The bestselling author, television presenter and adventurer Simon Reeve reveals the five books he could not be without on his castaway island

1. COLLAPSE by Jared Diamond 

As our world and climate changes dramatically, most people seem to think humans will reach the edge of the precipice and then step back and everything will be ok. Collapse draws on history to suggest otherwise. It’s slightly scary reading how our ancestors screwed up, but it’s a dose of reality, and makes me feel like I understand us a little bit better.

2. MOLVANIA: A LAND UNTOUCHED BY MODERN DENTISTRY by Santo Cilauro

If I’m stuck on a desert island, I’d want a laugh. This is a frighteningly accurate guide to a fictitious East European state. Molvania is a land of garlic brandy somewhere east of Romania, where it is sensible to greet people with a shout of ‘Don’t shoot!’. I feel like I might have spent a couple of days in a police cell in Molvania. There’s another book by the same team called Phaic Tan, which is also hilarious.

3. SCHINDLER’S ARK by Thomas Keneally 

Keneally is a brilliant writer and this is his triumph. He takes a thousand painful memories and weaves them into an astonishing tale of evil, survival and heroism. It is a stunning work of non-fiction. Every horror I’ve seen around the world has been benchmarked against the evils of the Holocaust.

4. IN SPITE OF THE GODS by Edward Luce 

It’s not a conventional travel book, but the author has tramped and travelled across the vastness of India, and he explains the modern reality of the sub-continent better than any other book

I’ve read. I’ve loved travelling through, across and around India, but it’s also a country that troubles me. After all, in my lifetime the population has doubled.

5. DOWN UNDER by Bill Bryson

I love Bill Bryson’s approach to travel writing, which is a bucket of humour and self-deprecation, usually about his dribbling and ineptitude as a traveller, combined with a shed-load of history, stories and information about the country he’s visiting. I read his book about Australia while travelling around the country filming my own Oz series, and it was stacked with great tales.

 

 
 
Simon’s autobiography, Step by Step, is out now. His new TV series, Incredible Journeys with Simon Reeve, is on BBC2 this month.