July 26, 2017

For Your Eyes | summer reading recommendations and videos i love

Baldpate Mountain

"Every cloud has a silver lining". What is it, then, when it comes to long commutes?

Lots of time to indulge in new music, to edit photos, and...to read! I haven’t been to my local library this frequently since I was in elementary school, and I’m so happy to have found my way back to it.

Here are some of my reading recommendations, many of which are books I’ve read this summer. Stay tuned till the end to find some video recommendations - they speak to the digital and culinary style I aspire to produce! If you like this post, I’ll be sharing some of my music recommendations next week.

To read:

1. Summer Light (A Walk Across Norway) // Andrew Stevenson

"On days like this, you want to grab every perfect instant and keep it forever close to your heart."

My first instinct when it comes to learning about a new place is to read a travel guide - Rick Steves, DK Eyewitness Travel, Lonely Planet - they’re all fair game for me. Never would I have imagined learning so much about the history, politics, culture, and lifestyle of a country from a travelogue that I became enamored with from skimming page 1 at the library.

Lifelong traveler, Andrew Stevenson, takes you along his idyllic summer hike across Norway with his girlfriend, Annabel, by painting romantic images of the rugged Norwegian terrain. He transports you to his journey, and you walk alongside them, sympathizing with their physical aches and falling in love Norway - at least the Norway he portrays -  more and more with every new stop along their path. Stevenson delicately weaves bits of his own life story and former chapter of living in Norway with such subtlety that the flow is incredibly organic and unforced. As you meet each layer of Stevenson’s and Annabel’s relationship, you also share a front seat to their growing intimacy as they, too, get to know each other better. (Don’t worry if you don’t like cliche love stories; this isn’t a Nicholas Sparks story.)

I’m no synesthete, but for whatever reason, every now and then, I catch myself associating some of the things I find really special (books, songs, memories) with sensory. To me, Summer Light is dark reclaimed wood, the soft amber glow of a sunrise gently spilling through a cabin window, the crispness of fresh mountain air, the blank canvas of a clean journal page, and a heart at peace.

It’s been a long time since I’ve found a book that I’m this fond of, and I can’t recommend Summer Light enough. I wanted to savor every moment, sometimes intentionally reading slower than usual because I didn’t want the journey to end. It’s an easy read, and while it’s not a literary classic, there’s a quality about Stevenson’s writing - I can’t quite put my finger on it - that spoke to me. Perhaps it’s the feelings his words evoked within me, the feelings I felt when I was in Wyoming four years ago. If you pick this read up, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

2. The Nightingale // Kristin Hannah

"In love we find out who we want to be, in war we find out who we are."

Prior to my recent discovery of travel writing, historical fiction has notoriously been my genre of choice. Ever since I read Laurie Halse Anderson’s Yellow Fever when I was 9, I’ve been addicted to the time travel that historical fiction offer. Former teachers have instilled a deep-rooted interest in 2 historical time periods - the late 30’s to mid 40’s, and the 60’s - in me; I gravitate towards anything about World War II, the Holocaust, or the Civil Rights Movement.

The Nightingale was my choice of entertainment during our first move-in drive up to Cornell (last summer, for my sophomore year). Thanks to Amazon Prime, I got to download it from Audible, and couldn’t have been happier with that decision. I typically prefer narrating books to myself, imagining the character’s voices, interpreting their personalities, and building that literary world without external influences. But...the reader, Polly Stone, added a greater element of depth to my experience by giving the characters accents corresponding to their native language - French for Vianne and Isabelle, German for Captain Beck and Von Richter.

Vianne and Isabelle, French sisters whose personalities couldn’t be more different, find themselves caught in the middle of the Nazi occupation of France, their lives still at risk despite not being Jewish. As the two grapple with their roles and responsibilities within the unimaginable and ever changing circumstances of the occupation, they also struggle with their personal relationships, between themselves and with their father. Though I found myself identifying more with Vianne, Isabelle’s dogged defiance is refreshing and oh-so-likeable. Their competing personalities and complicated sibling dynamic are not so far removed from some of the issues that siblings struggle with today.

The frame story technique that Hannah uses transports you back and forth from the Nazi occupation in France to the nineties in America. Different chapters follow different storylines (Vianne’s and Isabelle’s) as well, and Hannah’s got you gripping onto every page (for me, my earbuds?) feverishly, anxious to know what happens next. I won’t lie, there was a moment when I actually - cross-my-heart-hope-to-die level of not joking - jumped in my seat because I was that surprised by a moment in the book. I’m not going to ruin this book anymore with my words; you’ve got to give it a try yourself.

3. All the Light We Cannot See // Anthony Doerr

"So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?"

Yet another novel set in Nazi occupied France, but this time, involving a storyline about a bright German orphan, Werner, who finds himself at a Nazi military school, in addition to one about Marie-Laure, a blind Parisian girl, who’s uprooted with her father to her great-uncle Etienne’s house in Saint-Malo.

In hindsight, the way Doerr crosses Werner’s and Marie-Laure’s paths seems almost expected (borderline cliche), but you wouldn’t imagine that as you’re reading - Doerr earned a Pulitzer Prize for a reason. Relish Marie-Laure’s curiosity and admire Werner’s talent; your heart will beat alongside Doerr’s protagonists as they find themselves trapped in circumstances conceived only by the war.

4. The Longest Way Home // Andrew McCarthy

"I met people I found fascinating. Where had they been hiding?"

Why do you travel? For Andrew McCarthy, his solo journeys across the world guide him as he searches for a deeper understanding of himself and why he is so hesitant to commit to others. (Don't worry, I'm not giving away the book by telling you that!).

I wasn't able to slip instantly into this book the way I did with Summer Light, but as someone who's curious about solo travel and loves to reflect, I was quickly hooked onto McCarthy's stories about the world and himself.

To watch:

(some bonus videos I hope will make you smile!)


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