#5 Pakistan: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
After a failed attempt at climbing K2, Mortenson came across a Pakistani village and his life was forever changed. Moved by the warmth and compassion of the locals, Greg promised to return and build a school. Seeing how education can truly change and enrich lives, he decided to make it his life’s work to build schools in some of the most remote corners of the earth with emphasis on the education of girls.
This book inspired me to base Original Trails around helping local communities. It showed me that the little things do make a difference and it is a constant reminder that we actually are capable of making the the world a better place.
#4 Cambodia: First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung
A Pol Pot survivor, this is a young girl’s story of life in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge Regime that killed almost one quarter of the entire Cambodian population. Forced out of Phnom Penh and driven into the countryside, Loung and her family fight to survive. Brutal and horrifying she witnesses the death of friends and family. Never losing her courage or hope she survives everything from child-soldier training to starvation. An important book that ensures we never forget, but always remember the strength of the human spirit.
#3 Nepal: Into Thin Air by John Krakauer
A book of sheer adventure and ultimate tragedy, it tells the story of the catastrophic Mount Everest disaster in 1997. Told by one of the climbers himself it details this incredible expedition and its’ unfortunate fate. Krakauer takes you through all the emotions from elation to utter despair. This story came to life for me while trekking to Everest Base Camp and we passed the stupa (memorial) of Scott Fisher, one of the expedition leaders who perished on the mountain. If you are a climber, trekker, outdoor enthusiast, this is a must read.
#2 Bolivia: Marching Powder by Rusty Young
Based in La Paz, Bolivia this is a story of the infamous San Pedro prison. After meeting a convicted inmate and drug trafficker from England who does “tours” inside the prison, Rusty develops a friendship with him and actually lives there for 3 months to record his experiences. Unlike any other in the world, it is a prison where inmates buy their cells, shop at stores and eat at restaurants; by day, children of prisoners play in the same courtyards as criminals and by night, it is home to one of Bolivia’s biggest cocaine laboratories. It shows the fascinating contrast of how dark corruption can be and how much compassion the human soul is capable of.
#1 India: the Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Crossing the world to start a new life, this is the story of Ashok and Ashima Ganguli. Leaving their birthplace of Calcutta and homesick for their beloved India, you visit the realities, heartaches and difficulties of immigrant families. When their son is born – a first generation American – they struggle to find a balance between instilling tradition and culture and the new world they brought him into. This is a beautiful book and very personal for me, as my parents were both immigrants coming from Calcutta and Mombasa, Kenya. It gave me a chance to see things through their eyes and appreciate their sacrifices to give me a the life I now have.
Aparna enjoys reading books based in the countries she is visiting. She finds history is most alive when she travels. An avid reader, she still believes she learns the most from the people she encounters and the stories they have to tell. Her most memorable, was in Battambang, Cambodia when her guide on a local motorcycle tour shared how his family was personally devastated by the Khmer Rouge Regime. Her admiration for the Cambodian people is unparalleled.