Some of the best books I have read have been picked out randomly while browsing in a bookstore. Growing up I read all the right books for each age, progressing from Ladybird Books to Enid Blyton (Mallory Towers, St Clares and Famous Five) to Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys to Agatha Christie, Mills and Boons, Danielle Steel and PG Wodehouse to Sidney Sheldon, Jeffery Archer, Irving Stone, Howard Fast and John Grisham. Somewhere along the line I added historical romances to the list (curtsey my sister) especially those set in medieval times in England and Scotland.
Now, my favorite types of books are a combination of travel, history and biographical facts. I discovered this type of book when I had to select books to sell at an art gallery where I worked. I had to select books that not only I would be interested in reading and that opened up a whole new world of books to me.
I found that I loved reading about places, people and history in a story form with characters who have interesting lives and thoughts rather than a dry listing of facts about a place.
Some of the interesting books in this genre that I have read are:
City of Djinns-William Dalrymple
Delhi, its buildings, its Sufi mystics, its history and its eccentricities. Absolutely superb.
Chasing the Mountain of Light-Kevin Rushby
This book traces the history of the Koh-i-noor diamond from the mines at Golconda to the Mughal Palaces of Agra and Delhi to Maharaja Duleep Singh in Amritsar.
Under the Tuscan Sun-Frances Mayes
About the history, people and life of Tuscany full of interesting facts about the region. Made into a movie of the same name but nowhere close to what the book is actually about.
Taj-The story of Mughal India-Timeri Murari
I loved reading this book. It tells the story of Arjumand Begum from when she first meets Prince Khurram at the Meena Bazaar and simultaneously also about how the Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan as he grieved for her.
The story of Shah Jahan and Arjumand Begum's first child Jahanara.
Kulu, The End of the Habitable World-Penelope Chetwode
Covers the 140km trek from Simla to Kulu done by Penelope and her mother in 1931 when her father, Phillip Chetwode was the Commander-in-Chief of India and then again in 1963 on her own in a less grand way. An amazing book, it really goes into the history of Himachali architecture especially the temples.
Grandmother's Footsteps-Imogen Lycett Green
Penelope's granddaughter Imogen retraces the trip over the Jalori Pass from Simla to Kulu.
The Bookseller of Kabul-Asne Seierstad
The daily life of an Afgani family after the liberation of Kabul from a western journalist's perspective.
On Foot-Guided Walks in England, France and the United States-Adam Nicholson
I have a long was to go to catch up on the 26 listed walks in this book. Most of the walks are in country settings and a few energetic ones in New York, Los Angeles and London.
The Other Boleyn Girl-Phillipa Gregory
About Anne Boleyn's little known sister Mary who had an affair (and 2 children) with Henry VIII before he married Anne and made her Queen of England.
Anne Boleyn-Anthony Crowell
All the details about King Henry VIII's second wife Anne Boleyn. An old movie "Anne of a thousand days" is a worthwile to see to get a complete picture (no pun intended!!).
There are just so many, many more interesting books that I have read and hundreds more waiting to be read. Each new book brings with it a fresh perspective, new ideas and deeper thought besides, of course, basic knowledge.