January’s New Reads

A little something about the new year. I have absolutely no expectations of the year to come. No list of things I must pretend to accomplish. No run numbers, real or imagined. There has been an end to so many things. As a result I’m in day-by-day mode. Or, in the case of this entry, book-by-book. Here’s what I finished:


  • Captain of the Sleepers by Mayra Montero
  • Any Human Heart: a novel by William Boyd (AB + print)


  • Italy and the Grand Tour by Jeremy Black
  • Another Life by Michael Korda
  • Book of Puka-Puka by Robert Dean Frisbie. (I am now reading An Island to Oneself by Tom Neale as a continuation to Puka.)


  • Spiderweb for Two by Elizabeth Enright (finished the series)
  • Hyperion by Dan Simmons (started the series). (I’m now reading Fall of Hyperion as a continuation.)


  • Dirty Work by Gabriel Weston. NOTE: I was supposed to receive this as an Early Review in 2014. When it didn’t arrive I borrowed it from a library two years later.
  • You Carried Me by Melissa Ohden (December 2016 batch)

For Fun:

  • Island Voices II by Poets of Monhegan Island ~ a gift from my mother.

Italy and the Grand Tour

Black, Jeremy. Italy and the Grand Tour. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.

Reason read: I think a very common New Year’s resolution for some is to travel. Read in honor of traveling to Italy.

Italy and the Grand Tour provides the reader with a historical perspective on what it meant to visit Italy throughout the eighteenth century, all the while offering little tidbits of interesting facts (Thomas Cook had a travel company and the word bearleader meant guide, for example). Black is determined to analyze the fine line between cosmopolitanism and xenophobia which he insists is cultural but also difficult to determine based on first hand travel journals and letters. He showcases his points with a considerable myriad of quotations and glorious artwork.

Divided into logical sections covering the regions of Italy, accommodations, food, transport, cost, activities, society, religion, art, politics, Italy and the Grand Tour culminates in the chapter on the impact of Italy. Throughout it all, I found it interesting that some things never change in the world of worldly travel. For example, Black pointed out actual itineraries often differed from what had been planned due to spending too long in one area and not leaving enough time for another. Or getting tired of one place and leaving it sooner than planned. Not to mention weather delays and being waylaid by new friends. As if those things would not happen nowadays!
But, the best part of Italy and the Grand Tour was reading the journals and letters of the travelers. They could be Italy’s harshest critics with one word reviews like uninteresting, unsatisfactory, unimpressed, mean, miserable, disappointed, dirty, dismal, disagreeable, beastly, and filthy. I imagined the hell they would raise with those words on modern day social media.

Quote of a quote I liked, “I still persist in thinking Italy a country worth seeing but by no leans worth living in” (p 53). As said by Frederick, 2nd Viscount Bolingbroke.
Another quote, this time direct from author: “Venice was not the sole cockpit of sexual adventure” (p 122).

Author fact: Black has written many other books but they none are on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: the title comes from the term “grand tour” commonly associated with aristocratic British travelers; those who have the money, means and time to go gallivanting through the countryside.

Nancy said: Italy and the Grand Tour is a “nice historical perspective” (p 46).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ciao, Italia” (p 46).

2017: a new dawn

What can I tell you about the new year? Not much. I can tell you about the Challenge books! Here’s what I have planned:


  • The Book of Puka-Puka by Robert Dean Frisbie ~ in honor of National Geographic Travel Month
  • Italy and the Grand Tour by Jeremy Black ~ in honor of travel and a personal resolution to see Italy some day
  • Another Life by Michael Korda ~ in honor of the selfishness of resolutions (it’s all about me).


  • Captain of the Sleepers by Mayra Montero ~ in honor of Hostos Day in Puerto Rico
  • Hyperion by Dan Simmons ~ in honor of Science Fiction month
  • Spiderweb for Two by Elizabeth Enright ~ to continue the series started in September (no I didn’t finish this last month like I thought I would)
  • Any Human Heart by William Boyd ~ in honor of the month most people start a journal

Early Review:

  • Dirty Work by Gabriel Weston (NOTE: I didn’t actually receive this as an Early Review. I was supposed to back in 2014. I just decided to borrow it from the local library & read it anyway).