Tuesday, March 6, 2012
It doesn't take too much to get bogged down in the ceaseless grind of the everyday. So easily are the small pleasures of daily life forgotten; replaced in their rightful home at the forefront of our consciousness by the burdens and stresses with which we all cope. You burn the toast at breakfast, and someone bought the orange juice with pulp even thought everyone knows you only drink it without; you find a parking ticket on your windshield when you get to the car, face obscenely bad traffic during your commute, arrive late to work on the day you were meant to give a presentation to the CEO of the company, spill coffee on your shirt at lunch, and arrive home just in time to have a knock-down drag-out argument with the first family member you see. At the end of such a day it's difficult not to be overcome by a thick, murky emotional fog tainted by the inescapabilitiy of our personal commitments--it's at moments like these when we most often say to ourselves "I need a vacation." Vacations, however, are expensive, difficult to plan, and have all sorts of impractical prerequisites like time off from work and someone to watch your dog. As such, sometimes the best thing you can possibly do is get out of town for free and in such a manner that you can snap back to reality at a moment's notice when your attention is required by your real, everyday life. What I mean to say, is that sometimes one really needs a fic-cation, and here at your local library, we aspire to facilitate your journey, but please be advised there are no emergency exits on this flight.
On the precipice of what I hope will be a thrilling and memorable personal adventure in Spain I've been reflecting a lot on anything and everything I've read which might give me some insight into what I might expect, but there are myriads of wonderful books set in exciting and exotic locations all over the world. To name a few:
Donna Leon's street-smart and capable Commissario Guido Brunetti stars in a mystery series set in modern-day Venice. The series offers up great local flavor from one of the most beautiful and unique cities in the world. To get started pick up Death at La Fenice. Click on the picture to check on availability.
Chris Ewan's "The Good Thief's Guide" series is a prime candidate for anyone who is a globe-trotter at heart. It features reformed burglar Charlie Howard as he begins a crime-writing career. His co-star in each new novel? A whole new city. So far we've seen Amsterdam, Paris, Vegas, and Venice. These novels are fast, funny reads and don't have to be read in any particular order. If you want to start at the beginning go for the Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam.
The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman is a standalone novel which takes place in Rome. It's the story of an English language newspaper run out of Italy. Rachman does a wonderful job of bringing both Rome and the newsroom to life but the meat of this story is the relationships between characters and the essence of the human condition.
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett takes place in the home of the president of small South American country. It's a political thriller which is more about the emotional exchange between hostages than a sunny South American getaway, but it earns a place on the list because it's a great book by a great author.
When in Rome by Gemma Townley earns a place on this list for the exact opposite reason as Bel Canto--it is completely frivolous, with very little depth, but as they say..."When in Rome..." and that's exactly the time to read this fun, fast-moving chick-lit romantic comedy--or maybe when you'd just really like to be in Rome.
Temple by Matthew Reilly is also a thriller which takes place in South America--but it's got more of an Indian Jones vibe as competing organizations search for a lost relic from an ancient civilization. The group competing on behalf of the American army is lead by an intrepid linguist. The search takes the story through abandoned gold mines, ancient ruins, and rural villages for a good up-close look at the landscape of the Peruvian jungle.
A special shout out to The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón recently featured in another Positively Ellinwood Street post. Evocative imagery and a fast-moving plot-line lend incredible vivacity to this coming-of-age novel set in post-war Barcelona. To read more about it click here.
Reading is such an excellent opportunity to escape the drudgery of the everyday, and why not take advantage of the most distant and exotic places on earth since, after all, when it comes to fiction, not even the sky is the limit?
Bon Voyage, readers!