If you have a long plane ride coming up, chances are you’ll be looking for ways to fill the time. Sure, you could play Angry Birds for half the flight, but why not expand your knowledge of the world (and change the way you view it as you travel) by reading an award-winning non-fiction book that’s global in scope? None of these are new releases, but they are definitely books that all global thinkers should read.
A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman
Vintage, New York, 1991
This masterfully written book (a classic, to be sure) examines how our senses inform our understanding of the world and shape social norms. Ackerman takes the reader on a trip through literature, history, music, politics, philosophy, culinary culture, body art, scent manufacturing, and poetry (among other themes). She interviews world-class experts (chefs, professional noses, visual artists, etc.) and includes their commentary throughout the book. The best part is that Ackerman’s rich, vivid prose is an absolute pleasure to read. This book is sure to captivate you from takeoff to landing.
Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky
Penguin Books, New York, 2003
Celebrated non-fiction author Mark Kurlansky uses salt (discovery, harvesting, trade, consumption) as a lens through which to explore the history of the world. Throughout history, salt has been considered so valuable that it was used as currency, played a key role in the establishment of trade routes and settlements, started wars, and shaped culinary culture. Peppered with colorful characters and a compelling narrative, Salt will make you view world history in a whole new way.
Gun, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared M. Diamond
W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 1999
In this insightful work of non-fiction, Diamond argues that geographical and environmental factors greatly influenced the development of modern societies (from the construction of cities to the establishment of social structures such as religion). At the same time, he argues against racial theories of human history. This Pulitzer Prize winning book changed the way I understood modern history and global cultures. It’s a fantastic book to read while embarking on an international adventure.