Culture/travel books about author's observation of everyday life in foreign city

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Culture/travel books about author's observation of everyday life in foreign city

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elokuu 17, 2014, 11:20am

I'm looking for travel essays/books, something in the style of David Foster Wallace. Specifically I really liked his essay "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never do Again", where he describes his experience on a cruise ship. So I'm looking for a similar,fly-on-the-wall observations of daily life in a city, to give insight into a country's culture. Some places I'm interested in: Metropolises (Hong Kong, New York, Tokyo), or maybe somewhere exotic that wouldn't be the first place to come to mind.

maaliskuu 13, 2016, 12:26pm

This is a topic of great interest to me, too, Alan. I have hundreds of travelogue memoir type books but there are few that give you true insight into a culture. I focus on books from the 40's and 50's to capture the world before it was so globalized. These writers were not self-centered, (a la Theroux) so you really experience the people. These are all available used on Bookfinder for little money.

New Song in a Strange Land - Esther Warner
She wrote about five books on living in Africa, all great.

Village in the Sun - Dane Chandos
He wrote books about living in Mexico, all great

Cross Creek - Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings - Famous for The Yearling, but Cross Creek is about her life in rural Florida and the people there.

All three of these authors put present day authors to shame in their empathy and sensitivity to the surrounding cultures.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 13, 2016, 5:17pm

The Last Time I Saw Paris by Elliot Paul is perhaps the best Paris memoir I have read. The Interior Circuit: A Mexico City Chronicle by Francisco Goldman is a great take on Mexico City. Peter Hessler has written extensively about China. His first book - River Town focuses on his time in Fuling as a Peace Corps English instructor. Tim Parks is a Brit expat living in Verona, Italy. He has written a series of books, beginning with Italian Neighbors that humorously catalogue his assimilation into local culture. Jan Morris is known for her travel writing on cities: Hong Kong, Among The Cities, etc. I have spent considerable time in Florence, and my favorite memoir of life there is: The City of Florence: Historical Vistas and Personal Sightings by R.W. B. Lewis. Perhaps one of the stranger memoirs of Rome I have read is Rome Was My Beat by Reynolds Packer. You mentioned cities, so I have focused on them; however, my favorite African books are Alexandra Fuller's memoirs of growing up in Rhodesia: Lets Not Go to the Dogs Tonight and Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness. I could go on ... .

maaliskuu 17, 2016, 12:07pm

On reading the title of this post, the first book that came to my mind was Jean Paul Sartre's Nausea , simply for the author's observation of everyday life. This for me was one of the first slow 'fly-on-the-wall' style books which really knocked me on my ass. And I found it easier to read than Foster-Wallace :)

A favourite for vivid insights to place and time, without the usual tourist sights travelogue, is Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast - a fantastic short read about his Paris days.

Colin Thubron's In Siberia is probably one of my favourite books and I would place him in a similar vein to Paul Theroux. He really gets into the local stream of life and many of his other books are just as enthralling.

Set in Sarajevo during the 3 year siege in the 90's, Bill Carters book Fools Rush In: A True Story of Love, War, and Redemption I another favourite of mine. It recounts his time in the city during the Yugoslav wars, and is an adventure/moral dissection of humanity and inhumanity. I even sent him a fan letter after reading it :) It's one of those books that really stuck with me after I finished it.

Finally one other classic book which I would recommend is Red Dust: A Path Through China by Ma Jian. It is a fantastic Chinese book, banned in China still I think (?), written by a Chinese exile. He paints a wonderful, edgy picture of his travels across the country and it is a book that does not hold back. This book has a hedonistic flavour while being very descriptive and reflective on the writers situation within an oppressed society.

tammikuu 6, 2018, 11:41pm

Would recommend both Peter Hessler (start with River Town) and Ma Jian's Red Dust