Archive for the 'Reading' Category

Slow Travel – Mari Rhydwen

Slow Travel is autobiographical, in that is the story of Mari and Allen and the packing up of their normal lives, buying a yacht and sailing around the Indian Ocean for 3 years. 

They set out with next to no sailing experience, which would

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appear somewhat foolish to say the least, but they seem to gain a rapid introduction to ocean sailing and poor weather in their first foray off the coast of Western Australia.

Its a good book, in particular because it deals with alot of the aspects of ocean sailing that you either would not have thought of, or if you had thought, didn’t know how that particular thing was done or dealt with so far from civilisation and solid land.  It’s a practical book in some ways, but far from ever being boring.

In fact their story is inspirational more than anything else.

I’m almost inspired to go sell my possessions, buy a yacht and set sail into the great wide ocean. (with great fear of the many frightening events that might occur as did in Slow Travel.)


The Shadow of the Sun – Ryszard Kapuściński

Those that have seen my bookshelf will know that I’m a sucker for the writing of a foreign correspondent.
Perhaps its an unfullfilled personal desire. :-)

It generally doesn’t make a lot of difference where the correspondent is posted, although strange, dangerous or remote lands seem to make a more frequent showing on my bookshelf than those that have been posted to say, London, Berlin or New York.

Hence it probably comes as little surprise to hear that I just finished reading Kapuściński’s book ”The Shadow of the Sun

I had never heard of Kapuściński, until a neighbour showed me his book titled “The Soccer War“.  After reading half a chapter of that book, I realised I needed to find out more and read some more of this author.

The Shadow of the Sun is a loosely arranged but detailed collection of Kapuściński’s essays and notes from his time spent as a news correspondent posted to the continent of Africa.
Kapuściński gets in amongst the real Africa. Shunning life with the privileged whites, their servants and stately homes; he lives among the African people, gaining a deep understanding for the many African ways of life.  He shares those experiences in The Shadow of the Sun with detailed and colourful language that describes various African nation states at war, at peace and times of infinite despair.

Kapuściński’s intelligence and depth of knowledge, 30 years in Africa; shows in his writing as he details the characters he meets and associates with. You get a real sense that you begin to know the people he describes and understand their circumstances and thinking.
And he does

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this with all the associated risks and while barely staying alive.

The Shadow of the Sun is one of the best books on Africa that I’ve had the pleasure of reading.

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News of a Kidnapping – Gabriel García Márquez

Recently finished reading my second García Márquez book, News of a Kidnapping.  Riveting stuff.

News of a Kidnapping tells the story of a number of kidnappings carried out in 1990 by the Colombian cocaine cartel, Medellin; led by billionare drug baron, Pablo Escobar.

García Márquez, in

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his amazing way with words, describes with intricate detail the effects the kidnappings have on the victims. He draws you into the depths of Escobar’s cruel mind and gives an good look at the sociological issues the kidnappings bring about and details the political control that Escobar exerted on all aspects of Colombian society during that time.

Drawn from interviews, diaries, media reports and other sources, it is a frightening yet tremendously insightful look at the history of the country during a very painful period in Colombia.

For anyone with the slightest interest in recent Colombian history and society it is a valuable read.

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The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera

Recently I was describing what I thought of this book to good friends.
I told them, while I was reluctant to

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attribute such a grand assertion to my reading of this novel, I went ahead and stated that;

“….it is probably the best book I have ever read, to date”

During my reading I found it very difficult to pause at times, when I reached the last page, I was tempted to return to the beginning and commence over again.   I just could not put it down, and wanted to continue reading day and night.  Often I had to force myself to put the book down and go to sleep, else I’d had been up all night.
No doubt I will re-read this book in the near future.

I had seen the film The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which was based on the book, over 10 years ago and I really enjoyed that film, but wondered if that has just a little to do with the magnificent acting by Daniel Day-Lewis & Juliette Binoche.
While the film is still an great work, the book is a masterful achievement beyond comparison.

Kundera is a genius wordsmith. His ability to draw you into the detail of the complex relationships between people and depth of thought is unlike anything I have read before. The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a book that deserves greater attention, it forces the reader to not only understand the characters and their story, but to reassess ones own life and existance.

I cannot recall ever reading a book prior to The Unbearable Lightness of Being, that put a lump in my throat and made my eyes well up.


The Great Leap Forward

According to the Sydney Morning Herald today, Sydney is to gain 55 kilometres of dedicated bike paths, as part of the City of Sydney cycling plan.

Bike-only lanes let cyclists shift into a new gear

It’s been a l-o-n-g time coming, but the plan is due for approval by council on Monday, with construction to commence in June 2007. Lets hope it goes through unopposed.

This plan

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could be a great leap forward for the city of Sydney, with cycle infrastructure in the CBD, we can hope this leads to outlying councils doing more to promote safe cycle transport within the greater Sydney area.

Along with all the benefits cycling brings, healthy community, clean efficent transport, safer streets, less traffic congestion.

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Philosophy for Polar Explorers – Erling Kagge

PFPEThis is an interesting book. Norwegian Erling Kagge has attempted to summarise the meaning of life into 173 pages. To some degree, he has been successful.

A significant portion of the book is dedicated to Kagge’s personal achievements, and one can’t help but feel that Kagge has been just a little too narcissistic in his writing.  And this is despite Kagge’s own admission of egocentricity.

It would be highly erroneous to suggest that Kagge has not achieved greatly. He has been exceptionally successful as a mountaineer/explorer; and to gauge from this book, in most other pursuits he has put his mind to also.

When Kagge isn’t singing his own praises, he consumes quite a large portion of his book to quoting others from history. Kagge has selected from a wide variety of influences, from Clinton to Magellan, even Paris Hilton.
Those that Kagge has chosen to quote do in fact bring value to the book.

Kagge covers philosophical ground very deftly, in the chapter titled “The kind of loneliness that’s good for us” he walks through importance of being introspective, and the value of being able to be content with only ones own company. Concepts I myself subscribe to.

In summary, Kagge has written an interesting and challenging book, and worthy of reading. In writing this book, Kagge has revealed alot of himself and encourages all of us to consider our place in the world. (even if we will never become polar explorers)

A small view into Kagge’s book can be made with a quote of the author himself from the second chapter. I particularly liked this thought.


“If you say it’s impossible and I say it’s possible, we’re probably both right.”


The Fatal Shore

I recently finished reading

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Robert Hughes’ The Fatal Shore.
What a magnificent work. This book should be mandatory reading in all Australian schools; and is a valuable read for anyone even mildly interested in the formation of the Australian nation.

Hughes is, as always, ever eloquent as he draws the reader through the perilous growing pains of our nation during the convict settlement of Australia.
I really valued this book, especially in the way Hughes details the specific thought processes of the various Governors of that time. I found this particularly interesting when looking at the parallels with our government today. In doing so I felt I gained a slightly deeper understanding of some of the reasons behind laws that are still significant in our society today.

In The Fatal Shore, Hughes gives us a close look at who we Australians were, and who we are today as a result of our convict and colonial past. This is a tremendously valuable perspective to have and one that gives us a better understanding of the Australian psyche today.

Buy, Borrow or Steal this book. (Disregard the possibility of deportation to a distant foreign land)
It’s worth it.

20 Million Australian’s now call this continent home, you ought to know what occurred prior to you stomping your feet here.

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