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26 August 2011 / leggypeggy

Recommended reading—or not—and Poor John’s tale of woe

We’ve been reading a lot, but not many books are standouts.

The truck has a library of books accumulated over many trips, plus the contributions the current passengers have brought. Sometimes you ask about a book and a fellow traveller will sing out—’don’t even bother with that one’. It’s good to get such helpful advice.

A thousand splendid suns by Khaled Hosseini was recommended unanimously. It is absolutely riveting and deserves all the praise it gets. It covers the poignant and heartbreaking lives of two women in Afghanistan. I finished all 400-plus pages in two days. Hands-down it is the best book I have read in a long time, and certainly the best I have read so far on the trip. Read it.

Otherwise we’ve read—and sometimes merely started—a range of titles. Poor John, who will read almost anything, had to give up on a Nora Roberts’ book a few weeks ago after the lead character became a vampire (or something like that) before page 10. Can’t tell you the title—the book belonged to the homestay house in Kazbegi, Georgia.

Halfway through another book, he realised he read it on the truck in Africa. He said it was bad then, too. Based on some marks he noticed in the book, he thinks it might be the exact same copy he read in Africa—traded across various hostels and overland trucks in the world.

I had a go at Ted Simon’s Dreaming of Jupiter. He motorcycled around the world in the early 1970s. Jupiter’s Travels stemmed from that journey. He had another shot at such a trip about 30 years later. The second book is a disappointment (can’t speak for the original). I was pretty much bored from the outset, but he completely lost me on page 68 when he wrote that he hadn’t included anything about Cairo in his first book. Not because it wasn’t interesting, he said, but because there was TOO much to tell. For heaven’s sake, he stayed there for 18 days and chose to write nothing about the place? Note to readers: don’t trust the praise on a book’s cover if it’s been provided by fellow authors. They usually share the same publisher and will happily write what they are told to write. Review comments from newspapers and magazines can normally be trusted.

Zeitoun by journalist Dave Eggers was rewarding. Probably longer than it needs to be, it tells the moving story of an Islamic, Syrian man who stays behind to protect his home after Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans. He is an extremely kind man, who rescues and helps neighbourhood people and dogs, but who then gets caught up in the craziness of America’s police, security and legal systems. Read it and get angry. As an aside, there are eight pages of high praise at the beginning of the book—all from reliable sources and not fellow authors. It’s also won a heap of literary prizes.

I’m Nujood, age 10 and divorced—written by Nujood Ali with Delphine Minoui—is another eye-opener. In 2008, young Nujood turned the Arab world upside down when she mustered the courage to find her way to the courthouse in San’a, the capital of Yemen, and ask for a divorce from her husband. She was 10, he was three times her age. He beat her and never honoured his promise not to interfere with her until a year after she reached puberty. She’s a strong little girl who has managed to reclaim some of her childhood.

I also brought a couple of issues of Australia’s MasterChef magazine. I’m savouring every page of them and feel no need to share. Mostly because I’m the only person on the truck who is really passionate about cooking.

A plug for Red Dog
In April, Poor John saw a preview of the movie Red Dog, based on the book, with the same name, by Louis de Bernieres. We loved the book and he thoroughly enjoyed the movie. It’s supposed to be officially released in Australia in August 2011 and we urge everyone to see it. It’s corny—most successful Australia movies are corny—but it’s a great story and a lot of fun.

Poor John’s book woe
A few weeks back, Poor John had a terrible blow when his Kobo e-reader (with it’s 100-plus books) conked out. It didn’t exactly die, but the screen display began to deteriorate from the bottom up until the whole thing went poof! I’ll say this only once publicly—I suggested frequently that he buy a cover to protect the damn thing so it would survive the trip. My words were something along the line of—’Please buy a cover—it isn’t indestructible’.

One Comment

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  1. Louise M Oliver / Aug 26 2011 10:07 pm

    Hi Peggy,
    This is really riveting. Thank you for the book comments. As someone who reads a little, ha ha, I always enjoy hearing and reading other people’s opinions. I intend to see Red dog so thank you for the assurance that it’s worth it. I have a surprise for you that I’m about to wreck. Please, please, please don’t buy any more copies of the MasterChef magazine. I had an opportunity to buy a year’s subscription at a really good price and I’ve bought you one too. So much for surprises! It starts in October and is being sent to your home. I really feel for Poor John but suspect it’s a Kobo thing. Another of my friends had one and his stored books are okay but he can no longer connect to the shop to get new ones. I’ve bought an iPad and I love it already; will explain the rationale when I see you.

    And some local, and very sad, news. Last week respected ABC journalist,Paul Lockyer, helicopter pilot, Gary Ticehurst and cameraman, John Bean, also long-term ABC employees, were killed in a helicopter crash in South Australia. Vale three loved people.

    Take care and be good.



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