Mystery set in NORTH AMERICA
Ten Great Memoirs set around the World
2nd February 2023
Memoirs provide valuable insights into people’s lives – what makes then tick. Not all are by the well known and famous, many are written by those who have travelled the world and recorded both their experiences and discoveries – and the impact it has had on their lives. Ten great memoirs set around the world.
All at Sea: Another Side of Paradise by Julian Sayarer – The Surin Islands
On the small island of Surin, near the naval border of Thailand and Myanmar, an indigenous people known as Moken ‘sea gypsies’ struggle to maintain the same timeless existence as their ancestors.
As real estate developers, oil exploration and industrial tourism reshape the waters they call home, Sayarer receives a mysterious offer from an idealistic Luxembourger determined to tell a tale of the Moken on film, and in search of a writer to detail the efforts of his motley crew.
Events unfold in a reality strangely different to that version captured by the lens. In the quest for indigenous wisdom, cameras and tripods clutter bamboo huts, while fishing trips and dives are staged beneath the waves. With the quest for paradise seeming ever more artificial, Sayarer instead begins listening to the stories of Laurie, an old sailor, with a life on the water behind him, and in whose ship the crew sail out into the Andaman Sea.
Coins in the Fountain by Judith Works – Rome
Through wit, wry humour, and enticing descriptions of food and travel adventures, Judith takes you on a journey into the heart of what it is truly like to live in the Eternal City of Rome. A combination of Innocents Abroad meeting La Dolce Vita, the author tells stories of her husband’s struggles to cook Italian style, her efforts to learn the arcane rules of working for the United Nations, dogs in the doctor’s office, a fall in the subway, unexploded bombs on a golf course, a countess and her butt-reducing machine, and a sinking sailboat. One thing was sure: the unexpected was always just around the corner.
Gelato Sisterhood on the Amalfi Shore by Chantal Kelly – Amalfi Coast
Warmed by the brilliant Campania sun and the lemon-scented breeze off shimmering Mediterranean waters, the Amalfi Coast has been seducing travelers since Roman times. Lush terraced mountainsides brimming with grape vines and olive groves tumble down to meet the sea. Sun-washed pastel buildings clinging to vertical cliffs, ancient timeworn villages, and secluded beaches beckon at every hairpin turn. Chantal Kelly takes the reader along on an unforgettable tour of the Amalfi Coast as she expertly guides a small group of women where blue horizons stretch endlessly and legend and romance abound. Intriguing towns are brought to life with humorous anecdotes and insights. Enchanting moments leap off the pages and into your heart as the women learn to cook traditional dishes, indulge in the incomparable regional food and drink, succumb to the siren song of stunning handmade ceramics, and admire Italy’s most attractive feature, the gorgeous, flirty men! Informative and practical, filled with Chantal s personal stories and delicious recipes, this book will mesmerize anyone who’s ever been tempted by the undeniable charms of Italy.
Inside the Crocodile by Trish Nicholson – Papua New Guinea
In the wilds of the most diverse nation on earth, while she copes with crocodiles under the blackboard and sorcery in the office, Trish Nicholson survives near-fatal malaria and mollifies irascible politicians and an ever-changing roster of bosses – realities of life for a development worker. With a background in anthropology and a successful management career in Europe, five years on a development project in the remote West Sepik province of Papua New Guinea more than fulfils Trish Nicholson’s desire for a challenge. Physically tested by dense jungle and swaying vine bridges, Trish’s patience is stretched by nothing ever being what it seems and with ‘yes’ usually meaning ‘no’. Assignments in isolated outstations provide surreal moments, like the 80-year-old missionary in long friar’s robes revealing natty turquoise shorts as he tears away on an ancient motorbike.
Not a Place on Any Map by Alexis Paige – United States
Not a Place on Any Map explores the switch-backing emotional terrain of traumas and triumphs, as well as the disparate landscapes where they unfold. In rich, evocative snapshots of Chicago, the desert Southwest, California, New England, and Texas, the book traces a peripatetic childhood shaped by loss and dislocation that tumbles into an early adulthood spent chasing excitement from coast to coast and abroad. After being raped in Italy on her first trip to Europe at twenty-five, the author goes adrift in despair from which only drugs and alcohol provide escape. The flash lyric essays in this debut collection pursue a lost sense of self and home after trauma, but as the author discovers, home is not a place marked neatly on any map. Reaching recovery takes years and detours through depression, blurred landscapes, rehab, and jail. Ultimately, the book maps not home at all, but a truer place, one made all the sweeter for having travelled so far to find it.
Ride the Wings of Morning by Sophie Neville – Southern Africa
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work as a safari guide on a game reserve in Southern Africa?
Sophie arrived in South Africa to spend help a friend run horseback safaris on a game reserve in 1992.
She had heard of ‘biltong’ but knew nothing of Afrikaans culture. She was aware of poachers, but not of the danger of sausage trees. She understood there were rhino on the reserve, but not that she would end up working as the safari guide. In the dark. On a stallion. Lost. With completely innocent tourists on other horses.
Armed only with a paintbrush, she set off on various adventures into the wilderness, to illustrate the beauty, diversity and warmth of the great continent. This uplifting true story, the sequel to the book ‘Funnily Enough’, is told through correspondence with her family in England.
Solito by Javier Zamora – El Salvador, Mexico
‘If there’s any justice, Solito will someday be considered a classic.’ Rumaan Alam
Young Javier dreams of eating orange sherbet ice cream with his parents in the United States. For this to happen, he must embark on a three-thousand-mile journey alone. It should last only two weeks. But it takes seven.
In limbo, Javier learns what people will do to survive – and what they will forfeit to save someone else. This is a memoir of perilous boat trips, relentless desert treks, and pointed guns. But it is also a story of tasting tacos for the first time, of who passes you their water jug in the crippling heat, and of longing to be in your mother’s arms.
The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell – Wigtown (Scotland)
Shaun Bythell owns The Bookshop, Wigtown – Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop. It contains 100,000 books, spread over a mile of shelving, with twisting corridors and roaring fires, and all set in a beautiful, rural town by the edge of the sea. A book-lover’s paradise? Well, almost …
In these wry and hilarious diaries, Shaun provides an inside look at the trials and tribulations of life in the book trade, from struggles with eccentric customers to wrangles with his own staff, who include the ski-suit-wearing, bin-foraging Nicky. He takes us with him on buying trips to old estates and auction houses, recommends books (both lost classics and new discoveries), introduces us to the thrill of the unexpected find, and evokes the rhythms and charms of small-town life, always with a sharp and sympathetic eye.
The Foremost Good Fortune by Susan Conley – China
Susan Conley, her husband, and their two young sons say good-bye to their friends, family, and house in Maine for a two-year stint in a high-rise apartment in Beijing, prepared to embrace the inevitable onslaught of new experiences that such a move entails. But Susan can’t predict how much their lives will change.
While her husband is consumed with his job, Susan works on finishing her novel and confronting the challenges of day-to-day life in an utterly foreign country: determining the proper way to buy apples at a Chinese megamarket; bribing her little boys to ride the school bus; fielding invitations to mysterious Sweater parties and tracking down the faux-purse empire of the infamous Bag Lady; and getting stuck in an elevator, unable to call for help in Mandarin.
Despite the distractions, there are many occasions for joy. From road trips to the Great Wall and bartering for a starter Buddha in a raucous flea market to lighting fireworks in the streets for the Chinese New Year and feasting on the World’s best dumplings in back-alley restaurants, they gradually turn their unfamiliar environs into a true home.
Then Susan learns she has cancer. After undergoing treatment in Boston, she returns to Beijing, again as a foreigner but it’s her own body in which she feels a stranger. Set against the eternally fascinating backdrop of modern China and full of insight into the trickiest questions of motherhood. How do you talk to children about death? When is it okay to lie this way? This poignant memoir is a celebration of family and a candid exploration of mortality and belonging.
The Minaret of Djam by Freya Stark – Afghanistan
The 12th century minaret of Djam is one of Afghanistan’s most celebrated treasures, a magnificent symbol of the powerful Ghorid Empire that once stretched from Iran to India. The second tallest brick minaret in the world, Djam lies in the heart of central Afghanistan’s wild Ghor Province. Surrounded by 2,000 metre-high mountains and by the remains of what many believe to have been the lost city of Turquoise Mountain – one of the greatest cities of the Middle Ages – Djam is, even today, one of the most inaccessible and remote places in Afghanistan. When Freya Stark travelled there, few people in the world had ever laid eyes on it or managed to reach the desolate valley in which it lies. Her journey from Kabul to Kandahar and Herat was difficult and often dangerous but her account shines with humour and is adorned with beautiful descriptions of the land she journeyed through and the people she encountered. A celebrated portrait of Afghanistan and its history, ‘The Minaret of Djam’ is a poignant reminder that this was once far more than just a country ravaged by war and the political games of the world’s superpowers. ‘It is… as the writer of beautiful, measured prose rather than as a traveller or as an exotic ‘character’ who wore Dior in the wilder reaches of Asia and Arabian dress in London, that Freya Stark will ultimately be remembered.’
We hope you enjoy our selection of Memoirs. Please suggest any we have missed in Comments below.
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