Saturday, March 2, 2013

The books and magazines I read in a Travelife, including the FT Weekend, Vanity Fair and Architectural Digest



Several weeks ago, some college students asked me to answer several questions about my favorite books and publications for a class project.

I thought I'd share these with you.

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WHAT DO YOU READ ON A REGULAR BASIS?

I read biographies of people from history who've somehow made a difference in this world -- or who at least make a fascinating read. It's a very eclectic selection, too.

I liked the biographies of Madame de Pompadour, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Potemkin and Catherine the Great, the Russian Empress Maria Feodorovna, Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. Not all of them were great leaders. Some of them were great studies on what one shouldn't do.

For more recent figures, I've enjoyed the stories of Katherine Graham, Obama, and Atataturk.



Meanwhile, there are only two magazines I've either subscribed to or bought and read religiously: Architectural Digest and Vanity Fair. I've been reading both for as long as I can remember.

In fact, Architectural Digest changed editors after a long time some years back, and I'm still trying to get used to the new more contemporary look after decades of reading it in a certain style.

My other idea of bliss is to sit in bed or at a nice breakfast table (like at the Four Seasons Prague) with a pot of tea -- it's currently Rooibos tea from South Africa -- reading the FT Weekend from cover to cover.

I hardly ever get enough time for this, but I do this a lot if I'm traveling and in a nice hotel on the weekend.

The perfect weekend breakfast at the Four Seasons Prague.
With my favorite FT Weekend.

My favorite section in the FT Weekend is Lunch with FT.

I find this particular page incredibly well-written no matter who the writer or subject is. In my opinion, every writer who's written something for Lunch with FT has managed to make their interview subjects sound so interesting. 

So I read every word of every account every weekend -- even of people I previously never found even remotely interesting.

I LOVE MRS. MONEYPENNY

My other favorite section is Mrs. Moneypenny for the fun, frank and stylish way in which she recalls her life and her days. I'd love to have lunch with her one day.

However, I read everything in the FT Weekend, and I especially like their restaurant and cultural event reviews as well.

Reading the FT Weekend always makes me want to try and write better. And to always have lunch with someone truly interesting, somewhere in the world.



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WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE BOOK OF ALL TIME?

I have two favorite books, and both are Japanese literature.

Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu is at the top of the list because it's a truly fascinating first-hand account of a glorious time in Japanese history, set in Kyoto and written by a court lady.

It's a very long book and I've read every translation of it on the planet.



The second book would be The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki, one of Japan's greatest writers of the last century, in my opinion. This book is about a genteel family from Osaka that is forced to come to terms with post-war realities and the loss of their fortune and status.

In this book, Tanizaki captures human nature and all its beauty and failings in such a masterful but restrained way.

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IS THERE A BOOK YOU WISH YOU'D READ, BUT STILL HAVEN'T?

The biography of Steve Jobs. Everyone keeps saying it's fantastic, but I just haven't found the time.



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WHAT KIND OF BOOKS DO YOU READ?

I generally like biographies and memoirs, followed by classical literature. I'll also read historical fiction ocassionally, but only by specific authors with a track record of doing this kind of genre well and accurately.


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DO YOU BUY SOME BOOKS AND NEVER READ THEM?

I keep buying coffeetable books with beautiful photographs, thinking I'm going to enjoy them someday on a free evening or on a relaxing weekend.

This hasn't happened yet, and all my lovely books literally remain unopened.



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HAVE YOU EVER BOUGHT A BOOK AT AN AIRPORT?

I always buy books at airports as the last few minutes before boarding are the only time I really ever get to visit a bookstore. I also find they have very good selections, especially of books related to a particular country or culture.

The last book I bought at an airport was a rathery cheesy book full of funny and wise sayings about how to live life well through the ages. This was at Johannesburg airport on the way to Cape Town after a safari.

I bought it on a whim before boarding, thinking I needed something to do for two hours. Then when I got on the plane, I instantly regretted it, as I was choosing between this book and Vanity Fair's current issue. I didn't get VF because I was thinking that I had it at home anyway.


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But the book was a good buy, after all.

My friend and I started reading this on the plane, and time literally flew by. Before we knew it, we were landing in beautiful Cape Town.

By the way, read about the best luxury experiences in Cape Town in the current issue of Travelife Magazine. On sale everywhere now.

On the plane, I remember that we were laughing about something in it so much that people started looking at us. The only other book we were reading then was a rather cerebral guide book of Cape Town, so I'm so sure this wasn't why we were laughing.

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WHAT KIND OF BOOKS DO YOU BRING ON TRIPS?

I usually bring back issues of FT Weekend, the International Herald Tribune, and Vanity Fair to read on the plane or in the hotel.

Then I throw them away after reading to make space for the travel shopping. It works out pretty well. I also read a lot of hotel magazines, and the news magazines like Time that are available in airport lounges.



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