My “To Read” List

Image: Phiseksit / FreeDigitalPhotos.netAs part of my continuing quest for “personal growth” I have decided to do some reading while I’m on my travels. After all, they do say that travel broadens the mind! And I’m not talking about reading of the chick-lit or bestselling-thriller-I-bought-in-the-airport variety, but actual “intellectual” books. The kind of books that make it onto “you must read these before you die” lists. The kind of books your English teacher forced on you in school.

David McCandless of Information is Beautiful has compiled the data from multiple “best books” lists and come up with this amazing cloud. You can see the data online too.

Here are the books and my progress (or non-progress) on each.

Edit Sep 15: I have decided to add Swept: Love with a Chance of Drowning by Torre Deroche as my first holiday read, because I have been completely sucked in by the fantastic sample chapter. And because it’s my holiday I can do whatever I want!

Current Status: 13/115 (very, very bad!)

1 To Kill a Mockingbird  
2 1984 – I have always wanted to read this, never got round to it.
3 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
4 One Hundred Years of Solitude
5  Catch 22
6 Crime and Punishment
7 Pride and Prejudice – Check. My favourite book. Ever!
8 Anna Karenina
9 The Grapes of Wrath
10 Animal Farm
11 Lolita – Does the movie count?
12 War and Peace
13 Moby Dick
14 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
15 Lord of the Rings
16 Lord of the Flies
17 The Stranger
18 Harry Potter – Check. The first one!
19 Brave New World
20 His Dark Materials
21 Don Quixote
22 Les Miserables
23 Jane Eyre – Check.
24 Slaughterhouse Five
25 On the Road
26 Wuthering Heights – Check.
27 Farenheit 451
28 Life of Pi
29 Remembrance of Things Past
30 The Handmaid’s Tale
31 The Time Traveller’s Wife
32 A Clockwork Orange
33 The Kite Runner
34 The Road
35 The Colour Purple
36 The Chronicles of Narnia
37 Tess of D’Ubervilles
38 The Hobbit – Check.
39 David Copperfield
40 A Confederacy of Dunces
41 The Old Man and the Sea
42 Little Women – Check.
43 Beloved
44 Heart of Darkness
45 For Whom the Bell Tolls
46 Gone with the Wind
47 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
48 Rebecca
49 Middlemarch – I have tried…oh how I have tried!
50 The Good Earth
51 Ulysse’s
52 Ender’s Game
53 A Prayer for Eoin Meany
54 The Scarlet Letter
55 Dune
56 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
57 The Bell Jar
58 The Little Prince
59 The Master and the Margarita
60 The Three Musketeers
61 Love in the Time of Cholera
62 A Tale of Two Cities
63 Memoirs of a Geisha
64 The Sound and the Fury
65 The Leopard
66 Invisible Man
67 The Fountainhead
68 Midnight’s Children
69 Madame Bovary
70 Atonement – Check.
71 Emma – Check.
72 All Quiet on the Western Front
73 Of Mice and Men
74 Anne of Green Gables – Check.
75 The Picture of Dorian Gray
76 The Jungle
77 Lonesome Dove
78 Of Human Bondage
79 East of Eden
80 The Da Vinci Code – Check.
81 Persuasion – Check.
82 Sense and Sensibility – Check.
83 Middlesex
84 Disgrace
85 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time
86 Dracula
87 The Remains of the Day – Check. My second favourite book. And film.
88 Underworld
89 Scoop
90 Winnie the Pooh
91 Watership Down
92 The Name of the Rose
93 A Thousand Splendid Suns
94 Stranger in a Strange Land
95 Frankenstein
96 The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
97 Blood Meridian
98 Crash
99 Vanity Fair
100 The Glass Bead Game
101 Twilight
102 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
103 Foundation
104 Siddhartha
105 Possession
106 Cold Comfort Farm
107 A Farewell to Arms
108 The Wind in the Willows
109 Atlas Shrugged
110 The Amazing Adventures of Kravalier and Clay
111 Great Expectations
112 The Tin Drum
113 The Brothers Karamazov
114 The Unbearable Lightness of Being
115 Oscar and Lucinda

Image: Phiseksit /


My Number 1 Travel Photography Tip

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.netI am not a photographer. I don’t claim any special knowledge. In fact, I have a whole collection of uninspiring holiday snaps and headless portraits. On this trip I do hope to do some study (okay, maybe not study, that sounds like alot of work) and improve my photography skills. I recently purchased the Getting out of Auto ebook by the guys over at Bears & Beans and a shiny new-to-me Panasonic Lunix TZ8, so all I need now is something to photograph! Therefore, my number 1 photography tip has nothing to do with aperture, or composition or lighting. It actually has more to do with one of my favourite topics – organisation & administration!

A picture is worth a thousand words and I personally enjoy nothing more than opening up a trip’s photos and going through them by date. It’s almost like being back in the destination again. So, my number 1 travel photography tip is:
Don’t forget to change the time/date settings on your camera to reflect your current location!

Now, maybe everybody else already knows this. Maybe I’m the only idiot with 3 camera’s worth of Japan photos that jump from train station to hotel to a different city and then back to trains again! It was a hard lesson, learned trying to organise 10 days worth of photos that had three different time stamps. Sure, software can do almost anything these days, and I did find something that let me “+8” to all my out-of-sync shots. But to this day there are still a few stubborn misfits littered throughout my slideshows.

Many cameras have travel settings, including my TZ8. A quick glance at the manual revealed some home/destination/world clock features, but I have to be honest and admit I zoned out after about 5 seconds. I’ve also recently discovered the whole camera/gps thing that alot of new models have going on. Sometimes though, the old ways are the best ways and a quick reset on the time menu every time I hit a new time zone is more than advanced enough for me!

Image: Salvatore Vuono /

I Heart Pop Music

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.netI don’t care what anyone says, pop music makes me happy! Sure, I have some more “sophisticated” selections on my ipod, but right now the song that spins every morning on my way to work is Little Jackie’s “The World Should Revolve Around Me”. It never fails to put a bounce in my step and a smile on my face, as I make my way to another day of cubicle torture on the countdown to my trip. As soon as it starts I’m transported to a beach in Croatia, a bus in China or a temple in Japan. Anyone else have a (slightly embarrassing) pre-trip anthem?

If you don’t know the song you can check it out on youtube but the lyrics go like this:
I take it in stride, one day at a time
If I ask no questions, I’ll hear no lies
How come blessings only come in disguise?
Try them on for size as I vocalize
Ain’t nothing gonna get in between me and my flow
Ain’t nothing gonna come between me and my afro
My man just left me, what do ya know?
Easy come, easy go

He came out of the blue and went right back into it
Had to forfeit because he couldn’t get with it
Called it quits and when it spins
He said he didn’t have time for my juvenile bullshit

I don’t lack failed relationships
I don’t get involved because I’m not equipped
I believe that the world should revolve around me
I don’t see the point in a partnership
It won’t be long until they start to trip
Yessiree. The whole world should revolve around me.

There’s only one me in the galaxy
I am an endangered species
This kind of flower don’t grow on Earth
Just lettin’ you know, for what it’s worth

This kind of mountain shouldn’t cause a depression
So I bide my time with philosophical questions
Not for nothing but what came first
The chicken nugget or the egg mcmuffin?

I got talent and I got tits
I know I’ll find another guy who wants to get with it
I’m not convinced that I’m a big fat bore
One man’s pleasure is another man’s chore

I’ve had a lot of failed relationships
I don’t get involved because I’m not equipped
I believe that the world should revolve around me!
I don’t see the point in a partnership
It won’t be long until they start to trip
Yessiree. The whole world should revolve around me

I know I rock and what I got is hot
And you know I got a lot
Cause all that trippin’ you gotta stop
Before you know it your ass’ll be dropped

I’m not concerned with my biological clock
Since I never grow old my honey’s always in stock
Keep screwing that bitch from down the block
I don’t need you around I know I rock

I’ve had a lot of failed relationships
I don’t get involved because I’m not equipped
I believe that the world should revolve around me!
I don’t see the point in a partnership
It won’t be long until they start to trip
Yessiree. The whole world should revolve around me


To plan or not to plan…that’s not a question!

Image: jannoon028 /

Way back when (last month) I decided I would try out a “new me”. No plans – just me, my passport and an open mind. Anyone who knows me knows that’s not how I usually travel. Usually there are spreadsheets involved. Multiple spreadsheets. But this is my big trip. My journey of self-discovery. Plan schman!

Of course, it’s only common sense to research the places you plan to go a little. Key points like weather, proximity to other desired locations, known issues for solo females, etc. No problems there. I’m still spontaneous. It’s all good.

Common sense to also check out some accommodation in these places. After all, I don’t want to spend the last day in place X finding a non-flea-ridden bed in place Y. The only sensible thing to do is to pick out an option 1 & 2 in each destination, and categorise them geographically on delicious. No worries. I’m not actually booking anything!

Now, what if I get to place X and discover that there is actually no reasonable way to get to place Y. Just because they look close on the map (Zadar & Ronvinj, you know who you are!), doesn’t mean you won’t need 4 weeks and your own donkey to get between them. Best to have a loose idea of connections between all of your major destinations. And if I happen to come across the price of these transports, well, that’s just a happy coincidence, not extreme planning at all.

So today I find myself with a folder full of pdf brochures, timetables & lonely planet chapters. And a delicious account with more links than I could possibly ever revisit. Not to mention a three-tabbed excel file detailing flight connections & numbers the mammy can ring if I go missing.

I laugh at the youthful miss with dreamt of going “where the road leads me”. Turns out I’m not a project manager for nothing! But, it has to be said, I think I like my way of travelling. For instance, things my way of travelling taught me this month:

  • Eastern Europe does not heart single-sex dorms
  • Alot of hostels don’t offer security lockers
  • Getting from Skopje to Sarajevo is not simple
  • I cannot fold my map

I have discovered that, rather than being remembered as 6 weeks of drudgery and time-filling, these weeks are all about excitement and potential, changing itineraries & nights spent in my map plotting my world domination. It turns out, for me, planning to get there is actually half the fun!

Image: jannoon028 /