Summer is my favorite time to catch up on my reading. A lot of down time a the park with my dogs, reading while they frolic and of course, my vacation time at my favorite beach in Mykonos, reading about a book every couple of days while I take in all of those harmful rays.
I’ve already placed my summer order— quite a diverse collection of summer reads and (shocker) all of them Greek inspired in one way or another. The good news is that you can find hard-to-find out of print books almost anywhere these days.
I get all of my books on Amazon. I’ve even joined something called Amazon Prime which gets me free two-day shipping on everything I buy. I don’t know how on earth they make money off of this feature but I’ve taken advantage of it and saved thousands of dollars in shipping— not only books, but my dog food and just about everything else I’m too lazy to carry home from the grocery store.
They give you a free month, then it costs $99 a year but the annual fee offsets the amount of shipping I save by hundreds of dollars. Here’s a link to try it out for yourself. (Tell them I sent you— just kidding)
But I digress (as I often do). Here is my Greek-inspired reading list for the summer of 2014.
Thrive by Arianna Huffington: Timeless advice from one of the most successful Greek Americans of our generation. Already a New York Times bestseller and international sensation, Thrive focuses on Arianna’s attempt to remind Americans that “money” and “power” are not the two metrics of success we should live by. She has coined and championed “The Third Metric” of success, one largely based on personal happiness and she uses a great mix of contemporary and ancient philosophies to share her secrets.
From Arianna on why she wrote the book: “I fainted from exhaustion and literally was in a pool of blood in my own office. I had been working around the clock. I went back to the Greek philosophers that I had studied as a little girl, and they always ask the question: “What is a good life?” In our society we define success as money and power, which is a little bit like trying to sit on a two-legged stool — sooner or later, you’re going to topple over. I felt it was time to redefine success and have a big, national conversation about what makes life really fulfilling and meaningful.”
Twice a Stranger by Bruce Clark: I read this book when it first came out years ago. It was a timely book, despite being about a period in Greek-Turkish history from almost a century ago. Timely, because when the book was released, the EU, the United States and other “foreign powers” were in the midst of creating states out of the former Yugoslavia after the horrific war there and the process would involve the movement of people who happened to be living “on the wrong side of the border.”
This has a familiar ring to itself and unfortunately, we don’t learn from history. Clark writes about the massive humanitarian crisis that took place when hundreds of thousands of people were killed and millions were displaced from their generations-old homes during the end of the Greek-Turkish conflict in 1922. He not only tells the story of a million and a half ethnic Greeks living in former Ottoman Turkish lands (most of whom didn’t speak, read or write Greek, but were Orthodox Christians) but he shares the other side of the story, as well– that of ethnic Greek-speaking Muslims who were forced out of Greek lands at the whim of the Great Powers of the time. For history buffs, this is a must have book.
Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis: The timeless Greek classic can be read a dozen times over and you still take something new– a new lesson for the immortal character of Alexis Zorbas. It’s hard to read this book having seen the film so many times but it’s important to remember that the film is a by-product of this classic. This book delves into the Greek character and soul in a way that only a writer like Kazantzakis could.
The novel tells the story of the narrator’s friendship with a lively 60ish-year-old lover, fighter, adventurer, musician, chef, miner, storyteller, dancer … the occupations are endless. This is Zorba, described by the narrator as “the man I had sought so long in vain”. They spend a year on Crete together— and the rest is history.
Incidentally, the 1964 film version was smash hit of the year, bringing in millions of dollars at US and global box offices and seven Academy Award nominations and three Oscars. If you thought the film was good– read the book.
Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernières was written in 2004 and went largely unnoticed in the Greek American world. Best known for writing Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, the author’s fascination with Greek history continued in this book about a tragic love affair in the midst of the Greek-Turkish war in the 1920s.
It also chronicles the rise of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the ‘Father of the Turkish Nation’. The overarching theme of the story covers the impact of religious intolerance, over-zealous nationalism, and the war that often results. The characters are unwittingly caught up in historical tides outside of their control.
The book’s title is taken from a saying by one of the characters, Iskander the Potter, “Man is a bird without wings, and a bird is a man without sorrows.” The book includes a vivid and detailed description of the horrors of life in the trenches during World War I. Some of the characters are also present in the author’s earlier novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
A good friend send me this book and suggested I read it— ASAP. I figured, at 46 years old, there was still hope for me to become successful, so why not give this book a try. Damn Good Advice (For People With Talent!) by George Lois (yes, he’s Greek!) is a look into the mind of one of America’s most legendary creative thinkers.
Offering indispensable lessons, practical advice, facts, anecdotes and inspiration, this book is a timeless creative bible for all those looking to succeed in life, business and creativity. These are key lessons derived from the incomparable life of the man called the ‘Master Communicator’, the original Mad Man of Madison Avenue and “prodigy, enfant terrible, founder of agencies, creator of legends,” by the Wall Street Journal.
Lois is one of those Greeks no one knows is Greek. His legendary work in the advertising business built global brands and saved companies from extinction. His work as the creative director and responsible for the covers at Esquire Magazine is now part of the permanent collection at the Modern Art Museum in New York City.
It might sound strange to have a cookbook on my reading list for the summer but I do. This book was recommended to me by a friend in Australia and was published by a local food celebrity. Sweet Greek: Simple Food & Sumptuous Feasts by Kathy Tsaples looks amazing and I can’t wait to dive in and see how our “cousins from Down Under” have adapt their Greek heritage to their own local adopted country.
I love this book for the imagery too and instead of placing it on my cookbook shelf, I’ll probably put it on my coffee table. Thanks to Amazon, readers in the North America can get this Australian published book relatively inexpensive for a good hardcover book with amazing imagery. I’ve included some images of the interior pages below so you can see for yourself how cool this book is.