Reading, Writing & Travel with Madelyn Given

Outstanding Feats are always fun, but I can continue my travels through reading, before during and after an adventure. Reading is my magic carpet ride; it takes me places I want to discover someday, in person.  I enjoy reading everything from very old books, out of print books, as well as currently published titles. I enjoy keeping up with children’s books—all those years of teaching young children are very precious to me. I enjoy reading about places I have been; and places I plan to visit. I enjoy reading every book I can find about my hometown, Maine old or new. Reading vitalizes me on a daily basis. I can’t forget to include at the top of the list the Bible.

How much more precious and exciting to read Ernest Hemingway‘s The Old Man and The Sea after I had been to his home in Cuba and touched his beloved boat. I have visited his homes in Key West, Spain, and Kenya, Africa—all places he lived while writing his books. The same is true of The Fish Can Sing by Nobel laureate Halldor Laxness. After I went to his home and saw first-hand, where he wrote about the scenery of Iceland that came alive in his writing.  When I was in Chile I went to the home of Pablo Neruda, the Nobel writer, who lived along the Pacific coast of Chile. His home is a museum with rooms, replicas of different countries, the African room, the boat room and the Mexican room. I was in Eastern Europe in Belgrade, Serbia last year where I purchased The Bridge on the Drina by Nobel winner of Literature Ivo Andric. Visiting these places and understanding the authors is another way to make travel and reading come together for me.

When Keld, our Danish exchange student, came to live with us he brought a leather bound setof Hans Christian Anderson’s Fairy Tales. This encouraged our entire family to revisit these familiar stories by reading the fairy tales again. It was a way to connect with him through literature.

After running a marathon in Antarctica I read One Step Beyond by John Amatt. This was about Laurie Dexter, a runner I met in person on the small ship of forty-four runners. I also read South by Ernest Shackleton set in that locale.

Returning from Cuba, I continued to connect with the region by reading the Motorcycle Dairies by Ernesto Che Guevara, and When It Snows in Cuba by Carlos Eire. Once again, having traveled the streets and region of Cuba gave me more insight than if I had never been there before.

I spent time with Jamling Tanzing Norgay and read his book, Touching My Father’s Soul and hisfather’s book, Tiger of the Snows. It makes the stories come alive having met the author and actually climbing with Jamling. I went on to read Sir Edmund Hillary’s book High Adventure, and My Journey to Lhasa by Alexandra David-Neel I read after climbing to Kanchanjanga.

I read some of these book before I hiked The Appalachian Trail, and some afterwards. These are the books I highly recommend:

Thru- Hikers’ Companion

Walkin’ on the Happy Side of Misery by Model T Tate

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Hiking Through by Paul Stutzman

Walking With Spring by Earl Shaffer

Blind Courage by Bill Irwin.

After I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and hiked in Kenya I enjoyed reading the following books, these are some I recommend as well:

The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway

Born Free by Joy Adamson

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen

Elephant Memories by Cynthia Moss

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.

Often I purchase books on my travels and begin reading them immediately like From Emperor to Citizen by Aisin Gioro Pu Yi purchased in a small closet size bookstore in the Hidden Palace. In Australia I found the book, The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway.

Reading after returning from a trip keeps me connected as I don’t want to forget my amazing journey, so upon returning from Jordan I read: Leap of Faith by Queen Noor and Married to a Bedouin by Marguerite van Geldermalsen. I had the pleasure of meeting Marguerite in Petra in Jordan. After visiting the ruins of Troy with my daughter I read The Iliad  and The Odyssey.

In our own country I read from areas I have traveled in all of the fifty states. Biographies, history, geography and historical novels are favorites. I carry a few books with me wherever I go. Books that are meaningful recent reads are: The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hossein, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba, Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, Walking the Bible by Bruce Feiler and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barabara Kingsolver. What a difference a book can make in your life, what are your favorites?