miniblog: May I recommend . . .

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

May I recommend . . .

Because I'm determined to read almost entirely for pleasure this semester, I've gone through quite a few books already.

You know how I recommended the prequel book Dark Angels by Karleen Koen? I still count it as one of my favorite latest reads (I still have dreams set in its landscapes). But its "sequel", confusingly written a few years before Dark Angels, entitled Through a Glass Darkly? Meh. And that's pretty close to an Ugh, if I'm honest. Ms Koen apparently learns how to write better with each book. So don't bother! Seriously.

I highly recommend the coffee-table book Faces of Africa. Absolutely stunning imagery - some I can't get out of my head, ever. From the Amazon comments: "The book is a stunning display of the many facets of African tribal life and customs" - and it's not your ordinary Nat Geo treatment, either.

Same with Archipelago: Portraits of Life in the World's Most Remote Island Sanctuary - another beautiful coffee-table whose trick is to photograph fish, birds, insects, etc against entirely white, or black, seamless backgrounds, the effect of which is nothing short of spectacular. I could look at those photos all day. Simply look at the cover.

If you're even remotely interested in the world beyond our five senses, and a bit tired of all the old Discovery channel re-runs, I suggest reading Michael Pollan's The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World. Every sentence in this book contains something interesting, and it will truly change your perception of the plant world - not necessarily because there is anything philosophically "new" in the book, but because it gets you looking at human-plant-insect relationships and interplay in a whole new light. I think I dog-eared just about every page (a horrible habit, but what can I do). His writing style is very lush, as well; ocassionally it bordered on cloying, but for the most part it was perfect.

And if you want to completely submerse yourself in Thai culture - the social graces, the landscape, way of doing business, eating, drinking, or even simply asking questions - then you should definitely read John Burdette's 2 mysteries Bangkok 8 and Bangkok Tattoo. They're both very tight murder mysteries set in Krung Thep (the Thai name for Bangkok), narrated almost entirely in the present tense by a Thai cop who doesn't readily give away his secrets. The process of getting to know him is as exotically - and frighteningly - delicious as coming to understand the culture, something that I never thought I'd be given the opportunity to do (outside of traveling there).

If you haven't noticed, I really love immersive texts (Dark Angels completely set me in its era; Faces of Africa set me in, well, tribal Africa; etc etc). After reading them, I always come away with my perceptions infinitely changed; I love seeing things with new eyes. The more I do it in my head, the easier it is for me to do in my life. And that has helped me immeasurably, I think, in being happy. May it do the same for you!


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