Whether you’re lounging in Central Park, hanging beside the river, or sitting next to a fjord, there’s always need for a good book. Here’s what your local Urchins are reading and soon to be picking up!
When I was travelling to Australasia last year, I strategically packed a few select belongings into my backpack to sustain me for a year on the road: shirts, shorts, shoes, toothpaste, and Bill Bryson’s 300 plus page tome about Australia, In a Sunburned Country. Now that I’m travelling around Europe, I naturally brought along the appropriate Bill Bryson companion book, in this case his 1991 account of a trip through Europe retracing the steps of a backpacking trip he did in his early twenties. Funnily enough, I found my copy of Neither Here Nor There in a secondhand shop in New Zealand, as though the Bryson gods were preparing me for what was to come. Funnier still, Bryson’s European tale begins Norway, the first stop of my European trip as well. If only I had read the book months ago and saved myself all the headaches of trying to plan my route. Next time I know: just follow Bill. Though Neither Here Nor There is one of Bryson’s earliest books, and it shows in his writing, it is endlessly enjoyable to read his impressions, analyses, and humourous takes on the places I visited on my first backpacking trip at 21 and those I’m visiting now at 26. This book is also home to some of the most eloquent things ever said about traveling and, be warned, is sure to incite immediate wanderlust.
Museums are easily one of my favorite things in the world. I can (and do!) spend hours wandering the halls of a museum, reading all of the little descriptions, viewing each painting from different angles, imagining the extinct taxidermied animals roaming in their natural habitat, sitting on a bench and watching the international tourists and cultured locals. I love museums in beautiful old buildings, like the Field Museum in Chicago, the National Gallery in London, and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, that exude a sense history and scholarly import. I also love museums in new, architecturally creative buildings that echo the innovative artistry housed within their walls. Taschen’s Architecture Now! Museums is the bible of the latter, highlighting architecturally inventive museums throughout the world with equally stunning photography. I hope to use this as a sort of guide book in my travels and would like to visit as many of the featured museums as possible, for their outward designs as much as their content.
Every once in a while you’ll come across something that’ll test what you thought a pretty solid opinion. I was never a fan of the writing style that came out of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, and so I tend to avoid any writer who has that as part of her bio. But I came across this essay collection and now my insides are fighting with each other. I can’t tell if Leach’s quasi- or pseudo-nature-guru language excites or irritates me, or whether I actually love it with all my heart and am just trying to deny it to save face. Chances are, if you see another mention of Amy Leach on the Urchin Movement, I’ll have made up my mind.
Well, well, well. I suppose my section of this season’s bookshelf is all about confronting what you think annoys you. Ever since Dubai’s meteoric rise in popularity on the world’s stage, I was immediately turned off. The materialism, the lavishness, the exclusivity, the wastefulness, and most of all the money all led me to conclude that Dubai be dead to me, and may I never see it ever! But that’s a bit childish, right? Thankfully, this book looks good, and it may teach me a thing or too about a region I really know nothing about.
What’re the odds that two Urchins at a time would be reading Bill Bryson? As always, Bill highlights and describes his subject with his hilarious curiosity and astounding ability to make something as mundane as the Australian Parliament. The first chapter is dedicated solely to describing how little we know about Australia - despite it being the sixth largest country in the world. Over the course of many extended trips through every region of the country, Bill details his adventures and, without the reader ever knowing, makes you learn something. (Damnit!) I have to thank Bill – an Australian couple came into the gallery where I work and were so impressed when I actually knew where they lived!
This was, admittedly, a slightly tipsy purchase last Saturday afternoon. Obviously I have exceedingly good judgement when drinking. Anyway, this part of The Best American Series features articles from all the magazines I don’t subscribe to. With notable pieces from William T. Vollmann, Annie Proulx, and Maureen Dowd (yay!), the collection is wonderful for my short attention span of the moment.