Monday, July 24, 2006

People and Cultures of the World

I'm just about to finish this 24 lecture course that's part of The Teaching Company "Great Courses" series. This one, taught by Professor Edward Fisher is a great one (two 6 CD parts from my local library) and very well taught. It covers anthropology from "Gatherers and Hunters" to "Late Capitalism - From Ford to Disney" with a focus on a few specific cultures. I was delighted to find he talked about the Trobriand islands, whom I had first heard of reading the great travel book "The Happy Isles of Oceania" by Paul Theroux (and a great pitch for the delights of folding kayaking, to which I am a happy convert). I've listened to a few of The "great courses" now, all from my library, and am very happy to have them at my disposal. I saw their ads in the Economist and sort of dismissed them as Reader's Digest versions of academic courses, but they seem as close to the real thing as you can get without sitting in a lecture room and having to turn in essays.
Fischer does a great job of presentation - lively and interesting, though sometimes he does seem to repeat himself a bit much.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Lady and the Unicorn

My current library audio book is "The Lady and the Unicorn" by Tracy Chevalier. I've had a copy of the "Girl with a pearl earring" for a few years now that a friend leant me, and after I'd borrowed this audio book, I realised I had my mother's copy in paperback.

I'm enjoying it, but not finding it as "serious" as I'd imagined, in fact it's a bit of a "bodice-ripper". She's clearly done a lot of research on tapestry making, and incorporates her knowledge, even to the point of being too didactic, but it still makes for a good, engaging light read.

Robert Byron biography by James Knox

I'm currently reading a biography of Robert Byron by James Knox. I just happened across a pristine paperback copy in the Book restaurant in Union Connecticut where we stopped for lunch. They give away a free book to every diner. (At that time they were giving three free books away, but I didn't find another I wanted.

I loved "The Road to Oxiana" by Byron, and this book seemed ideal for me- the back cover starts with an endorsement by my hero Patrick Leigh Fermor. The book seems well-written and very enjoyable, with perhaps too much about his days at Eton (since Knox is an old Etonian himself). So far I've just got to the point where he arrives in Athens on his trip East.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Teach Yourself Modern Persian

I just bought Teach Yourself Modern Persian
and started reading it. It's much better than the ancient (1960's) "Simple Colloquial Persian" that I picked up in a second-hand book shop about 15 years ago. It starts with the writing- which is as far as I've got.

I've also been listening to a tape of the Travel Talk Farsi phrase book from the library.

The Manticore

The Manticore, the second book in the Deptford Trilogy is a lot tougher going than the first. I think this is mainly due to the narrative structure- it is a retelling of analysis sessions. Although there's plenty of plot, because it's told less directly than the first, it's a slower read.

The Deptford Trilogy

I'm half way through the Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies. Someone leant me this book about eight years ago, and a recent reference to it made me pick it up and start it on a recent trip.

The first book Fifth Business was great, weaving together lots of stories about people who grew up in the Canadian village of Deptford in the early 20th Century.

Birds Without Wings

I'm currently "reading" (I use the term for simplicity although I'm actually listening on audiobook) Louis de Berniere's Birds Without Wings, a novel which tells of the lives of people living in a small town in South-West Anatolia in the early 20th Century. In parallel it tells the story of Ataturk. It's long (19 CDs on Audiobook from the library) but entertaining. de Bernieres seems to portray an authentic portrait of the end of the Ottoman empire and the creation of the Turkish nation. There was surprisingly little depth about the exchange of populations, but in general there's quite a bit of history mixed in with the fairly light stories.

There was a fair mix of original Turkish & Greek, and for the most part it is very well read.