Posts Tagged ‘books’

My pre-trip reading list for Barcelona…

Barcelona, the Great Enchantress, by Robert Hughes

This book is part of National Geographic’s Directions series which publishes travel writing that weaves together a powerful sense-of-place, personal memoir, and historical perspective by “some of the world’s most prominent and highly regarded literary figures.”  Susanna Moore’s book, I Myself Have Seen It, that I read in Hawaii earlier this year, is from this same series. Hughes’ book covers the history of his own relationship with the city starting in 1966, while incorporating the city’s larger history from its beginnings as an outpost of the Roman Empire to its modern identity as one of the foremost artistic and cultural meccas of Europe, featuring some of Barcelona’s foremost historical figures along the way.

Iberia, by James A. Michener

Another epic novel by the incomparable Michener, Iberia explores the history, culture, and lives of the people of a nation that became the author’s second home. Each chapter is centered around a different city or geographic locale ad its impact on Spain’s identity and place in history. Chapter ten is specifically about Barcelona.

Spain: A Traveler’s Literary Companion, edt. Peter Bush and Lisa Dillman

More from one of the best series for travel literature out there today, Whereabouts Press presents Spain: A Traveler’s Literary Companion featuring writing, arranged geographically, from some of its natives best-loved literary figures. The section on Barcelona includes four stories from authors such as Juan Marsé and Carme Riera.



Spain in Mind: An Anthology, edt. Alice Leccese Powers

Spain in Mind is an anthology featuring reflections and writings on Spain from some of history’s most famous authors including Langston Hughes, Lord Byron, and Ernest Hemingway. “…the glimpses of another world in Spain in Mind will enchant you.” [from the back cover]

The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

A post-WWII novel about an antiquarian book dealer in Barcelona who stumbles upon a mystery that leads him into “one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets–an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.”

Don’t these sound great? I can’t wait to get started!

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Evedal and Helgasjön, Sweden

June 2011

[See the complete album here!]

“I am seized with desire to be something more. Something whose echo can drown out the rattle of death.” (Alobar)

“I cannot tolerate the passive obliteration of all that I am to myself.” (Alobar)

I may be mad, [Alobar] thought, but I prefer the shit of this world to whatever sweet ambrosias the next might offer

“Come with me, Alobar, for while we must go forever in despair, let us also go forever in the enjoyment of the world.” (Pan)

“If being alive is not a virtue, then there is little virtue in virtue, that is what I say.” (Alobar)

“The immortals are gone. Now we are the immortals.” (Kudra)

–Tom Robbins’s Jitterbug Perfume

[See the complete album here!]

[Images by Kelly Overvold; pictures of Kelly taken by Scott Zaban.]

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Växjö, Sweden

June 2011

[See the complete album here!]

{Teleborgs Slott across Växjösjön}

“A salamander can be only a salamander, an elk an elk, and a bush a bush. True, a bush is complete in its bushness, yet its limits, while not nearly so severe as some foolish men would believe, are fairly obvious. The peasants of Aelfric are like bushes, like salamanders. They were born one thing and will die one thing. But you… you have already been a warrior, a king, and a serf, and from the looks of it, you aren’t through yet. Thus, you have learned the secret of the new direction. That is: a man can be many things. Maybe anything.” (the shaman)

–Tom Robbins’s Jitterbug Perfume

{Enjoying a Swedish breakfast–kanelbulle and kaffe}

{Teleborgs Slott}

{Eurasian red squirrel–ekorre, in Swedish}


[See the complete album here!]

[Images by Kelly Overvold; pictures of Kelly taken by Scott Zaban.]

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As August trucks on, I’m getting more and more excited for my next trips. September is going to be my month in sun with two trips to gorgeous, tropical destinations: Hawai’i and Fiji! I’ve just finished getting together my reading list of books inspired by these places…



+ Hawaii: a novel, by James A. Michener

+ I Myself Have Seen It: The Myth of Hawai’i, by Susanna Moore—memoir of an American writer who grew up in Hawai’I; an entry in the National Geographic series that publishes author’s reminiscences about a specific area of the world.

+ The George Eliot Murders, by Edith Skom—literate and entertaining murder mystery set at the Royal Aloha Hotel in Honolulu.



+ On Fiji Islands, by Ronald Wright—personal memoir & travelogue

+ Return to Paradise, by James A. Michener—sequel to the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Tales of the South Pacific

+ Maya, Jostein Gaarder—by the author of Sophie’s World

+ The Sailmaker’s Daughter, by Stephanie Johnson—set in early 20th century colonial Fiji


Et cetera:

+ Blue Latitudes, by Tony Horwitz—A New York Times Bestseller

+ Tales of the South Pacific, by James A. Michener—Pulitzer Prize winning book & basis for Rogers & Hammerstein musical & movie, The South Pacific


Does anyone have any additional suggestions for Hawai’i- and Fiji-inspired literature?

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While I was in Prague this summer, I read Milan Kundera’s magnificent and heartbreaking novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. The story takes place in Prague in 1968, during the Prague Spring and the subsequent Soviet occupation. Tomáš, Tereza, Sabina, and Franz are the four characters through whose lives, loves, and losses the insignificance of life and the fate of the individual are examined.

What better place to lose oneself in one of Kundera’s passionate novels than in Prague, where the author attended university and the setting for most of his books. From the top of Petřín hill to the old castle grounds at Vyšehrad perched above the Vltava River, the city of Prague encapsulates a beauty, mystery, and romance reflected in the poignant and sometimes surreal writing of Milan Kundera.

{View of Prague Castle from Petřín hill}

{Petřín hill}

{View from Petřín hill with Prague castle in the distance}

{View of the Vltava, Prague castle, and Petřín hill from Vyšehrad castle}

{View from Vyšehrad castle}

Recently, while browsing through Free People’s blog, BLDG 25, I stumbled upon some posts from their Book Club series featuring Unbearable Lightness of Being pairing favorite quotes with images that evoke the sentiment of the novel. Here are some of my favorites…

“chance and chance alone has a message for us. everything that occurs out of necessity, everything expected, repeated day in and day out, is mute. only chance can speak to us. we read its message much as gypsies read the images made by coffee grounds at the bottom of a cup.”

“while people are fairly young and the musical composition of their lives is still in its opening bars, they can go about writing it together and exchange motifs…but if they meet when they are older, their musical compositions are more or less complete, and every motif, every object, every word means something different to each of them.”

“When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object.”

“…and finally there is the fourth category, the rarest, the category of people who live in the imaginary eyes of those who are not present.  they are the dreamers.”

See more of Free People’s favorite quotes from the book here, here, and here.

[Images by Kelly Overvold, from amazon.com, and from blog.freepeople.com.]

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