This year was a year of intrigue about the Middle Ages. Not new to me, the time period just manifested more than usual this year. Pillars of the Earth is an epic novel set (mostly) in medieval England. It follows a man obsessed with building a cathedral and his society obsessed and ruled by the dogma of the Catholic Church. This 983-page book is undoubtedly a page turner, although I listened to its 40-odd hours of audio book. Anyone remotely interested in Medieval Europe, architecture, history, religion, or travel, will love this book.
Keeping with the medieval theme, Narcissus and Goldmund is a book I revisited, and would consider one of my all-time favorites. The two main characters meet in a monastery, one a man of intellect and discipline, the other of art and wonder. But Goldmund needs Narcissus to nurture this creative free spirit into discovering the true nature of his self.
OK, technically I listened to an abridged version of a BBC dramatization of Sons and Lovers, but in the coming year I will read the original. This was my first experience with DH Laurence, and frequent placement of Sons and Lovers in 20th century lit top tens lists encouraged me to seek out the novel. Sons and Lovers deals with the nature of possessive love and sexual attraction.
I listened to this audio book a couple times, and although I’m entranced by it, I’m mystified by the reason it’s a good novel. I mean it must be if I so enthralled by these characters of the lost generations and their cafe-hopping and traveling through post-World War France and Spain. So I can’t say much more than the characters and their conversations drive this story and I’ll probably read, er, listen to it again some day.
This book was a bestseller. I actually got into the Freakonomics podcast long before I read the book. After enjoy several episodes on my IPod en route on my travels, I found a copy of the hardcover of the original book at a Singapore flea market. It’s an easy and thoroughly interesting read. In it you’ll learn stuff like what makes your kids smart and why crime decreased so drastically in the 1990’s.
Pretty much anything Malcolm Gladwell writes is interesting. Blink is dedicated to analyzing how our brain makes decisions. What you’ll take away from this book is just how important first impressions are and our uncanny ability to make spontaneous decisions that are “often as good as—or even better than—carefully planned and considered ones.” After reading this book, you will be listening to your intuition with more care.
This is more of a reference guide book, but if you are an enthusiastic world traveler or somebody who likes to save money, this book is for you. In it, author Tim Leffel reveals the world’s cheapest countries for traveling. He makes the valid point that you should travel to to these countries, not only because your dollar goes much further, but because they have established travel routes and are interesting places culturally.
This Eric Newby story from 1958 is hailed as a travel classic. A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush is praised for transforming travel writing. To be honest, I’m only halfway through the book, but so far it’s good. The subject deals with inexperienced Newby’s ill-prepared journey from Mayfair to Afghanistan and the mountains of the Hindu Kush.
I certainly cannot give unbiased thoughts on this memoir by Pete Townshend, the guitarist and principle songwriter for the Who. It isn’t safe to make heroes of rock stars, but if I ever had to name my one favorite or most influential, it would be him. The most literary of rockers, Townshend’s story is a raw and honest one, not to mention very well-written. The only problem with it? I keep pausing the story to listen to all the brilliant songs in the Who’s catalog.
You’ll notice I’ve place direct links to the book titles on Amazon. I’m an affiliate with Amazon, so any purchases you make on Amazon (even items other than the books listed here) will give me a small percentage of the sale. It doesn’t cost you anything extra and it’s an easy way to say thanks if you enjoyed my selections. Just make sure you click the links from this post. Thanks!