Arthur Frommer says that the biggest mistake that most travels make is to not do a little bit of background reading before visiting a country. Well, he would wouldn't he, being in the travel writing business for the last 50 years or so. But it's hard to argue with this opinion. The first time I traveled around mainland Europe I found myself going from one gothic cathedral to the next. Well, you do, don't you.
But if you haven't understood the social, political and religious circumstances that led to their construction, and therefore don't get why it is that there will hardly be a comparable age again, then by the time you visit your fifth cathedral you won't give a flying buttress about anything except where the nearest bar is.
I promised myself a while back that I wouldn't read another book that wasn't to do with the trip. I broke it almost immediately of course. But I have been doing so little bit of research.
I've read a number of books on historic and modern China now, and I've moved onto some more about Australia. If anyone out there can recommend any books on New Zealand, Fiji, Chile, Bolivia, Peru or Argentina, then I'd love to hear back. In particular if there's anything that touches the three main themes of family, music or ecology, all the better.