November 29, 2016

Books Consumed in South America

Between the daily walking, sight-seeing, eating, hiking, what-not, *and* the attempt at investing an hour a day or so with independent Spanish study (where I would sometimes read short stories or the newspaper in Spanish), I didn't find much time to read on the South American portion of our Sabbatical.

In fact, 5+ months into this Sabbatical, I'm kind of shocked at how much *less* literature reading (and audiobook time) I've put in during this time off than I normally do in my non-sabbatical life.

A big portion of the reading I did in South America was Internet and travel guide research about logistics, lodging, food, vocabulary, geography, unexpected cultural norms that will govern your experiences, etc.  When you don't have a full plan and you don't know where you are going next, you have to figure it out before you get there (or after/during when it doesn't work out according to plan), and, this is quite a big investment of time.

However, I did read a few written books in the last few months:

Turn Right at Machu Picchu
Mark Adams
A parallel analysis of the modern day trek and the historical one that Hiram Bingham took before he introduced the west to Machu Picchu.  Informative and entertaining (and gloriously easy to read after The Brothers Karamazov).
Bolivia Tried to Kill Us
Tony Hastie
Very useful story of backpackers doing a much more hardcore trekking South America trip than ours.  I read it while in Peru and Ecuador.  Their misadventures in Bolivia were part of the reason we decided to skip Bolivia on this trip and save it for another time, when we can dedicate time to just managing that specifically difficult portion (which should also be very rewarding) of South America.
Consider Phlebas (Culture Novel: Book 1)
Ian M Banks
The Culture novels are Sci-Fi cannon and I’d never gotten around to reading them.  E claimed I would like them and he was right.  This first one was interesting, thought provoking, forward thinking and edgy (particularly for a male white scottish writer in the 80s).  Most importantly, it was easy pulpy English brain candy, which is exactly what I needed as a distraction and relaxation from day to day language study, existence, and cultural adventures in Spanish.
The Player of Games (Culture Novel book 2)
Ian M Banks
The oh-so-popular concept of a game-player as some sort of ultimate functionary (Ender's Game, Ready Player One, The Last Starfighter, etc.)  but in the context of the Culture where resources are unlimited and glanding chemicals for internal consumption and gender swapping multiple times over the course of a single life is the norm.
Use of Weapons (Culture Novel book 3)
Ian M Banks
Very dark.  Still easy to read and within the Culture world, but more difficultly full of human horridness.
Look to Windward (Culture Novel book 7)
Ian M Banks
Books 4-6 of the Culture novels are not available on Kindle, and I wasn’t interested in books that weighed anything while traveling.  Thankfully, the only thing that really seems to link the Culture novels together is the Universe.  There is really no character continuation, so skipping out on 3 books didn’t negatively affect my enjoyment.  This book is much more critical of the Culture than the others I’ve read, as it’s told from the perspective of a member of a race where the Culture’s “benign” interference went horribly wrong and resulted in civil war and death. There is quite a bit of ham-fisted discussion of the meaning of extreme sports and taking risks and whether engaging in risk when your mindstate is backed up and can be rebooted if you die is “cheating” or not.  Good enough that I started book 8. 


Cat said...

Tell me you've read The Wasp Factory by Ian Banks??? (Same guy). If not, you need to read it now.

bt said...

@Cat -- I have *NOT*. Thanks for the recommendation. I'll put it on the list!