31 October 2010

The Illuminator

Another find at Books for Less just this week.

The book's a bit of fanciful historical fiction, the cover's pretty hokey, and I'm really not into the romance part. But the reason I bought it were the following keywords I saw on the blurb at the back of the book: 'fourteenth century England' and 'master illuminator.' Even though I'm not familiar with the author, Brenda Rickman Vantrease, I figured my interest in feudal England and the history of book making would allow me to enjoy the book.

(Of course, I can't read The Illuminator at once since I'm currently still ploughing through Dawkins' The Ancestor's Tale. And I'm pretty aware that several months of reading Ancestor is an inordinately long time to be doing so, but then again--who wants to rush through evolution anyway? But I digress.)

Because I don't know Vantrease's other works, I had to look her up online. Her niche really is on historical fiction peppered with some romance (jeez), but thank God the reviews are saying the history parts in her books are well-researched.

I'm also glad she's into historical accounts of books and book making, because I do read a good deal on that subject, whether fiction or non-fiction. Nicholas Basbanes' A Gentle Madness, for example, tackles the obsession of book collecting, and his Patience and Fortitude covers the great libraries of the past, starting with The Library of Alexandria (yay, Egypt!). And then there's a recent read of mine, Orhan Pamuk's award-winning My Name is Red, which is a murder mystery set during the Ottoman Empire, centering on a group of illuminators and miniaturists working for the sultan.

The period before Gutenberg and the invention of the printing press is always fascinating; this was the time when monks in the Western world and Muslim scholars in the East painstakingly created and reproduced books by hand.

Before my former officemate Alexis migrated to Canada with her family, she left with me an old copy of The History of Making Books from the Scholastic Voyages of Discovery series. The book must probably have been owned by one of her kids. It's this lovely little thing that talked about the ancient system of writing and reading in Mesopotamia and Egypt and such, and then how illustrated manuscripts were made in early A.D., and up to the age of printing.

It's a children's book, but I was more than thrilled to inherit it, because the book's subject is something I'm passionate about. I was touched by Alexis' thoughtfulness, for she knew how much I cared about books. This copy of The History of Making Books now sits on my office shelf, and I'm always on the lookout for any visiting children (who are, most of the time, the kids of my officemates) who may be interested enough to see the book, sit down beside me-- and hopefully, ask me to read it with them.

30 October 2010

Egypt in 2011

I want to go to Egypt so badly, it hurts. I mean literally.

My eyes have been aching from too much scouring on the web for the most affordable package tours to Egypt. My chest actually hurts every time I have this panicky feeling that my plans won't push through. That's just the worrywart in me, but yes, I DO plan to go to Egypt next year. I always believe that if I want it bad enough, I'll get it--and I don't intend to disappoint myself.

Ever since I got to see both Rome and Cambodia (two of my other dream 'ruins' destinations) in the early part of 2010, I've had a more positive outlook when it comes to traveling. Never think a place is too far, too impossible, too expensive to visit. If you want to see it, then just find a way to do it. Really.

I'm not one of the privileged few who can just fly off to wherever. I actually have to save for trips. None of that nonsensical Eat Pray Love, Under the Tuscan Sun stuff. Realistically speaking, it's only the rich, dissatisfied, slightly neurotic people who can actually afford to go on spontaneous trips to the other side of the world. The rest of us are left to make calculations on Excel, projecting how much we can save per month in order to go on that dream vacation.

So this is me doing those said calculations and planning a trip to the lost kingdom of pharaohs on May 2011. I'm very, very, very excited. The trip isn't cheap, but I know it's going to be worth every peso saved. My best bud Ryan and I have been planning this for quite some time (actually, it's more of me doing the research for all the tour costs, and he'll just shell out the money for his half of the expenses), but that's alright, because I'm the control freak and he just basically goes along with my lovingly crafted itinerary that reeks of obsessive compulsive-ness.

So the plan is to spend 8-10 days in Egypt and see the cities of Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, plus go on a day trip to the majestic Abu Simbel temple.

Oh my God, I can't even begin to describe how badly I want to see Abu Simbel and those monolithic statues of Ramses II. All those times I've watched documentaries on TV on historic Egypt while I was growing up really fed my desire to see the place. My brother Ramfis (Ramses, Ramfis--the similarities of the names are not coincidental; my parents wanted it) is even more of a geeky historic buff than I am, and he would love to see this place as well.

My top priority sights to see in Egypt are Abu Simbel, the pyramids of Giza, the Valley of the Kings (see photo below) and the Nile. And after I see those, I know I'll cry, because I've been waiting to see these places all my life. I don't know why I feel a strange sense of urgency to visit Egypt, but I know I don't want to wait for a few more years just to see it.

So, yes, I'll see you next year, Egypt!

Photo credits: Abu Simbel photo by Getty Images. Photos of the Pyramids and the Valley of the Kings are by National Geographic.

10 October 2010

Nick Hornby's A Long Way Down

Another great find at the Books for Less branch in my office building. I keep posting about many of these nice book finds, that I might as well have a separate blog label about it.

It's a little disturbing to find a Nick Hornby book in a secondhand bookstore--but I'm not complaining.