Bullet Trains to Yaks by Stan Biderman and Kathryn Minette is a great little travel diary about a writer and a photographer who travel across China an...moreBullet Trains to Yaks by Stan Biderman and Kathryn Minette is a great little travel diary about a writer and a photographer who travel across China and Tibet to find unique artwork to hang in their home. This was a pleasant piece to read as it was much like a blog complete with posed pictures in front of landmarks. Some of their travel adventures were a bit humorous while others politically and emotionally charged. I enjoyed this book and found it a quick read. It is always somewhat interesting to read about others travels and there are times when their rosy depictions of the places they have visited elicit a strong feeling of longing on this reader’s part to visit said place. That happened somewhat with this book, although that feeling diminished towards the end of the book and after reading the photographers note at the end of the book.
Here are the highlights of the book; there are great descriptions of people, places and food. I loved the food mentions of the mishaps that resulted from some adventurous eating. There are also some great little tidbits that help the less knowledgeable reader pinpoint places in China and get a feel for the landscape. Just like China itself, Biderman and Minette blend the old and new into this small book. There is also some deep philosophical discussion both implicit and explicit going on in this travel narrative.
Here are some of the things that I thought would have made this book so much better. The photographs… I read the eBook version so I did not get the nifty little color photo insert that the paperback and hardback versions promise. The black and white photos in the eBook were just not enough to get the visual experience of their trip. Often I found myself reading then expecting a certain type of photo to illustrate a particularly interesting part of their journey only to find that the photograph was of something less significant to the story. Also the photographs were not always what I expected from a professional photographer. The POV was sometimes drab.
Overall, though this is a great little read that readers who enjoy travel narratives, art, food and China would enjoy reading.
In the book Eat, Pray, Love Elizabeth Gilbert chronicles her journey to find herself after a long divorce. She decided to take a year and spent it in...moreIn the book Eat, Pray, Love Elizabeth Gilbert chronicles her journey to find herself after a long divorce. She decided to take a year and spent it in three different places for three different purposes. The book is divided into three books. In Book I Gilbert describes her time in Italy for which she hoped to speak Italian and eat Italian food. In book two Gilbert travels to India to pray at an ashram. In book three Gilbert would return to Indonesia where at first she had no plans what she would do during her stay but a palm reader 2 years before told her she would be back and would stay with him, so in the attempt to experience something different she went on a whim hoping he would remember her.
This book can be read in a few different ways; a memoir of a difficult period in Gilbert’s life and how she overcame it, a guide for divorced women and how they can deal with life after divorce or a travel memoir. I am sure other ways to read the book but what drew me to the book was the promise of the travel memoir. So often it is hard to find a great book about travel. Either it will read as too much of a guidebook (i.e. “Go see this, then go do this”) or it will read as a personal memoir with little travel description in it. Eat, Pray, Love falls somewhere in between. It is neither a guidebook nor is it really overly memoir (except for the very beginning and at times in the Indonesia section). There was much I appreciated about this book. I appreciated and thoroughly enjoyed Book I. So many descriptions of Rome, Naples and the food! After reading book one I said to myself, “I want to go to Rome!” This is why I bought the book the travel and there was a great deal of it in Book One, so much so that I could ignore the things I did not buy the book for (the divorce drama and the somewhat pathetic need for men that Gilbert relays to the reader early on). Excited about the prospect of more travel I moved on to Book II, which again I thoroughly loved. The descriptions of the ashram, the mediation sessions and the chanting all made me want to experience something similar. The language become more beautiful in this book the more comfortable Gilbert become with mediating and the less she obsessed about her lost relationships, it was a great book.
So I can hear you asking at this point, “Why did you only give it 3 out of 5 stars it sounds like you really liked this book?” Well mainly Book III. It started off promising and I loved it when she actually learned from Ketut Liyer, but then we lost the travel spirit and she began to just live there. The excitement in the writing that existed in the first two books had gone. Don’t get me wrong there were moments when I said to myself “I want to go to Bali” but this part of the book did not read the same as the others. And the real thing that brought this book all the way down to a 3 out of making it just okay was the ending. In order not to spoil anything for my fellow readers who have yet to pick this book up I just want to say this… it was not expected and somewhat uneventful considering the build up from the universe that we were feed throughout the book. It was a hurried afterthought of an ending. All in all though I am glad I read this book and if you have not read it I recommend it to readers who want a travel memoir or a book about relationships, both readers will be satisfied in the end.
Novel Moments: “To find the balance you want, […] this is what you must become. You must keep your feet grounded so firmly on the earth that it’s like you have four legs, instead of two. That way, you can stay in the world. But you must stop looking at the world through your head. You must look through your heart, instead. That way, you will know God.” (Kindle Location 647)
“Parla come magni.” He knows this is one of my favorite expressions in Roman dialect. It means, “Speak the way you eat,” or, in my personal translation: “Say it like you eat it.” It’s a reminder- when you’re searching for the right words- to keep your language as simple and direct as Roman food. (Kindle Location 1764)(less)