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Best Books For Learning About Cultures Of The World

Our comprehensive list covers Oceania to central Europe – truly otherworldly!

Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

We’ve all been guilty of vacationing in the same place every year. Once we start doing that and living in the same culture, it’s natural to assume the rest of the world works roughly in the same way.
These books will prove you wrong – some fascinating, eye-opening moments are present in every one of these great books. Best of all, they’ll get you out of the house and out the country in a couple of minutes!

#1 The Dark Safari by Paul Theroux

The Dark Safari by Paul Theroux
Theroux takes us on a journey, by any means possible, down the length of the African continent from Cairo to Cape Town overland. Theroux faces with many interesting circumstances, some of them dangerous to say the least. Very few people visit the real Africa but this book is gritty and challenges your views on Africa.

Before buying a copy make sure to compare the price at various outlets:

Book Depository (International)Waterstones (International) Read more reviews and buy the book here

#2 Ultimate Journeys for Two by Mike Howard

Ultimate Journeys for Two by Mike Howard
It covers 75 destinations across 7 continents, organized by types of landscape (Mountains, Beaches, Jungles, Deserts, Road Trips, Safari, etc) so people can discover new places based on their interests. It’s actually our personal favorite 75 destinations from our five-year (now seven-year) honeymoon around the world. That said, it’s not about romantic places, it’s about having unforgettable adventures with the one you love.

Before buying a copy make sure to compare the price at various outlets:

Book Depository (International)Waterstones (International) Read more reviews and buy the book here

#3 A year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke

A year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke
A year in the Merde is a novel about this English man, Paul, who moves to France for what was initially supposed to be a year. Although this book is not about traveling per se, it’s the perfect way to discover France. It’s perfect for any native-english speaker, especially British people. You get to almost go on an adventure with Paul. You discover along his side and through his eyes what living in France means. Learning the language, the culture, the habits… all these little things that make France such an amazing country. It’s both funny and accurate.

Stephen Clarke manages to spot all these little French oddities and put them into a story that is both informative and hilarious. As you read the book, you fall for that character that is being left to his own devices in a country he knows nothing about. You learn these little things about France and the French that can be annoying as much as delicates and slowly you fall in love with the place too.

Before buying a copy make sure to compare the price at various outlets:

Book Depository (International)Waterstones (International) Read more reviews and buy the book here

#4 Down Under by Bill Bryson

Down Under by Bill Bryson
Completely different to the first book, Down Under is a travel book. Bill Bryson tells us everything about his travels to Australia. It’s extremely realistic and includes both practical informations and travel stories.

I spent 1 year in Australia and read this book twice. Once when I got there, once when I left. The first time, it made me want to discover this beautiful country even more. The second time, it filled my heart with emotions. Bill Bryson puts words on things and situations in a way nobody else can. He identifies this very unique thing about each place he goes to and transcribe it beautifully into words.

Australia is a wonderful country. People are amazing and landscapes breathtaking. This unique beauty can only be understood when you see and live it. Bill Bryson manages to do that with words.

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Book Depository (International)Waterstones (International) Read more reviews and buy the book here

#5 Beato Goes To Brazil by Sucheta Rawal

Beato Goes To Brazil by Sucheta Rawal
Kids & adults learn about different countries & cultures through the adventures of a traveling cat. In each book, Beato (the cat) travels with a kid from that country, to learn about the local sights, food, wildlife, beliefs, festivals and sports.

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Book Depository (International)Waterstones (International) Read more reviews and buy the book here

#6 Short Walks from Bogotá by Tom Feiling

Short Walks from Bogotá by Tom Feiling
There’s a perception about Colombia as a dangerous country to visit due to it’s recent criminal history with certain illegal substances. While the country’s profile has been raised recently with popular stories about the dangerous cartels, they only show a very dated view of Colombia. Tom Fieling’s book does a good job of mixing interesting recent history with a contemporary vision of Colombia. I wish we had read this book before visiting Colombia as it would have provided some context about this beautiful country with a troubled recent past. I recommend this book to family and friends who think about visiting Colombia.

Before buying a copy make sure to compare the price at various outlets:

Book Depository (International)Waterstones (International) Read more reviews and buy the book here

#7 Notes from a small Island by Bill Bryson

Notes from a small Island by Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson provides witty yet fascinating anecdotes from his travels around the United Kingdom. A thoughtful commentary not just on towns, cites and regions that often get less of the limelight, but also on the people that inhabit these far flung places and their idiosyncrasies.

Before buying a copy make sure to compare the price at various outlets:

Book Depository (International)Waterstones (International) Read more reviews and buy the book here

#8 The Feud that Sparked the Renaissance by Paul Robert Walker

The Feud that Sparked the Renaissance by Paul Robert Walker
Every lover of history and the arts should read his book before visiting Florence, Italy. It is an intriguing narrative that documents the long and arduous competition between two famous artists and explains the important role they played in the city’s Renaissance. The impact of their is timeless.

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Book Depository (International)Waterstones (International) Read more reviews and buy the book here

#9 Stories I Stole by Wendell Steavenson

Stories I Stole by Wendell Steavenson
Stories I Stole Wendell Steavenson Former Time magazine reporter, Wendell Steavenson moved to Georgia on a whim, back in the late 90s when the country was still freeing itself from decades of Soviet rule. A country rich in artistic talent, innovative thinkers, and with a dynamic youth culture, it’s one that is little known in the West.

Stories I Stole relates to Steavenson’s time in the Caucasus during a period of painful and necessary change; tales of love, friendship, power cuts, and extremely cold winters. A mix of fixed elections, duelling, drinking sessions, wars and refugees, across Tbilsi to villages in the mountain steppes where history is often lost to tradition.

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Book Depository (International)Waterstones (International) Read more reviews and buy the book here

#10 Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The main plot of the novel is one we all know. A boy survives a shipwreck in which he loses his whole family. Along his way to salvation, he lives on a boat with a Bengal Tiger and experiences a magical island. But what people don’t realize is the beautiful portrayal of India that Martel presents.

India is a beautiful country but he sheds light on the political undermining, the school system, and the everyday life and love of the country. It goes fairly unnoticed, but he does an amazing job of showing us some of the beauties and atrocities of India.

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Book Depository (International)Waterstones (International) Read more reviews and buy the book here

#11 Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
Another Indian novel, but worth the recommendation. This novel is considered one of the top 25 ever written. It is consistently on the top 100 charts of novels in history.

A boy named Saleem Sinai is born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, India’s Independence Day. This special time bestows him with magical powers and the hope of every person in his country. The novel circulates India’s national affairs and the issues it faces. It is a brilliant novel about a great country.

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Book Depository (International)Waterstones (International) Read more reviews and buy the book here

#12 Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
This classic novel lets us into the world of 1840s England. It was a time of great poverty and political turmoil. A boy named Oliver Twist is an orphan outside of London. He is born into a workhouse, works with an undertaker, and becomes a pick-pocketer. Oliver’s life is filled with heartache and trouble. Charles Dickens exposes the poor treatment of orphans in nineteenth-century England.

Before buying a copy make sure to compare the price at various outlets:

Book Depository (International)Waterstones (International) Read more reviews and buy the book here

Contributors to this article
Nicole LaBarge from Travelgal Nicole

Mike & AnneHoward from HoneyTrek

Pauline Vergnet from BeeLoved City

Sucheta Rawal from N/A

Nadia & Mike from Couple Travel the World

Rob Higgins from Chartwell Speakers

Macaulay Thompson from My Travel Stamps

Alice Bedward from Flyparks

Ethan Lichtenberg from Autoinsuranceez

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