Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

adventures around the globe: recent nonfiction

Paris letters coverParis Letters by Janice MacLeod

This is the book that Eat, Pray, Love wanted to be, filled with adventure, romance and wisdom. The author scrimps and saves at her high pressure job of graphic design in Los Angeles, so that she can spend an extended time in Paris. Once there, her jaunts around the city soon bring her in contact with a shop worker who looks like Daniel Craig and sparks fly. Not wanting to return to the rat race, but still needing to earn a living, she is inspired by an accidental sighting of Percy Kelly’s illustrated letters to do something similar and is surprised by the response.Some of the letters have been published in a book of their own. This one is a delightful book and deserves more attention.

Sourcebooks 2014 272 pp. ISBN-13 978-1402288791

without you coverWithout You There is No Us by Suki Kim

The author is a journalist who goes undercover as a teacher in a missionary boarding school, teaching English to the sons of prominent citizens in Pyongyang, North Korea.Though the students are in their late teens, they’ve had very little life experience, no traveling, dating or much time with their families. But they are bright and personable, even in the midst of paranoia and oppression and the author grows fond of them in her six months at the school. Though the students are privileged, they still live quite a bleak existence, one that affects the teachers as well. The title is from a patriotic song about Kim Jong-Il, who dies just as the author is preparing to leave the country, leaving her to wonder what will happen to North Korea and her students in the aftermath of losing their “Dear Leader”.

Crown 2014 304 pp. ISBN-13 978-0307720658

Maeve's Times coverMaeve’s Times by Maeve Binchy

A gathering of columns Binchy wrote in her long career at the Irish Times newspaper, beginning in the early 1960’s and going through the 2000’s. It’s intriguing seeing how the topics and attitudes change on many of the social issues she writes about and in some instances, she was ahead of her time, especially regarding women’s roles.She also recounts her adventures living in other countries,such as on a kibbitz in Israel or an extended stay in Australia. In every piece, the reader feels Binchy’s interest in humans in general, and the stories behind their lives.We can see why her talents shone in the longer form of novels. Her warmth and generosity are evident from her earliest writings and is one of the reasons she is still missed.

Knopf 2014 400 pp. ISBN-13 978-0385353458

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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