The best pioneering travel books on the lives of those who pushed the boundaries

Amelia Dalton Author Of Pages from My Passport
By Amelia Dalton

Who am I?

I ‘fell’ into being at sea by chance, through my father’s insistence I join him on a Scottish fishing boat for a week. I discovered I adored exploring unknown islands and lonely beaches, discovering wildlife and resilient small communities. In the 1990’s a female working amongst fishermen and commercial shipping was unknown, it was a wholly male, chauvinistic world. Using these skills I found a job being paid to explore – a dream job, pioneering but frequently lonely and dangerous. It resulted in my expanding the range and world of small expedition ships into areas with no infrastructure, unexplored and uncharted, lonely, empty coasts from the Arctic to Singapore. 

I wrote...

Pages from My Passport

By Amelia Dalton,

Book cover of Pages from My Passport

What is my book about?

Pages from My Passport is a memoir of stories. Stories of disasters and an occasional triumph in remote, unsophisticated countries. Tales of pioneering adventures long before ‘expeditionary travel’ was recognized. Amelia Dalton, fresh from a life at sea amongst the Scottish islands, takes on the world as she scopes out her itineraries, ventures along uncharted coasts, exploring inaccessible islands from the Baltic to the Indian Ocean. She survives fires, bombs, and scorpions. Meets both delightful and difficult locals and all the while, she's being wooed from afar by a mysterious stranger who appears unexpectedly in the most unlikely places.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Conquerors: How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire

Why did I love this book?

The Indian Ocean, with its ‘Galapagos’ isles of the Seychelles has long attracted me and I have learnt so much from this superb narrative history of the Portuguese exploration in the Indian Ocean. 

They worked out the wind patterns of the Atlantic to sail eventually round the Cape of Good Hope, up the East African coast and on to India. Learning of where they called, traded, and fought inspired me with many historic and fascinating places to weave into itineraries. The book brings to life these magic, exotic shores and peoples of the Indian Ocean.

By Roger Crowley,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Conquerors as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As remarkable as Columbus and the conquistador expeditions, the history of Portuguese exploration is now almost forgotten. But Portugal's navigators cracked the code of the Atlantic winds, launched the expedition of Vasco da Gama to India and beat the Spanish to the spice kingdoms of the East - then set about creating the first long-range maritime empire. In an astonishing blitz of thirty years, a handful of visionary and utterly ruthless empire builders, with few resources but breathtaking ambition, attempted to seize the Indian Ocean, destroy Islam and take control of world trade.

Told with Roger Crowley's customary skill and…

Book cover of The Road to Le Tholonet: A French Garden Journey

Why did I love this book?

I have loved travelling with Monty Don on this gentle, thoughtful, and evocative book is a joy. 

In addition to his huge knowledge of plants, he is an informed historian, and writes beautifully. The book is full of surprises as he takes one meandering through the byways of France sharing his passion for plants, places, and interest in people which all come shining through.

By Monty Don,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Road to Le Tholonet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is not a book about French Gardens. It is the story of a man travelling round France visiting a few selected French gardens on the way.

Owners, intrigues, affairs, marriages, feuds, thwarted ambitions and desires, the largely unnamed ordinary gardeners, wars, plots and natural disasters run through every garden older than a generation or two and fill every corner of the grander historical ones. Families marry. Gardeners are poached. Political allegiances forged and shattered. The human trail crosses from garden to garden.

They sit in their surrounding landscape, not as isolated islands but attached umbilically to it, sharing the…

Sultan in Oman

By Jan Morris,

Book cover of Sultan in Oman

Why did I love this book?

In this entertaining book Jan Morris crosses the Oman desert travelling as one of the Sultan’s entourage. 

I know Oman well, having visited long before the country was ‘open’ to tourism. I have slept on just a blanked on the sand with the huge bowl of Arabian stars sliding across a black sky above me so the delightful prose brings this all to life again. The early days of the oil business, whilst unfashionable these days are historic, the descriptions are vivid and highly amusing.

Desert life, campfires, camels, and Bedouin are all colourfully brought to life, with descriptions of the superb mud forts and sands so frequent in the mountains and sands of Oman.

By Jan Morris,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Sultan in Oman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1955 the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman, southeast of Saudi Arabia on the Arabian Sea, was a truly medieval Islamic State, shuttered against all progress under the aegis of its traditionalist and autocratic ruler. But it was also nearly the end of an imperial line, for in those days the British Government was still powerful in Arabia. Rumors of subversion and the intrigues of foreign powers mingled with the unsettling smell of oil to propel the sultan on a royal progress across the desert hinterland. It was an historic journey--the first crossing of the Omani desert by motorcar. Jan…

Book cover of Silver Shoals: The Five Fish That Made Britain

Why did I love this book?

This is one of the most eye-opening and fascinating books I have read.

Having spent much of my life amongst the islands and coastal communities of the British Isles I was intrigued learn more about the fish and I did learn so much. We all know the fishing industry has shaped these islands, but the author delves deeper into what has created and influenced the many varied communities of coastal Britain, as well as illustrating the development of our many styles of fishing vessels.

It is a colourful and enlightening account.

By Charles Rangeley-Wilson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Silver Shoals as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On these rain-swept islands in the North Atlantic man and fish go back a long way. Fish are woven through the fabric of the country's history: we depend on them - for food, for livelihood and for fun - and now their fate depends on us in a relationship which has become more complex, passionate and precarious in the sophisticated 21st Century.

In Silver Shoals Charles Rangeley-Wilson travels north, south, east and west through the British Isles tracing the histories, living and past, of our most iconic fish - cod, carp, eels, salmon and herring - and of the fishermen…

Book cover of The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia

Why did I love this book?

This classic brings the secret world of spies and the struggle between countries for control of this vital corridor in the High Atlas within our reach. 

Disguised as holy men or traders, they risked their all for information: many lost their lives in the process. Illustrating the strategic importance and difficulties of such a mountainous and complicated area, Hopkirk’s book is not only vivid and dramatic, it is still relevant to this turbulent area today. 

By Peter Hopkirk,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Great Game as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Peter Hopkirk's spellbinding account of the great imperial struggle for supremacy in Central Asoa has been hailed as essential reading with that era's legacy playing itself out today.

The Great Game between Victorian Britain and Tsarist Russia was fought across desolate terrain from the Caucasus to China, over the lonely passes of the Parmirs and Karakorams, in the blazing Kerman and Helmund deserts, and through the caravan towns of the old Silk Road-both powers scrambling to control access to the riches of India and the East. When play first began, the frontiers…

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