July 22, 2014, Tuesday afternoon -- Reading Massih Hutak

At a cafe over a canal (in Amsterdam, where I'm on vacation)
The cafe is not far from the university she attended (which is in the building of the original Dutch East India Company!!!)  She used to come here with school friends.

She's reading (in Dutch, because she's from the Netherlands...) Toen God Nog In Ons Gelofde, or in English, When God Still Believed in Us, by Massih Hutak.  It's a novella, written by a friend of a friend.  She started it at the cafe that morning and she's been engrossed in it all day.  She finished just a few minutes after we finished talking.  (I love books that can be read in a single day.  The last one I read was Heart of a Dog, by Bulgakov.)

Her favorite book is a book of short stories by the Dutch author, Tommy Wieringa, called Reisverhalen, or, in English, Travel Stories.  In one story, a woman's husband dies and she decides to spend the rest of her life on a luxury cruise ship.   The stories, she said, are surreal. 


July 19, 2014, Saturday morning -- Reading Richard Stengel

Enjoying the morning sunshine (in Brussels, where I'm on vacation)
She's reading Les chemins de Nelson Mandela – 15 leçons de vie, d’amour et de courage, or in the original English, Mandela's Way: Fifteen Lessons on Life, Love and Courage.  The day before (July 18th) was Mandela's birthday.

She enjoys reading books about science, medicine, and novels, especially those by Danielle Steele and Harlan Coben.  


July 16, 2014, Wednesday afternoon -- Reading about Islamic laws

In the heat of the afternoon, with no shade (in Antwerp, Belgium, where I'm on vacation)
He is reading about the Islamic laws on, among other topics, Ramadan, which he is now observing.   He told me how Muslims should not spend the money for pilgrimages if they should instead be spending the money on taking care of their parents or on other obligations.  He was happy to tell me about the pillars of Islam.  I was happy to listen until the heat got to be too much for me...and I was not even the one observing Ramadan. 


July 15, 2014, Monday afternoon -- Reading Raymond E. Feist

On a bench dominated by a mammoth 2008 sculpture called The Sequence by Belgian artist, Arne Quinze (in Brussels, where I'm on vacation)
She's taking a break from work and reading Le Roi des renards, by Raymond E. Feist.  It's fantastique, which she really likes.  (I looked up this genre on Wikipedia and it said that this is a literary and cinematic genre that "overlaps with science fiction, horror, and fantasy.")

Her favorite author is the American, Jean M. Auel, who writes prehistoric fiction set in Europe, about life as a Neanderthal.  The first book in the series is Le clan de l'ours des cavernes (The Clan of the Cave Bear).


July 14, 2014, Monday evening -- Reading Mariusz Szczygiel

In Brussels (where I'm on vacation)
She's walking down the street, reading Gottland, by the Polish author and journalist, Mariusz Szczygiel.  She's reading in Polish, her native language.  The book is about communism times in Czechoslovakia.  She likes reading books like this one that are reportage

Her favorite author is Mario Vargas Llosa, who is Peruvian.  When I asked if she had a favorite of his, she said Pantaleón y las visitadoras, in English, Captain Pantoja and the Special Service.  


July 13, 2014, Sunday afternoon -- Reading Tom Clancy

Next to a duck pond (in Brussels, where I'm on vacation)
He's keeping track of the ducklings (there are 5) and reading Dette d'honneur 2, by Tom Clancy. He picked it up because he wanted to learn more about the war. His favorite books are policers.  It doesn't matter who the author is.
 When we said goodbye he shook my hand and, as is the style here (he's from Belgium), kissed both of my cheeks.  It felt like, in the span of 5 minutes, we'd become friends.


July 13, 2014, Sunday afternoon -- Reading Dan Brown

At an art gallery (in Brussels, where I'm on vacation)
He's reading Inferno, Dan Brown's most recent book.  I was asking him about his favorite books when a mob of people walked into the gallery and duty called. 


July 6, 2014, Sunday evening -- Reading Lonely Planet and Wallpaper authors

At a rooftop bar in Shoreditch (in London, where I'm on vacation)
Enjoying their cocktails and preparing for sightseeing ahead.  They are visiting from France (where in France? - I forgot to ask). 

Something good she's read recently is the newest Dennis Lehane book (Live by Night???), which her dad recommended.  She said it was huge -- about 900 pages.

Something good he's read recently is Ocean Sea, a novel by Alessandro Barrico.


July 6, 2014, Sunday evening -- Reading Tony Judt and Timothy Snyder

In the Shoreditch neighborhood (in London, where I'm on vacation)
He's reading Thinking the Twentieth Century, by Tony Judt with Timothy Snyder. He has studied history and so this book is of interest. 

His favorite books are anything by the Austrian-French author Manès Sperber (He's German himself -- this surprised me.  His English accent was better than mine.)  Manès Sperber wrote novels, and philosophical essays.


July 6, 2014, Sunday afternoon -- Reading Joshua Ferris

In the courtyard in front of the British Museum (in London, where I'm on vacation)
She's reading Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris.  It was recommended by a friend who said it was funny.

Two of her favorite books are Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë and Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy.  She also likes reading cookbooks, like an old collection of recipes of an Austrian family.  She starts with the introduction, and then jumps around with the recipes.  She hasn't been cooking the recipes lately, though because she's just moved to London.  She grew up here and has now moved back.

While we were talking it came out that we're both ESL teachers.  I asked her, as point of interest because I find this difficult, if she ever recommends fiction to her ESL students.  She said that, for example, she once recommended a version of Sherlock Homes to a student, and agreed that recommending was difficult.  "I don't want to recommend something too difficult, and put them off reading," she explained. 


July 2, 2014, Wednesday afternoon -- Reading Isaac Asimov

Seeking shelter from the wind against a sheep fence, overlooking, Castlerigg, a stone circle thought to be older than Stonehenge (in the Lake District, England, where I'm on vacation)
They are reading aloud to each other Pebble in the Sky, by Isaac Asimov.  It's for their book club. They're visiting from Newark, Delaware (pronounced the same way as Newark, New Jersey, but a different place).  Happy Fourth of July! It's only fitting that I've photographed Americans for this post.

At the book club meeting their daughter-in-law, who chose the book, will make a meal inspired by the story.  It's their tradition.  They don't know what that meal will be yet...the book is set in the future.  Other books chosen for their book club include Ten Little Indians, by Agatha Christie; A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith, and John le Carré 's latest book, A Delicate Truth (his choice); as well as The Madonnas of Leningrad, by Debra Dean (her choice).

She likes books that are well researched, and does her own research while reading.  For example, when she read The Madonnas of Leningrad, which is a historical novel set when the city was blockaded in World War II, about a woman who works as a docent at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad), she found online pictures of the art work described in the book.

Her favorite author might be Agatha Christie, who she picks up, along with saltines and hot tea when she's not feeling well.  His favorite authors are le Carré and Tom Clancy.


June 27, 2014, Friday afternoon -- Reading Joseph Cambray

In Hyde Park (in London, where I'm on vacation)
Visiting from Brazil, avoiding the World Cup, and reading Sincronicade: Natureza E Psique Num Universo Interconectado, in Portuguese, which translates into the English, Synchronicity: Nature and Psyche in an Interconnected Universe.  His favorite authors are Franz Kafka, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Carl Sagan, and Voltaire.

He and his wife (who was napping on his lap before my friend, Oksana, and I interrupted) said the best things they've seen over their three weeks in London have been the Freud museum, the British Museum, and this park.  
They explained that there aren't parks like Hyde Park where they're from, where you can take a nap in a public place and not worry about a pick pocket. They said they feel very safe here.  "Even when you're riding your bike on the wrong side of the road?" I asked and they agreed that, yes, that is scary.  (Note:  I will not be borrowing one of these lovely Boris Bikes -- I am afriad of dying.)


June 27, 2014, Friday afternoon -- Reading Neil Gaiman

Near Victoria Station (in London, where I'm on vacation)
Reading American Gods, by Neil Gaiman.  It was a gift from a South African woman who befriended him and when she left town, she gave him this book.  He also receives books -- 1 or 2 a week -- from a Japanese woman who he sees at a cathedral down the street.

He reads anything with the caveat that he needs to be hooked by the second page. His favorite authors are David and Leigh Eddings, who write fantasy, and Lee Child, who writes crime novels about an ex-military police officer named Jack Reacher. 
He's always been a reader, he said, even before a construction accident (he fell four floors), which put him in a coma and then left him homeless, with plenty of time to read.


June 26, 2014, Thursday afternoon -- Reading Isabel Allende

Near Borough Market (in London, where I’m on vacation)
Reading City of the Beasts, by Isabel Allende. She borrowed it from a colleague.

Her favorite author is J.K. Rolling. She’s read the Harry Potter books, she said, about a hundred times. I asked if she started from the first one and read straight through to the last, then started again and she shook her head no. She doesn’t re-read the first three books because they’re not as well written as the last ones.


June 22, 2014, Sunday afternoon -- Reading Danielle Steel

At Aquatic Park (back in San Francisco)
Reading First Sight, by Danielle Steel, her favorite author who writes in English.  Originally, they're from Ukraine, and she also loves reading in Russian  -- Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky...

She's read at least 20 of Danielle Steel's books.   Her husband, who was also sitting with her, recalled that the first one she read was The Gift


June 22, 2014, Sunday morning -- Reading John Keegan

At a coffee shop in the Richmond District (back in San Francisco)
Reading, or rather, re-reading, The Mask of Command, by John Keegan.  His favorite author is Jane Austen, but, unlike other books, he doesn't re-read Jane Austen.  He's afraid if he re-reads them, he might be disappointed and lose that feeling of having read them for the first time.  He's read all of her books, except for one -- Northanger Abbey.  When I asked, why not that one, he said he didn't know, but joked that maybe that he's keeping one in reserve for his deathbed.

Although his favorite author is Jane Austen, his favorite book is David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens, though he doesn't like Dickens' other books. Another favorite author is P.G. Wodehouse. 


June 17, 2014, Tuesday afternoon -- Reading Patti Smith

On the bank of the Thames, not far from the Tate Modern (in London, where I'm on vacation)
Reading Just Kids, by Patti Smith.  It was a gift from a friend who read it and thought she'd like it, too. 
Her favorite author is Terry Pratchett.  She said that if she's ever feeling sick, his books cheer her up. 


June 16, 2014, Monday morning -- Reading Conrad, Neve, Nutton, Porter, and Wear

In a coffee shop in Southwark (in London, where I'm on vacation)
Reading The Western Medical Tradition: 800 BC to AD 1800, by Lawrence I. Conrad, Michael Neve, Vivian Nutton, Roy Porter, and Andrew Wear, for a course she's taking in the history of medicine.  I asked her if the class was to prepare her for entering a particular field, and she said that she's a medical doctor, but that this is just for personal interest.  She's an intern right now in surgery.  "And you have time to take a class for fun?" I asked and she laughed and said that she doesn't have time.   
Her favorite book of all time is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez.


June 13, 2014, Friday evening -- Reading Brian Aldiss

Near Farringdon Station (in London, England, where I'm on vacation)
Walking, while reading Hothouse, by Brian Aldiss. It was a present from someone who knows what he likes to read.  It's set in the distant future, at a time when plants have taken over the earth and the remaining humans are threatened by extinction.

His favorite author is the Scottish writer Iain Banks, who also writes Science Fiction, and who had an asteroid named after him shortly after he died in 2013.  
I wonder what other authors have asteroids named after them. 


June 10, 2014, Tuesday evening -- Reading Kim Thúy

Waiting for the Tunnelbana (T-Bana) (in Stockholm, where I'm on vacation)
Reading (in Swedish) Ru, by the Canadian author, Kim Thúy, who originally wrote the book in French.  (I love how cross-cultural this is.)  The story is autobiographical and is about a child who emigrates from Vietnam to Canada.  

She found out about the book by reading a Swedish magazine called Vi Läser (We are Reading in English).   

Here's a review I found on the book on NPR's website.  The article talks about how the book has been published in 20 different countries and won Canada's Governor General's Award in 2010.
Her favorite author is the Swedish writer, Vilhelm Moberg, who is known, among other things, like his plays, for a series of 4 books about Swedish emigration in the 19th century, entitled The Emigrants.   He's considered Sweden's best journalist of the 20th century.