our decisions made at a personal level.
The following are a partial list of global literary influencers whom have shaped, significantly, my thinking today.
- Botswana –
- Twenty Chickens for a Saddle by Robyn Scott
- Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) –
- The Bearded Lion Who Roars: Simba Mandefu Mabe by Elise Dallemagne-Cookson
- King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild
- My thoughts visiting King Leopold’s statue in Brussels in August of 2014.
- Malawi –
- The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba
- Mozambique –
- Sleepwalking Land by Mia Couto
- Nigeria –
- A Man of the People,
- Arrow of God,
- No Longer at Ease, and…
- Things Fall Apart
- all by Nigerian novelist, poet, professor, and critic Chinua Achebe
- Rhodesia/Zimbabwe –
- When a Crocodile Eats the Sun – A Memoir of Africa,
- Mukiwa – A White Boy in Africa,
- The Fear – Robert Mugabe and the martyrdom of Zimbabwe, and…
- regular updates on Zimbabwe
- all by Peter Godwin
- Rhodesia/Zimbabwe/Zambia/Mozambique –
- Scribbling the Cat,
- Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs and…
- Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness
- all by Alexandra Fuller
- Sierra Leone –
- A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
- West Africa –
- Skeletons on the Zahara by Dean King
Central Asia, Eastern Europe, Horn of Africa & the Middle East
- Afghanistan/Iran –
- The Kite Runner
- A Thousand Splendid Suns
- both works by Khaled Hosseini
- Ethiopia –
- Notes from the Hyena’s Belly by Nega Mezlekia
- IranPersepolis, Persepolis 2 and…
- the screen adaptation of Persepolis,
- Afghanistan/Iran –
all by Marjane Satrapi
- Somalia –
- Infidel: My Life by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
- Heretic I have not read yet, but I know it is stirring up controversy already.
- Turkiye –
- Crescent & Star – Turkey, Between Two Worlds by Stephen Kinzer
- Since reading this (and another whose name eludes me) as a primer to my first trip to Turkiye in 2013, and then returning in September 2014 to travel with my Turkish friends, my relationship to Turkiye has grown stronger. It has helped me to better understand the inter workings and inner challenges of being a Turk in a “surface only” secular state. The recent checks on Erdogan’s ambitions to be president-for-life, comes at great relief to my friends and myself alike. His reading out of the playbooks of past and present dictators and the open rhetoric he displayed was very concerning, and many of my friends arranged extended absences from the Republic of Turkey as a result.
- Barbara KingsolverAnimal Dreams,
- The Bean Trees,
- Pigs in Heaven,
- Flight Behavior and…
- the quintessential The Poisonwood Bible
- The Complete Collection of Edward Abbey, Front to back, back to front, set on repeat.
- Desert Solitaire, which is a frequent gift I give to those first setting out to explore our beautiful red rock country.
- The Monkey Wrench Gang and the sequel Hayduke Lives, both transformative inspirations within my youth.
- Multiple Histories on ArgentinaI married into an Argentine family, was fortunate to spend six weeks in the country, stood in front of La Casa Rosada or The Pink House for us English speakers, and believe it or not…”!Vivas Las Falklands!” was not received warmly, although I was clearly light-heartedly joking when I would say it.
- Ernesto “Che” GuevaraThe Motorcycle Diaries, and the entire released collections by this controversial historical figure.
- Much of the collections of Wallace Stegner and Wendell Berry
- John McPheeEncounters with the Archdruid,
- Table of Contents,
- Basin & Range and many others.
And thought-provoking & literary masterpieces that transcend time and place.
- Paulo CoelhoThe Alchemist too many times to count,
- Manuscript Found in Accra,
- Veronika Decides to Die,
- The Zahir and many others….
- Mark Z. Danielewski
- House of Leaves always comes to mind for unconventional writing and thinking. The name of the book eludes me every time I want to reference the bottomless rabbit hole that it is, hence time to add it here.
And countless others…