Monday, July 5, 2010

Oh the places you'll go!

Here at Kepler’s we are well aware that times are tough-as an independent book, we are far from immune from the effects of the recession. Since we may not be able to afford the vacation of our dreams, the staff here wanted to offer you some literary vacation recommendations that can appease your jet-setting urges.

Kepler’s favorite foodie, Penelope, recommends a trip to the Eternal City with Anthony Doerr’s Four Season in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World: This beautiful book chronicles a Four Seasons in the life of new parents under extraordinary circumstances, not only have Anthony and his wife just welcomed twin boys but hours after his wife delivers, he gets word from Rome that he has been awarded a Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Off to Rome they went, twins, generous doses of panic, nutrigrain bars and all. Four Seasons in Rome is a love letter to one of the most beautiful cities, for those who yearn and live to travel and find being anonymous in a new city their perfect state of mind. You experience Rome, the People, dozens of memorable meals and an entire city sit in silence on the cusp of Pope John Paul II passing.

Fair warning: make sure you have enough in your bank account to book a ticket to Rome, because that is exactly what you will be doing after you put this one down.

The Children’s Department Events Coordinator, Angela, suggests an excursion to Paris with Stephen Clarke’s A Year in the Merde: This book kept me laughing throughout a flight from London to San Francisco. It is the story of a young British guy who goes to Paris to open up English-style tea shops for a French company and finds out, for example, how to get served at a bistro, the importance of a shrug, how to be rude (in a polite way of course), how never to cut but to tear lettuce, and how not to buy a house in the French countryside. This is one of the funniest books I've read in ages.

That jet-setter Angela also reccomends Tony Hawkes’ Round Ireland with a Fridge: So you go out drinking one night and wake up the next morning with a bet (with your signature attached) laying next to you. And it's a bet that you can hitchhike around Ireland with a fridge for 100 pounds. And of course you decide that you'll do this. Why not? Who knows what you'll find. As he says, it's a totally purposeless idea, but a damn fine one.

Thus starts this travel essay, which is one of the funniest books I have ever read. (Imagine a fridge surfing if you can.) Yet along the way, Tony Hawks realizes that the fridge opens up the country--it's people and places-- to him. It brings joy to people's lives--and something to talk and laugh about. It's a wonderful book. It makes you want to hop on a plane and try the same trip, OK maybe with a smaller appliance. It makes you bask in people's fundamental goodness. It is the perfect beach read.

Voyage to Africa, specifically Malawi, with buyer Marylin in William Kamkwamba’s memoir The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: William Kamkwamba’s captivating memoir is about growing up in a rural farming village where technology is starting to trickle into his community. William and his friends play like kids anywhere, repurposing any old thing into toy cars, or Rambo style rifles. He has a natural curiosity about how things work – radios, windmills, cars, machines of any kind.

A devastating famine strikes Malawi reducing villages, communities and families to the slimmest existence with all money now spent on food. This means no more

schooling for William. Instead, he must now help his family survive by any means he can. He’s disappointed at his loss of daily camaraderie with his friends and classmates and makes his way to his village library to hone his reading skills. There he discovers books about physics and ele

ctricity and, with renewed interest and energy, he learns all he can about these sciences.

If you like mysteries, Kepler's very own Gift Buyer, Ann, suggests a trip to Egypt with Elizabeth Peters in her novel Crocodile on the Sandbank: Too old and sensible to marry, heiress and burgeoning

Egyptologist, Amelia Peabody decides to travel the world. In Cairo a lovely and hapless young woman who’s been abandoned without means by her lover falls under Amelia’s protection and from that point nothing is what it seems. Amelia’s journey is disrupted by kidnapping attempts, grumpy archaeologists, British lords, mysterious dead bodies and mummies!

In this, the first of many bestselling mysteries, Amelia discovers her passion for Egypt and archeology and solves her first case with the common sense and force of personality she has become renowned for.

I know I have already mentioned a book set in Italy, however I cannot resist mentioning Frances Mayes' latest, Every Day in Tuscany (she was a phenomenal speaker!):when I first picked up this book up, I was terrified that it would make my own summer spent in a Tuscan villa pale in comparison. What I should have been frightened of was the insatiable urge to hop onboard the next flight to Italy. While many authors can transport a reader to various locals, Mayes is a master storyteller, completely immersing the reader in the sounds, smells, and tastes of the slow-paced rural Italian lifestyle. I could taste the homemade ricotta cheese and the wild strawberries, hear the firecrackers celebrating Italy’s world Cup victory, see the Luca Signorelli paintings that Frances and her husband admired all over Italy, and I could smell the salty Mediterranean air during Mayes' trip to Portofino. Similarly heartwarming is the intimacy with which Mayes builds and maintains fruitful relationships with the locals-from classically Tuscan wine merchants to the large family Cuban-Americans who own a nearby villa. What rings true throughout the novel is Mayes’ overwhelming love of all things Italian: the beautiful golden light, the respect and love for the freshest, ripest food ingredients, and the sometimes shocking but always heartfelt generosity of the Tuscan people, which is only to be matched by their zeal for life.

If none of these take you to the local of your dreams, Megan recommends Bill Bryson, whose books include In a Sunburned Country, Notes from a Small Island, Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe, and the Mother Tongue.

New release The Woman Who Fell From the Sky: An American Journalist in Yemen by Jennifer Steil has been received great critical acclaim. According to Tahir Shah, author of The Caliph's House, "Steil puts humanity and color into her description of a country most Americans know only as a desert haven for terrorists. Her affection for Yemen and its people will make readers want to see it for themselves. A lovely book that offers a large measure of cultural understanding in a region that is too easily misunderstood and caricatured."

If you are the thrill-seeing type, Rory Stewart will take you on a trip to remember: a walk through Afghanistan. His book The Places in Between chronicles Stewart's trials and tribulations, and ultimate success as he walks through the war-torn country.

Hope these choices will keep your travel bug satisfied all summer long.

Happy Monday!

Blog Girl