On the day that his twin sons were born, Anthony Doerr received a letter informing him that he had won the Rome Prize. He was given a small apartment,On the day that his twin sons were born, Anthony Doerr received a letter informing him that he had won the Rome Prize. He was given a small apartment, a studio at the American Academy, and a monthly stipend to spend a year writing in the Eternal City. Six months later, he and his wife bundled up the twins and flew from Idaho to Italy.
Doerr writes about the challenges of parenting twins, especially the lack of sleep, and the love he feels for them. Communicating in Italian is another difficult task, sometimes with humorous results, and other times frightening as when he needed to get medical help for his wife Shauna. During the year the author read all 37 volumes of Pliny's "Natural History" (from AD 77) as well as many other works about Rome. His family walked and rode buses through the city with a twin stroller, marveling at the beauty they could find. The whole area of Rome and the Vatican is really a huge art museum. They were also witness to the events at Saint Peter's Square when the Pope died and another Pope was chosen.
Doerr is a keen observer of both people and nature. His lyrical writing is beautiful, and draws the reader in to experience Rome through his eyes. "Four Seasons in Rome" is an especially enjoyable travel memoir....more
Bill Bryson, originally from Iowa, had lived in England for the last twenty years. When he and his wife decided to move their family back to the StateBill Bryson, originally from Iowa, had lived in England for the last twenty years. When he and his wife decided to move their family back to the States, he took a last trip around Britain. Except for a few days, he took only public transportation and hiked for seven weeks. Bryson traveled to Dover, London, the southern coast, then headed north through England, Wales, and Scotland, then back to his home in North Yorkshire.
I especially enjoyed the beginning and the end of the book, but thought the middle bogged down a bit as he hit some unremarkable villages off-season in the rain. Although he carried rain gear, he never mentioned an umbrella. The poor guy was constantly getting caught in downpours walking unfamiliar streets in search of a hotel or a cafe. Bryson is one of those men that almost never asked townspeople or the hotel receptionist for directions or recommendations for a restaurant. Then he complained when he had to eat Indian or Chinese food again after wandering around for hours looking for a restaurant.
Bryson's writing was humorous, poking a bit of fun at the British while also exhibiting very warm feelings for them. Like Prince Charles, he rants when beautiful old buildings are replaced with modern concrete cubes that don't blend in. The book was originally published in 1995 for a British audience, then published in the States a year later. He used lots of British expressions I hadn't heard before, but I just went with the flow instead of looking them up. Although this book wasn't quite as funny as A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, it still had plenty of humor. Bryson also had moments when he enjoyed the simple things in life--a beautiful view, a warm cup of tea on a chilly day, and reuniting with his wife and four children in his beloved Yorkshire....more
Robyn Davidson was a young woman who had a dream of traveling with camels through the bush of the northern and western areas of Australia. She arrivedRobyn Davidson was a young woman who had a dream of traveling with camels through the bush of the northern and western areas of Australia. She arrived in Alice Springs with her dog and six dollars, hoping to find work and learn to train camels. After two years she still did not have the funds to start on her trek, so she signed a contract with "National Geographic" to allow a photographer to spend a few days with her several times during the trip.
Davidson was a hard working, tenacious woman who loved the camels and her dog. She felt that she enjoyed being around animals more than people. It did occasionally make me cringe when she had to discipline the animals to keep them in line, but the camels were tricky, intelligent, and stubborn. The "camel lady" set off from Alice Springs and traveled six months through the Aboriginal Reserve areas and the desert, westward to the Indian Ocean.
Davidson tended to overreact to the presence of Rick Smolan, the camera man. The trip would not have been possible without the National Geographic sponsorship. He was also very helpful obtaining water and food for the camels so she could continue across the desert. She wanted the trip to be a personal journey, and had a hard time compromising during the three times Smolan drove out into the desert to photograph. By the end of the trip, she valued his friendship.
In addition to her interesting travel story, she also wrote about the sexism and racism that was present in 1970s Australia. She was especially concerned about the treatment of the Aborigines who had been rounded up into special areas (similar to the way the Native Americans were treated in North America). My favorite part of the book was when she walked with an older Pitjantjara man for several weeks, gaining a close connection with the environment. Davidson was a daring, gutsy woman who set a goal, and although she was not the most organized person, she reached it. I enjoyed this colorful memoir set in the bush of Australia....more
Joe Hurley wore out six pairs of shoes as he walked across the United States on Route 6. The retired 59-year-old newspaper reporter from "The News-TimJoe Hurley wore out six pairs of shoes as he walked across the United States on Route 6. The retired 59-year-old newspaper reporter from "The News-Times" in Danbury, CT traveled from Cape Cod on the Atlantic Ocean to Long Beach on the Pacific, going through 14 states. His photographer, Travis Lindhorst, also played chauffeur at the beginning and end of each day in an old Geo Metro--until the brakes failed in the mountains outside Death Valley. Joe filed weekly stories with the newspapers who helped sponsor the trip.
Although Route 6 does go through some major cities, most of the road is a two lane highway through small towns. Joe talked to the everyday people who make up the country as well as visiting scenic and historical areas along the way. Travis' color photographs are beautiful. I enjoyed reading about the travels of Joe and Travis--and it was so much easier from an armchair.
John Steinbeck took a road trip around the United States in the fall of 1960 "to try to rediscover this monster land." He bought a pick-up truck withJohn Steinbeck took a road trip around the United States in the fall of 1960 "to try to rediscover this monster land." He bought a pick-up truck with a camper top, and named it Rocinante (after Don Quixote's horse). Charley, an older large French poodle, was Steinbeck's traveling companion. Charley served as an ice-breaker, making it easier for Steinbeck to meet strangers. Steinbeck had a chronic illness at the time of his trip, and Charley had his own set of veterinary problems, but they offered emotional support to each other. Charley also added some humor to the story, such as when he turned into a vicious barking beast when he spotted and smelled the bears in Yellowstone Park.
Steinbeck tried to talk to the "everyman" during his journey--farmers, migrant workers, and waitresses--to take the pulse of the country. Although Steinbeck has associated with many famous people, he has never forgotten his humble roots as a dock worker. As one who has lived through the 1960s, I felt that he gave a true sense of the era. He traveled through the Northeast, then took a northern route to the west coast, then headed home by taking a southern route eastward.
The most awe-inspiring stop on his journey was at a forest of majestic redwoods. The most upsetting incident was in New Orleans where a group of women (called the Cheerleaders) shouted racist comments at small black children walking to their recently integrated school. His visit to a bar in his hometown in California showed that you really can't go home again after an absence of many years--people change and the town changes.
Steinbeck got lost quite often during his trip. He seemed to suggest that America was also getting lost as the population moved from the country to the city to work in industry. He was concerned about damage to the environment as factories, garbage dumps, and interstate highways ringed the cities.
There has been some controversy about the accuracy of Steinbeck's tale, especially in journalist Bill steigerwald's book, "Dogging Steinbeck". Steinbeck did not camp out as often as his book relates, his wife flew out to meet him quite often during the trip, and his conversations with people seem to often be composites of several people. That really did not bother me since I find that most travel books give the flavor of a location, and are not a day-to-day diary. I can also understand why Steinbeck would be spending many nights in motels, considering his poor health. I enjoyed the hours I spent with Steinbeck and Charley on the road....more
3.5 stars The tale from Greek mythology of Demeter and Persephone, mother and daughter, acts as a theme for this travel story. Ann Kidd Taylor had just3.5 stars The tale from Greek mythology of Demeter and Persephone, mother and daughter, acts as a theme for this travel story. Ann Kidd Taylor had just received a rejection letter from a graduate program she wished to attend, and was unsure what direction her life should follow. Her mother, Sue Monk Kidd, was trying to adjust to the changes life was throwing her as she turned fifty--from hot flashes to acting on her dream of writing a novel.
Each found inspiration from mythological and historical female figures encountered on their trips to Greece and France. Sue sought out sacred feminine images, especially the Black Madonna that she incorporated into her novel The Secret Life of Bees. Ann drew strength from a trio of inspirational females--Mary, Athena, and Joan of Arc.
This is a book of reflection with alternating chapters written by each woman. Their travels helped them find their way spiritually as individuals, and strengthened the bond between mother and daughter....more
The South Pacific is not totally the paradise one might imagine from travel posters. J. Maarten Troost has written a humorous travel book where he telThe South Pacific is not totally the paradise one might imagine from travel posters. J. Maarten Troost has written a humorous travel book where he tells of primitive transportation, corrupt governments, harrowing cyclones, huge venonous centipedes, and traveling to the rim of an active volcano. He is fascinated with the history of cannibalism, and learns about the missionaries and rival villagers who were victims to the practice. As the title suggests, he enjoys getting stoned with a native drink called kava which is especially strong in Vanuatu. When his wife gets pregnant, they move from Vanuatu to Fiji where there is better medical care available. The Fijians were especially warm with babies, and their infant son was passed from one loving pair of arms to another.
This is a witty account of the years the author spent on Vanuatu and Fiji as a writer while his wife worked for the Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific. I wish it had a little more detail about the everyday lives of the native people on the islands. The strength of the book was that the author was an excellent storyteller. His tales were entertaining, keenly observant, and laced with humor. ...more
Vietnamese-American Andrew Pham writes about his search for cultural identity in a book that is both a memoir and a biking travelogue. He remembers thVietnamese-American Andrew Pham writes about his search for cultural identity in a book that is both a memoir and a biking travelogue. He remembers the fall of Saigon, his father's imprisonment in a communist reeducation camp, and the family's escape from Vietnam in a leaky fishing boat when he was a ten-year-old. After a stay in an Indonesian refugee camp, the family came to the United States and eventually settled in California. Although he recognizes the sacrifices made by his parents, he also recounts how the Pham children were subjected to his father's temper and beatings. The suicide of his transgendered sibling was the impetus for Andrew Pham's journey of self-discovery.
The author quit his job as an aerospace engineer, and traveled by bike up the Pacific Coast, through Japan, and up the length of Vietnam. He visited important places in his family's history and found them completely changed. While he had some enjoyable times, he also saw terrible poverty and extreme corruption. Dysentery was an unwelcome companion over part of the trip. He weaves together two story lines--about his family and about his bike trip.
He was called "Viet-kieu" (foreign Vietnamese) in Vietnam, a slur by people who envy his success. In America, he also feels like an outsider. He experiences survivor guilt, explores his roots, and feels the pull of two cultures. He still seems to be searching at the book's end--and maybe it will be a lifelong search--for who he is. Laced with adventure and humor, this was an engaging story that held my interest....more
Jack Kerouac based this book on a series of trips he took alone or with Neal Cassady across the United States and down to Mexico City. Full of youthfuJack Kerouac based this book on a series of trips he took alone or with Neal Cassady across the United States and down to Mexico City. Full of youthful exhuberance, the fictional Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarity want to experience life at top speed with binges of drinking, drugs, casual sex, and crazy driving. Running out of money constantly, they crash at their friends' homes, sleep in the car, and pick up hitchhikers for gas money. Avoiding tourist traps, they meet people who pick crops, work on the railroad, and frequent neighborhood jazz bars. The description of the jazz musicians are mind-blowing, and left me feeling like I sat through a few sets of great improvisation. I also especially enjoyed the descriptions of their trip through Mexico--the reader can feel the heat, hear the mambo music, see the mournful brown eyes of the Mexicans, and feel the onslaught of large insects in the night.
"On the Road" is probably the most important novel of the Beat literary movement of 1946-60. During that post-World War II era, many people were going after the material success of the American Dream. But the Beats were a bohemian bunch searching for freedom and experience, often in hedonistic excess....more
What a wonderful, inspiring book! Conor Grennan wanted to see the world so he took a year off from working. He decided to volunteerRecommended by Will
What a wonderful, inspiring book! Conor Grennan wanted to see the world so he took a year off from working. He decided to volunteer at the Little Princes Children's Home in Nepal for three months before continuing on his world tour.
The children in the home were not actually orphans. Child traffickers had told their families that they would take their children from the unsafe villages during the civil war for a price. The traffickers promised the parents that the children would have safe homes in Kathmandu with plenty of food and good schooling. But the children were abandoned or kept in wretched conditions once they reached the city of Kathmandu.
Conor had never worked with children before, but he fell in love with them. Most of the children were boys since the parents were trying to protect them from being forced to be soldiers in the Maoist army, and they were also more apt to send the boys to school. Conor made it his mission to find the families of these children so that they could be eventually reunited. He treked through the dangerous mountains of Nepal with a painful knee injury to the villages of the children's parents.
He also met the woman of his dreams during this time. Liz had done volunteer work as a humanitarian in Third World countries as well. An e-mail relationship progressed from friendship to romance.
Conor and his French friend Farid founded the non-profit organization Next Generation Nepal (NGN). The group opened another home for the children, and is still working to reunite chilren with their parents in the mountainous villages.
Conor's story is told with humility and self-deprecating humor. The love he has for these children shines throughout the book. There is also plenty of adventure and adjustment as he describes his travels through the mountains of Nepal, deals with government officials, learns to live with the slower pace of Nepal time, and deals with sub-standard medical care. This is a very special book that we all should read. _______________________________ More to read or view:
"Children of God" is a documentary film about the children who live on the sacred grounds of a Hindu temple in Katmandu next to a river where funeral rites are carried out. Great sums of money are spent to honor the dead, while the children resort to begging and stealing funeral offerings....more
In addition to seafood recipes, this book included lots of information about the various types of shellfish and fin fish found mainly along the AtlantIn addition to seafood recipes, this book included lots of information about the various types of shellfish and fin fish found mainly along the Atlantic coast. There were lots of interesting historical tidbits, such as the fact that lobsters were considered a poor man's food in the 1700s, fed to prisoners and servants and used to fertilize fields. There were also historical photos of boats used for fishing provided by Mystic Seaport, a wonderful maritime museum in southeastern Connecticut....more
When her mother died when she was twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed's life fell apart. Her family went in different directions, and she ruined her marriage wWhen her mother died when she was twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed's life fell apart. Her family went in different directions, and she ruined her marriage with drugs and casual sex with other men. After the divorce, she decided to find herself by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. She started at the Mojave Desert in California, and headed north through Oregon to the Washington state border. As an inexperienced hiker, she started by carrying an enormously heavy pack and wearing hiking shoes that were a bit too small. But she had tremendous resolve, and persisted in her hike despite the heat, painful feet, and dangerous snowy conditions in the mountains. She met wonderful, helpful people along the trail and enjoyed the rugged beauty of the PCT. The story is told with honesty and humor as Cheryl matured emotionally on the long-distance hike. She also made peace with the loss of her beloved mother. This was an interesting and entertaining memoir....more
Jan Mann has compiled a fun group of places to visit in Connecticut. For each trip, she gives an enthusiastic description of the attraction, a good plJan Mann has compiled a fun group of places to visit in Connecticut. For each trip, she gives an enthusiastic description of the attraction, a good place to picnic, and recipes that would be appropriate for the picnic. She includes recipes that would appeal to many age groups. I bought this book at an author's talk where she brought yummy treats made from several of her recipes. Even though I've lived in Connecticut for years, this book introduced me to some "off the beaten track" attractions that I'm looking foreward to visiting. ...more