What happens to your books when you go to bed?

This is a Hipmunk post from Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads

In a departure from the usual travel fare, I wanted to share this whimsical video animating what happens to a bookstore at night, if you use your imagination. For booklovers, camera lovers and those who enjoy a short film:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKVcQnyEIT8?rel=0]

Some background, from creator Sean Ohlenkamp:

After organizing our bookshelf almost a year ago, my wife and I decided to take it to the next level. We spent many sleepless nights moving, stacking, and animating books at Type bookstore in Toronto. 

It definitely paid off! Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Back to usually-scheduled programming on Friday.


We Asked, You Answered: Your Favorite Travel Reads


This is a Hipmunk guest post from Jodi Ettenberg

Last week, I wrote about 6 great travel reads that inspire wanderlust and asked you Hipmunks to write in with your own. I’ve included the product description from Amazon with each of your suggestions, for a small window into each book. From the Hipmunk Fan page, my Legal Nomads Fan page and the comments to last week’s post, here are your favorite travel reads. 

In Ghostly Japan by Lafcadio Hearn. Book description from Amazon: In Ghostly Japan collects twelve stories from celebrated author Lafcadio Hearn. Some of these stories are ghostly and ghastly, while others are wonderfully benign. Whether he’s telling a ghost story or explaining a Buddhist proverb, Hearn’s writings are never less than enthralling. (Suggested by @JanieJaner)

Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta. Book description from Amazon: A native of Bombay, Suketu Mehta gives us an insider’s view of this stunning metropolis. He approaches the city from unexpected angles, taking us into the criminal underworld of rival Muslim and Hindu gangs; following the life of a bar dancer raised amid poverty and abuse; opening the door into the inner sanctums of Bollywood; and delving into the stories of the countless villagers who come in search of a better life and end up living on the sidewalks. (Suggested by @nomadicnotes)

India_cow Just another day in India. [Photo credit: @shannonRTW]

Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey Into Bhutan, by Jamie Zeppa. Book description from Amazon: Jamie Zeppa made a life-altering decision at the age of 24 when she left an academic career to join a two-year teaching programme for young Canadians in Bhutan.  She tells, with humour, of the everyday prejudices she was forced to overcome as a woman abroad and writes with genuine awe about the beauty of Bhutan. (Suggested by @erikbl)

The Sahara by Michael Palin. Book description from Amazon: Fifty years after he was given his first book, Tales from the Arabian Nights, consummate traveler and Monty Python founding member Palin trekked to Francophone Africa, believing that the Sahara embodies “the thin line between survival and destruction, the power to take life or to transform it.” (Suggested by @goingnomadanib)


Mating by Norman Rush. Book description from Amazon: Set in the African republic of Botswana—the locale of his acclaimed short story collection, Whites—Norman Rush’s novel simultaneously explores the geopolitics of poverty and the mystery of what men and women really want. (Suggested by @locallibris)

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. Book description from Amazon: “It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured.” So begins this epic, mesmerizing first novel set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay. Shantaram is narrated by Lin, an escaped convict with a false passport who flees maximum security prison in Australia for the teeming streets of a city where he can disappear. (Suggested by @gardenymph)

The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner. Book description from Amazon: Part foreign affairs discourse, part humor, and part twisted self-help guide, The Geography of Bliss takes the reader from America to Iceland to India in search of happiness, or, in the crabby author’s case, moments of “un-unhappiness.” (Suggested by @gardenymph)

Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah McDonald. Book description from Amazon: Holy Cow is Macdonald’s often hilarious chronicle of her adventures in a land of chaos and contradiction, of encounters with Hinduism, Islam and Jainism, Sufis, Sikhs, Parsis and Christians and a kaleidoscope of yogis, swamis and Bollywood stars. From spiritual retreats and crumbling nirvanas to war zones and New Delhi nightclubs, it is a journey that only a woman on a mission to save her soul, her love life—and her sanity—can survive. (Suggested by Vickie Helson)

All the Right Places by Brad Newsham. Book description from Amazon: ”I am in exactly the right place, thinking, doing and feeling exactly the right things.” This was the affirmation that Brad Newsham repeated daily as he cycled alone across the Japanese Alps to Mount Fuji in 1984, free to wander wherever he chose. One of the first wave of Western backpackers to blaze a trail through China and Russia, Brad Newsham travelled from the neon-lit streets of Tokyo to the epic prairies of Mongolia in a journey that took him across Asia by bicycle, boat, bus and the Trans-Siberian railway. (Suggested by @pauljdeutsch)


From my month on the Trans-Siberian Trains

Eurydice Street: A Place In Athens by Sofka Zinovieff. Book description from Amazon: Sofka Zinovieff had fallen in love with Greece as a student, but little suspected that years later she would, return for good with an expatriate Greek husband and two young daughters. As the months go by, Sofka’s discovers how memories of Athens’ past haunt its present in its music, poetry, and history. She also learns about the difficult art of catching a taxi, the importance of smoking, the unimportance of time-keeping, and how to get your Christmas piglet cooked at the baker’s. (Suggested by @mikeachim)

Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson. Book description from Amazon: Bryson brings his unique brand of humour to travel writing as he shoulders his backpack, keeps a tight hold on his wallet and heads for Europe. Travelling with Stephen Katz—also his wonderful sidekick in A Walk in the Woods—he wanders from Hammerfest in the far north, to Istanbul on the cusp of Asia. As he makes his way round this incredibly varied continent, he retraces his travels as a student twenty years before with caustic hilarity. (Suggested by @travelswithtwo)

One of the suggestions (from Claudio Casale) was for “A Fortune Teller Told Me” by Tinziano Terzani, a book I truly loved. In it is the quote that best encapsulates the wonder I feel when I travel:

“Every place is a goldmine. You have only to give yourself time, sit in a teahouse watching the passers-by, stand in a corner of the market, go for a haircut. You pick up a thread – a word, a meeting, a friend of a friend of someone you have just met – and soon the most insipid, most insignificant place becomes a mirror of the world, a window on life, a theatre of humanity.”

Thanks for all the great suggestions! I now have many more ‘must reads’ on my list.


6 Great Travel Reads That Inspire Wanderlust


This is a Hipmunk guest post from Jodi Ettenberg

Reading is one of the pleasures of travel, be it during the journey to get somewhere or as a lazy afternoon treat on a beach or in a new city’s cafe. Here are 6 travel reads that inspired me to keep wandering, sorted by country. 

1. The Dominican Republic


What to readThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. Set partially in the Dominican Republic and partially in New Jersey (where Diaz was raised), the book tells the story of Oscar de Léon and his extended family. Told in turn by Oscar’s troubled sister Lola and family friend Yunior, the book blends science fiction, nerdy fandom and history in one sad but unforgettable narrative. Lots of history from the Dominican Republic interspersed within the family story.

2. China

What to read: The River at the Center of the World: A Journey Up the Yangtze, and Back in Chinese Time by Simon Winchester. Drawn to the beauty of Ten thousand li, a stunning 53 foot scroll by Wang Hui, Winchester works his way along the length of the river in reverse, from its mouth at the South China Sea to the looming plateaus of Tibet where the river begins. The book covers the history and geography of the Yangtze beautifully, with personal anecdotes about what Winchester calls “the delicious strangeness of China.” While the book was written in 1996, it is a well-researched, fascinating way to discover the tangled mass of culture, people and geography along the Yangtze’s edge.

3. Myanmar (Burma)

Img_1736 What to read: The River of Lost Footsteps: A Personal History of Burma by Thant Myint U. Burma is a complicated place, and travel to the country requires some context and history. This is easily the most beautifully written and thorough history of the country, making sense of the horror and wonder from centuries of tumult. Lost Footsteps manages to explain so much about the Burma of today. The country has some incredible sights on offer (Inle Lake below is just one of them) but it reading up ahead of time is highly recommended.

4. France

Img_5927 What to read: The Seven Ages of Paris by Alastair Horne. Horne’s long love letter to Paris, starting with Caesar and Abélard and moving through the ages, is a dense but excellent read. The book blends the passionate politics of the city with its art and  music and scandalous royal class, resulting in a great, enlightening book spanning Paris’ lifetime. 

5. Vietnam:

What to readCatfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam by Andrew X. Pham. Caught in the cross-roads of many decisions, Pham abandons a burgeoning career in engineering (despite his parents’ pleas to the contrary), and embarks on a new path of freelance writing. “I am a mover of betweens” he writes, “I slip among classifications, like water in cupped palms.” After his sister’s suicide, Pham decides discover his roots by travelling Vietnam by bicycle, beginning in Ho Chi Minh City. Alternating between Pham’s desperate desire to find himself and the painful, often harrowing flashbacks of his father’s imprisonment in a Viet Cong death camp, the book comes together beautifully. Disgusted by modern-day Saigon and alienated from the Vietnamese he meets on his trip, Pham tries to find a balance between his family’s haunting saga, the country he thought he loved and the person he has become.

6. Morocco

What to read: In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams by Tahir Shah. With one foot in the East and the other in the West, Shah’s memoir about his new home in Morocco, Dar Khalifa, and search for the teaching stories that provide a foundation of learning in the East is a captivating read. A great combination of terrific storytelling, cultural quirks and travel adventures.

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What are your favorite travel reads? Leave them in the comments!


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