It is quite a long time since the last bookish recommendation, but this time of the year is always very busy with planning, work, holiday cooking and cleaning. Wish it is only a polite excuse for not writing as much as I want…(but don’t worry, I did use my time wisely and there will be a lot of interesting posts coming up).
I rediscovered my passion for short stories recently and I have on my reading list quite a couple of new released books. As travel is always my top priority, I started my reading month with Paris Franz’s Treading Lightly. Travels from Shanghai to Kiev. A historian by background, she introduces a lot of details and information – I didn’t know, for instance, that James Joyce taught English at a Berlitz school, for instance – as part of the stories about her journeys from Latin America to Shanghai, Fiji or Brighton. However, I felt very often that there is too much information and the historical excursus is detrimental to the literary qualities of the writing.
I visited Thailand two years ago, but a return is just a question of time. Preparing the comeback, I had a look at a very serious and interesting book in German about this mysterious country, especially the culture and its history, written by one of the best local experts, Volker Grabowsky. Especially the part dedicated to minorities is fascinating and rarely approaches in modern accounts about the country, including travel writings.
On my priority list for this year I included the improvement of my photo skills. With the help of this very technical and beautifully illustrated book by Hans-Peter Schaub I have a better understanding of the technicalities of photography, as well as of the various technical requirements of different cameras and outdoor contexts. One can learn how to photograph animals, plants or landscape, with or without stative, but also about what’s the right moment of the day to take the best photo of a butterfly, for instance.
Tilman Birr works as a guide in Berlin and not necessarily doing the job he loves – I really wonder if it is any tour guide who had written a book where he/she is really happy with the task of explaining a city to tourists, as I always thought that it’s at least a cool job to do. After a while, he collected enough material to write a book about this, outlining various differences between Germany’s regions, including when it comes to beer habits, but also with grotesque jokes, introducing historical personages of sinister memory. Bad jokes, I meant.
Wild, by Cheryl Straw, was waiting for me on the Kindle for a long time and what a delightful reading it is. After a couple of life tragedies and failures, a woman decides ‘to walk alone in the wilderness for eleven hundred miles’, for three months, exploring the Pacific Crest Trail. ‘I’d set out to hike the trail so that I could reflect upon my life, to think about everything that had broken me and make myself whole again’. Without being an experienced hiker, she finds her strength and peace of mind through the hardships of the trail. The journey is more than a tourist exploration or a search of herself though, but a complex experience demanding all her senses and putting on trail her courage and perseverance (‘I knew that if allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed’, and a couple of pages later, the continuation of the thought: ‘Fear begets fear. Power begets power’.). She is not afraid and not foreigner to solitude and loneliness, her permanent companion: ‘Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren’t a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I rally was’. The beautiful story of hardship and fight is told with passion and force, one more reason to love the book.
Ended up the reading marathon for now, with a beautiful collection of short stories, by Frances Thompson. Travel itself is the best opportunity to tell stories, but don’t expect this book to be a collection of travel stories. The characters and the stories are built around trips and beautiful landscapes. Travel is an impressive source of knowledge and the short stories are occasioned by encounters on the road, observation of nature or desire to go out from the usual daily routine. In most cases, the ending is completely unexpected leaving the reader either surprised or curious to built up by him or herself the rest of the story. The art of the author to create the tensions and lead in a completely unexpected direction is admirable and once the reader is caught into the net of the story telling, it’s hard to accept that the stories are over. Part of the intricate network of impressions, memories and sensations, you are left with food for thought and an insatiable desire to travel the world, because what else is life but a challenging journey? (Disclaimer: I was offered a complimentary copy by the author, but the opinions are, as usual, my own)
Time for new books and with so many free days ahead, I promise to be back soon with fresh new recommendations!
Happy reading everyone!