When crossing 3,000 miles of ocean there’s plenty of time to catch up on some reading (if the boat you happen to be sailing on is stocked up on books). Between Thailand and Madagascar I read 22 books (4 on the iPhone). They are listed in no particular order:
‘Travel medicine’ – Dr Eric Weiss
Gives the basics of how to save a life in the wild from all sorts of injuries (burns, animal attacks, constipation). Easy-to-follow illustrations accompanied by simple explanations (no illustrations of constipation).
‘A Short Walk Thru the Hindu Kush’ – Eric Newby
Regarded as the travel book that changed travel writing. Two Englishmen – the author (who was a successful fashion designer) and his friend (an attaché in the British embassy in Kabul), attempt to climb a mountain in Afghanistan of 1958 without any climbing experience (and both men well past their 40s). Conveyed via humour in the first person.
‘Sailing for Beginners’ – Jeff Toghill
A short, easy-to-follow on the basics of sailing. You won’t win the America’s Cup right after you read it but you’ll gain basic knowledge and terminology (so that’s what ‘tacking’ means).
‘The God of Small Things’ – Arundhati Roy
Won the Booker prize. The story of an Indian family from the 50s, its place in society and the tragic events that takes place over the course of a generation. Drawn out long and seems to go nowhere.
The ending is an abrupt stop.
‘Cloud Atlas’ – David Mitchell
An epic sci-fi saga told through five different timelines that, I’m guessing, are supposed to connect at the end but either I missed it or it just wasn’t there.
‘Moonlight Mile’ – Dennis Lehane
A private I searches for a missing girl. He found her once when she was a toddler and now in her teens, she’s disappeared again. Quite funny and not as heavy as the author’s previous work, ‘Mystic River’, another great read (movie ain’t bad either).
‘Hells Bay’ – James W. Hall
It’s literally Cape Fear (the original) meets Swamp Men. Set in the Florida Everglades it’s about a reclusive guy who discovers he’s become a billionaire through a family he had no idea he was related too. Thrilling, funny and a few edge-of-your-seat moments.
‘The Glass Rainbow’ – James Lee Burke
Set in Louisiana, it’s supposed to be a crime thriller. Plenty of crime but no thrills. You know what’s going to happen and the attempt at building suspense is like playing Janga – it just collapses.
‘Voodoo River’ – Robert Crais
Another PI book. Outright hilarious. Also set in Louisiana, our hero is hired by a TV starlet to find out her family’s medical history. He finds a little more than he bargained for.
‘Timeline’ – Michael Critchon
A pretty gory, no holds bar time-travel story. Fast-paced (except for the explanation of quantum mechanics) but every page is great. A group of grad students of archeology and history are sent back to the Middle Ages to rescue their professor.
’11/22/63′ – Stephen King
Another time-travel adventure. Perhaps the mother of all time-travel stories (besides Back to the Future). Thoroughly researched (the title is the date of JFK’s assassination – 22/11/1963) it’s 848 pages of a page-turning suspense with laugh-out-loud moments. I read it in two days as I simply could not put it down.
‘Under the Dome’ – Stephen King
I haven’t seen the TV show that was recently produced based on this 871 paged thriller. Great narrative and keeps you wondering what next and you feel bad when a character is killed (there are about 50 characters). The descriptions of death and injury aren’t held back. The ending is disappointing.
‘A Cook’s Tour’ – Anthony Bourdain
Chef Bourdain goes around the world eating some weird stuff that I would never have dreamed of putting in my mouth (the still-beating heart of a snake, penis and testicles of a wild pig. I mean, who looks at that part of an animal and says, “Mm-hmm! Bitta rice, bitta soy sauce. Yummo!”?). Funny, witty and it’ll still make you hungry.
Not recommended for vegetarians\vegans.
‘The Lovely Bones’ – Alice Sebold
A terrifically written story about the murder of a 14-year-old girl in a small community and how the afflicted family deals with it. It’s told from the perspective of the victim watching from a non-cliched heaven.
‘A Widow for One Year’ – John Irving
The story is about writers and the broken homes they come from spanning from a 60s childhood to the present. One of those sit-by-the-fireplace books.
‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ – Alexander Dumas
Epic. The movie was great but the book is always better. Although written in the 19th century, once you get past the ol’ school English it’s translated to it’s a great adventure story. Makes you want to come across millions and take revenge on everyone that ever wronged you (even your first grade teacher).
‘Fistful of Reefer’ – David Mark Brown
A western adventure based in the early 1900s with a car and motorbike involved. Few funny moments it’s about a Mexican trying to sell his marijuana crop with a little more to him than meets the eye. The ending is abrupt and leaves you wanting to strangle the writer.
‘Rose of Fire’ – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
A short story from the writer of the fantastic ‘The Shadow of the Wind’. Like his previous work, this story is also based in Catalonia. It’s about a book being hunted by a bookstore employee. Pretty enjoyable.
‘Killer Instinct’ – Joseph Finder
A bromance Fatal Attraction story about a salesman in a large corporation that hires an ex-special forces guy without doing a background check that helps him, without his asking, fast-track his way to the CEO position. Fast paced, funny airport fiction.
‘The Grass is Singing’ – Doris Lessing
She won the 2007 Nobel Prize for literature. Based in Rhodesia (today’s Zimbabwe) of the early 20th century, a white woman is murdered by her black servant. There is no real mystery as the story is about how the victim deals with the hardship of farming life up until her death.
Quite a depressing read, really. Almost made me want to jump ship into the water.
‘SAS Survival Guide’ – John Wiseman
Not that I plan to come across a Man-versus-Wild scenario anytime soon but it is informative and has colourful illustrations of plants that can or can’t be eaten, how to draw water from them, build shelter and other essential survival skills.
‘The Works of Edgar Allen Poe’ – Edgar Allen Poe:
The author of one the most famous poems, ‘The Raven’, lived in poverty trying to live off writing. He died in 1850. His accomplished works of essays, short-stories and rhyming prose have inspired writers world-wide (including my summary of 2013).
A lot of fictional characters are writers, about to become writers or want to be writers. Almost 90% of fictional characters have one or both parents dead either killed in a car accident or a plane crash. Stephen King likes to write epically but ends Hollywoodly. Other than that, some good books out there.