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Archive for January, 2011

“A fascinating, intelligently told tale, full of intriguing revelations that penetrates deeper into the Andean past than previously attempted.” Traveller Magazine

I’m off to Peru in a couple of months for a holiday so a friend bought me this book as a Christmas present and I decided that the best way to say thank you was to try to get across how fabulous I found this book in a blog post.

I thought I knew what I was going to visit when I booked my trip to Peru, I was excited at the thought of seeing Machu Picchu, but it turns out I really didn’t know anything about the history and culture of this fascinating country.  Hugh Thomson takes on the immense task of trying to convey five millennia of Peruvian history and culture in one book, whilst also attempting to express his own intellectual and physical journey through a country he has been exploring for over twenty five years, in a way that the non-scholar can relate to.  And as far as I’m concerned, he succeeds.

This is a tale of his own journey, so it allows Thomson to interweave personal stories and experiences alongside the historical and archaeological facts.  This brings a human touch to the book and gives the reader an insight into Thomson’s own feelings about Peru and its people.  It’s astute, captivating and, most importantly for a book full of dates and facts, not dry.  Thomson introduces us to Peru’s cultural history and the people who lived and worked the land over millions of years and why they may have lived the way they did.  He also introduces explorers and archaeologists, their viewpoints and arguments and provides his own opinions and perspectives.  The book may be full of detail and history but it’s written like a travel book rather than a history book.  And it’s also inspiring!  Thomson takes us on a journey through Peru’s past but also introduces us to the modern Peru and the beliefs and lifestyles.

His accounts of his travels and discoveries got my adrenaline pumping and heart racing with anticipation.  I know I’m not going to hunt for any undiscovered temples but Thomson allowed me to imagine how it would feel and experience it vicariously.  If I hadn’t already decided to visit, this book would have had me reaching for the travel brochures and I’m now counting the days until I get to follow in some of Thomson’s footsteps.  Plus I really feel like I’ll be able to appreciate what I’m seeing now that I have a much clearer idea of why the temples and other structures were built and how the different cultures relate to each other. 

As further proof of how much I enjoyed this book, before I had even finished it, I purchased Thomson’s earlier book, The White Rock.  I can’t wait to see this amazing country for myself and thanks to Hugh Thomson (and my friend for buying me the book) I’ll be able to view the sights and really feel like I understand what I’m looking at.

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A quick summary of 2010

I realise it’s been a while since I posted; I think I was so overwhelmed that I’d finished Ulysses (and therefore my reading challenge) before Christmas that I was a little lost.  So I read a couple of easy detective novels on my new kindle (loving it!) to ease myself back into reading for pleasure!

I’ve just updated the list of books I read in 2010 and there’s 99 on the list, which I think is pretty good for one year.  So the question I ask myself is, ‘what book(s) stood out for me in 2010?’.

The first book that comes to mind is The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee, a memoir of a bookshop lover.  This is a fantastic book written by a bookshop afficiando and brings to life the history of the booksellers trade.  I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about it since I read it but I’ve been putting it off as I wanted to spend time on it to do it the justice it deserves.  So I’ll say no more for now, suffice to say it was definitely one of my stand-out books of the year.

I also really got in to Sherlock Holmes this year, not sure why but I really enjoyed reading these books and I highly recommend them.  I’m a big fan of detective fiction in general so it was nice to read some of the classics and spot the elements used as inspiration by later novelists.

I also read a few biographies and histories, including Ben MacIntyre’s A Foreign Field.  I do love true stories that are well written and capture the era and characters, really bringing them to life.  So many good stories are lost in poor writing.  But MacIntyre does an excellent job and I’m looking forward to reading Operation Mincemeat and any future works.  But I’m also keen to identify other authors who can do justice to a true story, so all suggestions welcome.

Obviously one of the more memorable books was Ulysses but it’s probably not memorable for the right reasons!  Overall I think 2010 was a good year in terms of books read.  There was a decent mixture of genres and authors, old favourites and new discoveries, great books and poor.

So now that brings us to 2011 and the question of what my next reading challenge should be.  I’ve taken a look at a number of challenges that other bloggers are doing at the moment and there were a few that sounded interesting but then I took a look round my living room and realised that my ‘to-be-read’ piles are getting a bit out of hand.  So I’ve decided that before I start any new challenges I should read everything currently in a TBR pile.  If you’ve been reading carefully you’ll notice I said ‘currently’ in a TBR pile.  So this leaves room to purchase books and start a new pile and it doesn’t include books downloaded to my kindle!

I think the books currently piled up make a good place to start and there’s a variety of genres and authors so it’s a good mix.  If you’re interested in what’s in the piles check out this page.

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