Books on My Bedside Table – March 2012

03/21/2012

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Below are a few books I’ve read recently* over the last few months. They’re not new releases, but they’re definitely worth checking out. If you’re traveling soon and need some inflight reading, look no further.

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel, by Rolf Potts

This is one of the best books about travel I’ve ever read. It’s seriously smart and very well researched, but without becoming inaccessible. The format includes Rolf’s own stories, tips for the road, and quotes from both current and historical travelers.

While I don’t regularly embark on long-term travel, the type of travel that Potts promotes (“a privately meaningful manner of travel that emphasizes creativity, adventure, awareness, simplicity, discovery, independence, realism, self-reliance, and the growth of the spirit”) is exactly the type of travel I emjoy.

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, by Molly Wizenberg

Molly writes with a great combination of honesty and heartfeltness. The book chronicles her life to date, including how she met her husband (hint: it was a result of her writing at Orangette). Her chocolate cake, the last recipe in the book, is a real treat, and plenty of the other recipes have peaked my interest too. I like that they’re uncomplicated.

When traveling in Paris and Edinburgh she wrote about the feeling of traveling, the actual movement of it. She calls it Bonus Time, and I couldn’t agree more.:

“You’re in the plane or the train, and you can see the world outside the window, and you’re hurtling through it, but it’s very far away, impossible to reach. Inside, your movements are limited, but time feels oddly expansive, as though you’re getting an extra minute for every three. You’ve escaped from normal time, and your reward is a chance to just sit and relax, or read, or listen to music, or sleep. Or maybe you’ll have to do some work, but it moves along with less friction than usual, because you’re in Bonus Time, and it’s roomy in there.” Excerpted from October 22.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott

This was my first book by Lamott, and I enjoyed her causal, funny writing style. I love her instruction on “Shitty First Drafts,” you have to start somewhere. Starting is always the hardest part, and I often find that I have to beg, cajole, or bribe myself into just starting something. Setting the bar low for the first draft should help some.

This advice from her father on writing rang true to me: “‘Do it every day for a while … Do it as you would do scales on the piano. Do it by prearrangement with yourself. Do it as a debt of honor. And make a commitment to finishing things.’

Watership Down: A Novel, by Richard Adams

One of my friends mentioned that this was his favorite book. A few weeks later when I was wandering through a Borders clearance sale, I stumbled across a deeply discounted copy, and I’m really glad I did. I always had the impression that it was much like George Orwell’s Animal Farm, a thinly veiled allegory, but it’s not, and it’s much more. Adams stated in the introduction to the book, that “It is simply a story about rabbits made up and told in the car.”

Despite the book’s amazing success, Adams also recounts that it was rejected time and time again because, “[o]lder children wouldn’t like it because it is about rabbits, which they consider babyish; and younger children wouldn’t like it because it is written in an adult style.” Thankfully, he refused to change the book at all, and it found it’s success in publishing history. It’s truly an epic journey story about life – and rabbits. I loved it.

Interesting Note: I follow Molly Wizenburg and Rolf Potts on Twitter and via their own websites and came to their books after following their work online. When writing above, I instinctually called them by their first names. I came to know Anne Lamott and Richard Adams only from their published, hard copy books (now I follow Lamott on Twitter), but I called them by their last names. I think it says something meaningful about how people feel about the authors who are accessible online, or even who start as bloggers (in Molly’s case), or maybe it’s just me!

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