Our Travel Lit Thursday series continues with Volume 2: The Old World.
One of the many benefits of working at Distant Lands is getting to take a peek at all of the books as they come into the store for the first time (or for our first time). Straightening the books every day and making sure everything is in its proper place inevitably leads to book discoveries as well. We’re constantly reading, admiring, and learning. It’s pretty swell. The following three books all caught my eye immediately, whether I unpacked them as they were published, or I found them as hidden treasures on our shelves.
The Liquid Continent, by Nicholas Woodsworth
I’m not ashamed to say that what caught my eye first was the title. Fortunately, this book is also incredible and as profound (“deep,” if you will) as its name suggests. Using Alexandria, Venice, and Istanbul to explore the idea that the Mediterranean is less a body of water than a continent in its own right, Woodsworth combines history, personal observation, and gorgeous writing. If you’re even remotely interested in the many countries of this “continent” and how they’ve traded, bickered, and broken bread with one another, this book is worth a long, luxurious read.
The Woman Who Fell from the Sky, by Jennifer Steil
You’ve already learned that I’m shallow when it comes to book browsing, so it might make sense that it was the pomegranate and the word “Yemen” that grabbed me. (The vibrant description of a Yemeni wedding in the first few pages sealed the deal.) In Steil’s sometimes funny and always honest depiction of her life running a Yemeni newspaper, she captures the intricacies of expat life and opens a window into a culture most Americans (including me) find completely unfamiliar. For any armchair traveler interested in the enigmatic Middle East or anyone looking for a feisty woman to follow in 333 pages, this is a great one.
Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo, by Tim Parks
Just published, this unusual and lovingly written book explores a country many travelers know, not through the much visited scopes of food and romance, but of something a bit more pragmatic: the mighty train. Writing about the country as he sees it, Parks divides his book into rail journeys. Though he himself is an expat of many years, he presents his getting-to-know of his adopted home in much the same way as visitors would experience it for themselves - one train ride at a time. Totally refreshing, thoughtful, and great for Italophiles.