Monday, June 16, 2008

Literary travel companions. . .

If you've got a vacation coming up to an exotic place, or you're just heading up to the cottage dreaming of exotic elsewheres, the Guardian has a great article in which writers suggest companion books to take to a variety of great travel spots around the world. You can read it here. It includes David Mitchell picking his favourite books for Japan, Julian Barnes evoking Sicily, Dave Eggers exploring literary Chicago and Colm Toibin taking on South America. Great summer reading suggestions abound.

As for me, I'm shortly taking off for a walking holiday in Iceland. And in preparation for the trip, here's what I'm currently reading/stuffing into my backpack:

I've long been wanting to read the novels of the Nobel prize-winning author Hallador Laxness - I'm in the middle of the wonderful Independent People a novel outlining in stark detail, the many decades in the life of a stubborn sheep farmer. I'm also going to try to read Iceland's Bell - an update of the traditional Icelandic sagas, some of which I studied in school.

For a frequently funny, and completely charming and original take on Iceland, I'm also reading Letters From Iceland by W. H. Auden and Louis MacNeice. It's an engaging mishmash of poetry, prose, history and travel pieces, originally published in 1937. I'm on the hunt for a copy of Moon Country: Further Letters from Iceland by Simon Armitage and Glyn Maxwell, which is an updated homage to Auden and MacNeice, published in the 1990s, but it seems to be out of print.

When I chatted with Alberto Manguel at the recent CLA, he recommended Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth which takes place in an ancient Icelandic volcano. So it too goes into the pile.

And we've just signed up the terrific Icelandic crime writer Arnaldur Indridason. I've read and loved his previous book Silence in the Grave and next on the list is his latest, The Draining Lake.

One of things that attracted me about Iceland apart from all of its physical beauty, is its literary culture. It has the highest rate of literacy in the world and a thriving cultural and literary heritage. The country publishes more books per capita than even the United States. I've read that they are also huge coffee consumers too (maybe the two go hand in hand). Can't wait to check out the bookstores and libraries in Reykjavik. Stay tuned. . .

1 comment:

Shonna said...

Lucky you.
I've always wanted to go to Iceland, but could never convince anyone else to go.
My father has now become enthusiastic and is talking about going in 2009 (but I'm taking my niece to Australia in February first).