List your 3 favourite books (and how they impacted you)
This is so hard…for me they can change a lot, but at the moment these are the three I’d pick:
1. Ishmael by Daniel Quinn – This book was the first one that really opened my eyes up to the world and made me question a lot of things (namely our societal norms). It was the first time I realized that things could be way different – unimaginably different – than the way they are now. Before that I just took it for granted that things are the way they are because they HAVE to be that way. I read this just before I started my long term travels and it helped me see the world in a very different light. The other books in the trilogy are great too.
2. The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant – An awesome and sad (and true) environmental story set in the northern BC coast. I learned a lot about logging! Super interesting. It also has put Haida Gwaii on the top of my travel bucket list.
3. Empire of the Summer Moon by SC Gwynne – I’m fascinated by Native American/First Nations history and culture. This book tells the story of the Comanches in the late 1800s and how white settlers started moving into their vast territory. It’s pretty gruesome in parts, but it’s super interesting.
1. Poisonwood Bible. I read it every single summer. Impact, hm … well it’s on a few levels. 1) i have a love affair with Africa, and this is some of the best writing on that from an outsiders experience – and from 5 different points of view. I see parts of myself in all 5. 2) just the quality of writing. No lie, every single time i read this book, I discover more and more layers. She studied the language, linguistics, histories, mythologies, and drew just fascinating connections that again really challenge the outsider that nothing is as it appears (in Africa, or anywhere). 3) It certainly challenged me as a white outsider not to project when I travel, to consider the monstrosities colonization has done to cultures, the darkness of politics, the many different sides of the story everywhere you go.
2. In a Sunburnt Country by Bill Bryson. I was 19 years old and taking my first overseas trip to Australia. A friend sent it along with me. I packed it around for 6 months and actually didn’t get to reading it til my 20 hour flight home 6 months later. After experiencing Australia for 6 months, I was snorting and chortling and literally gasping for air from laughing so hard at Bryson’s reflection on this country, its culture, and of course his sharp insights in general as he traveled. This was my first true introduction to Travel Writing that wasn’t a hotel review with “breathtaking views” and “sparkling white sands” but rather a cultural criticism wrought with wit and stunningly smart observations but also packed with history, facts, and details of the place. I own every single book by Bill Bryson, to this day, and I still read them all on rotation.
Can’t think of a 3rd that’s as obvious as these first 2. Sorry Carlo!
1. Out of Africa by Danish author Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen pen name) This story is a memoir of her life experiences starting from marrying a wealthy Barron and moving from Denmark to colonial Africa—specifically, Kenya. I read it after watching the 1985 film w/ Robert Redford and Meryl Streep when I was 12. It was this story that caused me to fall in love with history, travel, and Africa as a continent. My ultimate bucket list trip is to visit her house in Kenya -it’s been made into a museum- and do a week long photo safari. Speaking of this book, it’s been ages since I’ve last read it. Need to bump that to the top of the list for 2017!
2. Why the Best Man for the Job is a Woman by Esther Wachs Book. I came across this when I was still in my corporate job and struggling with being the only non-Japanese female manager as well as the youngest in upper management at our global Tokyo/Asia Regional HQ. I couldn’t function the mold the ‘boys club’ kept insisting I operate in. That book helped me understand why I was having such a hard time by clearly illustrating why and how women and men approach things so differently in the office. It was so much easier to learn to work with the system after reading that book than to keep fighting against it. Now, I tell everyone I know regardless of gender to read that book. It brings so much understanding in helping teams work better together.
3. The Golded Rules of Blogging (& When to Break Them) by Robin Houghton. I got this book from a quaint corner book shop in Sydney, summer of 2015 while waiting for my husband to finish his work for the day. I found it when I was still trying to set up my blog/website and figure out what kind of travel blog I was going to create. The ‘blog for your target audience’ rule really stressed, overwhelmed and bothered me. The truth was, I had no idea who my target audience was supposed to be or what my blog should look like– nothing I had in mind seemed to fit with any other genre. And I was especially anxious that I couldn’t figure out what my niche was. I felt off my game and couldn’t grasp why I was having trouble coming up with an answer to a simple question, “Who is your target audience?”
The internet (Pinterest, blogs about blogging, how to guides, etc…) were not helpful and in fact, escalated the stress and muddled up-ness that I was experiencing. The most important takeaway for me from this book was that this was the first place I came across where someone actually said, “… maybe you just want to blog… off-load what’s on your mind or share a little wisdom on a subject you feel passionate about… If your reason for blogging is more to do with pleasing yourself than appealing to others, go ahead and forget about the target audience.” After reading that passage, all of the pressure I was putting on myself lifted. I realized I was my target audience and that was perfectly okay.
I think anyone who starts a blog/website- regardless of the reason, should read this book. It’s such a rich resource that blends mainstream beliefs/advice with truth, points of origin, real life anecdotes, and case studies. It’s also concise, easy to read and well worth the investment.
The Monkeywrench Gang/Desert Solitaire, by Ed Abbey. They opened me up to doing hard core environmental work in the Southwest.
Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley. This retelling of the Arthur/Merlin legend from the women’s viewpoint helped me see how I had been shaped by the Catholicism of my childhood.
Sisterhood is Power, by Robin Morgan was a wake-up call to how I had been conditioned to see myself as a woman. I remember thinking, “I’m going to be pissed-off for the rest of my life.
Cheating here: Bruce Chatwin’s stunning travel meditations in Songlines. I understood that there was a way to immerse myself in whatever I was traveling through, to listen deeply, see deeply and let myself be touched deeply.
Love me some Ed Abbey! I read Desert Solitaire while traveling in Utah…reading about the area you’re currently in gives such a deeper travel experience. Songlines was great.
@Kate In a Sunburnt Country was also one of my first “travel” books…and I read it when I first moved to Australia in 2008. I could sure relate, and remember laughing a lot. Have you read Fat, Forty, and Fired by Nigel Marsh? I thought that was hilarious as well.
Carlos – I am also a big fan of Ishmael. They attempted a movie adaptation. Instinct. It didn’t have the same impact, but touches on the themes of control and human nature.
1) This is New York by E.B. White. In a mere 56 pages, White manages to perfectly capture the energy of the city. He discusses the dreamers who come full of hope, the commuters the city “exhales” in the evening and how the sheer number of activities mean a person can opt in and out of experiences. I try to read it each time I am headed to the city.
2) Seven Types of Ambiguity by Elliott Perlman. I was most captivated by the way this story is told. Each section is from a different characters perspective. Each new section tells the next portion of the story, rather than retelling what you already know from a different angle. It requires you to see one story many ways, continually reevaluating as you gain new information and understanding.
3) The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. Being from the Midwest, the portrayal of the parents and the struggles to connect with their now East Coast children was spot on. I loved how it touched how the places we live shape our views.
1. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson – I was looking for a travel book that was humorous and someone recommended this hilarious tale. I want to incorporate more humor into my writing. After reading this book, I was hooked and now my mission is to read every Bryson book. I love Bryson’s wittiness. His truth through humor and witt equates to one’s personal experiences. I love eye-watering laughs and Bryson is a master at it.
2. The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway – Although fiction, Steven Galloway made me care deeply about the characters in the book. I felt I was standing right next to each one, living their lives amid a war torn counrtry. This book is intense and harrowing. I enjoyed every word and I didn’t want it to end.
3. The Creature From Jekyll Island by G. Edward Griffin – This book looks at the history of The Federal Reserve and how it is responsible for all economic boom and bust cycles. In a clear and succinct manner, Griffin explains how fraudulent and corrupt our monetary system is with the use of fractional reserve banking. All wars are bankers wars and this book exposes this ugly truth.
1) Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut’s fantastic across the board (Breakfast of Champions and Mother Night are probably my two favorites otherwise), but rather than his stories or his writing, it’s his wounded humanism that gets to me. He believes in being kind and gentle to people, but is also absolutely merciless about humanity’s shortcomings. Slaughterhouse-Five was the first I read, and it just barely edges out Catch-22 as my all-time favorite book about war.
2) From Hell by Alan Moore. Moore takes the Jack the Ripper story and applies Douglas Adams’ “holistic detective” model to it — he believes that in order to solve a crime, you must solve the entire society around it. It ends up being a conspiracy, but it has a lot to say about the 20th Century, about violence, about poverty, and about misogyny. It’s also set in the neighborhood in London I used to live in — while in grad school, I lived in what used to be the Providence Row Night Refuge, where a number of the Ripper’s victims once stayed. I was across the street from Miller’s Court, where his final victim, Mary Jane Kelly — who may have been a relative of mine, we’re not sure — was brutally murdered. Moore draws heavily on the architecture of the city of London to explain the crime, and it’s just completely mindblowing.
3) East of Eden by John Steinbeck. For whatever reason, schools choose to teach Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath when it comes to Steinbeck. Both are great, but his best in my opinion (and also in Steinbeck’s) was East of Eden. It’s sort of a modern take on the book of Genesis, which, I know, isn’t necessarily the best pitch, but holy crap, is it good. I have never been as electrified by a last page as much as with this book.
If I gotta pick a travel book, it’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which could also be exchanged out for any of these three, along with Catch-22 and A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
1. Man of Good Hope – Jonny Steinberg: Steinberg’s unique ability to organically fuse investigative journalism, academia, and conversation into narrative non-fiction makes him my favourite author. His books take major issues and tell them through the eyes of one person’s experience. Man of Good Hope shares the global journey of a young Somali man.
2. Marching Powder – Rusty Young: this book is a real page-turner because the (true) story is so unbelievable. The story of a British drug-smuggler who gets imprisoned in a notorious Bolivian prison
3. The Alchemist – Paolo Coelho: a classic, the kind of book I didn’t think I’d like but have read 3 times to date