27 February 2010

Literary Travel Companions

This is what I've been reading during the trip (in reverse order), and what I thought about it.

18. East of Eden (John Steinbeck). Another great American classic, read with gread pleasure in the trains that carried us through Texas and then up north through the snow.

17. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee). For our trip through the US, I thought I should read an American classic, which it is. A great story from the American South.

16. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Haruki Murakami). As I'm writing this, I'm not even halfway through the book, but it's fantastic. Could read it for hours at a time (long train trip coming up tomorrow!). Well written, mysterious, makes me think about things... Great.

15. Riding the Iron Rooster (Paul Theroux). Another travel account, this time about Theroux' train travels in China, in the 1980s. I had been waiting to read this since we were in China, but couldn't find the book until we were in Thailand. Now there were some points where I disagreed with his views (not about China but about Poland), but it was an interesting and entertaining book to read. A lot of things have changed in China since then, but some things haven't changed that much (the spitting, for instance...).

14. Surviving the Killing Fields (Haing S. Ngor). This is an autobiography of a survivor of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. It made me finally understand what happened exactly in Cambodia and why, and how peoples minds work in this country. Before going to Cambodia and doing a bit of reading, I knew about Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, that they had killed people, that the country was still poor and terribly corrupt, but nothing more. Everybody in the west knows about Vietnam, but Cambodian history is still not very much talked about. This book is a must-read if you want to have an insight about what happened there, and why, and what went wrong.

13. The End of Poverty (Jeffrey Sachs). This book opened a whole new world for me, the one about development economics. It's extremely well written and easy to understand. It was interesting to read while travelling through still developing countries. It got me very interested in development and how it all works, and angry at the rich countries (especially big USA) for not doing more and just talking all the time. I will for sure do some further reading as soon as I can.

12. Catfish and Mandala (Andrew X Pham). Well written travel book about a Vietnamese-American going back to Vietnam to find his roots. Great to read while in Vietnam.

11. The Old Patagonian Express (Paul Theroux). A favourite, of course. Theroux keeps my spirits up and makes me feel normal if I don't find everything beautiful and great.

10. One Man's Bible (Gao Xingjian). Good book to read while in China, it gives an interesting picture of the Cultural Revolution. It's not an easy read and sometimes a bit "strange" but still interesting. Had to hide it deep down in my backpack because it's banned in China...

9. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden). The ideal book to shorten a long train trip, but a bit too "easy" for my taste. No big surprises in there...

8. Midnight Children (Salman Rushdie). A more difficult read than the other books, but excellent.

7. Animal Farm (George Orwell). Bought back in Russia when we were happy to find a bookshop with a few English books, but I only read it (or re-read it, had already read it back in my school days) between Japan and South Korea. Always great, a classic.

6. Underground - The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche (Haruki Murakami). I bought this book because it was mentioned by Paul Theroux and because we were in Japan. He collected stories from people who experienced the sarin attack by Aum in Tokyo. It reveals a lot about how the Japanese "work". It made a big impression on me.

5. Meister und Margarita (Mikhail Bulgakov). I was very happy to receive this book from Juergen, who had brought it from Austria but when he heard that I had run out of reading material and that it was just impossible to find foreign-language books in Ulan-Ude, he very spontaneously offered it to me. Thank you very much! A great book by a great russian writer, definitely worth reading (I would recommend you buy it in a translation in your native language).

4. Die Nacht von Lissabon (E. M. Remarque). I bought it because that's what they had at the bookstore in St. Petersburg. Interesting book and very well written.

3. Die Apothekerin (Ingrid Noll). Very entertaining. Lasted for one 24-hour train trip.

2. Ghost Train to the Eastern Star (Paul Theroux). An excellent travel book, a must for train lovers and independent travellers. Miguel read it as well (after remarking that it was "too big", he read it all in one go...) ;-)

1. Von Sibirien nach Japan (Klaus Scherer). The making-of (and a lot of background information and photos) of a TV programme about Siberia (Kamkatchka and Sakhalin) and Northern Japan. Very entertaining, and a good preparation for our trip!

1 comment:

  1. hi guys, reding your last few posts. While I feel so sorry about the itchy spots (is it better?) this one about the reading companions is so charming... shines with teenage days when 3 months of summer holidays would throw you in the 'reading companion' kind of mood.
    Actually, I did buy around those days "Il maestro e Margherita", and never read it. It is somewhere at my parents', and since we'll be going through my parents hous with Anne and here relatives heading to Croatia for a few days, I will bring it with me, and let us see how far I will go with it.
    Good luck with your ferry trip. But that is still Russia, isn't it?
    I am surprised that you'll be leaving Russia ahead of the end of the 3 months visa... anyways, guess you're also in need of a change.
    Hug you both,
    Gio

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