Sunday, July 15, 2007

Travel Books I'm Loving Now

I'm amazed that people have actually told me that they read books based on what I've been reading. They seem to trust my instincts, seeing as how I have a BA in Literature and pursued it at the graduate level for a couple of years. But I'm also a total geek. I have a "Reading is Sexy" t-shirt and I take pride in reading obscure stuff that nobody else reads. But I'm a book reviewer for Curled Up With a Good Book too, so I guess I can safely claim some authority on the subject (hey, I'm in it for the free books!).

Right now, my main passion is travel memoirs. I can't get enough of them. Some are painful to read (Rebecca West's 1200 page Black Lamb and Grey Falcon springs immediately to mind), but most fill me with sheer joy and inspire me to be a better travel writer and to get myself published in more prominent publications.

Among them:

- anything by Frances Mayes
First, I saw the movie - Under the Tuscan Sun. It is NOTHING like the book. Frances Mayes does not look like Diane Lane. She is also very happily married, not the divorcee that is portrayed in the movie. It is a good movie in its own right, but not a substitute for the book. Read the book. Seriously. It is AMAZING. I defy you to read it and not want to book the first thing smoking to Tuscany. Same with Bella Tuscany. And then there's her beautiful coffee table book, Bringing Tuscany Home, which is filled with gorgeous photos of her home in Cortona, Bramasole, as well as other delightful pictures and recipes of all the glorious food she makes and eats. Right now, I am within 100 pages from finishing A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveller. It is vintage Mayes...she writes with the kind of passion that I only feel and can never adequately express. She doesn't just visit a inhabits her soul. I love that she writes about places I've been (I'm drawn to books that are especially about places I've been). Her descriptions of Bath and Istanbul brought back such wonderful images of my own travels to those places.

- anything by Alice Steinbach
I love this woman just as much as I love Frances Mayes. Her writing is extremely evocative. Her two travel memoirs - Without Reservations: The Travels of an Indepedent Woman and Educating Alice: Adventures of a Curious Woman - fill me with awe. She is fearless, traveling alone all over the world the way that she does. I travel by myself often enough, but there are some places where I just wouldn't dare to attempt it.

Anyway, my aunt currently has custody of two of my Frances Mayes books and both of my Alice Steinbach books and she loves them and feels as inspired by them as I do.

I also love A Woman's Europe, which is a collection of travel essays by various authors (including Frances Mayes).

Notice that all these books are written by women?

Not to leave out the men...I love Peter Mayle's books about Provence. They're classics.

Another book that gave me a...bookgasm...(sorry, but I just had to use that word)...this proves how geeky I truly am:

A Reader's Guide to Writer's Britain

Yes, it combines 3 of my favorite things: literature, writers, and Britain. If you ever want to take a literary tour of the UK, this is the book to consult. My edition is slightly outdated, but it seems to cover nearly everything, from the most famous of British authors to the most obscure ones. It pains me that I only discovered this book after my last trip to England. I could plan whole vacations around this book. And I would. Unfortunately, we are running out of time, and England is not in the plans for the rest of our time here.

I had this brilliant idea for an article that was sadly already used by (curses!), but that I can still work with. It's basically a list of books that are about places, for those who love to read about a place while they're there. For example, Hemingway's A Moveable Feast was written mostly about Paris. Could you imagine anything better to bring along with you to read while you're in Paris? Well sure, other books about Paris. But you know what I mean. While in Bath, you have to read Jane Austen. You HAVE TO. She is from Bath and a few of her novels are set in Bath. It would be sacriligious not to. The Historian - well, that covers several locales: Istanbul, Amsterdam, Venice, Budapest, etc. etc. It is because of that book that I've been longing to go to Budapest for ages now, but I've already been to several other places mentioned in the book.

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