In line with our intended travels to the Middle East this year I have been reading the Lonely Planet Guide to the Middle East and have learnt that when questioned about your religion, atheist is not the best answer. Apparently saying that you are a "seeker" is a better way of explaining why you don't go to church, but the writer warns to be prepared for follow on conversations about the merits of the questioners religion.
I have also read Ryszard Kapusinski's Travels with Herodotus. A wonderful book written by an esteemed Polish journalist about his travels from behind the iron curtain, with a copy of Herodotus in hand. He weaves his personal, extraordinary experiences, with tales from Herodotus and reflections upon the idea of "history" and about how historians and journalists gather information. The philosophical reflections continue throughout the book and Kapusinski draws parallels between Herodotus' time and our own. I enjoyed most his honest appraisal of his own innocence and ignorance when he "crossed the border" for the first time. From the shame of his communist bloc clothing to his astonishment at street lights and restaurants open after dark, Kapusinski offers us his story and Herodotus' in an entertaining, thought provoking manner.
I finished reading Hemingway's The Garden of Eden when we were at Dylan's Mother's house and she let me borrow Graham Greene's The Quiet American. I think I must be one of the only people I know that has read this intense little novella. It was wonderful and disturbing, as was The Garden of Eden come to think of it. Eden has been called Hemingway's most erotic novel for good reason, and even though it was unfinished when he died and there has been a lot of debate about the virtues of "finishing" his work for publication, it is masterfully written. Reading it and knowing that a film has been made of it, I could almost see the scenes. It seems almost written in order to become a film, it is a very visual book.
And finally, I read Charles Bukowski's Slouching Towards Nirvana: New Poems. I have read some of his poems online and flicked through his books in bookstores for so long, it was great to finally have a work of his to read from cover to cover. His poems can be as painfully beautiful as they are brutal. He writes about his life, and draws stories from almost every decade of it. He is a very popular American poet, post-Beat, reclusive and brittle. I love the poem about what it is like to wake up with a hangover in your seventies. He is like the sinister alter ego of Leonard Cohen, or William S Burroughs channeling the New York Poets. Gritty, but wonderful.