Book review: Shantaram – one of the most enjoyable travel books I’ve read

Shantaram book cover
Shantaram – one of the most enjoyable travel reads I’ve had in 8 years

Shantaram the travel book review that mirrored real life

I first read Shantaram way back in 2007 and even did a small review of the book on my travel related books, DVD’s and guides review page. Of all the books I’ve read in my near 8 year no-return journey this book made the most impact.

Yes I will go so far as to say this is the most enjoyable “travel” read I’ve had in that time. Or at least the one book I remember the most.

Shantaram back cover
Escaped convict, slums in India, the mafia, romance and adventure – what more could you want in a travel book

As such, I feel it’s deserving of a full review.

What is Shantaram about?

An escaped Australian convict with a fake passport ends up living in the slums of Bombay India. Hunted by the authorities “Lin” becomes a part of an underground world of Indian mafia, expats, gangsters, prostitutes drug lords along with some memorable locals that show him how to live again.

Being mistaken for a doctor in the slums Lin uses his knowledge to help people. To earn money he works with the Indian gangsters and earns their respect. The plot is simply of a broken man trying to find himself in the “real world”.

Shantaram is based largely on the real life of its author David Greggory Roberts.

The joy of picking up a book you know nothing about: Shantaram

I was in New Delhi looking for soemthing to read by way of a street merchants collection of fake books. I’d never heard of Shantaram when I picked up the color faded book. My main worry was  if it had all it’s pages still intact! I started reading and prolonged every minute of it as I traveled both India and Nepal in real life.

There’s something about both picking up a book you know knowing about and enjoying it. Plus, reading a good book set in the country you are currently traveling. Put the two together and you are onto a winner!

Is Shantaram really that good?

I bought this book three times. Once for me and on two other occasions for people I met in Nepal. I bought the book at Paradise book sellers, do check out this wonderful little bookstore if you are ever in Kathmandu.

Shantaram doesn’t appeal to everyone. Some people find David Gregory Roberts too egotistical and self righteous. Personally I didn’t find that to be the case. The only negativity I can write about is late in the book when he goes on a serious adventure out of India. That to me seemed a little far fetched. Then again reading Shantaram as a travel adventure book it will appeal more than ever.

Shantaram is one of the very few books I’ve ever read when traveling that has truely stayed with me in memory. If that’s not what a good book is meant to do I don’t know what is!

Purchase options:

Just a heads up: It’s 944 pages! So it’s not exactly a light book to carry around weighing in at about 500grms.

If you’d like to buy this book, please consider purchasing it through my Amazon affiliate stores below: I get a tiny, tiny commission of about USD$00.14. Maybe enough to save up so I can keep these books with me as I travel.

Shantaram (Amazon USA) | Shantaram (Kindle USA )

Shantaram (Amazon UK) | Shantaram (Kindle UK)

If you’d like to read some more travel reviews on books, movies and guides I’ve read then please visit my travel book review section.

Have you read this or another really good travelogue? If you have, can you leave the name of the book in the comments, I am always on the look out for good travelogues!

This is an additional travel book review based on books I’ve read throughout my journey


Liked this post?

Never miss a post!
* indicates required

17 Replies to “Book review: Shantaram – one of the most enjoyable travel books I’ve read”

  1. Pingback: @Epitheta
  2. Shantaram was great, I read it while living in India.

    >reading a good book set in the country you are currently traveling.

    yes! I would love a list of books to read while travelling in various places. In Tasmania, read Richard Flanagan. In Johannesburg, read Welcome to Our Hillbrow, in Ethiopia read Cutting for Stone.

  3. Hey Hey,

    I’ve heard of Shantaram on your blog and I must say I loved the sound of the title.

    When I was in Saigon one of those street vendors that goes up and down with 345 fake books showed it to me.

    So I bought it. I’m not proud of buying a fake book. Being a writer myself I know how much work there is behind such a book.

    However I had finished all my books and I needed something else.

    The quality of my copied-copy was terrible. There were pages I could barely read, the order of some pages was messed up and when I arrived to page 200 the glue fell apart so that I ended up with a bunch of mini-books.

    I’ve never been to India so Shantaram was quite educational to me, even if sometimes I was put off by the cheap-philosophical-theological discussions.

    This is one of those few books that can show you essence of a country (or a region) as Shogun for Japan or The Covenant for South Africa

    After I read it I bought a copy in Italian for my father (this time an original one!)



    1. Hey Furio, good to hear from you.

      I bought the fake version of Shantaram in New Delhi not knowing anything about the book. The versions I bought in Nepal were the real versions. Twice the price!

      But yes, I remember the same faded pages and falling pages from the fake one too.

      You hit the nail on the head with the comparisons to Shogun or The Covenant.

      Keep well!

      1. Another great book on the same line is “Aztec” by Jennings.

        Clever. Violent. Real. And yet still fiction.

  4. I first came across Shantaram when traveling through Central America. I met several other travelers who were reading it and they all raved about it. But seeing how huge and heavy it was, I had no interest in picking up a copy. So, a couple of years later, when I finally bought my Kindle, it was one of the first books I went searching for. Since then I have prioritized many other books ahead of it, but recently I started reading it and so far I am enjoying it. I haven’t read too much, but it is clear that the author is a talented writer.

    As for the general topic of reading on the road and travel related books, you might check out a couple of posts I have written:

    Finding Books on the Road

    Travel Reading Suggestions: 100+ Great Books for Travelers

  5. I read this a few years back. Have to agree. Enjoyed the story. Read it like non-fiction, but in hindsight I’m not so sure.

  6. Agree – amazing book! I couldn’t put it down – unfortunately I read it years ago, before my Kindle, so I had to lug the brick of a book around with me through Mexico and Guatemala. What a tale! I did have to wonder how much of it was true though… :-)

Comments are closed.