Edinburgh is a UNESCO City of Literature (the very first in the world to receive the accolade in 2004) and in between going to events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival last week, I visited a few of the literary attractions and bookshops that the city has to offer.
The National Library of Scotland
The National Library of Scotland has its main base in Edinburgh’s Old Town on George IV Bridge and is home to some 24 million printed items including one of the world’s largest collections of maps. As it is a research library, the reading rooms can only be accessed if you are a member but there are temporary exhibitions for visitors including displays of flyers and programmes from the Edinburgh Festival which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. The main exhibition running at the moment is ‘Enduring Eye: The Antarctic Legacy of Sir Ernest Shackleton and Frank Hurley’ which documents the Endurance expedition and rescue in 1914-16 and includes diaries, photographs, letters and other items from various archives. Admission is free and it’s well worth a look if you’re passing by. Continue reading
‘Far & Away: Reporting from the Brink of Change, Seven Continents, Twenty-Five Years’ is Andrew Solomon’s collection of travel writing in countries undergoing huge political, social and cultural change. I really enjoyed his masterfully perceptive book Far From the Tree which explores the multiple facets of identity and difference. His intimate reporting on vast subjects is very compelling and it is hard to think of a more open-minded and generous travelling companion than Solomon.
The subtitle of Gavin Francis’ travel memoir would be a reasonably concise answer to the question: “What comes to mind when you think of Antarctica?”. While ice and emperor penguins are the more obvious responses to be expected from those who have never been there, it is the silence of such a remote landscape which Francis dwells on in his account of the fourteen months he spent as the base-camp doctor at the British Antarctic Survey’s Halley research station on the Caird Coast. What becomes clear from reading ‘Empire Antarctica’ is that claustrophobia and isolation are also major factors, although that would have made a much less satisfying book title. Continue reading
‘Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland’ is Sarah Moss’s account of living in Reykjavik for a year between 2009 and 2010. Moss first visited Iceland as a child and later with a friend when she was nineteen during a university summer holiday. Some fifteen years later and now married with two young sons, she applied for a job at the University of Iceland teaching Romantic poetry and creative writing as a visiting lecturer and fulfilled a childhood dream of moving to the country with her family. Continue reading
‘Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot’ is Mark Vanhoenacker’s unique account exploring the wonders of flight and his day-to-day work as a long distance airline pilot. After abandoning his postgraduate studies in African history followed by a few years working as a management consultant, Vanhoenacker pursued his childhood dream of learning to fly aeroplanes. He is now a senior first officer with British Airways flying Boeing 747s across the world. Continue reading
From the perils of crush loading on the Tokyo metro to road rage in the United States, ‘Rush Hour: How 500 million commuters survive the daily journey to work’ by Iain Gately examines the past, present and future of travelling to and from work. Commuting is an activity which takes up a significant part of everyday life for people across the world. This book outlines how it has developed and, in an era of advanced communication methods, why we still do it. Continue reading
I recently won another book from the Waterstones read and review competition in which cardholders receive a free copy of a book in return for posting an honest review on the website. This time, it was a pot luck draw and I got a copy of Artemis Cooper’s biography of the travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor. Again, I am not sure if I can publish my official review in full on my blog but you can read it here under the name Clare90. Continue reading