July 10, 2010 by jessperriam
Books. They’re an essential part of travel.
Six weeks on the road, in the air, on trains and boats has given me ample time to get literary.
I know it’s raining and miserable in most parts of Australia (hey, guess what? It’s raining and miserable here in Istanbul too!) so you’ll appreciate my reading list to snuggle up in bed, by the heater or in a small bar with a glass of red (oh hang on, I’m the only person who reads books in bars…).
Best long-haul flight read – The Year We Seized the Day: Elizabeth Best and Colin Bowles
I had been searching for this book for a month or so beforehand and couldn’t even find it by googling. But then at Perth International Airport at 5:30am on a random Tuesday I spent my last few Australian dollars on this memoir about two Aussies walking the Camino in Spain.
The beauty of the story is the spontaneity of their journey. Eli, the young author with one book already under her belt was convinced by her mentor, Colin to drop everything and head to Spain. It’s great to see both the physical and the psychological struggles unfold and overcome.
What did you do with this book? I mailed it back to Perth.
Best travel epic – Dark Star Safari: Paul Theroux
This was my daily commute book in my final weeks before leaving Perth and it kept me going until just before I left for Egypt (yes, 500-odd pages, very small print!).
Paul Theroux travels from Cairo to Cape Town revisiting the Africa he lived and worked in during the 1960s. I love this book because it doesn’t paint the typical romantic, wild image of Africa, nor does it hold back about the (mostly negative) impact of charities and aid organisations in the continent. A must-read simply to gain a better understanding of Africa, or to marvel at the journey.
What did you do with this book? I left it in the hostel in London.
Best Australian book – Dirt Music: Tim Winton
Otherwise known as the guilty homesick pleasure purchase, I bought this in Camden one miserable day because I never finished reading it when I was in Australia.
I love Winton’s work. I love the way he can describe Western Australia and her people down to a tee. There are a few lines in this book that would be perfect to quote if you wanted to knock Perth, its urban sprawl and its upper crust. However the hallucination scenes midway through the book don’t do it for me personally. Not my favourite Winton novel.
What did you do with this book? I left it on a book exchange table at the hotel in Luxor.
Best unexpected read – Slaughterhouse Five: Kurt Vonnegut
It was slim pickings on the book exchange table in Luxor. My copy of Dirt Music was huge so I had to ditch it. I wanted something smaller in order to save space and Slaughterhous Five was it.
This is my introduction to Vonnegut’s writing. I love that he spends a chapter justifying why he wrote the book. It mixes the history of real events (the World War Two firebombing of Dresden) with science fiction (the protagonist being abducted by aliens).
Would I read more work from Vonnegut? Yes
Where is this book now? In my backpack, but it will end up somewhere in Istanbul.
The easy read – A Year in Provence: Peter Mayle
I think this book is best described as cute. I was reading it smack bang in the middle of Egypt when I realised I probably should have brought along an extra book so as not to ration my reading. This is a very quick read.
Peter Mayle and his wife move from dreary old England to the seemingly sunny skies of Provence in the late 1980s. Hilarity ensues as they give us a month-by-month, blow-by-blow caricature of the French in Provence. You’ll love it if you’re a francophile but then again you may just see it for what it is: a bestselling stereotype.
Where is this book now? Blending in with the art deco stylings of the boutique hotel in Alexandria.
The current read – The Lucky Country: Donald Horne
Otherwise known as my intellectual read. In the summer of 1963/1964 academic Donald Horne cast a critical eye over Australia, her identity, attitudes and her small role in the global arena. It caused a stir 40 years ago and it’s still startlingly accurate now.
Where is the book now? In my bag
The next read – Perfume: Patrick Suskind
I belong(ed?) to a book club in Perth and this is their July book. I found it in an English language bookshop here in Istanbul, so it’s ready and waiting to be read.
Where is it now? Next to my left knee
Book I most often recommend to fellow travellers – Breath: Tim Winton
Breath is everything I love in a book. A great exposition, intriguing characters, vivid descriptions and a crescendo of suspense. The fact that Winton is writing about the South West of Australia makes it all the more delightful to read and recommend.
Biggest reading regret? Not investing in a Kindle or another e-book reader. It would have saved a lot of space.