MY FAVORITE BOOKS ON GEORGIA
Here I would like to list books which you could find interesting if you plan the visit of Georgia. When it comes to Sakartvelo, they form the backbone of my library and I think I can recommend each one of them :)
Against the Compass Guide to Georgia - terrific travel guide by Joan, admin of Against the Compass travel blog. He wrote it based on his 7-months long stay in the country. What I like the most that it's personal - he doesn´t sugarcoat everything he sees and if he but provides honest, and sometimes not that positive opinions.
The book also, unlike classic publications, doesn't contain long lists or hotels and restaurants since these can be nowadays easily looked up online. Instead, author provides more in-depth info and tries to answer questions adventurous traveller may ask. This narrow focus is actually book's greatest strength and weakness - it's great for backpackers but if you for example travel with family, you may be more satisfied by classic guides. Book used to be sold as an e-book, but since recently it can be downloaded for free.
Georgia, Armenia & Azerbaijan by Lonelyplanet - a classic guide, the one also I used during my first visits. Saved our butts several times when we had to change plans on last minute. Yet, there is a problem - since the book covers three countries, the author had to do many compromises about what to include and what to skip - as a result, some places were barely described and others not covered at all (Racha!). because of this, I would recommendit mainly to people who want to combine Georrgia with another country in the region.visit all three countries in one swoop.
Georgia Travel Guide by Bradt - well-written and well research, this guide provides really comprehensive, sometimes borderline encyclopedic information. Can only recommend if that´s your thing. Still, the author sometimes goes "too deep", especially when he starts enumerating exhibits at museums or which bird species at certain spots. 10% of the book could be cut without losing much value.
Books on hiking
Bread and Ashes by Tony Anderson - in late nineties, Tony undertook several long treks over the mountains of northern Georgia and documented them in this very interesting travelogue. It is the a very interesting insight because so much has changed - nowadays, we would have to look really hard to find Georgia Anderson witnessed 20 years ago.
Svaneti, Unknown Fairytale Land by Jan Richard Baerug - wonderful travelogue covering both summer and winter expedition around Svaneti which Richard did with his friends. Also, it is far more than just a hiking guidebook - contains lots of local lore and historical background. Must have for anyone interested in Svaneti, but, sadly, seems the book is already sold out.
Svaneti, The Essence of Caucasus - latest book by Richard. Just like the previous one, also this one focuses on Svaneti, but this is purely an outdoor encyclopedia. It contains almost 100 routes suitable for hiking, biking or skitouring trips.
Walking in the Caucasus by Peter Nasmyth - for many years, this was the only guide English-speaking hikers could refer to. In contains over 50 walks all over Georgia as well as more general sections about flora, fauna and so on. However, it contains only dayhikes, which is quite a bummer.
Young Stalin by Simon Montefiore - as the name suggests, this acclaimed book covers the origin story of feared Soviet dictator. While it is a history book, it sometimes reads like a thriller because Stalin´s early years were anything but boring. Ambushes and bank robberies, worker´s strikes, underground printing machines, kidnappings or imprisonment - this book has it all. Extremely well researched and written. Also, since it takes place in Georgia at the dawn of 20th century, it provides a very good insight into the local situation.
Montefiore wrote also second book, The court of the Red Tzar which focuses on Stalin after the rise to power and how he rules Kremlin. Also this one is really good, just isn´t too related to Georgia.
Georgia Diary by Thomas Goltz - nice book covering events in Georgia after the breakup of the Soviet Union. While the topic is incredibly complex, the author managed to present in in a digestable way. Still, it´s not an easy reading, you would have to be kind of a history geek in order to enjoy it.
Fiction and cooking
Journey to Karabakh by Acha Morchiladze - Georgian best-seller and also one of few books by Georgian authors which was translated into English. It covers a fictional story of 2 young blokes who decided to buy some ganja in Ganja in Azerbaijan which led to the chain of unexpected situations. Sounds like a comedy but the book is actually quite pessimistic and deals with topic such as perception of personal freedom. It 2004, it was made into a movie.
Georgian Feast by Darra Goldstein - book for everyone interested in Georgian cuisine. After a rather lengthy intro, it provides numerous Georgian recipes, both well-known and original ones.
Goatibex Constellation by Fazil Iskander - collection of several stories by most prominent Abkhazian author. Written 50 years ago, it provides nice insight into a rural Abkhazia by someone who didn´t know about an upcoming war. Officially, it´s a satire with the elements of absurdity but I liked more "down to earth" stories such as the one depicting fishing in Kodori river.