Would you like to explore New York while living in a penthouse apartment on 5th Avenue with breathtaking views of Central Park? Or search for treasure with a Parisian antique dealer? Maybe you’d like to ride a camel across the drifting sands seas of the Sahara, or sip Ouzo with a fisherman on an island in the Agean?
Or perhaps you’d like to savour the spicy flavours, heady smells and exotic kaleidoscopic colour of a souk in Marrakesh?
How about a trip down the Nile or a visit to the rocky red heart of Australia where, if you listen carefully, you may hear the whispered voices of aboriginal ancestors?
Would you enjoy beachcombing along the storm wrecked sands of the Skeleton Coast or watch graceful gazelle dance down to a waterhole from the shade of your verandah?
Perhaps you’d prefer to stay for a while with a Duke in Belgravia, or share the sometimes frightening but always exhilarating challenge of sailing around the world singlehanded?
Compelling drama, moral issues, passion and pain, acute observation, gentle reminiscence, investigation and revelation, enthralling exploration, humour, biography, history and heart. It’s all there. In a book.
At the suggestion of the wonderful, multi-talented blogger supremo Sarah Laurence, I have finally got round to posting my Book Boost. Here is my Christmas gift list. You are more than welcome to borrow any or all of them!
For My Liege - lover of history and for whom every journey is an adventure, I have chosen Alice Albinia’s Empires of the Indus. Alice weaves together history and travel in a beautifully written and accessible account that follows the Indus river upstream, from Tibet, through Northern India and south through civilizations, emperors and explorers.
And because, like me, he devours books, I have decided to give him an extra bonus. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri is a superbly written collection of short stories that take readers from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand as they explore the secrets at the heart of family life.
For Georgie - child of Africa, intrepid traveller and adventurer; now a very Yummy Mummy and whizz-kid wife who is becoming an astonishingly good and imaginative cook, it will be Tessa Kiro’s Piri Piri Starfish. Tessa gives us a vivid tapestry of the Portuguese way of living and eating together, sewn seamlessly in this delectable book with her own unique colours and threads.
I’m also going to pop Leon by Allegra McEvedy into her stocking. Allegra’s recipes are both incredibly delicious as well as amazingly fast. This book, apart from being a very gorgeous book to own and read, gives you over 100 mouth-watering recipes and a fun approach to cooking with big flavours.
For Beani - wit, raconteur and general bonne vivante who, beneath the twinkle is cerebral, intensely curious and a voracious reader – I’ve decided to give Tim Winton’s latest tour de force Breath. In a place of stagnation and limited opportunities where for some the only escape is the ocean itself, this is haunting novel about two boy’s coming-of-age – without all the clichés.
For Janie – redoubtable Countess, talented analogist and my very best friend in all the world, I have chosen The Rowing Lesson by Anne Landsman. Like Landsman's family, the Jewish Kleins are incongruous in the Aryan world of Afrikaner South Africa, tolerated only because Harold becomes a skilled doctor. Heartbreaking and evocative.
And another one I’m going to sneak into her package is Alexandra Fuller’s The Legend of Colton H Bryant. Take an ordinary man living in the high plains of America’s big sky country (where Alexandra now lives), and you have a poignant, sometimes humorous and powerfully evocative tale of a ‘cowboy’ legend.
For Peter – as voluble, as witty and as erudite as Winston Churchill (sounds like him too!) – it will be A Fraction of The Whole by Steve Toltz The story of a father and son whose strong connection transcends all their many shortcomings, and an hilarious indictment of the modern world and its mores.
For Mark – Wiz-kid of the Western World and generous lender of Land Rovers – I’ve picked The Collector of Worlds by Ilya Troyanov, an intriguing biographical fiction of the infamous explorer Sir Richard Burton as told through the eyes of his Indian servant.
For Henry (4) – Number One Star Catcher, pure genius and man of the world with an encyclopaedic knowledge of just about everything – I have chosen Oliver Jeffers’ The Great Paper Caper. When life in the forest begins to change the mystery begins and a full-scale investigation is required.
For James (2) – fearless explorer, decorated hero and deft rugby player – it’s Not A Box by Antoinette Portis. Rabbit explains how extremely useful an empty brown box can be if you use your imagination.