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My backpacking trip around the world in books

December 4, 2013

Well, I never got round to explaining more about the manically creative, super fun time in Colorado, but maybe that is best left to the collective memories of me and hugely talented fellow artists, Melanie Reese, Molly Schulman and Rose Lambert-Sluder (who totally needs a website).

Now I am back in England and the whole Intrepid Vegetarian mission seems like a dream.  Now every day I trudge through the gauntlet of hanging skinned chickens and stalls selling potentially stolen Blackberries, otherwise known as Peckham Rye Lane, on my way to Peckham Library where I sit applying for jobs and trying to finish editing my novel against a background of noise that is several decibels higher than that recorded in most bus stations. What happened to the concept of libraries being quiet? Anyway, if it wasn’t for my fabulous friends here I think I would have a severe case of the post-backpacking blues, but so far I am warding them off, just.

To remind myself that I have actually just spent nine months circumnavigating the planet, I’ve compiled a little list of all the books I read whilst I was away. Most of them would make a great Christmas present by the way!meyer

  • The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins. Yes, I read The Hunger Games. It was sitting on the bookshelf at the Arte Studio Ginestrelle, on top of, might I add, shelves and shelves of far more intellectual tomes. Anyway, I thought it okay. I can see why you’d love this if you were fifteen and I can’t fault the feisty female protagonist.
  • 1989: The Year That Changed The World by Michael Meyer. Charts the real story behind the 1989 revolutions in Eastern Europe. A fantastic read which gives a persuasive argument for making the Hungarian Communist Party reformers as big a heroes as Vaclav Havel etc.
  • Rome: A Cultural History by Robert Hughes. I forbid anyone to set foot inside the Eternal City without reading this book! In fact, everyone should read it whatever because it’s totally brilliant.
  • Mafia State by Luke Harding. Continuing an unusual  run of mafnon-fiction, I wisely downloaded, read, then deleted this off my Kindle a good while before I was anywhere near the Russian border. Guardian journalist Luke Harding was expelled from Russia by Putin and it’s a convincing, devastating critique of the regime.
  • Ever Fallen in Love? by Zoe Strachan. Zoe was one of the tutors on an Arvon Retreat I did a few years ago and I finally got round to reading the book she read a saucy extract from, and I was glad I did because it’s great.
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy… well I didn’t quite get to the end of it. In fact, I’m not sure I even got halfway through. Didn’t EM Forster say 8 or so is the optimal number of main characters in a novel? Tolstoy gives that notion a big two fingers here. I think I was trying to read this from Italy to China then gave up.carson
  • The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. A very sweet, very sad mediation on loneliness and alienation. Thank you to Linda who I met in Italy for recommending this beautiful novel!
  • The Scent of the Night by Andrea Camilleri. A pretty straight crime novel… can’t really remember much about it which doesn’t say a lot.
  • The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo. We were sitting on the blocks of the Holocaust memorial in Berlin talking about how the Holocaust was able to happen when our tour guide recommended this psychology book which explores why people do evil things. Interesting, though got a bit boring towards the end.
  • The Beach by Alex Garland. I was now in Kunming, China, waiting for beachmy Vietnam visa, and there was nothing to do but sit and read this book which was good as I just couldn’t put it down. I partly blame this book for my decision to sod going hiking in the Yunnan mountains and just get into the SE Asia backpacking trail, even though it made the thought of it rather terrifying.
  • The Quiet American by Graham Greene. A totally fantastic, perfect novel set in Vietnam at the end of the French rule. But I am totally in love with Graham Greene so I would say that.
  • The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene. “What an absurd thingthe-heart-of-the-matter3 it was to expect happiness in a world so full of misery.” I so wish I could have gone out drinking with Mr. Greene.
  • Coming Up For Air by George Orwell. I think I was in Saigon when I idly picked this up off the hostel bookshelf and started reading and then it absorbed me for the next few days and stayed with me long after I’d finished it. It made me homesick for an England long gone before I was even born.  Wouldn’t have said no to a drink with our George either.
  • To Catch A Rabbit by my friend Helen Cadbury. A fantastic début novel and a cracking mystery by my fellow Arvon attendee. Buy it now! I have had a drink with Ms. Cadbury and hope to once again some time.
  • The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paulo Giordano. Found on my bookshelf in the Gingerbread House at Elsewhere Studios, Colorado, read in a matter of days and kind of like One Day for people who like the Graham Greene quote above.
  • In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat by John Gribbon. An admirable attempt catat explaining Quantum Physics in ‘lay terms’. I had, for reasons I shall keep to myself, been trying to come up with my own theory of time travel since I was on a train in Thailand. Found this book on the Elsewhere book shelves and it kind of helped, kind of. Don’t try reading it when you’re drunk, it will crack your brain.
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Pisses all over War and Peace, and pretty much everything else written before and since really … 
  • The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck… though this novella is a very powerful allegory for German occupation in WWII, and has a fascinating history.
  • Nicolas Nickleby by Charles Dickens. Nicholas came home with me, back to England as I still haven’t finished it. I found myself fancying him. Even though he is only about 18 and was made up by someone who is long dead. But there you go, such is the power of Mr. Dickens’ prose!
  • The Tempest by William Shakespeare. So I guess I can claim the whole trip led to much self improvement as I started with Hunger Games and ended with Shakespeare!tem

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 5, 2013 3:13 pm

    Heather I’m so glad you read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, which was written, in part, at a nearby Charlotte rooming house, (now a fusion Indian restaurant!)

    • HJHampson permalink*
      December 5, 2013 3:18 pm

      That’s cool. I’ll have to check out some of her other books. She had quite a tragic life, didn’t she? But maybe that’s why she writes such poetic prose!

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