My Year in Books

It is that time of the year when I am often surprised by the innate urge to reflect, re-live and re-evaluate my life. When I look back over the past year I see a steady stream of books that have meandered through my life: at times it was a rushing force, at others a tiny trickle, but, mostly, it was a constant flow. To say that I am an obsessive reader is perhaps putting it mildly, and I often get extremely sidetracked when doing research on the Internet. I read almost anything and although I follow a variety of blogs, it is mostly the books I read that not only feed my soul, but are like best friends and inspiring teachers.

I prefer non-fiction, but absolutely adore Paulo Coelho as a writer, and will gobble up anything he writes (The Way of the Bow) or compiles (Inspirations: Selections from Classic Literature). Every couple of years I re-read The Alchemist, and this year was one of those in which I reached for my trusty friend once again. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy and Let me sing you gentle songs by Linda Olsson were the only other two fiction books I read this year. Both were lyrical and well-crafted – an absolute joy to read.

I love to travel, and seeing that time and money are often in short supply, I delight in any kind of travel writing. I have traveled with Mike McIntye (The Wander Year: One Couple’s Journey around the World), Paul Theroux (Fresh-air Fiend: Travel Writings 1985-2000), Peter Moore (The Wrong Way Home), Jules Older (Death by Tartar Sauce), and the wonderful writers Anthony Bourdain managed to get together for A Moveable Feast.

I spent some time in France (Courage and Croissants  by Jean P Roux and Suzanne Saxe-Roux; French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France by Richard Goodman); Spain (Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools, as well as Two Old Fools – Olé!  by Victoria Twead); Central America (Happier than a Billionaire: Quiting my Job, Moving to Costa Rica and Living the Zero Hour Work Week by Nadine Hays Pisani, and Backpacked: A Reluctant Trip Across Central America by Catherine Ryan Howard); Africa (Swahili for the Broken-Hearted by Peter Moore); Turkey (Tea and Bee’s Milk: Our Year in a Turkish Village by Karen and Ray Gilden, and Anatolian Days and Nights: A Love Affair with Turkey, Land of Dervishes, Goddesses and Saints by Joy E Stocke and Angie Brenner); Greece (It’s All Greek to Me! by John Mole, and Aegean Dream by Dario Ciriello); and Italy (The Venice Experiment  by Barry Frangipani; Stumbling Through Italy: Tales of Tuscany, Sicily, Sardinia, Apulia, Calabria and place in-between, as well as Scratching the Toe of Italy: Expecting the unexpected in Calabria, and Keeping up with the Lawrences: Sicily, Sea and Sardinia Revisited  by Niall Allsop; The Hills of Tuscany: A New Life in an old Land, as well as A Vineyard in Tuscany: A Wine Lover’s Dream, and The Wisdom of Tuscany: Simplicity, Security and the Good Life  by Ferenc Máté; An Italian Journey: A Harvest of Revelations in the Olive Groves of Tuscany  by James Shaw; A Summer in Tuscany: A Villa, a Fiat & a Diva  by Sandra Jewel Swanson; A Footpath in Umbria: Learning, Loving and Laughing in Italy  by Nancy Yuktonis Solak; Somewhere South of Tuscany by Diana Armstrong; The Reluctant Tuscan: How I discovered my Inner Italian by Phil Doran; The Dolce Vita Diaries by Cathy Rogers & Jason Gibb; Coins in the Fountain by Judith Works; Saints and Soccer Balls: My Seasons in Italy by Clare Fleishman; Vroom with a View, as well as Vroom by the Sea by Peter Moore; The Lady in the Palazzo: At Home in Umbria by Marlena de Blasi; Italy Plane Reader (Various Authors); Pan’e Pomodor – My Passage To Puglia by Ian R McEwan; and Not Another Book About Italy by Ann Rickard).

My love affair with Italy was a conscious and interesting experiment. By reading an account of so many different people’s experiences and impressions of this enigmatic country, I not only saw it through their eyes, but managed to get a glimpse of Italy as a separate entity or character. It really made me feel as if I traveled and experienced it myself.

Then there were the books telling stories about sailing the world: The Next Port  by Heyward Coleman; An Embarrassment of Mangoes by Ann Vanderhoof; Chasing the Horizon, as well as Red Sea Run – Two Sailors in a Sea of Trouble by Cap’n Fatty Goodlander.

While traveling in India I also read Rajasthan: An Oral History by Rustom Bharucha; AGRA: The Architectural Heritage by Lucy Peck; and The Great Moghuls by Bamber Cascoigne. During my visit to Lamu Island my wonderful host Christina lent me two rare books on the history of Lamu: The Sacred Meadows by Abdul Hamid M. el Zein; and LAMU – History, Society, and Family in an East African Port City by Patricia W Romero.

I also constantly read whatever I can lay my hands on about the UAE, which, this year, included City of Gold by Jim Krane; Escape from Dubai by Herve Jaubert; Mother Without a Mask by Patricia Holton; and Abu Dhabi: Oil and Beyond by Christopher M. Davidson.

An interesting assortment of autobiographies, biographies and memoirs were part of my reading pleasure and were as diverse as Krishnamacharya: His Life and Teachings by AG Mohan and Ganesh Mohan; An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mohandas K Gandhi; The Kings’ Mistresses: The Liberated Lives of Marie Mancini, Princess Colona, and Her Sister Hortense, Duchess Mazarin by Elizabeth C Goldsmith; Miles from Home: A True Story of the Choices that Define Us by Colleen Lanier; In the Sea there are Crocodiles (The Story of Enaiatollah Akbari) by Fabio Geda; A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I learned While Editing my Life by Donald Miller; and Against the Flow: The First Woman to Sail Solo the ‘Wrong Way’ Around the World by Dee Caffari.

Yoga books are never far from my reach and included The Journey Home: Autobiography of an American Swami by Radhanath Swami; Autobiography of a Sadhu: A Journey into Mystic India by Rampuri; The Mirror of Yoga: Awakening the Intelligence of Body and Mind by Richard Freeman; Babaji’s Kriya Yoga – Deepening your Practice by Jan Ahlund and Marshall Govindan; Insight Yoga by Sarah Powers; Yin Yoga – Outline for a Quiet Practice by Paul Grilley; An Easy Guide to Meditation by Roy Eugene Davis; and Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi by Brian Leaf.

Books on spiritual matters: Siddhartha by Herman Hesse; The Buddhacarita – A Modern Sequel: The Poetic Saga of Buddha’s Life from Birth to Enlightenment by Tai Sheridan; Buddha in Blue Jeans – An Extremely Short Zen Guide to Sitting Quietly and Being Buddha by Tai Sheridan; The Little Book of Hindu Deities by Sanjay Patel; Modern Buddhism: The Path of Compassion and Wisdom – Volume 1 Sutra by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso; Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, as well as Muhammad: Prophet for our Time, and Islam by Karen Armstrong; The Secret Letters of the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma; Glimpse After Glimpse: Daily Reflections on Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche; and Diet for Transcendence – Vegetarianism and the World Religions by Steven Rosen.

An interesting variety of general non-fiction books, covering an array of topics made for very interesting reading: What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures, as well as Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell; Drop Dead Healthy by AJ Jacobs; The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg; Bell Curve by Charles Murray; The Smarter Science of Slim by Johnathan Bailor; The Intention Experiment by Lynn McTaggart; The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton; Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin; Say Hello in Swahili by Talen Ortz; Insights From Beyond the Lens: Inside the Art & Craft of Landscape Photography by Robert Rodrigues; and Vertical Gardening and Container Gardening – Ideas for Growing Vegetables and Herbs Indoors by Joe Marshall.

I also, after having read quotes and references to the work of Henry David Thoreau read Walden and Walking by him. Although the language is archaic and it took some time for me to get my head into his world, I found a soul friend in him and loved the time spent in his company.

I am also a lover of quotes and treasure my copy of Success and Happiness – Quotes to Motivate, Inspire & Live By by Atticus Aristotle.

I am also always in search of advice and books to improve my writing, and the following books have at some point in time during the year graced my desk: 250 Things You Should Know about Writing by Chuck Wendig; No Plot? No Problem by Chris Baty; The 90-Day Novel: Unlock the Story Within by Alan Watt; while my trusty Thesaurus and The Elements of Style by William Strunk are always within reach.

That brings my tally for the year to a 100 books. What initially started as a vague goal at the beginning of the year miraculously came to fruition – something that leaves me a tad gobsmacked as I didn’t think it do-able, as, for most of the year, it seemed to be just beyond my reach. I have to thank my sweet husband for all his active encouragement, and the ample space he allowed for my silent and solitary pursuit.

Feeling satiated and a bit whoozy from all the words spinning in my head, I am hoping to read a little bit less next year and write a whole lot more. To help me in this goal I have signed up for a Creative Nonfiction Course early in the new year that will, hopefully, help guide and direct my focus to my writing goals for 2013.