Thursday, September 6, 2012

What I'm Reading Now

I usually read 2 books at the same time. Well, not at the exact same time but you know what I mean. I like to have an "intelligent" book to read during the day if I have any free time and a book of "lighter" subject matter to read before bed when I am totally exhausted and need a mindless distraction for 30-60 minutes. I just began to read two "intelligent" books and both show great promise.

The first book is titled "Desert Queen, the Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell: Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence, King of Arabia" and the author is Janet Wallach. I have wanted to read this book for quite a while and, with Kevin traveling for many weeks, now is a good time to begin. I envision Gertrude Bell as being somewhat of the "Julia Child" (minus the French cooking) of her time - adventurous world traveler, ambitious foreign intelligence independent & pioneering woman doing what few women did at that time. 

This book caught my attention because of my fascination with the historical forces that decided the geographical and political partition that led to the creation of what we now know as the modern Middle East. In the books I read in college while studying the Middle East, I seem to remember most references to Gertrude Bell as being in the context of her reputation as a well-known British traveler and as a famous author of books. It will be interesting to read about her role as confidant and adviser to those directing the events that shaped this region. 

From "Turning away from the privileged world of the "eminent Victorians," Gertrude Bell (1868—1926) explored, mapped, and excavated the world of the Arabs. Recruited by British intelligence during World War I, she played a crucial role in obtaining the loyalty of Arab leaders, and her connections and information provided the brains to match T. E. Lawrence's brawn. After the war, she played a major role in creating the modern Middle East and was, at the time, considered the most powerful woman in the British Empire.  In this masterful biography, Janet Wallach shows us the woman behind these achievements–a woman whose passion and defiant independence were at odds wit the confined and custom-bound England she left behind. Too long eclipsed by Lawrence, Gertrude Bell emerges at last in her own right as a vital player on the stage of modern history, and as a woman whose life was both a heartbreaking story and a grand adventure."
The second book I am reading is "The Moon In The Mango Tree", written by Pamela Binnings Ewen.  A friend in Miami recommended this book to me - although she told me to read it only AFTER we moved back to the U.S. as there was a sequence of events that might upset me. Her warning only served to intrigue me so I ordered it from Amazon.    

From "Set in Siam and Europe during the 1920s, a glittering decade of change, The Moon in the Mango Tree is based upon the true story of Barbara Bond, a beautiful young opera singer from Philadelphia who is forced to choose between her fierce desire for independence—a desire to create something of her own to give purpose and meaning to her life—and a deep abiding love for her faithful missionary husband whose work creates a gap between them.  But when you choose between two things you love, must one be lost forever?"
Between the time we spent on flights to/from the U.S. and our travel up and down the East Coast, I read quite a bit over the summer. Before we began our travels, I (very reluctantly) purchased Caitlynne and I each a Kindle. Christopher has a Kindle Fire and Kevin has his iPad so Caitlynne and I were the only ones stuck in the Dark Ages. I hated the idea of not holding a "real" book in my hands and didn't think I would ever be comfortable reading on the Kindle. Boy, was I ever wrong! Caitlynne and I love, love, love our Kindles. No more lugging around a bag stuffed with magazines and books...I loaded about 15 books on to my Kindle before we left Bangkok and always had plenty of reading material.  I carried only my handbag on all of the flights we took this summer!  It was so easy.  

Even with my glasses, I have trouble reading at night or after spending a lot of time working on the computer. I love that I can increase the font size on the Kindle to REALLY BIG. The "instant gratification" part of me also loves that I have almost instant access to books, magazines, etc. No more placing an order on Amazon and waiting, at the very least, a week for its delivery. On our flight from Bangkok to Tokyo, I read an interesting book review in People Magazine (one of my few guilty pleasures). During our layover in Tokyo, I accessed the wi-fi in the United Lounge and downloaded the reviewed book to read during the next leg of our trip. 

If you are considering purchasing a Kindle, I would highly recommend it! Christopher has the Kindle Fire which has all of the bells and whistles (he can go online, watch movies, it has a back-light & sound, etc.) but the very basic model I have suits me just fine. I imagine the Nook is very similar to the Kindle.  We didn't consider the Nook only because Christopher already had his Kindle Fire and it seemed easy to use.

Have a great Thursday.  

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