Roads Rivers and Trails

Dream. Plan. Live.

Readers Review: Shantaram

Inspirational Adventure/Travel Reads

by: Louie Knolle


I don’t know you reader, but one thing I do know is that you are human. Should I meet you someday, perhaps we will have a nice conversation about some books we have both read.  At one of my two jobs, I pick apples on an orchard and work in the farm stand.  Man oh man, how I have learned how subjective taste is.  What can taste sweet to one person, can taste more on the tart side to another. What one considers to be crisp, another can think of as soft. This is why I firmly believe in testing a variety of things, no matter the object of desire.  When it comes to things like travel destinations, foods, or reading books, the worst that can happen is you decide it is not for you.  Armed with this knowledge, you will be better suited for the decision making process on the next go-round.  I think we can all agree that learning more about ourselves in one of the most adventurous endeavors we as human beings can undertake in our lives.  I consider this way of thought synonymous with breathing, it’s just something natural that everyone has the ability to do.

Although I would consider myself a novice bibliophile at best, I always enjoy the books that I choose to read.  Whether they be travel memoirs, eastern philosophies, metamorphoses inspired by nature, classic literature, or even the standard 14 part fantasy epic, I am always intrigued by the books that end up on my book shelf.  Never able to succinctly answer when asked what I like to read, I prefer this M.O. of book selection and am able to learn so much.  For this reason, I have been assigned the duty of compiling a list of some of my favorite adventure, travel, inspirational, etc. reads.  Since our resident wordsmith and book bandit Man-goat is off finishing the AT like the child-like cherub that he is, I will do my best to elucidate in his stead.  This is by no means a complete list of course, there are thousands upon thousands of books that would fit in these genres, and I am but one man who knows what he likes.  Unfortunately I cannot read them all, that’s where you come in! I will do my best to explain what I liked about these books and share a few details without writing several book reports.  I hope that you will use these as a starting point on your search for both books to read and places to go out and experience in real life.  I know some of these have determined some of my both past and future trips.  Happy trails and happy reads!

Shantaram Gregory David Roberts

This is actually another novel I read while on a 2 week road trip out to Montana and Wyoming about 4 years ago, did I mention before that the road is a great place to read?  This book is based on the life its author and written while he was serving time in prison.  The slightly fictionalized character based on himself, is an Australian convict who leaves the “down under” and travels to India in hopes of evading authorities.  While in Bombay, he makes a personal connection with a man who acts as a guide for tourists.  In doing so, he eventually finds a semi-permanent home in one of the many city slums after being robbed of all his money.  While living in the slums, he becomes the unofficial slum doctor because of some previous medical training he had undertaken.  After becoming a respected man of his small community, bigger fish begin to take notice and he gets involved with local mafia officials, movie stars, guerrilla freedom fighters in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, and has a myriad of adventures.  Although it should be noted that this book is slightly fictitious, it is based on the author’s life during the 60’s and 70’s while on the run from the law in India and other part of Central Asia.  (Spoiler alert: In the end he was caught, but that’s okay, otherwise this book may have never been written!)

How I first heard about this book? A fellow I worked with in college mentioned it one night while we were packing boxes.  Who knew during a night in which I was packing advertisements for cologne into boxes, I’d learn about one of my favorite adventure packed books?  A lesson to be learned both from this book and from that night, keep your head down and sure things will be easy and you don’t have to ever worry about being without routine, but when you look up and your eyes adjust to how bright it really is out, you will surprise yourself with what you are able to find.  This man arrived in India hoping to remain unnoticed and evade police, but in the end he became an important man in his community and was respected both by his many new friends and all the others whom he met or heard his tale.  It’s like my grandpappy always told me, “Life is funny, yo!”

Read more of Louie’s Suggestions here.