Six of my favourite travel books of the past 12 months
I just love reading. It calms my crazy mind and it is my way of travelling for times when I can’t actually travel. My mum always made sure that I was surrounded by books. Fiction, guides, travel books, atlases, coffee table books and many more. A habit, I have certainly kept up (on a recent trip to London I just bought 10 more).
I have read a lot of travel books during the past couple of months and so I wanted share some of my favourites with you.
Gloria Steinem – My life on the road
This book first came to my attention through the feminist book club that Emma Watson has founded (if you haven’t heard about it, you can check it our here). I had seen it around but it had never been on my to be read list. But oh was I wrong!
Gloria Steinem has a brilliant way of telling stories and of weaving her own life’s story together with the larger history taking place around her. “My life on the road” is her autobiography and the title aptly tells you what the book is about. She recounts her reasons for staying on the road, tells stories about her work as an organizer and how expectations for the life a woman ‘should’ live, changed.
“The road is messy in the way that real life is messy. It leads us out of denial and into reality, out of theory and into practice, out of caution and into action, out of statistics and into stories—in short, out of our heads and into our hearts.”
Rebecca Solnit – The field guide to getting lost
In a very similar vein to Gloria Steinem’s book, “The field guide to getting lost” is essentially a book about the life of Rebecca Solnit. I first found out about her and her writing in a fantastic bookstore in Dublin. The store not only had a large travel section, it even had a large section on female travel writers.
The book speaks about the ways one can get lost. Lost in the way of not knowing where you are. Lost in the way of not knowing what to do with your life. Yet also lost in a way to propels you forward and helps you to find yourself. Something I can definitely associate with. These philosophical musings are packaged in Solnit’s own life story and the way she almost felt most at home, when she was out in nature and a little bit lost. The book loses focus a bit towards the end but it is still a brilliant read.
“Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go.”
Tom Michell – Penguin Lessons
I discovered “Penguin Lessons” through the Penguin publishing house’s Facebook page, of all places. And then I became the silly person who walks into a bookstore and says things like “I read there’s this book about a penguin but I don’t know what it’s called anymore.” Thankfully, they knew what I was rambling on about and thus I found this absolutely heart-warming book.
The book tells the story of the author himself who found and rescued a penguin at a beach in Uruguay and took him back to a Buenos Aires’ boarding school. Even though you’re sure that this story couldn’t possibly be true, you still end up rooting for Juan Salvador the penguin. If you’ve always wondered what it’s like to live with a penguin, this is the book for you.
“All of a sudden I found I was hoping against hope that the penguin would survive, because, as of that instant, he had a name and his name was Juan Salvador Pinguino and with his name came a surge of hope and the beginning of a bond that would last a lifetime. That was the moment at which he became my penguin, and whatever the future held, we’d face it together.”
Emma Cline – The Girls
This book is strange and dark and twisted and absolutely compelling. The main plot of “The Girls” is set in sixties California and is told through the perspective of Evie Boyd. The book moves back and worth in time and is told by the younger and older versions of Evie.
Cline somehow manages to throw you right back to your own teenage insecurities, anger and the feelings that didn’t make any sense, even to yourself. The story is loosely bases on a cult which existed in California, in the sixties. And since I am strangely fascinated with California, I absolutely had to read this book.
“That was part of being a girl–you were resigned to whatever feedback you’d get. If you got mad, you were crazy, and if you didn’t react, you were a bitch. The only thing you could do was smile from the corner they’d backed you into. Implicate yourself in the joke even if the joke was always on you.”
Junot Diaz – This is how you lose her
Junot Diaz and “The brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao” were recommended to me years ago. But I only got around to reading it last year but I ended up liking his other book, “This is how you lose her”, much more.
“This is how you lose her” is a collection of short stories with several interrelated characters. If you read more of Diaz’ books, you’ll recognize the same characters across his work. The stories he describe a completely different reality to anything I was accustomed to. Partly, because all the stories are told from the perspective of horny teenage men and partly because they describe the experiences of Latinos in the US. The stories, and especially the language, are rough and bawdy and irresistible to put down. A great insight into a world that is hard to get to know.
“You keep waiting for the heaviness to leave you. You keep waiting for the moment you never think about the ex again. It doesn’t come.”
Luke Brown – My biggest lie
There are very few books that I have read over and over again. Luke Brown’s “My biggest lie” is definitely one of them. It brilliantly describes the feelings of a break-up, the consequences of lies and life in Buenos Aires. Other themes are drugs and being pushed to follow your dreams because the person you’d much rather dream with, doesn’t want to dream with you.
It’s a drug fueled, highly emotional story, but one that many people will likely be able to associate with. I think I’ve read this book about eight times but the end still leaves me wanting to know more.
“There was a time not long ago when I thought that lying was the most natural thing in the world. It was fun. It was addictive. And I forgot, temporarily, what was true and what was false. Or it was simply that I preferred the false. It was then that I was found out.”
What was the last book that you couldn’t stop thinking about? Tell me about it in the comments. I always welcome good book recommendations.