Travel broadens, or so they say, but one can certainly be broadened in situ. Yet, when it comes the wanderlust cannot be denied. It comes hard and carries its victims away in mind, if not in body. A childlike fantasy of pyramids and Yukon gold soon gives way to sober reflections. How do other people live? How can we be happy? How can there be no place like home? In other words, as grown-ups fantastic iconographies give way to curiosity and genuine interest in true stories. Travellers indulge their curiosities both in person and in great books like these:
The Alhambra Tales
by Washington Irving,(1832, IAP, 2009)
Travel through Moorish Spain in contrabandista style with Washington Irving and a member of the Russian Embassy in Madrid from the Seville to the famous Alhambra in Granada. Parlay celebrity status into an invitation to live and write in a royal palace, surrounded by local colour, and revel in history, folk tales, and Spanish culture. As a fortuitous memoir, Irving’s Alhambra offers much more than other travel guides here.
Six Chapters of a Floating Life
by Shen Fu (Lin Yutang, translator, various editions, 1805)
As the Tang Dynasty poet Li Bai once said, “The floating life is but as a dream; how much longer can we enjoy our happiness?” Indeed. How much longer can we put off seeking it? Written early in the 19th century as a memoir of married life in the China of the Qing dynasty, Six Chapters (also Six Records) has been translated into at least fourteen languages, including a host of editions in English.
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Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy
by Frances Mayes (Broadway Books, 1996)
Time may float around us, but it also stops now and then, while we learn anew the local social rules. Under the Tuscan Sun is a first class read for anyone who steps of the beaten path and into a new experience of an old world. Sometimes travellers plan a short visit and wake up twenty years to find that they never left.
Finding Beauty in a Broken World
by Terry Tempest Williams (Pantheon Books, 2008)
It is the mind that travels. The body comes along for the ride. In describing her eclectic studies of the art of mosaic and prairie dogs and building a memorial for survivors of genocide, Williams reminds her audience that it isn’t Location-location-location that matters, but Do-do-do.
by Sir Kenneth Clark, (BBC Books, Harper & Row, 1969)
Possibly no other book has done more to stimulate the desire to understand the rebuilding of Western society following the fall of Rome than Civilization. A tale in both time and space, Clark explored the art, architecture, and social upheaval. Its 347 pages contain 286 illustration and every page lists sights to see.
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