I'm in a rush to read the piles of books I have so quickly accumulated since moving to the U.K., before I pack up and leave to move to the other side of the world come June. There are too many books to read in life, and too little time. In the interest of helping anyone else cut through some of the mediocre material to find the gems, here are my three most recent, all which come with my tick of approval:
EVERYONE IS WATCHING
By Megan Bradbury
I have made no secret of my infatuation with New York. Despite never having been there (yet), it holds a fascination to me that perhaps nowhere else in the world does. It is number one on my travel bucket list. It is no surprise that I snatched up this book when it presented itself to me then, a book which paints a portrait of one of the world's most famous cities/
Debut author Megan Bradbury manages to paint an enchantingly intimate portrait of New York, by specifically dividing the narrative between numerous figures, some who we hear from only for a page or two. Amongst it, the stories focus on four individuals from history - real people, turned fiction. We hear from famed poet and New York native Walt Whitman as an old man in 1891. From notorious and widely hated city planner Robert Moses as he changes the face of New York between the twenties and sixties. From controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe between the sixties and eighties. From novelist Edmund White as he returns to New York in 2013.
Through the stories of their lives and their experiences in the city that never sleeps it seems as if we, the reader are seeing many sides of New York, while still understanding there is too much of it, too many lives lived in its ever-changing streets to see every side it has. It is largely an exploration of why it inspires so much art, whether that be in writing or images or in architecture and parks. All I can say, it made me want to visit and explore this metropolitan maven even more.
I AM PILGRIM
By Terry Hayes
I'm not usually big on the thriller genre - it's not one I would usually opt for myself when browsing shelves, but this is a book that came with a personal recommendation from a colleague who bragged about it in such a way it was hard to dismiss.
I am Pilgrim exemplifies what people love about thrillers - it had me hanging on every word lest I miss some crucial detail. It is one of the most gripping and page-turner books I have ever read, I got through it in record time (it's not small, mind) and mourned its ending, when the time came all too quickly. Th blurb reads thus:
A breakneck race against time... and an implacable enemy. An anonymous young woman murdered in a run-down hotel, all identifying characteristics dissolved by acid. A father publicly beheaded in the blistering head of a Saudi Arabian public square. A notorious Syrian biotech expert found eyeless in a Damascus junkyard. Smoldering human remains on a remote mountainside in the Hindu Kush. A flawless plot to commit an appalling crime against humanity. One path links them all, and only one man can make the journey. Pilgrim.
The story reads like a written version of the film noire classics. It is an old-school whodunnit set in the modern world, and the best thriller I've ever read.
TO SHAKE THE SLEEPING SELF
By Jedidiah Jenkins
One of the things I love most about social media platforms like Instagram is how they enable you to be introduced to inspiring individuals you otherwise would never had heard of. One of my favourite people to follow on Instagram is one Jed Jenkins, a Southern boy from Nashville, Tennessee who now lives in California. A man who back in 2013 embarked on a 16 month journey cycling from Oregon to Patagonia. A man who has an incredible way with words.
I was put onto him by a friend of mine who knows me too well, that is, she knows how much I love a beautiful piece of writing, and Jed's account is full of the stuff. Nearly every picture he posts - a lot of them from his life-changing trip through the Americas - is accompanied by some beautiful piece of writing which always shocks me in the way it sums up some thought I have had myself and puts it into words in a way I never would have been able to. It's a beautiful thing.
When I heard a book was coming out about his journey I couldn't wait to read it. It is of course beautifully written as he travels through the States, down through Mexico, exploring the Central countries like Costa Rica and Nicaragua then on to Columbia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. But as well as being a love letter to adventure on the road, it is also a lovely reminder that everyone we meet is on a different journey.
P.S. I didn't realise at all until I just assembled this blog post how beautifully the three covers all compliment each other - can we just take a moment to stop an appreciate how complimentary they are all lined up? It's like they were meant to go together!