Monday, December 28, 2009
Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne is another great book to read while traveling or living abroad. I picked it up at a used book shop in Dubai the other day. Although this copy was marked as a children's classic the shop keeper couldn't find any mention of it being abridged.
Do you know the story? I thought I did. Turns out I was close but had a few silly notions in my head from the film version. When the daily paper announces it is now possible to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days, Phileas Fogg enters a bet with his fellowss at the Reform Club to do just that. He sets off later that evening with his new yet loyal servant, Passepartout, determined to arrive back in London in exactly 80 days.
The story itself is quite exciting. It's easy to imagine readers keeping tabs on Fogg when the story first appeared in serial form. The love story is a bit dry... but I supposed ol' Jules wasn't much of a lover.
Recommendation: A fun read when you're adventuring to a new place or just wishing you were.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
I was searching for travel writing centered in or around the United Arab Emirates when I came across Freya Stark's writings. Intrigued by Stark herself, known as the "Last Romantic Explorer", I couldn't decide which of her books to purchase. Since I had plopped myself down in front of the Middle East section blocking the fairly limited selection, I made the acquaintance of a British woman who spent a large portion of her life living in Jordan. She fully endorsed Stark's writings and claimed I couldn't choose unwisely.
Well, I kinda did. The Southern Gates of Arabia is Stark's retelling of her search for the lost city of Shabwa, located in present day Yemen. Although Stark is truly captivated by her surroundings, I wasn't entirely captivated by her writing, despite her talent with words. Perhaps I was feeling too restless? Or had too high of expectations?
I will probably read more of Stark in the future... and plan to research more about her life. From my limited knowledge I already know she's someone I admire. I mean... she learned Arabic.
Recommendation: I really want someone to fall in love with this book. I'm sorry it wasn't me.
Friday, December 4, 2009
The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois has such a charming premise, I couldn't help but add it to the stack of books I was planning to pack for travel. A good chunk of the book I consumed on the floor at JFK, waiting for my connecting flight. I think it was the perfect selection.
Beginning with these words: "There are two kinds of travel. The usual way is to take the fastest imaginable conveyance along the shortest road. The other way is not to care particularly where you are going or how long it will take you, or whether you will get there or not." The opposite page features a delightful sketch of a hot air balloon. What better way to inspire a traveler?
The story of The Twenty-One Balloons centers on Professor William Waterman Sherman and his loyalty to The Western American Explorer's Club. You see, Professor Sherman has been on a very big adventure. Setting off in a giant balloon with the aim of crossing the Pacific Ocean, Sherman was discovered three weeks later a bit distressed and in the Atlantic. How could this be, the entire country wants to know. Sherman vows that his colleagues of explorers be his first audience and he is raced to the West Coast amid the country's eagerness to hear his tale.
Recommendation: A delightful tale of exploration and adventure.