Reading List 2019: Adding Travel Books

Excited to be adding these wonderful books to self’s 2019 Reading List. Self loves travel books. It’s been a year since she devoted a reading year to them:

Alan Booth

  • The Road to Sata

Alexandra David Neel

  • My Journey to Lhasa

Alison Wearing

  • Honeymoon in Purdah

Ann Jones

  • Lovedu

Anthony Doerr

  • Four Seasons in Rome

Best Women’s Travel Writing series

Bill Bryson

  • The Lost Continent
  • Walk in the Woods

Blair Braverman

  • Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube

Bruce Chatwin

  • In Patagonia

Dervla Murphy

  • Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle

Ellen Meloy

  • Raven’s Exile: A Season on the Green River

Gabrielle Hamilton

  • Blood, Bones and Butter

Gretchen Legler

  • On the Ice: An Intimate Portrait of Life at McMurdo Station, Antarctica

Isabella L. Bird

  • Six Months in the Sandwich Islands: Among Hawai’i’s Palm Groves, Coral Reefs and Volcanoes

Isabelle Eberhardt

  • The Nomad: The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt

Jamaica Kincaid

  • A Small Place

Jan Morris

  • Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere

Julia Child

  • My Life in France

Katrina Kittle

  • The Kindness of Strangers: Penniless Across America

Kira Salak

  • Four Corners: A Journey Into the Heart of Papua New Guinea

Mary Henrietta Kingsley

  • Travels in West Africa

Melanie Bowden Simon

  • La Americana: A Memoir

Peter Mayle

  • A Year in Provence

Rebecca Solnit

  • A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Robyn Davidson

  • Desert Places

Stanley Stewart

  • In the Empire of Genghis Khan: A Journey Among Nomads

Suzanne Roberts

  • Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail

 

 

 

 

 

Last Sunday in London

Self is in her room, reading a copy of The Guardian.

The trial of the “man who drove his car into a crowd of activists who  had been protesting against a white nationalist rally, leaving one woman dead and several injured,” has begun in Charlottesville, Virginia.

This morning, self returned to the Royal Academy of Art for a repeat viewing of the Oceania Exhibit.

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Royal Academy of Art: Sunday, 2 December 2018

She liked it even more, the second time around. She stayed watching the video for nearly an hour.

The little handout that accompanies the exhibit starts with:

Two-hundred and fifty years ago, in August 1768, four months before George III founded the Royal Academy of Arts, Lieutenant (later Captain) James Cook left Plymouth in command of the HMS Endeavour.

She remembers reading a book by Tony Horwitz: Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before and, well, that book must have made quite an impression because it fixed Captain Cook’s voyage forever in her memory and now, 15 years later, here she is, in London, having seen the Oceania exhibit twice!

As she left the Royal Academy (still in a daze of cultural overload), she happened to notice that there was a store across the street called FORTNUM & MASON. And the display windows were so Christmas-y! She decided to check it out:

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Fortnum & Mason: Sunday, 2 December 2018

Self entered through a revolving door and promptly found herself in the middle of a mob scene the like of which she has never experienced in London. What she means: people were grabbing blue boxes of chocolates off shelves directly in front of her, and pushing them into shopping carts. Yes, dear blog readers. English people were pushing shopping carts around a store, the contents consisting entirely of chocolate. There were boxes of dark chocolate, boxes of milk chocolate, boxes of assorted chocolate, boxes of chocolate with nuts, boxes of chocolate with creamy centers — you name it.

Self decided then and there that she would not leave the store without sampling some of this delightful chocolate. A shopgirl told her to take a number. She was # 19. She then asked the shopgirl what were the most popular chocolate purchases, and the girl replied, without any hesitation: TRUFFLES. Caramel Salt.

OMGGGGGGG

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Chocolate Counter, Fortnum & Mason: Sunday, 2 December 2018

She wanted to buy a box of chocolates for son and daughter-in-law, but didn’t know what kind they liked: milk chocolate or not? And this is when self bitterly regretted that her Verizon phone does not work. Has not worked for two months. In fact, Verizon just e-mailed self that she would not be able to avail of their international services. Thank you, Verizon, FOR TELLING SELF WHAT SHE ALREADY KNOWS.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Re-Visiting Peter Matthiessen’s THE SNOW LEOPARD

Varanasi at the end of the rainy season, 28 September 1973:

Brown eyes observe us as we pass. Confronted by the pain of Asia, one cannot look and cannot turn away. In India, human misery seems so pervasive that one takes in only stray details; a warped leg or a dead eye, a sick pariah dog eating withered grass, an ancient woman lifting her sari to move her shrunken bowels by the road. Yet in Varanasi there is hope of life that has been abandoned in such cities as Calcutta, which seems resigned to the dead and dying in its gutters. Shiva dances in the spicy foods, in the exhilarated bells of the swarming bicycles, the angry bus horns, the chatter of the temple monkeys, the vermilion tikka dot on the women’s foreheads, even in the scent of charred human flesh that pervades the ghats. The people smile — that is the greatest miracle of all.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

New Books for the Reading List

Stanford professors, the editors of Stanford University Press and Bing Overseas Study Program staff were asked to recommend books for summer reading and they came up with some interesting titles:

Books To Shift Your Perspective

  • An Act of Terror, by André Brink
  • Sometimes a Great Notion, by Ken Kesey
  • The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell
  • Hadji Murad, by Leo Tolstoy
  • Stoner, by John Williams
  • The Removes, by Tatjana Soli
  • Teacher: Two Years in the Mississippi Delta, by Michael Copperman
  • Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult, by Bruce Handy

Books on Globality and Migration

  • Brother, I’m Dying, by Edwidge Danticat
  • Signs Preceding the End of the World, by Yuri Herrera

Books for Travelers to:

Australia

  • In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson and Ellen Titlebaum

China

  • Age of Ambitions: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China, by Evan Osnos

Germany

  • Memories of a Nation, by Neil MacGregor
  • The Reluctant Meister: How Germany’s Past is Shaping Its European Future, by Stephen Green

Italy

  • The Italians, by John Hooper

Japan

  • A Geek in Japan: Discovering the Land of Manga, Animé, Zen and the Tea Ceremony, by Hector Garcia

Cape Town, South Africa

  • Keeper of the Kumm, by Sylvia Vollenhoven

Spain

  • The New Spaniards, by John Hooper

Traffic: St. Paul/Minneapolis

The more melancholy John Steinbeck becomes in Travels with Charley — the more he realizes that he is missing certain sights, and perhaps that means missing them forever — the more captivated self becomes with his narrative. (Self has been there! There meaning: emotionally)

He hates traffic. Self completely understands his reluctance to enter cities. Like Steinbeck, self tends to panic and get lost. She feels every beat of the following section, p. 100:

Like a weakening swimmer I edged to the right into a pleasant street only to be stopped by a policeman, who informed me that trucks and such vermin were not permitted there. He thrust me back into the ravening stream.

I drove for hours, never able to take my eyes from the surrounding mammoths. I must have crossed the river but I couldn’t see it. I never saw St. Paul or Minneapolis. All I saw was a river of trucks; all I heard was a roar of motors. The air saturated with Diesel fumes burned in my lungs.

Steinbeck flees. He heads for US 10 and ends up in — of all places — “a German restaurant complete with sausages, sauerkraut, and beer steins hanging in rows over the bar, shining but unused.”

The ensuing scene is A+

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Steinbeck on Traveling (Travels with Charley, p. 84)

I’ll tell you what it was like. Go to the Ufizzi in Florence, the Louvre in Paris, and you are so crushed with the numbers, once the might of greatness, that you go away distressed, with a feeling like constipation.

Status Report: Books Read (So Far) 2018

By now it should be clear how much self loves constructing lists. And book lists best of all.

Self set herself a goodreads Reading Challenge of 32 books, which is pretty ambitious considering last year she didn’t make her challenge goal of 26 books.

Nevertheless.

Books Read This Year (in the order of their Goodreads Average Rating)

  1. The Odyssey (the translation by Emily Wilson)
  2. La Belle Sauvage, by Philip Pullman
  3. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
  4. The Subtle Knife, by Philip Pullman
  5. The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson
  6. The Amber Spyglass, by Philip Pullman
  7. Travels with Charley: In Search of America, by John Steinbeck
  8. The Romanovs: 1613 – 1918, by Hugh Sebag-Montefiore
  9. Conclave, by Robert Harris
  10. Hillbilly Elegy, A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
  11. The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman
  12. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
  13. Empress of the East: How a European Slave Girl Became Queen of the Ottoman Empire, by Leslie Peirce
  14. In the Lake of the Woods, by Tim O’Brien
  15. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
  16. Mikhail and Margarita, by Julie Lekstrom Himes
  17. The Mandibles, A Family: 2029 – 2047, by Lionel Shriver
  18. Moshi Moshi, by Banana Yoshimoto
  19. Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys
  20. As Lie Is to Grin, by Simeon Marsalis

Today, self went poring over her recommended reading list and discarded a list called “Recommended Summer Reading” (downloaded from a literary website). Summer is practically half over and by the time she gets to the books on that list, it will be winter.

On her To-Read list 2018 are a biography of Daphne du Maurier and three du Maurier novels. She hopes she can get to them soon. She wishes Steinbeck weren’t so engaging because he is really slowing down her reading rate. Before she began Travels with Charley she read an average of a book a week.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.

Status Report: the 2018 Reading List

There was a stretch of months where all the authors self was reading or had read were male: That’s because a lot of the books she read the first half of the year were by Philip Pullman, who she read for the first time EVER this year. Shame! Shame! Shame!

Then she read Treasure Island, then Lord of the Flies.

She finally tackled Jean Rhys (another first, despite the fact that she’s been hearing about this author since the year she entered grad school) and ended up wanting to strangle her male character in Wide Sargasso Sea.

She discovered the luminous Norwegian writer Tove Jansson in The Summer Book.

She read an excellent first novel (by Julie Lekstrom Himes), Mikhail and Margarita.

After she’s done with Travels with Charley, she re-reads Michael Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White. She read this book over a decade ago but Faber’s name came up again when she found an old list (from the time she was a Hawthornden fellow, in June 2012) of book recommendations from her fellow Hawthornden writers.

Her next authors are all women:

  • Elizabeth Strout
  • Tatiana de Rosnay
  • Daphne du Maurier
  • Jenny Allen
  • Magda Szabø
  • Rosemary Sutcliff

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Sentence of the Day: Travels with Charley, p. 58

Steinbeck heads for the Connecticut River:

It is very strange that when you set a goal for yourself, it is hard not to hold toward it even if it is inconvenient and not even desirable.

This is very true. Human beings are SO confused.

Migrants: Travels with Charley, p. 50

I’ve seen many migrant crop-picking people about the country: Hindus, Filipinos, Mexicans, Okies away from their states. Here in Maine a great many were French Canadians who came over the border for the harvest season. It occurs to me that, just as the Carthaginians hired mercenaries to do their fighting for them, we Americans bring in mercenaries to do our hard and humble work. I hope we may not be overwhelmed one day by peoples not too proud or too lazy or too soft to bend to the earth and pick up the things we eat.

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