First of all, I have to admit the title sounds a little bit like a Monty Python Chapter on books. However, let me explain. In this section of my travel blog, I plan to provide you with book reviews on the Best of the most Fabulous Books I’ve ever read.
A Top 10, 20, 30… with reviews of books I’ve read in the past & present. Be it books on history, exploration, travel, with themes like the Second World war, the Vietnam War, LBJ, Charles Darwin, Mission to the moon, Che Guevara, Conquering Mount Everest…..
Travel through reading a book
Now maybe some of you will ask yourself, and what have books or book reviews to do with travel? Well, I am of the opinion that:
“Reading a good book, is like making a journey.”
Reading a good book is like traveling through time and space. Like visiting other places, realities, and other people. A journey to the past, to the present or to the future. In war time and peace. Through the dessert, the jungle, over mountains, to the North pole or to the Moon. You can chose!
Anyhow, reading a book is escaping your own daily routine. One of the objectives of traveling is just that, as I concluded on my home page: Incidents of travel.
For that escape, the best option is to travel to far away destinations. A good alternative is a day trip in your own country. Depending on what you prefer, it can be a walk in the woods, a visit to the beach, or to a museum. Finally, you can start reading a book. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or non-fiction. A good read takes you elsewhere.
Until today I read more than 800 books (see my page on Goodreads). But, I have to be honest. When I was a young guy I was fascinated by books, but I didn’t read them!!!
I only collected books. Instead of reading them though, I was mainly concentrated on the pictures and drawings.
Being born in 1964, a good example are the pictures that came from outer space. Our journey – that is, of mankind – to the Moon, and back. The Saturn V rocket, the astronauts, their outfit, the Lunar rover, the prints they left on the moon.
Am I reincarnated?
Although not reading books when young, they fascinated me somehow. Until today, I don’t know why. Where did that feeling come from?
I didn’t see my parents read books, nor my brothers and sister. Therefore, is there reason to believe in reincarnation? Did I in an earlier life, maybe work at the library of Alexandria, Egypt? Did I write down my memoirs in Roman times? Or was a former bookseller in Victorian’ England?
Strange isn’t it? Although, … not when you think of a young boy preferring to play with his brothers & friends outside, instead of reading books. Playing soccer, hide & seek, trying to win bike races.
Even when in high school, I didn’t read books that much. And we had to, for our exams. In the Netherlands you have to study different languages: like English, French and German – besides Dutch. And that meant reading a certain amount of books. At that time, I selected the thinnest ones. Or else, read a summary or better still, … went to see the movie!
Six months in Riobamba, Ecuador
I seriously started to read books, when I went to Ecuador for my thesis. The country that I still live in.
I went to Ecuador in 1990, with another student/friend. And when we didn’t go out or were traveling through Ecuador, we read books in the evening. We had all the time in the world. A world without television!
Sitting on our outdoor terrace, overlooking parts of the city of Riobamba, and watched over by Mount Chimborazo (6315m) – I read one book after the other. And I loved it!
What I discovered in the meantime, was that from the start I had a strong preference for non-fiction books. I read some novels, and surely read some good ones, but it was non-fiction that caught my attention the most. Historical works & biographies … in the first place.
So, am I that serious of a guy? Yes, apparently! And no, because… what I discovered also, was that a good history book or biography can be as adventurous, romantic, dramatic, and fascinating as any random novel.
The Maximilian experience
A perfect example of my discovery is the history of the Emperor Maximilian of Mexico (1832-1867). A history I literally walked into when traveling through Mexico in 1992.
Visiting the castle of Chapultepec in Mexico City, I discovered – big surprise! – that an Austrian Habsburg archduke had governed Mexico some centuries ago. Well, better is to say that he tried to govern Mexico.
As was predictable for me from the first time I heard of this amazing historical fact, … he didn’t make it. After only a few years the Mexicans executed him in Querétaro, to the north of the capital.
What a story! I wanted to read everything about it and discovered that the non-fiction books about this short-lived Mexican Empire were the best. The reality of this story is really enough to be unbelievable. A perfect drama!
From then on, I secretly developed the wish to write the story down myself. That is, in Dutch. More so, because Maximilian’s spouse was Belgian (Note: And half of Belgium speaks Flemish, …a Dutch dialect, if you like).
Maximilian’s consort was the first princess Belgium ever had, Charlotte (1840-1927). She escaped Mexico in time, but lost her senses when nobody was prepared to help her husband in far away Mexico. She survived Maximilian for sixty long years, hidden in the castle near Brussels.
At the time, I didn’t have the time to write the story down. I even thought I never would, …until I returned to Ecuador in 2003, ending work in Guatemala and with my wife Wendy started a Hotel/restaurant.
Traveling through writing a book
Writing my Maximilian book – “Koningsdrama in Mexico”, I discovered that writing is like reading, but in slow motion. Consequently, traveling through history in slow motion too. More so, when you want to know everything about that time, that country, that history, the main characters… Writing about it. What an honor really.
As I wrote on my Home page, Mexico is my favorite country to travel to. Although, a country with many problems, the Mexicans are a proud people and proudly present their past & present on show for every visitor. Their history, their culture, their diversity, their food. For the whole world to see.
Back to my work on Maximilian. In the end, it took me almost 6 years to finish this book. Until now, my life’s work!
Armchair travel book reviews
In this “Armchair”-section of my travel blog, I plan to share my fascination with reading through book reviews. Reading them, as well as writing them. Before the first “real time” book review though, in my next post I’ll give you a short list of my favorite books. My personal Non fiction Book Top 10 …so far … Also, with a short review of every book!
For an overview of all travel posts of my blog, go to: the Home Page.