I’m backk in Budapestttt again.. partly because this city is spectacular and i just can’t get enough... and partly (mostly) because the flight to Tel Aviv was the cheapest from here (shout out to WiZZ Air).. following the hangovers I suffered in Belgrade, i’ve been doing a lot of relaxing since I’ve already taken in a lot of the sights & more importantly... READING!!
In addition to being a well traveled person, I decided I also wanted to be a well read person... or better read since i've set the bar pretty darn lowww... Between working & social obligations back home, I barely had time to curl up with a good book.. though, don't get me wrong, I I did read the Times every morning on my way to work. I originally wanted to read a book about or from country I was visiting, but since i was moving rather quickly, I didn’t accomplish that goal. So now I’m trying to get throughh the “65 books you should read before your 30" (i have 4 years left.. EKKK!! And I've read about 10.. poo)
However, I still think its important to read books about the places I’m visiting, as well as novels from writers who are from the area. Non-fiction books obviously provide historical context, while novels take the history and frame it as a personal narrative.
To quote journalist and travel writer, Robert Kaplan: “Travel writing is more important than ever as a means to reveal the vivid reality of places that get lost in the elevator music of 24-hour media reports…. Journalism desperately needs a return to terrain, to the kind of firsthand, solitary discovery of local knowledge best associated with old-fashioned travel writing.”
ANYWHOSE, here are a few books I’ve read, along with some of my favorite quotes :) obviously some books had more of a profound impact on me than others.. its ordered by how I read them... i particularly loved Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and The Razor’s Edge. If anyone has additional recommendations, feel free to send me a message :)
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Good easy beach read. Suspenseful... good for fans of Gone Girl.
Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw by Mark Bowden (Colombia)
Non-fiction about Colombian drug lord, Pablo Escobar, and the huge manhunt conducted by the US & Colombian government. Obviously I read this in Medellin.
Long Live Music by Andres Caicedo (Colombia)
Its about a high middle class girl living in Cali, and her changes in society by taking new experiences. It's full of strange and weird scenes, drugs, street life, rock and salsa music, comedy full of tragedy and film addiction. The author, Andrés Caicedo was born in Cali, Colombia in 1951 and committed suicide because he thought that living more than 25 years made no sense.
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (Spain)
“I can't stand it to think my life is going so fast and I'm not really living it.”
A classic that I've always tried to read, but could not get through.. alas being back in Spain prompted me to pick it up again & I finally finished it with an appreciation for the story and the vanities of being young.
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
“Don’t you want to be alive before you die?”
“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”
I felt obligated to read this book, since it won the Pulitzer Prize. I enjoyed it, but not as much as I expected to... given all the hype. I do like how all the stories run parallel and eventually intersect and the fact that even if it's a story about WWII, it's not about the war, per say.
Even Cowgirl Get the Blues by Tom Robbins
“There are many things worth living for, a few things worth dying for, and nothing worth killing for.”
“Let us live for the beauty of our own reality.”
“Growing up is a trap. When they tell you to shut up, they mean stop talking. When they tell you to grow up, they mean stop growing. Reach a nice level plateau and settle there, predictable and unchanging, no longer a threat.”
“To live fully, one must be free, but to be free one must give up security. Therefore, to live one must be ready to die. How's that for a paradox?”
I've never had a book impact me the way this book did. I cried after I finished it.. not because I was sad, but because i really, really connected with it. It's BIZARRE... I can't even begin to describe the plot (just copy and pasted from Wikipedia thank you very much!) Sissy Hankshaw, the novel's protagonist, is a woman born with enormously large thumbs who considers her mutation a gift. The novel covers various topics, including free love, drug use, political rebellion, animal rights, body odor, religion, and yams. Robbins style of writing is completely trippy... but I love love love it... and I'm excited to read more of his books :) It did take me a while to get into but once I got into it, I was hooked.
The Razor’s Edge by W somerset maugham
“Plans are one thing and fate another. When they coincide, success results. Yet success mustn't be considered the absolute. It is questionable, for that matter, whether success is an adequate resposne to life. Success can eliminate as many options as failure.”
“All a person can do in this life is gather about him his integrity, his imagination, and his individuality – and with these ever with him, out front and in sharp focus, leap into the dance of experience.”
“The fact that a great many people believe something is no guarantee of its truth.”
“Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it. If change is of the essence of existence one would have thought it only sensible to make it the premise of our philosophy.”
“You see, money to you means freedom; to me it means bondage.”
Some girl I shared a room with in Colombia recommended this book to me and I instantly fell in love with it... maybe it's because the protagonist of the novel, Larry, is a young American in search of the absolute. There were so many (vain) characters who reminded me of people I knew back home... I'm excited to start his other book, Of Human Bondage.
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (Dresden)
“Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops.”
“All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist.”
As I mentioned in a previous blog post.. I had no idea this great American classic took place in Dresden so I made sure to read it while I was there... Not a huge fan.. a bit too sci-fi for me.. but I did like how Vonnegut frames the concept of time and class in the U.S.
Balkans Ghost by Robert D. Kaplan (The Balkans)
This was a particularly dense book that took FOREVER for me to finish.. but i thought it was important for me to understand the history of the Balkans because it's something I never really heard about when I was in schoool.. or in the news for that matter. It really helped me understand the political/social situation a lot better and helped me connect with some local people I met (and helped me to avoid any conversation taboos)
Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest Jail by Thomas McFadden (Bolivia)
Another great recommendation from a person I met in a hostel in Poland. It's an unbelievable story about a British drug dealer's nearly five years inside La Paz's San Pedro Prison n. It provides a unique window on a bizarre and corrupt world where some inmates keep pets and rich criminals can sustain a lavish lifestyle. The charismatic McFadden soon learns how to survive, and even thrive, in an atmosphere where crooked prison officials turn up at his private cell to snort lines of coke. By chance, he stumbles on an additional source of income when he begins giving tours of the prison to foreign tourists.
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway (Sarajevo)
A weapon does not decide whether or not to kill. A weapon is a manifestation of a decision that has already been made.”
“This is how....life happens. One small thing at a time. A series of inconsequential junctions, any or none of which can lead to salvation or disaster. There are no grand moments where a person does or does not perform the act that defines their humanity. There are only moments that appear, briefly, to be this way.”
“It's a rare gift to understand that your life is wondrous, and that it won't last forever.”
It was a quick easy read, but also a really beautifully written book that provided a human insight to the toll the violence took on the citizens of Sarajevo during the siege. It was based on the story of Vedran Smailovic, the cellist who, in 1992, played in a bombed-out Sarajevo square for 22 days in memory of the 22 people who were killed by a mortar attack, this is a novel about four people trying to maintain a semblance of their humanity in the besieged city.
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
I'm always happy," Sasha said. "Sometimes I just forget.”
I read this book when I was missing home.. and it didn't make things easier, especially since it takes place back in my old hood, but it made me appreciate the serendipitous events that only happen in NYC when you're young.
How to Understand Israel in Under 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden (Israel)
It's a graphic novel, which I thought was an interesting way to frame the narrative. It was a quick read and about a Jewish American's experience on birthright right and her struggle to understand the conflict. It wasn't overly dramatic and i think it's something i can relate to.
The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan (Israel)
I had listened to the Fresh Air segment, so I was excited to read this book. It provides both the historical background and a personal narrative on the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. It's about a friendship between a Palestinan man and an Israeli woman who lived in the same house... the man before 1948, the woman after. It's a beautiful book that addresses the complexity of the situation and highlights the emotions of the people living thru it day in and day out.