February Reads

  1. Lion a.k.a. A Long Way Home, by Saroo Brierley

    Why did I choose it? I had just watched the film adaptation and was eager to read the book on which it was based. Also, my holiday to Sri Lanka was coming up and it struck me as a good book to read while travelling.

    What is it about? The book recounts Saroo’s separation from his birth family in India, when he is five years old. While waiting at a train station for his older brother, he accidentally boards a train which takes him 1600km away from his home in the small rural village of Ganesh Talai (or as Saroo calls it, Ginestlay) to Calcutta. He spends several weeks living as a street kid, before being placed into a juvenile home, and eventually, an orphanage. When attempts to find his family prove fruitless, Saroo is adopted out to an Australian couple, John and Sue Brierley, and he goes to live in Hobart, Tasmania.

    As a university student, Saroo is told about Google Earth, and becomes inspired to use it to see if he can find his home town. Although he has a strong visual memory of the landmarks that defined his town, he acknowledges the search is like looking for a needle in a haystack. After four years of methodical searching, Saroo stumbles upon- by chance- the station where he boarded the train that completely changed the course of his life. Twenty-five years after getting lost, Saroo returns to India in the hope of being reunited with his long-lost family.

    What were my thoughts? I found Saroo’s story to be a very moving one, from his harrowing memories of learning how to survive on the streets as a small child, to the hopes and doubts he expresses about the painstaking process of searching for his home town online. At its core, this is a book about family and the ties that bind, and what I loved most of all was the underlying conviction that neither distance nor the passing of time can break the bonds we share with those we love.

    Saroo comes across as a humble and grateful man who, despite his loss, appreciates the second chance he was given, and knows how lucky he is. It’s very evident that he loves both his families deeply. Although I knew it was coming, the moment when Saroo realises he has found what he’s been looking for was just incredible to read about. It really is a triumph against all odds.

    My favourite part was when Saroo was reunited with his birth mother. I read this part on a beautiful evening towards the end of my travels in Sri Lanka. I remember I was sitting on the balcony of my hotel in Pinnawala, and the air was alive with the song of birds while the setting sun cast a golden glow over the river below me. All of a sudden, I just really missed my own mum, and felt quite teary. Two weeks without seeing or talking to her suddenly felt like a very long time. I can’t even begin to imagine being separated from her for twenty-five years, so this part just struck me as incredibly poignant.

  2. Are Those Your Underpants on the Conveyor?, by Mark Sheehan and friends

    Why did I choose it? This was a random pick from my local library, which was low on options in regards to travel literature, aside from Lonely Planet guide books. I chose this particular book because it looked like it would be a light and humorous read.

    What is it about? The book is a collection of anecdotes about the author’s misadventures while travelling. There are also many short tales contributed by his friends. The stories span a range of topics, such as language barriers, transportation, food, accommodation, cultural difference, group travel, and money issues.

    What were my thoughts?
    Although the book promises to be highly hilarious, there were only a handful of stories that were truly amusing and made me laugh out loud. Most just seemed to miss the punchline for me.

    Memorable quote: “I discovered that adaptability is the most useful thing to pack.”

  3. The Longest Climb, by Dominic Faulkner

    Why did I choose it?¬† This was another random pick from the library. My interest was immediately piqued by the fact it featured an account of climbing Everest- ever since visiting Nepal, I’ve been fascinated by the world of mountaineering.

    What is it about? The book recounts the ambitious journey undertaken by a British group of adventurers, led by former SAS officer, Dominic Faulkner. They form the EVEREST¬†MAX team in the hope of being the first people ever to fulfil ‘the last great overland quest’- that is, to journey from the Dead Sea- the lowest point on Earth- to the summit of Mount Everest. To achieve this goal, the group must cycle 8000km from Jordan to Tibet, passing through Syria, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, and Nepal, before climbing the mother of all mountains.

    What were my thoughts? In recent times, I have become really interested in reading personal accounts of travel adventures and expeditions, but I had never previously heard of the EVEREST¬†MAX expedition, even though it occurred 11 years ago. I’m so glad I chose this book, as it was an absolutely riveting read. The book was well-written and provided some amazing insights into each of the countries visited, especially as some of them are not popular travel destinatons. It was sad to think that a similar journey today would probably be impossible, given the state of affairs in Syria. I also enjoyed reading about a summit attempt on the northern side of Everest, as other accounts I’ve read have predominantly featured the southern side. The 2006 climbing season was quite a tragic one, though, and the book does not gloss over the reality that, sometimes, people pay the ultimate price for their ambitions.

    My favourite part was when Dom and two of his team members reached the summit of Everest, five months to the day after setting out on their quest. What a surreal feeling it must’ve been for them to stand on top of the world and realise all their hard work had paid off. They had finally achieved their incredible goal.

January Reads

This year, I am aiming to continue with a practice I established last year, and that is to read every day. So far, so good! I find there’s no better way to end off a hot summer’s day than to go and lie in the hammock with my book. I have read three books this month, and enjoyed all three.

  1. Summit 8000, by Andrew Lock

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  2. A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson

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  3. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

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