Louisa Waughs first book, Hearing Birds Fly, won the inaugural RSL Ondaataje Prize in 2004. She has written two other books, Selling Olga, and Meet Me in Gaza. She’s currently writing a book of short stories about humanitarian work, whilst working with refugees on a Greek island.
The Nomad: The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt
Her lavish, often purple prose, is passionate, lyrical, self absorbed and utterly hypnotic. These diaries sing with a sense of place, as this young "transvestite and sensualist, experienced drug taker and a transgressor of boundaries" flings herself at life, and death, in the Sahara.
The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu
I recently worked in Timbuktu - this insightful travelogue cum investigation unravels the controversies around the mission to rescue the sacred manuscripts of Timbuktu, the myths that stoked its historic fame, plus the human and cultural cost of chronic political conflicts.
The Journeys of the White Sea Wolf
I love this for its lonely poetry, as Wilk (a polish journalist) spends 7 years in a desolate archipelago amidst the far northern reaches of Russia's White Sea, mingling with fishermen Russian Orthodox priests and ex-prisoners. It's not an easy read, but transports you to a place few of us could imagine calling home
The Tiger Ladies
I read this memoir of growing up in Kashmir many years ago, slowly, because it's like a long gentle conversation you don't want to end: Sudha doesn't so much describe Kashmir as bring you inside the kitchens, living rooms, orchards and conversations of mountain life. Place and displacement. Exquisite.
A Kim Jong-Il Production,
A South Korean film director and his estranged film star wife are kidnapped by Kim Jong-Il, to satisfy his lust for filmmaking, spend 7 years trapped in North Korea, before fleeing via the US embassy in Vienna.... I just loved it. The poignant ending only highlights how lives are torn apart by politics.