Tag Archives: non-fiction

Reading My Nightstand

One of the best things about working at a library is the fact that you are surrounded by so much reading material. While I tend to read one thing at a time, every now and then, a whole bunch of books make their way into my life at once and my bedside table becomes overcrowded with options. This latest group of books is particularly eclectic, ranging from fiction and non-fiction to poetry and a play. I hope something catches your eye, as it did mine!

There There is an amazing debut novel by Cheyenne and Arapaho author Tommy Orange. I started reading this book last fall and while I fell completely in love with the story and the writing, I didn’t finish it before its due date. I’ve picked it up again and it’s even more beautiful than I remember. The novel follows a large cast of characters living in the Oakland, California area who all end up at the same pow-wow. The further you read, the more you can piece together how these characters’ lives intersect. I cannot recommend this book enough, especially if you enjoy reading for language!

Written by Courtney Maum, I am Having So Much Fun Here Without You follows Richard Haddon, a British visual artist who is living in Paris with his wife, Anne, and their small daughter. Richard has cheated on his marriage and even considered leaving his family for the other woman. When the affair ends, Richard and Anne must grapple with each other’s actions, reevaluate their relationship, and fight for a second chance.

While I haven’t read a play since university, I couldn’t resist Drew Hayden Taylor’s Cottagers and Indians. Based on true events, this piece is about Arthur Cooper, an Anishnawbe man who decides to repopulate the lakes of his home Territory with wild rice. Disapproval from local non-Indigenous cottagers reminds us that land politics is as relevant an issue as ever.

I had the privilege of seeing Mohawk writer Janet Rogers perform spoken word in Winnipeg a number of years ago. When I stumbled upon her latest collection, As Long as the Sun Shines, I felt compelled to pick it up. Her poetry provides a stunning perspective on Indigenous culture, identity, struggle and womanhood.

In this concise piece of writing, David W. Lesch chronicles the history of modern Syria, from the Ottoman Empire to the current civil war. I’m certainly not going to retain every date or place mentioned in this book but I have been able to further understand Syria’s history and how current conflicts have come to be.

 

~ Stephanie

January: Looking forward with….

It is a new year!  Decorations have been stowed away, stray needles tidied up, empty chocolate boxes have been thrown in the blue box, and New Year’s Resolutions are still fresh in our minds.

I have never been one for New Year’s resolutions (in our family, my brother always made the resolution to not eat haggis that year- it was an easily kept one!)It may be because they often feel sort of empty or overwhelming (lose weight, work out more, be more organised).  But what if we focused on resolutions that helped those around us, either directly, or by helping us to be healthier and kinder people and therefore making our communities healthier places to be?

Thanks a Thousand

It is pretty well understood that grateful people are often healthier people. In Thanks a Thousand, New York Times bestselling author A.J. Jacobs takes on a journey in which he endeavors to thank every single person involved in producing his morning cup of coffee. The resulting journey takes him across the globe, transforms his life, and reveals secrets about how gratitude can make us all happier, more generous, and more connected. And by the end, it’s clear to him that scientific research on gratitude is true. Gratitude’s benefits are legion: it improves compassion, heals your body, and helps battle depression. Along the way, Jacobs provides wonderful insights and useful tips, from how to focus on the hundreds of things that go right every day instead of the few that go wrong. And how our culture overemphasizes the individual over the team. And how to practice the art of “savoring meditation” and fall asleep at night. Thanks a Thousand is a reminder of the amazing interconnectedness of our world. It shows us how much we take for granted. It teaches us how gratitude can make our lives happier, kinder, and more impactful.

Books for Living

For a book lover, starting the year off with some book lists/challenges is pretty common (and exciting!).  In Books for Living, Will Schwalbe presents us with a book about books. “I’ve always believed that everything you need to know you can find in a book,” writes Will Schwalbe in his introduction to this thought-provoking, heart-felt, and often inspiring new book about books. In each chapter he makes clear the ways in which a particular book has helped to shape how he leads his own life and the ways in which it might help to shape ours. He talks about what brought him to each book–or vice versa; the people in his life he associates each book with; how each has led him to other books; how each is part of his understanding of himself in the world. And he relates each book to a question of our daily lives, for example: Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener speaks to quitting; 1984 to disconnecting from our electronics; James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room to the power of connecting with people face to face; Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea to taking time to recharge; Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird to being sensitive to the surrounding world; The Little Prince to finding friends; Elie Wiesel’s Night to choosing to do something in the face of injustice; Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train to trusting. Here, too, are books by Dickens, Daphne Du Maurier, Murakami, Edna Lewis, E.B. White, and Hanya Yanagihara, among many others. A treasure of a book for everyone who loves books, loves reading, and loves to hear the answer to the question: “What have you been reading lately?”

The Hidden Door: Mindful Sufficiency as an Alternative to Extinction

Thinking about consumerism seems like a pretty natural thing coming out of the holiday season. We are bombarded on all sides by ‘holiday shopping’- in our inboxes, on the radio, tv etc. Giving gifts to the ones we love can be a natural outpouring of that love, but most of us will feel that tug, or bad aftertaste of  consumer culture at some point. And it is a complex topic that can feel overwhelming at times.

In The Hidden Door : Mindful Sufficiency as an Alternative to Extinction, author Mark Burch gives us hope that what we do matters to our communities and to our collective future. Many people sense that consumer culture is dragging us toward extinction. We feel trapped in a cell of our own making. If humanity is to have any sort of future worth living in, we must discover an exit from our confinement. There is a door, hidden in plain sight. What sort of culture might appear if we took seriously the essential values and principles that form the deep structure of voluntary simplicity and used them to inform a new perspective of the good life? Might we discover an exit from the confining cell of consumer culture? Can we find the passage leading beyond individual lifestyle choice to cultural renaissance? This book aims to help seed this renaissance by widening the conversation about how we transition from the road to extinction to a path with heart that has a future.

Factfulness : Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things are Better Than You Think

When asked simple questions about global trends–what percentage of the world’s population live in poverty; why the world’s population is increasing; how many girls finish school–we systematically get the answers wrong. So wrong that a chimpanzee choosing answers at random will consistently outguess teachers, journalists, Nobel laureates, and investment bankers.

In Factfulness, Professor of International Health and global TED phenomenon Hans Rosling, together with his two long-time collaborators, Anna and Ola, offers a radical new explanation of why this happens . They reveal the ten instincts that distort our perspective–from our tendency to divide the world into two camps (usually some version of us and them) to the way we consume media (where fear rules) to how we perceive progress (believing that most things are getting worse).

Our problem is that we don’t know what we don’t know, and even our guesses are informed by unconscious and predictable biases.

It turns out that the world, for all its imperfections, is in a much better state than we might think. That doesn’t mean there aren’t real concerns. But when we worry about everything all the time instead of embracing a worldview based on facts, we can lose our ability to focus on the things that threaten us most.

Inspiring and revelatory, filled with lively anecdotes and moving stories, Factfulness is an urgent and essential book that will change the way you see the world and empower you to respond to the crises and opportunities of the future.

Counting on Community

I was tidying in the picture book room at our branch when I happened upon this gem of a board book.  Counting on Community is author Innosanto Nagara’s follow-up to his ABC book, A is for Activist.  It is never too early to begin reading to your child, and in that vein, I think we can say that it is never too early to teach them the value of community.  Counting up from one stuffed piñata to ten hefty hens–and always counting on each other–children are encouraged to recognize the value of their community, the joys inherent in healthy eco-friendly activities, and the agency they posses to make change.

What books are inspiring you on these long, thoughtful winter days?

Kristie

Powerful women, parenting and a plate of chop suey

Time for another sample of the latest adult non-fiction titles to hit our shelves (825 new ones arrived in November and December!). Browse them all here and here.

Queen Bey : 16 Writers Celebrate the Beauty, Power and Creativity of Beyonce Knowles-Carter
by Veronica Chambers
Her 2018 performance at Coachella wowed the world. The New York Times wrote: ‘There’s not likely to be a more meaningful, absorbing, forceful and radical performance by an American musician this year or any year soon.’ Artist, business woman, mother, daughter, sister, wife, black feminist, Queen Bey is endlessly fascinating. Queen Bey features a diverse range of voices, from star academics to outspoken cultural critics to Hollywood and music stars.

They Called Us George : A History of the Black Train Porters in Canada
by Cecil Foster

Subjected to grueling shifts and unreasonable standards–a passenger missing his stop was a dismissible offense–the so-called Pullmen of the country’s rail lines were denied secure positions and prohibited from bringing their families to Canada, and it was their struggle against the racist Dominion that laid the groundwork for the multicultural nation we know today. Drawing on the experiences of these influential Black Canadians, Cecil Foster’s They Call Me George demonstrates the power of individuals and minority groups in the fight for social justice and shows how a country can change for the better.

Act Natural : A Cultural History of Parenting
by Jennifer Traig
Moving from ancient Rome to Puritan New England to the Dr. Spock craze of mid-century America, Traig cheerfully explores historic and present-day parenting techniques ranging from the misguided, to the nonsensical, to the truly horrifying. Be it childbirth, breastfeeding, or the ways in which we teach children how to sleep, walk, eat, and talk, she leaves no stone unturned in her quest for answers: Have our techniques actually evolved into something better? Or are we still just scrambling in the dark?

Chop Suey Nation : The Legion Cafe and Other Stories from Canada’s Chinese Restaurants
by Ann Hui

Hui, who grew up in authenticity-obsessed Vancouver, begins her journey with a somewhat disparaging view of small-town “fake Chinese” food. But by the end, she comes to appreciate the essentially Chinese values that drive these restaurants–perseverance, entrepreneurialism and deep love for family. Using her own family’s story as a touchstone, she explores the importance of these restaurants in the country’s history and makes the case for why chop suey cuisine should be recognized as quintessentially Canadian.

Defying Hitler : The Germans Who Resisted Nazi Rule
by Gordon Thomas
Defying Hitler follows the underground network of Germans who believed standing against the Fuhrer to be more important than their own survival. Their bravery is astonishing–a schoolgirl beheaded by the Gestapo for distributing anti-Nazi fliers; a German American teacher who smuggled military intel to Soviet agents, becoming the only American woman executed by the Nazis; a pacifist philosopher murdered for his role in a plot against Hitler; a young idealist who joined the SS to document their crimes, only to end up, to his horror, an accomplice to the Holocaust. This remarkable account illuminates their struggles, yielding an accessible narrative history with the pace and excitement of a thriller.

Agrippina : The Most Extraordinary Woman of the Roman World
by Emma Southon
Through senatorial political intrigue, assassination attempts, and exile to a small island, to the heights of imperial power, thrones, and golden cloaks and games and adoration, Agrippina scaled the absolute limits of female power in Rome. Her biography is also the story of the first Roman imperial family–the Julio-Claudians–and of the glory and corruption of the empire itself.

And lots of travel guides to plan a get-away!

Monique

 

 

Walk this Way

Before the last of the snow and ice melted from our sidewalks, my brother was in town for a short visit. We went out for dinner, then back to my apartment. I took off my shoes and plopped down on the couch, expecting him to do that same, but instead of sitting, he began to walk laps around my apartment. Turns out, he’s been trying to walk that magical 10,000 steps every day, and he hadn’t been able to hit his step count for the day yet.

This got me thinking about why we walk. Walking is a long-venerated tradition, especially amongst those with a creative bent. William Wordsworth, Henry David Thoreau, Beethoven, Steve Jobs, many of Jane Austen’s characters… it seems as though walking not only gets the heart pumping, but also the creative juices flowing!

Some people walk for their health (physical and mental!), and others love walking as a cost-effective and eco-friendly form of locomotion. Whatever your reason for walking might be (destroying the One Ring, maybe?) Winnipeg Public Library has many books to get you moving and inspire your own epic journey this summer!

walking Walking by Henry David Thoreau

A meandering ode to the simple act and accomplished art of taking a walk. Profound and humorous, companionable and curmudgeonly, Walking, by America’s first nature writer, is your personal and portable guide to the activity that, like no other, awakens the senses and the soul to the “absolute freedom and wildness” of nature.

 

Walking: A Complete Guide to Walking for Fitness, Health and Weight Loss by John Stanton

As the founder and president of Walking/Running Room, North America’s largest chain of special stores for walkers and runners, John Stanton has inspired people across the nation to develop healthier lifestyles one step at a time. In this book, you’ll learn how to set realistic goals, design your own training program, find the level of walking that’s right for you, choose the best shoes and walking wear for your needs, prevent and treat common injuries, and enhance your walking with optimum nutrition!

philosophy A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros

Frédéric Gros charts the many different ways we get from A to B — the pilgrimage, the promenade, the protest march, the nature ramble — and reveals what they say about us. Gros draws attention to other thinkers who also saw walking as something central to their practice. On his travels he ponders Thoreau’s eager seclusion in Walden Woods; the reason Rimbaud walked in a fury, while Nerval rambled to cure his melancholy. He shows us how Rousseau walked in order to think, while Nietzsche wandered the mountainside to write. In contrast, Kant marched through his hometown every day, exactly at the same hour, to escape the compulsion of thought. Brilliant and erudite, A Philosophy of Walking is an entertaining and insightful manifesto for putting one foot in front of the other.

howtowalk How to Walk by Thich Nhat Hanh

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh introduces beginners and reminds seasoned practitioners of the essentials of mindfulness practice. Slow, concentrated walking while focusing on in- and out-breaths allows for a unique opportunity to be in the present. There is no need to arrive somewhere—each step is the arrival to concentration, joy, insight, and the momentary enlightenment of aliveness. When your foot touches the Earth with awareness, you make yourself alive and the Earth real, and you forget for one minute the searching, rushing, and longing that rob our daily lives of awareness and cause us to “sleepwalk” through life.

The Man Who Learned to Walk Three Times: A Memoir by Peter Kavanagh

Throughout his life, as he developed a very successful career in public broadcasting, built a family, and indulged in his love of music and travel, Kavanagh underwent various surgeries and rehabilitation to give him “normal” mobility after being diagnosed with paralytic polio as an infant. The Man Who Learned to Walk Three Times is a moving memoir of a full life, and of learning the same lesson over and over.

And here’s a walking pro-tip from one walker to another: downloaded audiobooks from Overdrive are a fabulous way to get through your summer reads list while getting that step count up! Grab your headphones, slip on the sneakers, and enjoy that sunshine! Just don’t forget the sunscreen.

Happy reading,

Megan

Anywhere But Here: Your Grab-and-Go Guide to Not Going Anywhere At All

 

Living in Winnipeg, particularly during the month of January, you may have experienced that intensely sobering moment when you look up and realize that you’re a really long way from everywhere. One good shake of the head and you can begin to rationalize our cold climate by living with a thought like, “well, I guess there’s no risk of tsunami”. Or maybe you’ve straightened yourself out with an “at least we don’t get terrifying earthquakes”. Perhaps even a very sensible “there are 520 crazy spiders in Australia and most of them can and will kill you”. These are all definite perks to our geographical location and, don’t get me wrong, I’ve (rather courteously) laughed at my share of “at least there’s no mosquitos in winter” jokes.

Being a short jaunt from the longitudinal center of the 2nd largest country in the world is a very fine thing but it also means we’re a rather punishing road trip away from just about anywhere else. Granted, we do live in a city that embraces it’s never-ending winters with similarly never-ending skating trails, snow sculptures, ice palaces, twinkly lights galore, and frozen maple syrup on a stick. But there’s a limit to how much ice-cold sugar a person can stomach – literally. As well, one can only stand so many family, friends, and coworkers regaling us with heady accounts of warm places with sandy beaches, turquoise waters, non-stop mojitos, and green plants. Green, they say. When you take all those varied, idyllic, and far flung locations coupled with our very snowy and very cold winters (so long, Polar Vortex, please never come back), you’ve got a recipe for daydreaming and wanderlust. So what’s a library worker to do when marooned in the inhospitable middle of wind-chill warnings, ever-growing snowbanks, and a weather forecast that simply reads “ice crystals”? Escape into a book, that’s what. Here are a handful of excellent trips to take somewhere else without spending a single hot cent!

Literary Fiction – when conventional fiction genres just don’t cut the mustard.

Looking to immerse yourself into a world kind of like yours but actually not yours at all? Try a trip into Literary Fiction, where it could be real but it’s really not. If you want something that allows you to sit back and fully immerse yourself in a book look no further. As an introductory trip into literary fiction try a stopover in Naples (circa 1950) with Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, the first title in The Neapolitan Novels series. The novel follows Elena and Lila, two young girls with a complicated friendship and the transformation of their postwar city, which shapes them both in turn.

I’m not going too far in theme or geographic location when I next recommend a title that is not at all new to our shelves but entirely underappreciated. We’ll travel slightly north-east from Italy to gallivant around the rural countryside of Ukraine (NB not “the Ukraine”, just “Ukraine”). Everything is Illuminated is the first novel by Jonathan Safran Foer in which two stories unfold.  One story focuses on Jonathan’s travels to Eastern Europe to track down the woman who saved his Jewish father from the Nazis during Word War II, while the other follows the history of a family living in Trachimbrod, a small Ukrainian shtetl. While devastatingly sad, it also has a distinct element of magical realism and a healthy dose of humour from Jonathan’s Ukrainian translator, guide, and enthusiastic consumer of American culture, Alexi Perchov (who also serves as narrator for much of the book in exquisite, hilarious, perfectly broken English).

This is all without even mentioning Alexi’s depressive grandfather or their family dog, along for the ride, named Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior. For those who enjoy the book and, really, for everyone else, too, the 2005 film adaptation of the same title is perfectly cast with Elijah Wood as Jonathan, and Eugene Hutz, famed gypsy-punk front man of band Gogol Bordello, as Alexi.

Science Fiction – When reality is just too bleak, jazz it up with some science!

If you’re a fan of Douglas Adams (anyone else heartbroken that BBC America unceremoniously canceled Dirk Gently after a mere two seasons?) and want something similarly witty and dry and sci-fi-ish then Matt Haig’s Humans is a good place to start. An alien sent to earth using the body of a human scientist (who has recently discovered a little too much) gets a crash course in being human and all that entails. The tone is hilarious and watching the alien learn more about humans, a seemingly crude and grotesque species with curiously undeveloped technology, is a completely engaging read. For those of you who are already fans of Haig, get on the list for his newest novel, How to Stop Time, about a centuries-old, time-travelling history teacher.

Most of my favourite books have an element of absurdity to them and the next science fiction pick doesn’t stray too far from the theme. Borne by Jeff Vandermeer starts you out right in the thick of it with a giant flying despotic bear named Mord who has been driven insane by the biotech organization that created him. Why create a flying bear? Why make it a giant? These are all questions that, sure, one would like answered but the real focus of the story is on Rachel, a scavenger who finds a creature (stuck to Mord’s fur) with a fantastic ability to grow and learn. Might not make your Dystopia-to-Visit list in the real world but it’s certainly a fascinating escapist read.

Non-Fiction – Longing for an adventure to brighten up those evenings that begin around 4pm?

 Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton is a fantastically heavy tome that compiles a wealth of information about places you never knew existed, things you didn’t know happened, and weird parks that you’d sell your first born child to visit. Okay, so maybe it’s not quite all that radically persuasive but it’s a definite winner if you’re looking to waste some time on a long, snowy, bitter-cold afternoon. Caveat lector –  it’s one of those books that’ll have you interrupting everyone around you mid-sentence with a “Yes, right, your retirement/baby/world domination plan/engagement announcement is very important- but did you know this…”

For a book that will convince you that your home is probably the safest place around, try any book ever written that recounts a trek through the tropical rainforests of the Amazon. Nothing has made me want to stay put exactly where I am more than reading The Lost City of Z by David Grann. Following in the (highly questionable) footsteps of literally hundreds of people who died in a plethora of differing ways while attempting the exact same journey, David Grann traces the journey of the famed explorer/adventurer Percy Harrison Fawcett (aka PHF – essentially the Lebron James of Victorian exploration). Fawcett famously disappeared in the Amazonian rainforests, along with his son and son’s unfortunate best friend, in the early half of the 20th century after an intense amount of media fanfare leading up to and during the expedition. There are creepy crawlies, and horrible history, and all sorts of sleuthing going on in this one.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan takes us to another place that you wouldn’t really want to be – in the grips of a perplexingly terrifying and unnamed illness. Okay, so maybe a trip to the epilepsy ward of a New York hospital isn’t quite what you had in mind when escaping from winter into a good book but this read is a real rollercoaster. It follows the true account of Susannah, from New York Post reporter, breaking stories, conducting interviews, enjoying life in her 20s in New York, through the onslaught of a completely unpredictable illness that plagues her with seizures, psychosis, and renders her essentially catatonic. While you can grab a copy of this book at your local library, I would also recommend looking into the eBook version – as I did – and listen to it via Overdrive.

So if you’re pinching your pennies nickels (doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?), deathly afraid of air travel, or just wistfully staring off as far into the distance as the current blizzard-like condition will allow, there’s a book at the library waiting for you. Even if you’re not looking for greener pastures, there are countless adventures you can wade into. What have you been reading to escape winter? Share your favourites with me in the comments.

-Laura

Long Live the King

Books are a uniquely portable magic.

Stephen King

If you were to walk into almost any library or bookstore, odds are you’ll find most of the shelf space for the K authors is given over to books written by Stephen King. Not only does he tend to write long books, he has written a lot of books. For better or worse, Stephen King has ruled the realm of popular fiction for decades, and he shows no signs of stepping down from his throne anytime soon.

Stephen Kingcarrie officially started his writing career in the late 1960’s, submitting short stories to magazines to supplement his salary as a worker in an industrial laundry. His first novel, Carrie, was published in 1974. It was a runaway success, so much so that Stephen was able to write full time for a living, and he hasn’t looked back since. Although a lot about his life has changed since his first book was published, King still lives in Maine most of the year, he’s still an avid baseball fan, and he’s still giving a lot of people nightmares.

standOne of my favourite bits of King trivia is that he met his wife while they were both working in a university library. Coincidentally, I too first encountered him in a library, although in my case it was my school library, while I was skipping out on an inter-mural floor hockey tournament. Up until then, my only exposure to Stephen King was through the television ad for the movie version of The Shining, which scared the pants off me. To this day I don’t know why I picked up that copy of The Stand, but I did, and I’ve been hooked every since.

itI’m the first to admit that his books aren’t the greatest literature, and I don’t enjoy everything he’s written. But there’s something about the vast stories he’s able to create, and the basic humanity of his characters, that keeps me coming back for more. I prefer his ridiculously long books – It, Under the Dome, and my all-time favourite, The Talisman, to his short story collections.

There’s something about his writing that reminds me of the really gruesome original versions of classic fairy tales, where the world is a dark and scary place filled with wolves that eat grandmothers alive, and wicked queens that demand the hearts of children. In those stories, even though terrible things happened, the characters who were clever, strong and brave came through in the end. These stories were originally told as morality tales, to introduce children to the concept of good and evil. talismanIn that regard, there are a lot of similarities between the stories told by the brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen and Stephen King. The monsters in Stephen King’s books are sometimes supernatural, sometimes human, and horrible things happen to good people, but at the end of the day evil is defeated by the powers of good. Ultimately, I have to turn to Stephen King’s own words to explain why his books appeal to me and to so many other readers: “We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.”

-Lori

 

 

 

No Place for a Lady

School’s out and summer is in full swing. Some of you will be planning a trip to the lake, or perhaps to someplace even farther away. Others, like me, will be settling in for a staycation full of day trips to the beach and all the great summer festivals Winnipeg has to offer. Those of us who aren’t quite so lucky with our travel plans this year can still read about the adventures of those who’ve travelled far and wide. Popular travel memoirs, like Wild by Cheryl Strayed and Tracks by Robyn Davidson, tell the stories of women setting out alone in challenging environments. But many women of past eras also found a unique freedom on their own in unfamiliar places. Personally, I enjoy reading about other people’s explorations while relaxing on a patio with a cold drink!

Tracks and Wild

In her beautifully illustrated books No Place for a Lady: Tales of Adventurous Women Travelers and Dreaming of East: Western Women and the Exotic Allure of the Orient, Barbara Hodgson tells the stories of several women who defied the restrictive Victorian social conventions to become adventurers and explorers in their own right.

No Place Lady and Dreaming East

The Nomad: The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt is the fascinating journal of Isabelle Eberhardt, a 19th century Swiss writer who travelled widely in north Africa and through the Sahara desert. She scandalized her peers when she started dressing in men’s clothing and converted to Islam.

Englishwoman Isabella Bird wrote many memoirs of her time in America, Korea, Tibet, China, and elsewhere. Her stay in Japan is chronicled in her book Unbeaten Tracks in Japan.

Nomad and Unbeaten Tracks

In 1889, reporter Nellie Bly began a race around the world. Travelling in the opposite direction was another journalist, Elizabeth Bisland, sponsored by a rival newspaper. Eighty Days by Matthew Goodman tells of their competition to circle the globe faster than the character in Jules Verne’s novel.

Freya Stark began her extensive travels in the Middle East after World War I. She wrote more than two dozen books about her experiences. The first, The Valleys of the Assassins and other Persian Travels, describes her journeys through western Iran.

Eighty Days Valley Assassins

So if you’re stuck in the city this summer, pick up a good book and let one these interesting ladies show you the world!

  • Melanie