Monday, June 10, 2013

Summer Reading

I mentioned earlier how my vacation reading of Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 coincided nicely with the cats in San Torini. My streak of well-chosen "junk food" books continues. I'm finishing up Ken Follett's World Without End. I read Pillars of the Earth years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it, and I'm quite enjoying the sequel. It takes place in Medieval England and follows the life of a 1300s church builder. Follett provides interesting situations in which technological and architectural advances may have been invented as Medieval Europeans dealt with royal and religious politics, war, and even the Plague. 

What I've read definitely came to mind as Amul and I wandered around the Tuscan town of Siena yesterday, and explored its beautiful Medieval cathedral. The town of Siena has been listed as a UNESCO Living Heritage Site, as one of the most well-preserved Medieval towns in the world. Apparently, in the 1300s, 2/3 of Siena's population was wiped out by the plague. With so few people left the city could not govern itself, and was handed over to the Medicis of Florence to manage. Now, a rivalry between Florence and Siena has existed for centuries, even up to today, and the Medicis, the famous Florentine patrons, saw no need to invest time or money into developing their rival city. So Siena was essentially "frozen in time," with little means to build the town up past its Gothic era. Looking up in the apses of Siena's great Gothic cathedral, I understood what a feat it was to create such a masterpiece with 14th century technology and labor. Conversely, I can now also visualize all the architectural features I've read about in Follett.


My e-book loan for Dan Brown's Inferno just came in the other day and I've downloaded it to my Kindle. Apparently it takes place in Florence, and we saw advertisements for the book alp over when we stayed there. With any luck, I'll be reading about Robert Langdon's adventures, picturing Tom Hanks (with awful hair) running about the Uffizi and Boboli Gardens while sitting in the Firenze International Airport tomorrow afternoon while waiting for our flight to Paris. 

Another book I've gotten through on this trip was Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, and while maybe I'm a month or two off, I was reminded of my upcoming trip to Korea this summer while I read Sonmi's confessional in the book. I have to say, though, after hearing all the raves about how incredible of a book it was, I was a little underwhelmed by Cloud Atlas. Certainly a good, solid read, but not the life-changing literary epiphany I was expecting. Will have to watch the film on the flight home if it's still in Air France's queue. 

Amul's been doing some relevant reading lately as well. In addition to a bunch of Europe travel guide books, he read Under the Tuscan Sun (by a San Francisco State University professor!) right before we left on our trip. I bought him a copy of one of my favorite Korean adoptee memoirs, Trail of Crumbs, by Kim Sunée, and he's been reading that over vacation.  Trail of Crumbs is Sunée's journey through food and self-discovery living in provincial France. Similar to Under the Tuscan Sun, Trail of Crumbs intersperses regional recipes among its narrative. 

Well, this has turned into somewhat of a what-I-did-over-summer-vacation book report, which was not really my intention. Apologies. Anyway, looking forward to another week or so of junk-food reading before I get back to the heavy stuff when I get home.