Bangladesh: travel books to read before you go

This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Bangladesh guide provides a selection of travel literature to get you in the mood for your trip.

Budding writers will be happy to hear that there is very little travel literature on Bangladesh published in the West. However, there is a growing range of books that will give the traveller an insight into the people and culture.

Monica Ali’s best-selling Brick Lane (2003) has brought Bangladesh to the world. In this beautifully written novel, set in London and Bangladesh, the trials and tribulations of its multi-dimensional characters reveal the complexity of both Bangladeshi culture and human nature. It’s recently been given the full Hollywood makeover and turned into a major film.

The Bangladeshi government should make it illegal to come here and not have Songs at the Rivers Edge (1991) by Katy Gardner in your luggage. The story of a year spent living in a small village in the Sylhet region, it’s more than a memoir, and answers some of the many questions regarding village life throughout South Asia.

A Golden Age (2007) by Tahmima Anam is a superb debut novel of love, betrayal and family loyalties, set against the backdrop of the War of Independence.

If you’re caught reading Lajja (Shame; 1993) by Taslima Nasrin in Bangladesh (where the book is banned) you’re unlikely to make many friends. When first published this half novel/half political treaty earned its outspoken feminist author a fatwa. It’s essential predeparture reading, but is unfortunately a little hard to find.

Shame (2007) by Jasvinder Sanghera is the true story of one woman’s struggle to break away from Asian tradition and live her life in the UK. The issues raised by this book may make you think about your opinion on both Asian culture and immigration to the West. It is a gripping read.

More travel literature reading lists for other destinations can be found here.