Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Note about Christmas Gifts

Not that we are seeking out Christmas gifts, but some have been asking what we'd like for Christmas this year. It's a cliche to say that this trip is gift enough but it's true. We're having the time of our life and are not in want for anything else.

But if someone really wanted to get us something we decided we'd love gift certificates. Jaimee and I are both big readers so we can use the gift certificates to buy books during our trip.

How will we order books from during our trip? Well, before we left we bought a Kindle from The Kindle is Amazon's electronic book reader. I was intrigued with the device when it first came out, but never considered getting one because we are both huge library users and would usually read most of our books from the terrific Seattle Public Library. However we didn't want to carry a lot of books on our trip and days before we left the US Amazon released a new version of the Kindle that works on the cellular network of over 25 countries. What makes the Kindle unique is that you can order and download books without using a computer. You connect via cellular reception and the book is downloaded directly to your device (or you can connect the device if you don't have cell coverage). The Kindle has been great. Jaimee and I have both now read several books on it.

I especially love how you can download samples - often when I have free time I'll browse and download samples of all sorts of books.

Anyway, if you'd like to contribute to our reading pleasure, click here. (Use our joint e-mail as the recipient address.) The only thing we'd ask is that you also give us a book recommendation to go along with it. (You don't have to give us a gift certificate - feel free to leave book recommendations in the comments too - we're always eager for new reading ideas.)

Speaking of reading, we've been very busy on our trip so haven't had as much time to read as I thought we might (isn't that always the case?) but for those that are interested, here are the books that we've read on our trip so far since we left Seattle on August 15:

The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, Book 3), by Philip Pullman. The last of the series, the first two being The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife. We listened to this on CD during our US road-trip. The series is a great audio choice; it's unabridged but it uses a full cast of actors for the different voices. We read (listened) to this series when we were looking for something new after reading all the Harry Potter books.

Create Your Own Economy: The Path to Prosperity in a Disordered World, by Tyler Cowen one of the main bloggers at Not what I thought it would be at all and very hard to encapsulate. He combines autism, computers, economics, religion and politics together in unexpected ways. Recommended, but I'd understand if you couldn't get through it.

The Angel's Game, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Another audio book that we listened to while in the US. The author of one of my favorite books of all time (The Shadow of the Wind) returns with another mesmerizing tale. Highly recommended. We were sad when the book ended.

Driving Like Crazy, by P.J. O'Rourke. Subtitled, "Thirty Years of Vehicular Hell-bending Celebrating America the Way Its Supposed to BeWith an Oil Well in Every Backyard, a Cadillac Escalade in Every Carport and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Mowing Our Lawn" it's a collection of essays O'Rourke wrote about cars. He reads the audio version himself. Several of his stories involves taking road trips and at one point when we were listening to the book in Arizona, he was relating a story that took place only a few miles from where we were.

Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey. I'd wanted to read this since I first visited Moab, Utah and saw the beautiful scenery in the Utah desert which is where this memoir/long essay takes place. It's now one of my favorite books and I would definitely consider reading it again.

The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care, by T.R. Reid. The first book I read on the Kindle, it's about a man who goes around the world searching for a solution to a shoulder problem he's having. Along the way he discusses the different ways countries handle health care. I enjoyed it quite a bit, although it gets somewhat repetitive in that every new country presents another opportunity for him to bash the way the USA handles health care (not that it's undeserved, but I didn't need a recap every 25 pages or so).

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, by Jon Krakauer. Another Kindle book that Jaimee and I both read. You can't go wrong with Jon Krakauer; I've read everything he's written and enjoyed them all. Pat Tillman was the NFL football player who enlisted in the Army after 9/11 and was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan.

Thanks for the Memories, by Cecelia Ahem. We found this book at the first place we were WWOOFing in New Zealand. Irish author, set in Ireland and London about an American professor. Supposedly it's Chic Lit but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Twilight (The Twilight Saga, Book 1), by Stephenie Meyer. Speaking of Chic Lit. What can I say? I downloaded the sample chapter (it's a generous sample so I think it included about three or four chapters) to the Kindle and told myself I would only read it if I liked it. Forks, Washington plays a large role in the book and having been there several times it was fun to visualize the locations (which were pretty accurate). The teenage romance stuff? A bit much at times.

The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier's Education, by Craig Mullaney. This is a memoir about a West Point graduate and Rhodes Scholar who served in Afghansistan. I got this once from the library but didn't get to finish it before having to return it. Jaimee and I are both read it on the Kindle.

Pomegranate Soup, by Marsha Mehran. I picked this off the shelf at the WWOOFing place we're currently staying at. It's a novel set in 1984 Ireland involving three Iranian sisters who open a restaurant in a small Irish town. Each chapter begins with a recipe that is central to the upcoming chapter.

And I'm currently reading:

Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before, by Paul Horwitz. I browsed through this book at a book store a long time ago and always wanted to read it. Now, after visiting a few of the places that Cook went in Australia and New Zealand I thought it would be fun to read about his journey. Although the Kindle does display pictures (and you can rotate to landscape for easier viewing) it does need some work on image viewing. I miss seeing a larger map of Cook's travels which I remember was on the inside cover of the paper version.

Jaimee has read the following books not mentioned above:

Strip Jack and Black and Blue by Ian Rankin.

Casino Royale and From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming.

New Moon (The Twilight Saga, Book 2), by Stephenie Meyer. We borrowed this from Galit in Brisbane (and we're carting it around until I finish it and then return it to her.)

The Shark Net, by Robert Drewe. Jaimee found this where we WWOOFed. It's about a serial killer in Perth, Australia.

And she's currently reading Eclipse (The Twilight Saga, Book 3) on the Kindle right now (literally right now).

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