Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Recently Acquired Books
(Brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish)
I’m very behind on everything blog-related these days. Blame summer vacation and Secretary of State John Kerry. And a bit of my own laziness. But, with my trip home in the rearview mirror, Kerry being wheels-up and the start of a new (and my last!) term staring me down, it is time to get back in the writing saddle. I missed a handful of Top Ten Tuesdays while I was on my mini-hiatus, so as I get back in the flow, I’ve decided to start with a topic that came up in July that I liked, rather than jumping in on this week’s theme. I’ve gone through quite a few books this summer, so without further ado, I’m back to blogging with my ten most recently acquired books!
(In order of acquisition)
Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capó Crucet- Purchased- e-book. I just started this one on Sunday, but have to admit to a bit of annoyance with Amazon. The e-book price was actually $.90 more expensive than the hardcover edition. How does that make any sense?
Penguins with People Problems by Mary Laura Philpott– Borrowed from Boise Public Library- e-book. Dorky and hilarious. This is my kind of humor.
The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten- Borrowed from Boise Public Library- e-book. Great new YA novel about students coping with OCD.
Mr. and Mrs. Doctor by Julie Iromuanya- Borrowed from Boise Public Library- e-book. I’m very glad this was a borrow and not a purchase. I was less than impressed with it, although going into it I really wanted to like it. I wanted it to be like Americanah, but the characters just didn’t resonate in the same way.
Not Quite Paradise: An American Sojourn in Sri Lanka by Adele Barker- Purchased- hardback, used. Interesting look at Sri Lanka both before and after the tsunami, including a lot of history and political background.
The Miracle Girl by Andrew Roe- Borrowed from Boise Public Library- e-book. I loved the premises of this book, that a young girl whose body was destroyed in a car accident, is now a receptacle of miracles and healing. There is a lot of potential with this plot, but I was disappointed in the execution. I would have liked to delve into that spiritual mystery side more than the author did.
Destination Saigon by Walter Mason- Purchased- paperback, used. Great travelogue of Mason’s time in Vietnam. Both entertaining and informative, this is a fun read for anyone headed to SE Asia.
Looking for Lovedu: Days and Nights in Africa by Ann Jones- Purchased- hardback, used. A literary travelogue of Jones’ trip from England to the Southern reaches of Africa. I must admit a bias to this book, as it will be one of the four that serve as the backbone of my master’s thesis this fall.
The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen- Borrowed- Caldwell Public Library, hardback I picked up this YA novel when I was home for a few weeks of summer vacation. It was recommended to me by my niece, who even went to the library to pick me up a copy! This is a great YA novel about a young man dealing with the fallout of bullying and the terrible actions of his older brother.
Chasing the Sea: Lost Among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia by Tom Bissell- Purchased-paperback, used. Another travelogue. (My blog and life have been heavy on these for the last year.) This one follows a returned Peace Corps Volunteer who returns to the country of his service (which was cut short after just seven months). It is heavy on both a personal journey, as well as history and political background on Uzbekistan.
Osaka’s skyline rests across the bay from where I currently sit, laid out on a lounge chair in KIX, an international airport with the feel of small, regional airport. Out the window, on the left side of the panoramic view, runs a long bridge, connecting the airport to the city, looking as though it will collide with a huge building that towers over all everything else on the horizon. As I scan to the right, my eye is caught by a large Ferris wheel that sits right on the water, making me think this city might have more personality than first meets the eye through the haze. (Fog? Smog? I’m not sure what is causing the gray out there today, but gloom is definitely the overriding feel.)
I’ve been in this airport since 7AM, which means I’ve roamed its compact hall for six hours now, with at least three more to go. While the sign may say international airport and the planes come and go from international destinations, the concourse speaks a different tale. There are two cafes in the terminal, both small and both serving very little other than coffee and tea. Luckily, I had packed Pop Tarts in my backpack to tide me over, knowing I wouldn’t want much from my plane meals (and not having my favorite travel companion to swap out my entrée for his roll and brownie), so those became breakfast at KIX. Hours later when lunchtime rolled around, I revisited my two café options, finding the afternoon choices limited to hotdog-like meat wrapped in bread or shrimp ramen. Neither of these options was going to hit the spot, so I stepped into the one convenience-type store in the concourse. Stepped in is a bit of a stretch, as the shop was small enough that as my body was inside, my backpack remained outside. Not a lot of room to browse or turn. I quickly grabbed a few things I could recognize, (Pringles, a Coke and a weird little waffle thing), opting not to try the freeze dried tentacles, even though they were quite easily recognizable!
Between these two meals, both of which would make any nutritionist cringe, I did discover a hidden row of lounge chairs, making the perfect place to take a nap. Not far off the beaten path, these plush chairs had little cubbies around the top half, giving the sitter the feel of being in his/her own little pod. I knew I had found my home for a few hours! Pulling my ever-handy travel blanket and pillow out of my backpack, I kicked off my shoes, stashing them under the chair and tucked my bag in the space between the chair and the surrounding cubby and curled up for a mid-morning siesta. When I laid my head down, the closest gate was still occupied by the Malaysian Airlines plane I had come in on. When I finally pried my eyes open two hours later, those red and blue markings had been replaced by the green and red of Eva Airlines. Time passed. Planes moved. I slept.
Now, well-rested and kind of fed, I should be working on my thematic paper for my one of my literature classes. The ideas are all there, bouncing around my head: Tom Bissell, Uzbekistan, Peace Corps, the Aral Sea, the inner journey of a travel writer–bounce, rattle, rumble. The problem is, those ideas are competing for my attention with the planes that keep rolling up and down the runway, the boats trailing through the harbor (Is that a harbor? The ocean? A river? I have no idea what the body of water that lies between the Osaka airport and the city is.) and the strangely hilarious FaceTime conversation of the pre-teen in the next lounge cubby over. (Things I know about my cubby neighbor: She has an American accent. She is on my flight to SFO in a few hours. She is eating a sucker, loudly. I am pretty sure she memorized some list of current slang, using all of it much more liberally than any self-respecting tween should. Occasionally you have to use a full word in a sentence, even if you are talking to your bae and are totes excited to see her.)
If only the cubby around my head provided focus in the same way it shielded me during my earlier siesta…
Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far In 2015
I had to go back to my GoodReads page to come up with my top ten books of the year so far. At first I would worried I would only have travel narratives to share, but I realized I have actually squeezed in a few non-school related books in 2015. GoodReads tells me I’ve read 54 books so far this year, so it was hard to narrow down to just ten, but I did try to come up with a cross-section of genres and reading levels. As always, my list is presented in alphabetical order because it is hard enough to whittle my options down to ten, let alone to try to number them within those top picks!
Andrew’s Brain by E.L. Doctorow- (Fiction) The best word I can use to describe this novel is “strange” but it is strange in a good way. With an outside narrator giving a voice to Andrew’s thoughts and feelings, the reader gets a 3rd person perspective on a different person’s personal insights and thoughts. It is definitely odd and different, but worth the time!
Bird of Life, Bird of Death: A Political Ornithology of Guatemala by Jonathan Evan Maslow- (Non-fiction) Both a travelogue and a political examination of Guatemala, this book chronicles Maslow’s1983 journey through the war-torn country, in search of the mysterious and mystical quetzal bird.
Blood River: A Journey to Africa’s Broken Heart by Tim Butcher-(Non-fiction) A fascinating travel narrative of Butcher’s trip through the Congo, following in the footsteps of past English explorers. Butcher relies heavily on the help of others to make this dangerous journey, along the way recounting the colonial and post-colonial history of the nation, examining how it was broken apart and why it has not been able to reestablish itself as a functional state. This book is a travelogue, history lesson and cultural manifest all in one.
Chasing the Sea: Lost Among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia by Tom Bissell– (Non-fiction) After quitting the Peace Corps just seven months into his two years of service, Tom Bissell goes home to the US to sort out some emotional issues and moves on with is life as a journalist. Soon, Uzbekistan calls though, and he returns to the country of his service to write about the ecological disaster surrounding the Aral Sea. This travelogue touches on the political history of Uzbekistan, the religious history, current events, and environmental issues, while also profiling a number of everyday Uzbekistan residents.
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson –(Non-fiction) Always a fan of Larson, this is another well-written non-fiction narrative that weaves together multiple tales into a single story. I learned more about submarines from this book than I ever thought I could know, which may sound not that exciting, but Larson has a way of making obscure topics fascinating!
El Deafo by Cece Bell-(Graphic novel- YA fiction) I loved this graphic novel about what it is like to be different from everyone around you. The main character is deaf and must wear a large contraption to help her hear in school. The story explores how she learns to deal with not only the mechanics of such a machine, but how to function in a hearing world and how to navigate the world of friendships, which is never easy for anyone, but becomes more difficult as she changes schools.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng-(YA fiction) The best YA novel I’ve read this year. It appeals to adult readers as well as YA readers, with each reading it from a different viewpoint. As an adult, it was a good reminder about the pressure we put on kids and remembering that they have their own paths to forge in this life. I would recommend this for high school students, as well as anyone who is the parent of a high schooler.
The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber-(Fiction) A beautiful tale of another world and the first interaction between humans and a new form of life. On a planet being terraformed by humans, they must find a way of living with the inhabitants of this new place, beings who are like nothing that had been imagined. Not only do they not look like humans, but their culture is baffling to the newcomers. One man, willing to go live among them, beings to unravel the mysteries of their society, but with his ties to them comes a distancing of ties with the other humans.
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguroi- (Fiction) Another beautiful novel about memories and how they influence our lives as we get older. This book has the feel of a fairy tale, with dragons and knights, a touch of mythology with a riverboat that one must be ferried upon, and an overall touching narrative about love and family, honor and duty.
The Little Red Pen by Janet Stevens, Susan Stevens Crummel– (Picture book- fiction) My niece Skyped me to read this picture book to me earlier this year and I loved it! It is a hilarious take on the tale of The Little Red Hen, but the part that was the best was the personalities of each office supply. I haven’t looked at my work desk the same since enjoying this one a few months ago.
Re-blogging this article I wrote for A Traveling Life: Working to See the World
Travel. For many of us, it is the reason we get up and go to our jobs each day. I work so that I can afford to go awesome places, so that I can meet new people, and so that I can experience new adventures. Whether the goal is to go black water rafting on the south island of New Zealand, visit the Giant Buddha … via 10 Books to Inspire the Traveler in You.