The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell

This was a nice and fun book about Denmark. I am writing the review for it rather late as I spent about 9 days after it studying for and passing a work examination. I never studied for something so hard in my life.

In any case, the weekend before, I read this little gem about Denmark. I really enjoyed the author’s humor and candidness. It is indeed laid out as a year with each month having a theme about life in Denmark.

As with many Europhiles people and especially one who reads books on happiness, I was interested in Denmark. I have not been and would like to go. It sounds idyllic in many ways; it’s progressive, the capital has a world-renowned food scene, and it scores well on many tests on human happiness. I also find myself really into a lot of Danish life described in the book. I can understand what “hygge” means. I love cycling, baking, and knitting too.

Of course, Denmark is not heaven on Earth, and I don’t even mean the taxes. I did find it interesting to know how violent it was and how the people did like to test the system of their health. I am fascinated by aspects of the culture and country. I don’t think all countries or most can achieve what they have, but there are definitely lessons one can take on the communal or municipal levels. It’s clear supporting the arts, encouraging clubs and physical activity, and community events make people happier.

All in all, I really enjoyed reading the author and her family’s first year in Denmark. In fact, I’d read another book about it.

Read July 22-23, 2016

Sunday Salon: Return

Sunday Salon

Hello, everyone! I am back for a late Sunday Salon. I got back June third, but I am still adjusting to life back in North America. I am recovering from a bad cold and jetlag.

This domain also just recovered from a downtime and being misplaced for at least a week.

My trip was both boring and stressful at times. I would like to say that I will post photos or blog about it, but I have learned I am a quite a bad travel blogger. I still have not posted the photos to when I was in NYC last year.

I will, however, blog some books reviews of the books I read while on my trip. I read 12 books in a little over three weeks. It was a good time to catch up on mostly fluff reading. Since I can group the books and I’ve forgotten a lot of the nuanes to them, it will probably only result in couple of book reviews in the near future.

Currently, I am still trying to read Kipling’s Kim, but I have also added Balzac’s Pere Goriot, and a biography on Deng Xiaoping. All three books that I have not touched since I got back from my trip.

Blogging to resume soon.

Have a great week!

Sunday Salon: May Break

Sunday Salon

Hello, everyone!

It’s been awhile since my last post. I have not been blogging or reading very much the last couple of months. In fact, I’ve been trying to read Kipling’s Kim for over a month now. It’s not engaging me, but I actually do not have time.

I have been preparing for a trip to China. In fact, I will be gone from the blog and most of the internet until June 4th.

The good news is that I have loaded up my Kindle and bought a new book for the trip. I rarely buy new books. I’ve actually resolved not to buy any books until Christmas, but I had to buy these books as they were French! It was special occasion. I bought Balzac’s Pere Goriot and how could I resist the urge to buy the classic Le Petit Prince.

All my other hobbies have fallen to the wayside as well. I don’t knit as much, and I am taking a break from running until I get back. I have been doing some hot yoga though. I still watch a lot of TV shows.

With summer coming – my traditional reading season – I can hit the books more, work out, and have more hobby and outdoor time.

Be back in June. A la prochaine!

Grounded by Seth Stevenson

This is a tale of a couple who circumnavigate the globe without flying in a plane. I picked up this book because I I really liked Stevenson’s prose. He appears more than once in the Best American Travel Writing series. His sense of humour seems closely aligned to mine. It’s sometimes dry, often observant and understated

The way he describes horrible travel conditions is hilarious, even when it shouldn’t be. I love travel as much as Stevenson does, but is is quite awful yet wonderful all at once. At the same time, the book offers some intelligent observations about cultures and above all else, transportation and means of travel.

While this book was written about seven years ago, the discussion about the airline industry and flying is still relevant. Flying sucks, and like Stevenson, I much prefer trains or even boats. He also has criticism against cruises in general. All of this inspires me that if I had the means, I would do a similar travel voyage around the world with as few flights as possible.

Read January 5, 2014.

Paris in Love by Eloisa James

Paris in Love by Eloisa James

I found this memoirs about living in Paris through GoodReads. I do love the site, and it gives me numerous book recommendations every time I am there.

I have read several books on France and lived in Rhone-Alps one glorious spring and summer in 2010. If i had unlimited financially resources, France would definitely would be one of the countries I’d install myself. On the books about France, a number have been memoirs of living in Paris. This is at least my fifth nonfiction book about Paris.

The book is about a family of two sabbatical professors and their children. The author writes the book mostly in paragraph snippets and vignettes. I was not too keen on this format as it feels there is a lack of narrative. Though there is something quaint about it as it it s written snapshots in a the family photo album. The more I read it though, the more I got into this style as James like many expats in France describe the interesting little moments. I was soon sighing about my own memories of France and Paris. There was continuity in the stories about her children, her husband’s friend Florent, and the author’s food and fashion life.

There are a number of travel tips within the memoirs as it often happens and a couple of good cooking and fashion tips. I really grew to like this memoirs more than I thought. I recommend it to other readers with a fascination for memoirs and Paris. I still think the best Paris memoirs is Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik which I was blessed to take with me to Paris the first time I went. Both recommended.

Read February 8-9th 2013.

The Best American Travel Writing 2012 Ed. by William T. Vollman

The Best American Travel Writing 2012

I’ve been reading this series of travel writing for about a decade now. I almost always find one or two selections that engrossing, provocative, or find the overall collection varied and interesting. This year’s selection was not as stimulating as previous ones. It was much more serious, somber and gritty.There were two stories about Northern Ireland and its troubles since the Peace Accord, one about South Africa and apartheid, and two on Mexico.

Perhaps it was the that 2011 year didn’t offer that many choices, but each year is slightly different due to the contributing editor. It isn’t as if the articles were badly written, but I’ve come to expect a mishmash and eclectic mix of articles from this series, and I found there was more uniformity in this one. I found myself forcing to read the book to finish it and not because I looked forward to the articles. I still adore this series, but the 2012 edition was not one of my favourites.

Read February 1st-7th 2013.

Checking back on my GoodReads account, I noticed I missed 2008 and the years 2001-3. My library does not have 2001, but I must have missed out on 2002 or 2003 for some reason. 2008 I missed out because I was not in the country. I will definitely pick up the 2008 to read.

The Best American Travel Writing 2011

Best American Travel Writing 2011

I have been reading this series for at least five or six years now. I can’t remember when I started, but I’ve read almost every annual anthology. I always enjoy these books. I would like the chance to read more periodicals, but I rarely have the opportunity. I also like reading about travel, but I have been doing less of that reading and indeed, travelling in general. I haven’t really travelled for the last two years, and it’s not good. I still dream of it, and reading this series always makes me appreciative of how big our world can be at times and how small we are. I enjoy how multi-faceted travel writing in these books are. It encompasses so many topics. In this book there is discussion and focus on Monet, NASCAR, Saudi Arabia, Haiti, Denmark’s Free Town, life on a freighter ship in the 1970, Moscow traffic, sense of direction, vampires, Miami and more. Travel writing itself embodies so many subjects such as news international affairs, politics, history, and anthropology to name a few subjects. Even though the book is titled The Best American Writing, many of the authors are not native to the USA and like good travelers are open after experiences moving around or adventuring abroad.

For many years, I think I’ve harbored some dream of being a travel writer. I don’t know if I have the necessary ability for it, but writing and travel are two of my passions so it stands to reason that if I ever got the chance to be paid for it, I’d take it. I doubt that will happen anytime soon, but when I travel, I try to write. I think it’s a natural marriage of sorts. So I will continue to dream of travel and my pen will be ready as well. In the meantime, I should read more travel books.

Read April 21st 2012.

Sunday Salon: Travel and Reading

Today, I am listening to the audiobook for Charlaine Harris’s Club Dead and reading some Casino Royale. I think I’ve given up A Christmas Carol; I’m going to pick it up in July or something.

These streets in the 7th.

Last weekend, I was actually reading in Paris, France. I had brought one book with me and that is my copy of Adam Gopnik’s Paris to the Moon which is one of my favourite collection of personal essays and books about Paris. It’s very funny and pleasing to read about the places he writes about such as the Jardin du Luxembourg, Café de Flore, Les Deux Magots, Musée d’Orsay, and others and actually go there later in the day. Reading while on a voyage is not uncommon to me or any other bibliophile, but I think it was the first time that I had read so much of the place I was actually in. Since the book was written ten years ago, I noticed a lot of changes. I have read a lot of travelogues and travel nonfiction, but I do not travel to these places all that much so it was refreshing to read and contemplate the changes presented while noticing what was very true. I have actually yet to read anything very London since getting here since I acquire and read fiction here.

Speaking of which, I acquired a few books this week by chance, mostly ones that have gone on Bookmooch. I am pleased to say that in the pile was Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander which I had listened to audiobook last spring and enjoyed so I’m glad to own a copy as well as the next book in the series Dragonfly in Amber. This works out perfectly since I own the next two books Voyager and Drums of Autumn which are back in Canada. I have enough books on small tiny shelf here in London and my limited free time that I shouldn’t get more book nor think I’ll actually get through them all before the end of 2009.

On a final note, I usually leave these things in the Literary Links, but I have to plug The Guardian’s 1000 Novels Everyone Must Read. I have penchants for book lists and this is one I can get behind whether you agree with the selections or not. Here is the definitive list and you can search if your favourites are there, or browse through the novels by category/genre.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Literary Links:

ZenHabits has a How to Instill Love of Reading for Your Child or Yourself

I think I linked this before, but it’s a good list: ZenHabits’s 50 Amazing and Essential Novels to Enrich Your Library

book.populair.eu – A directory of web 2.0 book sites.

15 Things Kurt Vonnegut Said Better Than Anyone Else

The Geography of Bliss

The Geography of Bliss: One Grumps’ Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner is his voyages for happiness and the meaning of it. He travels to ten countries finding how what makes us happy and what makes us miserable. The countries as follows in the book: The Netherlands, Switzerland, Bhutan, Qatar, Iceland, Moldova, Thailand, Great Britain, India, and America. The happiest place seems to be Iceland, and I found myself relating to and fascinated by the Icelandic approaches to life. The book is well researched and there are many discussions and threads on happiness, its relation to trust, envy, choices, productivity, society, individuality, altruism, spirituality, and more. There are lots of quotations from philosophers, writers, scientists, and the intriguing people he interviews. I noted many of them in my tumblr blog; I have a thing for quotes. It was insightful, amusing, and enlightening. As with many travel books, there were stories of many people of different walks of life and as a journalist, Weiner takes them all down deftly and expertly. Also like a journalist, he was personal without being overly so in the memoir portions of the book. I quite like this book, finding it thought provoking and something necessary to my own contemplations about what makes us happy or at least content. It is a fascinating topic, and mixed with the ideas of culture and geography, it can open ideas of how we all lead lives. I do not think it is a self-help book, but definitely consider it a more philosophical travelogue. Recommended.
 

Best American Travel Writing 2007

My favourite travel essay anthology series. Okay. The only travel essay anthology series that I read. Still, I’ve read every book in the series since 2002. I enjoy each one immensely. Some stories are more memorable than others, but each guest editor deftly chooses some gems and amazing stories from the lands afar. I love travel writing due to my incessant escapism so these stories are the best from periodicals and the like. In the 2007 edition guest edited by Susan Orlean, there is the story of Tokelau and its referendum for nation building in the South Pacific, Djibouti and its national addiction to khat, an idyllic walking holiday in the south of France, a particularly long article on mysterious and perplexing Libya, and more. This is not much of a review because I find that I consistently like each volume in the series which has humor, horror, romance, and travely self-discovery. I recommend the series as a whole.

Eat, Pray, Love

A memoir of looking for pleasure, devotional and the balance of the two in Italy, India, and Indonesia. I first started reading last spring/summer, but then I had to return it to the library. It was already a bestseller, but it’s only gotten more popular (as it was featured in Oprah) since then. Some people have been critical of the book for being self-absorbed. I’ve read a lot of travel books and memoirs, and they are all personal in one way or another. Travel is one of the ultimate self-confrontational and education experiences in life. Writing a memoir means evaluation of self, ideas, etc. I can understand why this book probably rubs some people the wrong way. Elizabeth Gilbert can be rather melodramatic writer. Yes, it can be amusing, but sometimes, the writing is seems affected and hammy especially in early chapters. Everything is pointed out, but not in an observant or subtle way. It got a lot better as the book progressed and she traveled more. As she seemed to learn more about life, spirituality, and other people, the book became a fun and enjoyable read. Partly because the author and I share similar interests in spirituality, and there are few things she tried in the book that I have been pondering myself. The book is not the best or most educational travel memoir book, and it’s very personal. Overall, it was a good read, but I understand why the narrative would not be everyone’s cup of tea.

No Reservations

This was suppose to be read for the In Their Shoes memoirs/bio challenges, but I got it from the library early and couldn’t put if off til 2008. Besides, it’s more coffee table book than memoirs as it is full of pictures. I love Tony Bourdain since I read A Cook’s Tour years ago. This is a sortof companion book to his cable travel-cum-food show just as ACT was, but more on the photos though he does write some insightful things. He has a dream job of mine. He gets paid to write, cook, and travel. Bourdain writes in the book that the show and the photos give a taste and a view of the places. They never claim to show “the best of”, “the real” or “the comprehensive guide to” any destinations. I like that, and travelling and travel photography is often just that. The photos were taken by the crew of NR, and many are documentary style as a result. Quite a few photos seemed to have been taken by a camera phone. It isn’t just photos of course. Bourdain’s writing is genuine, sometimes crass, blunt, and as always, funny. There is commentary on the places he and the show have visited including the well documented time the crew were stuck in Beirut during the July 2006 Lebanon and Israel conflict. There are aso small sections on drinking, washrooms, chefs, places to eat (not a big resource, but solid nonetheless), hazards, tips, and equipment for the adventurous traveler. Enjoyable, quick read with some good travel insights and tips.