Books I Should Have Read: The Nonfiction Edition

It’s time for another round of Books I Should Have Read! This time, I’ll highlight some nonfiction books that I’ve had on my TBR pile but not (yet) gotten around to reading.

These three all came out over the past year and are all works of nonfiction.

paris-to-the-pyranees1. Paris to the Pyrenees by David Downee


Part adventure story, part cultural history the author of Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light explores the phenomenon of pilgrimage along the age-old Way of Saint James in France.

Driven by curiosity, wanderlust, and health crises David Downie and his wife set out from Paris to walk across France to the Pyrenees. Starting on the Rue Saint-Jacques then trekking 750 miles south to Roncesvalles, Spain, their eccentric route takes 72 days on Roman roads and pilgrimage paths—a 1,100-year-old network of trails leading to the sanctuary of Saint James the Greater. It is best known as El Camino de Santiago de Compostela—“The Way” for short. The object of any pilgrimage is an inward journey manifested in a long, reflective walk. For Downie, the inward journey met the outer one: a combination of self-discovery and physical regeneration. More than 200,000 pilgrims take the highly commercialized Spanish route annually, but few cross France. Downie had a goal: to go from Paris to the Pyrenees on age-old trails, making the pilgrimage in his own maverick way.

My 2 cents: 

This book seemed like it would be perfect for me–France, hiking, etc.–and I actually started it but just couldn’t get into it, The narrator put me off a bit and the beginning that I read just wasn’t compelling enough to make me keep reading. However, I’d be interested to hear from someone else who read it in its entirety to hear what you thought.

life-in-middlemarch2. My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

Description: A New Yorker writer revisits the seminal book of her youth–Middlemarch–and fashions a singular, involving story of how a passionate attachment to a great work of literature can shape our lives and help us to read our own histories.

Rebecca Mead was a young woman in an English coastal town when she first read George Eliot’s Middlemarch, regarded by many as the greatest English novel. After gaining admission to Oxford, and moving to the United States to become a journalist, through several love affairs, then marriage and family, Mead read and reread Middlemarch. The novel, which Virginia Woolf famously described as “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people,” offered Mead something that modern life and literature did not.

My 2 cents:

I started this book and, while interesting, it’s pretty slow going. The author has a very literary style (lots of big words!) which make it a book to be savored rather than rushed, but I’m not sure that I have the patience to finish it right now. What I have read of it is good, though, and I definitely think fans of Middlemarch will appreciate this behind-the-scenes look at Eliot’s novel as well as Mead’s personal response to it.

paris-letters3. Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod

Description:  A love story in the vein of Almost French and Lunch in Paris, Paris Letters is a joyful romp through the City of Light, and an inspiring look at what can happen when we dare to create the life we want.

“How much money does it take to change your life?”

Unfulfilled at her job and unsuccessful in the dating department, Janice MacLeod doodled this question at her desk. Then she decided to make it a challenge. Over the next few months, with a little math and a lot of determination, she saved up enough to buy two years of freedom in Europe.

But she had only been in Paris for a few days when she met a handsome butcher (with a striking resemblance to Daniel Craig)—and never went home again.

My 2 cents:

I can’t say much about this one because I haven’t even cracked the (figurative) cover yet. I think it’s one of those books that I just need to be in the mood to read. I have a love/hate relationship with expat memoirs because while they sometimes have me nodding my head in agreement, they more often cause me to want to bang my head against the wall at the “romanticizing” of the expat experience. Hopefully I’ll find the time to read this one in the near future.


2 thoughts on “Books I Should Have Read: The Nonfiction Edition

  1. Nish

    Paris to the Pyrenees sounds very good actually, and so does Life in Middlemarch. Sad they don’t live up to the premise though.


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