Stanfords Staff Selects

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” –Dr Seuss

As it’s holiday season, we thought we’d offer a few recommendations that will take you places:

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Where it will take you: Japan

Shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize, this is Ozeki’s third novel.
There is a dual narrative by Nao, a teenage girl who grew up in California but has returned with her parents home to Tokyo, and an author living off the coast of British Columbia with writer’s block who finds Nao’s diary washed up in a Hello Kitty lunchbox on the shore following a tsunami.

This story covers various themes and illustrates the struggle of feeling like an outsider immersed in another culture and addresses the subject of foreignness.
The narrative is interspersed with Japanese words, phrases and cultural and historical references that are explained in the footnotes.

After reading this you will have a greater understanding of Japan and you’ll also want to read more of Ozeki’s work.

A Dragon Apparent by Norman Lewis

Where it will take you: Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam

First published in 1951, this sees Lewis documenting his travels through Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, although it is mainly set in Vietnam.
The book received lots of praise and was immediately a bestseller because everyone wanted to know what was happening during this pivotal time in Vietnam’s history. Through immersing himself in the local life, Lewis presents a fascinating insight of West meeting East.
If you haven’t read any Norman Lewis, this is a great one of his books to get started on. His curiosity for everything around him made him a great and successful travel writer. His work spanned eight decades, with his final book The Tomb in Seville being published the year he died, aged 95.

Revolutionary Ride by Lois Pryce

Where it will take you: Iran

When Lois Pryce found a note left on her motorbike from a man named Habib, imploring her to visit his hometown of Shiraz to see the real Iran, she immediately set off on the 3,000-mile journey across the country.
She shares stories of a nation of apparent contradictions and a people religious yet hedonistic, practical yet poetic, modern yet rooted in tradition. Revolutionary Ride has been one of our most popular new books this year. It’s funny and paints a beautiful picture of hospitality and if you can read it without craving Persian food, you are stronger than us.

Out of the Blue: New Short Fiction from Iceland

Where it will take you: Iceland

Currently one of our most popular destinations in terms of travel guide sales, Iceland has gained popularity in recent years thanks to a number of factors, one being Game of Thrones using it as a location, another being that it is just so unique and beautiful. If you are curious about what it is about Iceland that is so alluring, this book might help.
Featuring twenty of Iceland’s most popular current authors who take this opportunity to transport us to the landscapes of Iceland and sometimes take us to other places to show you things from the Icelandic perspective. Short stories are an important feature in Icelandic tradition and in this first anthology we see how powerful this element of their culture is.

By the Olive Groves: A Calabrian Childhood by Grazia Ietto Gillies

Where it will take you: Italy

In this memoir, Grazia Ietto Gillies takes us on a journey back to her childhood home of Calabria through her memories of cuisine. This beautiful part of Italy, surrounded by the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas, lends itself wonderfully as a setting for family meals, religious festivals and many other events held in the heart of the home, the kitchen.
Gillies tells us about leaving her birthplace and raising a family in Rome then making the big move to London, all the while retaining her memories and customs of her original home. She invites readers to try some of her mother’s recipes and develop them to suit their tastes. This is an interesting take on a memoir and one that any foodie will love.

Aftershock by Jules Mountain

Where it will take you: Mount Everest

With a name like that how could he not climb Everest? After almost losing his life to cancer, Jules Mountain not only made an impressive recovery but continued to triumph against the odds. This is the story of how while at Everest Base Camp, which in itself is a ten-day trek, he survived an avalanche which was a result of the 2015 Nepalese earthquake.
Almost 9,000 people died including 22 at Everest Base Camp. It’s a harrowing story of survival and shows us how powerful and resilient humans can be when set against extreme circumstances.

The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel

Where it will take you: Portugal

Shortlisted for a 2016 Edward Stanford Travel Writing Award, this book is considered Yann Martel’s best work since Life of Pi. It weaves together three different stories set throughout Portugal, decades apart in 1904, 1938, and in the 1980s.
Each story tackles the theme of grief and it is interesting to look at grief and how it comes hand-in-hand with loneliness and how both subjects work so well when presented against stories with a strong sense of place.
In true Yann Martell style, he has created wonderfully layered characters. The narrative is at times humorous and the story is often characteristically surreal and mysterious.


Around India in 80 Trains by Monisha Rajesh

Where it will take you: India

In India, trains carry over 20 million passengers every day along a route of 64,000km. As more and more travellers are reverting back to rail travel in an attempt to leave less of a carbon footprint, this form of transport is becoming a favoured form.
Add to that the fact that India’s railway network is very impressive and there is something so romantic about travelling across a country by train, and it’s no surprise that train traveller numbers are booming.
The railway networks of India lend themselves as a great setting for this book. Monisha Rajesh’s writing is really funny and her journalistic background offers an informed perspective. Her childhood memories of India are very different to her experiences as a tourist attempting to get around India using an array of trains.

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