Thirsty Souls

Thirsty Souls: Book Club Gone Wild

This week we're thirsty for the written word. Pack a bag and grab your journal for an unforgettable book club on the run; there's nothing like putting a pen to paper while following in the dusty tracks of the greats.


1. Bill Bryson, In A Sunburned Country, Australia 

Having conquered the Appalachian Trail, beloved American travel writer Bill Bryson decided to tackle a much bigger adventure down under.  The result is a humorous, heartfelt account of a continent that is home to both extremely hospitable humans and more than a few harrowing critters. Good onya, Bill.

The three images below represent the three parts of the book: Into the Outback, Civilized Australia, and Around the Edges. 

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2. John Steinbeck, Cannery Row, Monterey, California

Steinbeck's fictional portrait of the residents of Cannery Row was inspired by his own time in Monterey, on the famous street known for its sardine canneries.  Steinbeck uses offbeat characters (a painter, a grocer, a marine biologist) to examine the universal experiences of work and friendship in a uniquely American way.  Also, there are frogs -- lots of frogs.

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3. Mark Twain, Roughing It, Wild West, Nevada

Before Mark Twain's first book, The Innocents Abroad, became a best-seller in 1869, he spent a few years (1861 -1864) roughing it across the wild west with his brother, Orion, who was appointed Secretary of the Nevada Territory. While living in Nevada, Twain tried his hand at silver-prospecting, real-estate speculating, and reporting;  traveled to Utah and Hawaii; and foolishly challenged the publisher of a rival newspaper to a duel. He fled to San Francisco in 1864, fearing that he would face two years in prison for violating Nevada's newly enacted dueling laws. Turns out the Father of American Literature was once a real wild child. 

Pick up Roughing It to read the hilarious account of the unruly years that turned Samuel Clemens into Mark Twain, and visit the Mark Twain Museum of Memories in Virginia City, Nevada, to see where some of the shenanigans actually went down. 

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4. Ernest Hemingway, Green Hills Of Africa, Lake Manyara Tanzania, Africa

Green Hills of Africa is Hemingway's personal run-through of an awe-inspiring journey taken in December of 1933 - a one-month safari in East Africa with his wife Pauline.  Written at the Hemingway House in Key West, Florida, the author ponders the mysteries of the wilderness and the appeal of big-game hunting in four parts: "Pursuit and Conversation," "Pursuit Remembered," "Pursuit and Failure," and "Pursuit as Happiness."

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5. Faith Ringgold, Tar Beach, Harlem, New York

Fly over 1930's Harlem with eight-year-old Cassie Louise Lightfoot in this whimsical book loved by children and adults alike. You won't just get lost in the plot of Tar Beach, you'll be adrift in a sea of beautiful images too. Widely recognized for its visual impact, Tar Beach is a Caldecott Honor Book, winner of the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration, and a New York Times Best Illustrated Book.

Visit the National Jazz Museum in Harlem to hear lost tunes by Count Basie and Billie Holiday, and check out some of Ringgold's painted story quilts at the Guggenheim while in NYC.

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6. Naguib Mahfouz, The Cairo Trilogy, Egypt

If Nobel-Prize winning, existential Arabic literature is your thing (of course it is), then we've got the trilogy for you: a story that covers three generations of family life and twenty five years of sociopolitical change, set in Egypt during the first half of the 20th century.

Hit the streets of Cairo with Mahfouz as your guide; each of the three books (Bayn al-Qasrayn, Qasr al-Shawq, Al-Sukkariyya) is named after a street that has personal significance to the author.

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7. Harper Lee, To Kill A Mocking Bird, Monroeville, Alabama 

This classic tale of racial injustice in the Deep South is set in the fictional town of Maycomb which is modeled after the author's hometown of Monroeville, Alabama.

Every year The Mockingbird Players of Monroeville present the stage adaptation of Lee's novel in honor of one of the town's most famous residents (Truman Capote also grew up there). The play always sells out, so reserve your seat for "Alabama's Hottest Theater Ticket" well in advance for a night of literary delight. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling even once attended the production! 

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8. Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner, Kabul, Afghanistan

This story of two childhood friends on two very different life paths reveals the devastating nature of secret-keeping and emphasizes the life changing power of forgiveness. For many Western readers, this was the novel that put a "face" on Afghanistan. 

Swing by Qargha Lake, Bagh-e Babur (historical gardens), and the National Museum of Afghanistan while in Kabul, and don't forget to fly a kite in honor of Hassan.

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9. C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Narnia

We wish we could take you into the wardrobe, but the birthplace of Narnia will have to do.

The Eagle and the Child pub in Oxford, England, (also known as the Bird & the Baby) was a favorite haunt of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, who met there weekly with friends and fellow writers to discuss their work. Lewis's plans for Narnia were hashed out with the Inklings over frothy pints of beer in the pub's backroom, which means you need to stop in for fish and chips ASAP. 

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10. Kobo Abe, The Woman In The Dunes, Tottori Sakyu, outside of Tokyo, Japan

After missing the last bus home from the seashore, a man accepts help from the locals and finds himself in an impossible situation: held hostage at the bottom of a sand pit with a mysterious woman. The two are assigned the never-ending task of shoveling away the encroaching sand in this allegory about life, work, and freedom that pays homage to the Sisyphean myth.

The film adaptation of The Woman in the Dunes, directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara, won the special jury prize at the 1964 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for two Oscars; read the book, see the movie, fly to Tokyo. Sounds like a solid plan for 2016.

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Stressed? Kick up your feet, grab a cold drink, and dive into a good book. It always works for us.



Have you visited a legendary literary haunt? Share your pics by using #thirstysouls on Instagram and Facebook.