Couch travel

Cultural-forage from the sofa with my favorite escapist reads:

1) The Drifters, James A. Michener

This magnificent drama follows six Vietnam-era youth through Spain, Marrakech, and Mozambique as they grapple with dreams, drugs, and disenchantment with the times.  Reading this book during my final spring semester of college made me realize the disservice I would do to myself by moving into a shoebox in Manhattan without first seeing even California.  It is a book I have given frequently to others, and though each person takes something different from the story, there is a universal message embraced.

2) Don’t Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller

An incredible autobiographical account of growing up as an ex-pat in southern Africa.  Fuller’s writing style is jarring and as athletic as Hemingway’s. Her cutting honesty and infinite compassion reflects the harsh and beautiful landscape in which she grew up. This is a book I have read over and over again.

3) I Dreamed of Africa, Kuki Gallmann

Gallmann’s is a truly moving story, and the strength she displayed as she put herself back together after unimaginable tragedies has inspired me through tougher times in my own life. Born a privileged Venetian, she expatriated to Kenya decades ago, where she lives on a massive ranch with her daughter Sveva. Both devote their lives to conservation and other causes that I continue to follow (for example,

4) Seven Gothic Tales, Isak Dinesen

Isak Dinesen, the nom de plume of Karen Blixen of Out of Africa, writes with the deliberation of word and thought that makes writing a craft. Like everything Dinesen pens, this collection of short stories is engaging from the outset, as it uncovers the nuances of life in the mystical hinterlands.  Reading Dinesen ignites in me deep cravings to write myself.

5) A River Runs Through It, Norman Maclean

Most of us became familiar with this title through the gorgeous Redford-directed film that stars Brad Pitt.  As is many times the case, I was spurred to locate the original written words that inspired a beloved film.  Set in Montana, this novella is a stunning portrait of frontier America, and is written as gracefully as a fly cast.  Soon after reading this Maclean, I happily found myself drinking in the glacial air of Big Sky country; I highly recommend it.


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