So, here we are in the intellectual section of the site. Nancy and I have found we do a fair amount of reading on the boat. It keeps us entertained on watches at sea and soothes us evenings at anchor after a days adventures. Here you will find a wide assortment of literary fare. Some grueling, some light, and some are educational. Here is our Zephyr bibliography as we read them.
Shackleton, The Biography, Randolph Fiennes.
An absorbing look at one of the most tenacious of the antarctic explorers written by a man who has himself trekked across both polar ice caps. Fiennes’ experience provides unique insight into the mindset of Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen. His experience using dogs, man-sledges and even ski-doos allows him to dispel some of the myths and criticisms that have developed over the years since these extraordinary feats of endurance captured the imagination of the world. Fiennes’ own struggles with fund raising and team building also give added perspective to the challenges faced by Shackleton, who was always overshadowed by the Royal Geographic Society’s favorite son; Scott. As Sir Raymond Priestley commented, “For scientific leadership, give me Scott. For swift and efficient travel, give me Amundsen. But when you are in a hopeless situation, when there seems to be no way out, get on your knees and pray for Shackleton.”
The 13th Disciple, Lewis Grassic Gibbon.
A semi-autobiographical novel about a young Scotsman’s journey of self-discovery. Beginning at the turn of the 20th century, we go from youth to war to love and finally…. Tremendously well-written with a language that is unique to this greatest of Scots writers. Too bad he is so little remembered. The beauty of the prose will absorb you in the life of this complex character. Nancy and I both enjoyed reading and discussing this book.
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin.
A delightful tale of the transformation of a man’s life couched in some of the world’s best short stories. If you are a book nerd you will be enthralled and possibly offended by Fikry’s analyses. If you’re not a book nerd; well, shame on you. Nancy enjoyed it as well as I. I read it in the course of two night watches sailing from St. John USVI to the Bahamas.
The Shadow King, Maaza Mengiste.
A gripping saga of the Ethiopian guerrilla war fought against the Fascists of Mussolini for five years beginning in 1935. Told from the female warriors perspective. These peasant women were instrumental in defeating the Italians, but of course, their stories are never told. War is for men after all. A very lyrical and heartrending novel which also exposes the vast differences in the class system of the time. Often painful but seldom triumphant.
The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, Robert Asprey.
This came from the Oxford, Md library fundraiser. I’ve read fairly widely about the French Revolution and Napoleon B., and found this first-of-two volumes to be enjoyable to read. Neither a hero or a villain, Asprey shows his subject to be a studious, driven man (possibly suffering from acute SMD*) who was also painfully maladroit with the women in his life. Nevertheless, a tactical/strategic genius who, unfortunately overplays his hand.
Richard Bolitho series 5-18, Alexander Kent.
These also came from the library fundraiser in Oxford, MD before we left in November. The series follows the eponymous sailor through his career in HM’sRoyal Navy from the American Revolution through the Napoleonic era. If you enjoyed the Aubrey-Maturin novels, just remove Maturin and replay. He’ll swash your buckle.
Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die, Mark Binnelli.
What can I say? S. and V. are anarchists, or are they vaudeville performers turned silent screen stars? A comic/historical romp through the golden age of film [fake] history. I was as confused coming out as I was going in.
The Overstory, Richard Powers.
Our crew/friend Mallory gave us this after reading it herself. It’s a wide-ranging tale of the interconnectedness of humans and trees and the ways they can, and often do, affect each other. In very powerful ways. A good read and an eye-opener. We both read it and enjoyed many conversations afterward.
Far From the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy.
A vain girl and a resigned shepherd meet, separate, reunite, pine, love, and finally…. Meanwhile there is deception, betrayal, and finally…. All set in Hardy’s rural England of the 19th century. Just picture Julie Christie’s eyes!
High Fidelity, Nick Hornby.
Top five all-time list. A great insight into the mind of men. There is music, and laughter, and angst, and love. The dialogue is as good as the movie! Ladies, after reading this book you will no longer hate your partner, but pity him.
Ullysses, James Joyce.
Whew Boy! This is the BIG ONE! Follow the (mis-)adventures of Leopold Bloom as he and Stephen Daedelus wander the streets of Dublin Thursday, June 16th, 1904. Scandalous (if you’re a 17th century Puritan), confusing (if you are not). Nonetheless, get a map and follow the trail. Maybe use hallucinogens for the rabbit-hole through nighttown. And don’t forget the soap in your pocket!
The Artist of the Missing, Paul Lefarge.
An interesting, Kafkaesque transmutation of justice and humanity, when a simple man posts paintings of missing people, drawn from the memories of their loved ones. Touching, confusing, beautifully written. We talked about this one a lot!
A Sort of Life, Graham Greene.
An autobiography of the writer’s early life. And I thought I was screwed up! His books, which I have read all of, now make a bit more sense to me.
A Spy in the House of Love, Anais Nin.
Another book exchange find in Gaudeloupe. Ah, the French. The ramblings of a psycho-sexual savant haunted by her longings and her guilt-by-marraige. Men, after reading this book you will no longer hate your partner, but pity her. (See above)
The Ardent Swarm, Yamen Manai.
An allegory of life in North Africa during the Arab Spring, told through the eyes of a humble bee keeper, confused by the arrival of a foreign wasp which is killing his bees. The similarity to the way foreign interests threaten the peaceful lives of these rural peasants through force and reprisal is not lost on the reader. Beautifully translated from the French. Many good conversations followed this one as well.
Therese Raquin, Emil Zola.
I picked this one up at the harbor master’s office in St. Barth. The scandalous tale of lust, murder, and self-destruction in 1860’s Paris. A study, as Zola himself declares, of temperament, not character. We see how every action of the protagonists are determined by their blood, not by free-will. Depressing and exhilarating at the same time. Tawdry and ugly. I had to take a shower when I was finished.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain.
Just a reminder; this is a story about kids, not for kids. Twain couches this allegory of the sorry state of humanity in a rambling tale of the adventures and misadventures of Huck and Jim. We see people of every stripe being skewered for their obtuseness or pride. Schemers and saints alike are brought down a peg or two. Still a delightful read, for the stretches on the Mississippi are worth the ticket.