“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” -- Dr. Seuss
Reading is a great way to pass the time while traveling, especially now while locked down by Covid-19. Besides having more time to read while sheltering in Mexico lately, I’ve completed a list of books I’ve read while traveling and added ratings and reviews for each of them. “My Library” is now available at davidhunterbishop.com under the “More” pulldown menu. Many are travel books but I see now that it's a fairly wide-ranging collection. If you enjoy reading like I do then you may like seeing the books that have kept me company on the road and what I thought of them. Books not only occupy your time, they can take you far away from daily life to fantastic places you’ve never dreamed of and transport you forward in time or into the past as far as you want to go. They hold wonderful stories of people and events, both sad and uplifting, and teach us about the wonderful, strange and puzzling universe in which we find ourselves. Most of the books I read are purchased from Amazon and downloaded onto a Kindle, which my son Mackey thoughtfully gave me when I began my journeys almost four years ago. Occasionally I pick up a paperback as I still enjoy the feel and familiarity of reading a “real” book, made of paper and ink, better than the screen of an e-reader. But the paperbacks become burdensome to carry around at my rate of travel. That's the advantage of the Kindle; I can store many books electronically in its thin, light plastic casing and read them whenever I want. Still, I often carry a paperback of two and many times l leave the books I’ve finished at whatever hostel or guest house I’d been staying in at the time. Many travelers do that and at times I’ve taken one from a house collection in trade and left it again somewhere else down road, long a practice among traveling book lovers. I chose the Dr. Seuss quote above for this post in memory of my mother, who encouraged me to read as early as I can remember. She would take me to the historic Gil Memorial Library in my hometown, Paulsboro, New Jersey, once a week to peruse the stacks and select the books I wanted to read. Christmas was not a holiday in our house without a book wrapped under the tree, and The Cat In The Hat by Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel), was the first gift of a book I remember getting. I’ve been to more than a few places in my life, and the many pleasures of reading that I’ve had in my journeys trace back directly to my mom, Dorothy Virginia Robinson Bishop, 1929-1996. The gift of books and a love for reading were the two most wonderful, loving gifts she could ever give me. I will never forget that. Below are the books I’ve read so far since beginning my journey in August 2016; there are 76 to date, listed in no particular order. Many are travel-related. Some have nothing to do with travel. Many I’ve enjoyed, others not so much. I’ve written reviews of a few, left some comments on others. I've also assigned each book one to five "Travel Stars" according to this chart:
☀☀☀☀☀ You should read this book! ☀☀☀☀ I recommend this book with minor reservations. ☀☀☀ You'll have to make your own decision on this one. It has merit; I'm officially non-committal. ☀☀ I didn't care much for it. I doubt you will either. ☀- I don't know why anyone would like this book. Maybe friends or family.
Here's the list. Comments are always welcome (go back to the Facebook post or email me at email@example.com): Perseus in the Wind: A Life of Travel --Freya Stark ☀☀☀☀☀ A collection of this 20th century British writer's observations and musings from a monumental life of travel and exploration. Some of the finest writing I've encountered. I am a great admirer of this remarkable woman.
The Rules of Travel: Think Twice About Crossing the Rules (Vol. 1) -- Andy Lee Graham ☀☀☀ Graham, an American from Indiana, was one of my original inspirations to travel. He has a compelling story and ranks among the current longest-traveled world nomads who stubbornly sticks to some outdated advice in this book, his first, but he still has much to offer. He’s been an active online print and video blogger for most of the 20 years he's been on the road. He's not a polished writer, nor especially articulate, but deserves some respect for his upbeat character, tenacity and experience.
"The Friend: A Novel" -- Sigrid Nunez ☀☀☀☀☀ A woman writer inherits a writer friend's dog following his apparent suicide and ruminates about relationships, life and death. Wonderfully written.
The Last Chance to See -- Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine ☀☀☀ Adams's humor seems forced in the beginning of this seemingly ill-conceived collaboration of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy author and a serious zoologist, but they hit their stride about midway through, and the book's enduring message of extinction (published in 1990) has never been more urgently felt than it is today.
☀☀☀☀☀ River of Doubt -- Candice Millard A fantastic true travel tale of extreme hardship and endurance involving former President Theodore Roosevelt, who had just lost his third-party bid for election to a third term in the White House in 1912, leading a dangerously misguided expedition down an uncharted river through the Amazon jungle in Brazil. Roosevelt, who was in his mid-50s, nearly lost life from injury and disease on the journey. It’s a gripping account of a harrowing adventure involving love, politics, treachery, murder, and hostile natives, with fascinating detail about the Amazon jungle itself. Extremely well-written.
☀☀☀ The Phantom Flotilla -- Peter Shankland A riveting, and bizarre true story of the only naval battle fought in Africa during WWII.
1) Killing Commendatore ☀☀☀☀☀ 2) The Strange Library ☀☀☀ 3) Norwegian Wood ☀☀☀☀☀ 4) Men Without Women ☀☀☀☀ 5) After the Quake ☀☀☀☀ -- Haruki Murakami I usually prefer non-fiction writing but Haruki Marukami has me hooked. A brilliant, Japanese novelist, Murakami loves jazz and contemporary arts and weaves those interests into many of his works, one of the reasons I like them so. There’s also a fascinating, fantastical element to them that I enjoy. Highly entertaining, can’t-put-'em-down reading.
Patagonian Road: A Year Alone Through Latin America -- Kate McCahill Honestly I can recall much of this book about a young woman's adventures traveling solo to Argentina. I'm sure I finished it, but apparently without much impact. I still have it in my Kindle. I think I'll read it again.
☀ How To Travel Full-Time -- Colin Wright I thought this young guy was pretty bright until the premise of his book fell apart less than halfway through. I stuck it out to the end, without reward.
1) The Alchemist ☀☀☀☀ 2) Hippie ☀ -- Paul Coelho I was impressed by The Alchemist even though my smart Peruvian friend made light of Coelho’s work. After slogging through the cliched, pretentious tedium of Hippie, now I know why.
☀☀☀☀ Havana: A Subtropical Delirium -- Mark Kurlansky A richly complected look into the heart of Cuba, Havana, through its history and culture as witnessed by an accomplished author who spent 30 years in the city.
☀☀☀☀☀ Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step At A Time -- Mark Adams Humorous and entertaining account of the author, a mild-mannered travel writer, joining a fevered trail guide who seeks to retrace the steps of explorer Hiram Bingham III's 1911 discovery of the ruins of Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes.
☀☀☀☀☀ Eisenhower in War and Peace -- Jean Edward Smith A gripping take on a great general and president possessed of revealing human dimensions.
☀☀☀ Walk to Beautiful: The Power of Love and a Homeless Kid Who Found the Way -- Jimmy Wayne (with Ken Abraham) The book's a little outside my normal reading list and I can't remember why I picked it up. But I thoroughly enjoyed the inspirational story of Jimmy Wayne and his incredible journey through a tortuous foster care system to country music stardom and his remarkable efforts to remember those who helped him and to help those who still needed it. A feel-good story, but with meaning and impact. When you finish it -- and you will -- you will be a Jimmy Wayne fan whether or not you like country-western music.
☀☀☀ The Great Alone -- Kristin Hannah An acclaimed novelist who in this case stretched out a good story far too long.
Our Final Invention -- James Barrat ☀☀☀☀ An alarming look at the future of artificial intelligence.
The Best American Travel Writing 2018 -- Cheryl Strayed (ed.) ☀☀☀ I thought many of the selections are not travel stories at all, but just stories about interesting things after the authors got to where the story is.
Into The Wild -- Jon Krakauer ☀☀☀☀☀ A wonderful detailed investigative story of the emotionally scarred John McCandless who may or may not have been foolish enough to die of his own hubris and ineptitude in the Alaskan wilderness.
1) Vagabonding ☀☀☀☀☀ 2) Marco Polo Didn't Go There ☀☀☀☀ -- Rolf Potts Potts is one of the great American travelers of our age who lays out his philosophy and tells us how to travel in Vagabonding, and recounts some excellent examples of others’ travels in the entertaining Marco Polo Didn't Go There.
Down The Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan -- Howard Sounes ☀☀☀ One of many tomes about the enigmatic bard. Fans and music historians will enjoy wading through it. Though a casual interest in the American troubadour may have you soon looking for a good place to put this one down.
☀☀☀☀ The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin -- H.W. Brands An incisive look at the life of early America's most fascinating renaissance men.
☀☀ Shakespeare Never Did This -- Charles Bukowski The author seems to pride himself on perpetuating a reputation as an alcoholic lout.
☀☀☀☀ Tales of a Female Nomad -- Rita Golden Gelman This was one of the first travel books I read upon starting my own journey. Rita Golden Gelman, an author of children’s books, took off traveling solo in the late 1980s, while in her late 40s, following a divorce and a strong desire for something more meaningful in life than her marriage. She writes a terrific story of her journey, taking the reader through all the different places in her mind and emotions attendant to such an adventure, articulating the changes that overcome a person when setting out like that later in life which in many ways described an evolution similar to my own. But most remarkable is that with so many more obstacles to overcome as a woman traveler starting out at her age, she turned her adventures into beautiful stories of cultural exploration in remote locations around the world. I'm certainly glad I read this when I did.
☀☀☀☀☀The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich -- William Shirer This hefty 1959 classic is a journalistic tour de force with continuing relevance today. When Trump was elected, I wanted to explore Hitler’s rise to power in the 1930s and compare it to what's happening today in America. In eerie retrospection, the Fuhrer was encouraged by the silence of many Germans more interested in his ability to restore past glory to Germany after the debacle of WWI than they were in the atrocities and lies he used in his attempt to get them there. The book is incredibly detailed about everything from Hitler’s childhood to his suicide in a Berlin bunker that was under siege, just 12 years into the “thousand-year Reich” he’d envisioned. Here's the book's best quote from the book: “The cardinal error of the Germans who opposed Nazism was their failure to unite against it.”
1) Dark Star Safari 2) Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari 3) Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads 4) The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road --Paul Theroux ☀☀☀☀☀ One of my favorite travel writers. Any volume by Theroux is probably worth reading, these for sure.
☀☀ The Midnight Dog of the Repo Man -- W. Bruce Cameron This is a fairly short novel that didn't amuse or inspire me at all.
☀☀☀☀☀ The Complete Walt Whitman: Leaves of Grass, Patriotic Poems, Complete Prose Works, The Wound Dresser, Letters -- Walt Whitman As close as being my Travel Bible as as any book there is.
☀☀☀☀☀ A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories -- Flannery O'Connor Picked up this book after seeing the outstanding film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, in which one of the characters was reading it in the movie. O'Connor writes vividly of southern culture.
☀☀☀☀☀ Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya Stark -- Jane Fletcher Geniesse An insightful look into the life of one of the world's great pioneering travelers, explorers and scholars, who overcame many hardships and provincial attitudes toward women. Stark was also a brilliant writer of beautiful prose whose original works are difficult to find now. Geniesse does a fine job recounting Stark's life and rewards the reader with a rare, surprising epilogue that left me slack-jawed. Do yourself a favor, read through the book without reading the epilogue first.
1) Labyrinths 2) The Immortal -- Jorge Luis Borges ☀☀☀☀☀ I’ve been a Borges fan since my college days and I reread these two while on my journey. Fantastic stories, brilliantly written, with deep philosophical insights into life, fantasy and the human condition.
☀☀☀☀ Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants -- Ann Brashares An endearing coming-of-age story of three young women that I wouldn't normally pick up to read but did so after an old friend started calling me "Traveling Pants" in our correspondence early on in my journeys. At first, I didn't know why or what she was talking about. Then, in a small, dank bookstore in Antigua, Guatemala, strictly by chance, I noticed this English-language title partially obscured beneath a pile of tattered Spanish volumes. I pulled it out and there it was, this novel, a mysterious travel moment giving the book itself a sense of magic in sync with its story. It's something I still cock my head in wonder about.
1) Nostromos 2) Heart of Darkness -- Josef Conrad ☀☀☀☀☀ I was familiar with the novella Heart of Darkness but didn’t know how truly great a writer Conrad was until I read Nostromos while in Guatemala.
☀ ☀☀☀☀ David Livingstone, Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingstone -- Martin Duggard Of course, like most people, I knew the “Dr. Livingstone, I presume,” quotation, but practically nothing else about these two men, their lives, adventures and relationship in Africa until reading this book. The spell-binding accounts of how these two men came to that climactic meeting are well worth the read.
☀☀☀ Havana Heat -- Darryl Brock A baseball novel set in Cuba's capital city, a hotbed of baseball, is based on the life of a real-life pitcher, Dummy Taylor, who played professional baseball in the United States in 1900-08. The well-told fiction meshes with genuine history as it explores themes of disability, racism, and the harsh realities of bright dreams that fade with time in the world of professional sports.
Sula -- Toni Morrison ☀☀☀☀☀ This was my introduction to Toni Morrison, and what a wonderful revelation. The way I acquired this book is also a good little travel tale. I was at a lodge on the Rio Dulce in Guatemala grousing about the lack of English titles in the small library there and was overheard by an acquaintance I'd met. As I was leaving the next day, and as my lancha was separating from the dock, my new friend came running and, stretching her arm out over the water handed me this book. "I found one for you!" she yelled, as I reached out to grab it and we both nearly fell into the river. It was a wonderfully kind and thoughtful gesture, an example of the traveler's spirit encountered so often in my journeys. And I loved reading the book.
☀☀☀☀ The White Album -- Joan Didion A collection of essays previously published in magazines in the 1970s that center on cultural themes relating to life in Southern California including Charles Manson, the Doors, and the Black Panthers. Didion, an iconic American writer, is able to immerse herself in a situation without falling prey to it and produce an elucidating account of her experience like no other.
☀☀☀ The Quotable Mark Twain -- R. Kent Rasmussen (ed.) The desire to read quotes from the eminently quotable Twain runs out of steam soon after reading so many one after the other. Nice reference book, though.
☀☀☀☀ The Esquimaux Maiden’s Romance (short story) -- Mark Twain An entertaining short story with a moral message set in Alaska.
☀☀☀☀ Time Among the Maya: Travels in Belize, Guatemala and Mexico -- Ronald Wright Wright takes the reader on a journey into the Mayan civilization, one of the world history's most brilliant, which fell to the ravages of time, war, conquest and still mysterious reasons in the 9th century. Meanwhile millions of Mayan descendants continue living in the culture that survives throughout Central America. An illuminating, fascinating and overall excellent presentation.
☀☀☀ The History of Luminous Motion -- Scott Bradfield An odd cult novel about a precocious eight-year-old psychopath who tries making sense of his world.
☀☀☀ The Heart of the Matter -- Graham Greene I'm not sure what it is about the well-renowned Greene that leaves me a little wilted after reading his books. I thought I'd give him another try when I found a used copy of this one in a bookstore in Chiang Rai, Thailand. And though it really was a good read, once again it did not leave me clamoring for more Graham Greene. Must be me.
☀☀☀ Eat, Pray, Love -- Elizabeth Gilbert A self-absorbed seeker travels to find herself, forgetting that the journey is not always just about the traveler, but that expressions of love, life and true adventure require a giving of yourself, and opening up your own life to finding understanding through others, not relying on them to bring enlightenment to you. I never had the feeling that the traveler in this story understood that.
☀☀☀☀ Ho Chi Minh: A Life -- William Duiker A landmark, lengthy biography of the George Washington of today's Vietnam. Its author is an eminent scholar who does a bang-up job fleshing out the politics of Ho's rise to power and glory as the father of an independent communist nation in Vietnam, but he left me wanting for examination of the more intimate, personal influences that shaped the life of "Uncle Ho."
☀☀☀ Of Walking in Ice -- Werner Herzog Herzog, the somewhat eccentric Germanfilm director, screenwriter, author, actor and opera director, describes his journey on foot across miles of frozen landscape to visit a dying friend, believing that it will keep her alive if he does.
☀☀☀☀ The Sacred Monkey River: A Canoe Trip With The Gods -- Christopher Shaw At the outset, any book that twice references the Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges will likely draw high marks from me, and Shaw obviously knows what a labyrinth of mazes life’s journeys are made of. His examination of the “Watery Path” combines the appearances of reality and metaphysics with a detailed guide to his river adventures through modern Mesoamerica, attempting to explain “the principle of the watery path connecting the sacred world in the sky with the earthly shape of the cosmos.” “Metaphysically speaking, the means of travel was the canoe,” he writes, “… its avatar a celestial canoe in the sky, the Milky Way. Out of the amorphous universe, it formed a ‘here with meaning,’ the necessary conceptual underpinning of all human identity, and of consciousness itself.” Yet the book is still a tale of real adventure travel, its spirituality entwined with the unpredictable practicalities of river exploration through an unforgiving jungle in a fascinating and engaging narrative meant for anyone who loves rivers, ecology, adventure, history, politics, and mysticism. It should be read by anyone visiting the area and wanting a deeper understanding of the slippery depths of knowledge we tread on all these kinds of things. The foundation of “Sacred Monkey River” is revealed only in part because, as Shaw notes, “We live above others’ ruins, programmed for extinction. The truth belongs solely to the Gods.”
☀☀☀☀ Until Death Do Us Part -- Elizabeth Betancourt The best-selling memoir of a privileged, well-educated Colombian woman who challenged the entrenched, corrupt drug-enabling government of Colombia at great sacrifice to her life and family.
☀☀☀ Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America -- John Waters This is a travel tale by the Baltimore filmmaker who at age 66 felt the urge to hitchhike across the United States and tell about it. He divided the book into thirds: two on how it might have been; one on how it really was, which may have been the book's downfall. Waters’ hilarious antic fantasies of what might have happened on his cross-country odyssey brought the tale to a clímax early and it was all a rather pedestrian let-down from then on.
☀☀☀☀ Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped A First Lady -- Susan Quinn An extraordinary story of the intimate relationship between the wife of a sitting president and her female lover, a reporter for the Associated Press, and how their work and their 30-year affair were intertwined with the presidency during one of the most remarkable periods in American history.
☀☀☀ True At First Light -- Ernest Hemingway More good reason not to like an eminently unlikeable guy but, geez, what a wonderful writer.
Reality Is Not What It Seems -- Carl Rovelli An intellectually challenging look at the underpinnings of physics and their relationship to the arts.
☀☀☀☀ The Miracle of Dunkirk -- Walter Lord An engaging account of perhaps the most frightening and ultimately decisive operation of World War II.
☀☀☀☀ Riding The Rails: Teenagers on the Move During The Great Depression -- Errol Lincoln Uys These fascinating stories of young Americans who took to the nation's railways as stowaways and vagabonds seeking work and and adventure during the great national nightmare were largely forgotten but brought to life in this compelling book. A collection of travel stories of a completely different ilk.
☀☀ The God Delusion -- Richard Dawkins Dawkins falls into the same trap as those he derides. He can’t prove there is no God any more than believers can prove that there is, resulting in pointless diatribe.
☀☀☀☀☀ The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time -- Mark Haddon Simply a wonderful novel.
☀☀ Mark Twain on Masturbation A curious but forgettable read, not really a book, more of an essay, a speech given as a joke to goad a literary foe and shock a Victorian-era audience. Not up to Twain's usual standard.
☀☀☀☀☀ Words of Mercury: Tales From A Lifetime of Travel -- Patrick Leigh Fermor A marvelous autobiographical account of the gifted English Adventurer's travels. I picked it up to read of his role in capturing a German general during the occupation of Crete while an intelligence officer for the British forces in World War II. I was living on Crete at the time, and discovered this brilliant, fascinating, almost excessively erudite writer and traveler. As a bonus to these remarkable tales, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Rolf Potts, one of America's finest contemporary travel writers, wrote the splendid introduction to this book.
☀☀☀☀ The Cretan Runner -- George Psychodakis (introduction and translation by Patrick Leigh Fermor) During the German occupation of Crete in WWII, George Psychodakis, a local shepherd, became a war-time runner, heroically living in caves and moving furtively at night over the rugged, cold, snow-covered mountains of Crete, literally running, delivering messages and intelligence to the British forces who were helping the Greeks defend their island. Psycholdakis was constantly at risk of certain death if detected by the Germans yet wrote a voluminous diary with humor and insight. Later his words were translated and edited by the esteemed English author, Patrick Leigh Fermor, for this book.
☀☀☀☀ Ten Years A Nomad -- Matthew Kepnes The celebrated American travel blogger known as Nomadic Matt describes his highs and lows on a personal journey from disenchantment at the prospect of a life in the corporate world to spending 10 years on the road toward becoming one of the world's most popular travel bloggers.
☀☀☀☀☀ The Art of Travel -- Alain de Botton The author has a discerning eye for the elements or art and style as they relate to travel that make an entertaining collection of fascinating essays.
☀☀☀☀ Great Expectations -- Charles Dickens An entertaining coming-of-age tale of the character Pip by the popular author whose works I haven't read much. It's classic Dickens, they say.
☀☀☀☀ The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer: Close Encounters With Strangers -- Eric Hansen Wildly entertaining stories of the author's immersion in exotic and remote locales around the world.
☀☀☀☀ The Joys of Travel: And Stories That Illuminate Them -- Thomas Swick A grounded, traditional style of travel writing in a noisy time of "influencers" and Instagram, Swick brings travel landscapes to life from Bangkok to Key West with his application of the "seven joys" of travel to the journey -- anticipation, movement, break from routine, novelty, discovery, emotional connection, and heightened appreciation of home. An enjoyable read.
☀☀☀ Don't Go There: From Chernobyl to North Korea --Adam Fletcher A wacky travelog of one man's quest to explore some of the world's most offbeat and dangerous destinations. Full of British humor.
☀☀☀ Fringe-ology --Steve Volk Volk, a journalist, sets out to explore the world of the paranormal from psychics to UFOs to bent spoons, largely in effort to learn more about a disturbing incident his own family experienced that none of his relatives ever wanted to talk about. Along the way he meets dozens of fervent fringe believers and raises more new, unexplainable questions about the strange phenomena than he can provide answers for. The message? Just keep an open mind.
☀☀☀ The Virgin and the Gypsy -- D.H. Lawrence A soap opera-like story of a maiden who hates her family and seeks escape in love her love of a Gypsy man.