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A list of 5 books (plus 2 honorable mentions) for a summer of reading and discovery
Very brief premise
I have always seen summer as one of the most suitable moments to get lost in reading and in the magnificent stories with which it allows us to get in touch. A moment that apparently seems suspended, but which, if seasoned with good books, allows us to be even more charged and curious, allowing us to return from our holidays full of new experiences and stimuli; that’s why I decided to propose my list with 7 texts suitable for this purpose.
Warning: I have scientifically used the term “list” and not “ranking” as it would be wrong to place these titles in some kind of hierarchy. In fact, it is really impossible to place an order of appreciation for books that are so different and that, each in its own way, are able to immerse the reader in extremely different and incredibly enriching realities. The list, then, consists only of 5 titles, but it could easily contain at least fifty and in this regard I apologize right now for the inevitable shortcomings that this work will bring with it. The honorable mentions are present only and exclusively as there are two books that I strongly recommend, but which, unlike the others, are not fiction texts, but real essays and / or particular books objectively not suitable for everyone. Having said that we can finally get started; also let me know which are the books you recommend during the holidays, I am very curious to find out your tastes and your suggestions.
“A Memento for Istanbul” by Ahmet Ümit (Turkey)
Istanbul. A mysterious crime puts Commissioner Nevzat Akman and his young collaborators to the test. The victim is found in the old part of the city, in front of the statue of Ataturk, holds an ancient coin in his hand and seems to indicate a precise direction. It is only the first in a series of ritual murders in historic places, each monument tied to an important figure from the past: seven monarchs, seven magnificent ancient places and one shocking truth. Thus begins a race against time, in search of skilled and elusive criminals. The key to the enigma lies in the past of one of the most mysterious cities in the world, and leads to an exciting historical journey from Byzantium to Istanbul, in which the fate of the victims will depend on the ability of the investigators to decipher that story, to retrace it through painful memories. , and to cross the soul of a multitude of characters: homeless drunks, unscrupulous powerful businessmen, corrupt lawyers and journalists, greedy archaeologists and idealistic citizens struggling to preserve Istanbul’s historic sites. Ümit delves into the psychology of characters, into the sacredness of love and friendship, and skilfully blends genre narrative with historical interludes. Between his lines we find his political vocation, the reference to the dark times of the recent past and the present, on every page the boundless love for his city. Until the final imperative: “A Memento for Istanbul”.
By the same author I could have put “Kavim“, a book that I strongly recommend anyway, but I believe that “A memento for Istanbul” is even more suitable for all those who are about to take advantage of the summer to explore Istanbul, the most beautiful city in the world. This work in fact exploits the thriller and its mechanics to tell the whole story of the city most loved by Mehmed Fatih and Constantine the Great, becoming a magnificent meeting point between a fiction book and a real essay. If you love Istanbul and want to know more, this is the perfect book for you.
“The Bridge on the Drina” by Ivo Andrić (ex-Yugoslavia)
At the confluence of the Christian and Muslim worlds, Višegrad rises in Bosnia, which has always been a meeting place between different races, religions and cultures. And it is here that in the sixteenth century the vizier Mehmed-pasha had a bridge built, which became a symbol of oppression because it was built thanks to the effort and sacrifices of many Christians, but also a testimony to the fusion of two different worlds. The bridge is the center of Andrić’s novel: a large fresco that goes from the sixteenth century to the First World War and which has as its background a romantic Bosnia, with its complex historical events but also with the daily dramas of the men who live there.
One of the most beautiful books I read last year, able to tell the story of a country with a very rich history and made up of many similar but very different peoples. “The bridge over the Drina” is a masterpiece that will immerse us in many stories and characters who, together, make up the complex and fascinating Bosnian mosaic, all in love with the extraordinary bridge that gives its name to the text. Of course, being a book published for the first time in 1945, the narration times are particularly “long and relaxed”, but precisely because of these characteristics I think it is perfect for the summer, the period in which these two elements come most strongly to the fore. light.
“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho (Brazil)
Learn to listen to your heart: it is the teaching that comes from this spiritual and magical tale. On the borders between the tale of a thousand and one nights and the sapiential apologue, “The alchemist” is the story of an initiation. Santiago is the protagonist, a young Andalusian shepherd boy who, in search of a dreamed treasure, embarks on that adventurous journey, both real and symbolic, which beyond the Strait of Gibraltar and across the entire North African desert will take him to the Egypt of pyramids. And it will be precisely during the journey that the young man, thanks to the meeting with the old alchemist, will climb all the steps of the sapiential ladder: in his progression on the desert sand and, together, in self-knowledge, he will discover the soul of the world, love and universal language, he will learn to speak to the sun and the wind and finally fulfill his personal legend. Here, the mirage is no longer just the mythical philosopher’s stone of alchemy, but the achievement of total concordance with the world, thanks to the understanding of those “signs”, of those secrets that can only be grasped by rediscovering a universal language made of courage, trust and wisdom that men have long forgotten.
For many of us, summer is a moment of detachment to be reborn, and what’s better than a book that places an inner rebirth at the center of itself? In its simplicity and brevity “The Alchemist” is able to make us travel new paths, challenging our beliefs and fears to discover “the soul of the world”. A light and unpretentious text that is destined to leave an indelible imprint on your heart and soul.
“A Small Death” by Mohamed Hasan Alwan (Saudi Arabia)
A Small Death is the fictionalised account of the life of a Sufi saint, Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi, from his birth in Muslim Spain in the 12th century until his death in Damascus. It follows his mystic Sufi experience and heroic travels from Andalusia to Azerbaijan, via Morocco, Egypt, the Hijaz, Syria, Iraq and Turkey. Of a sensitive and anxious nature, Muhyiddin struggles with inner turmoil throughout the course of his travels. Witnessing fictitious events including savage military conflicts, he attempts to fulfil his mission against a backdrop of states and numerous cities where he meets countless people.
Many of you ask me often and willingly to talk about Ibn ‘Arabi, one of the greatest and most Sufis that human history has ever had the honor of knowing, here, this book responds exactly to your needs. Through the narration of Mohamed Hasan Alwan we will in fact be able to travel in his story, following his incredible journey that will take him from Andalusia to Egypt, then move to Mecca and finally to Damascus, the place where he will finally die. . An extraordinary book that, in addition to allowing us to explore the Islamic world in its richest and most flourishing period, will also help us to better discover the private life of one of the figures who most of all influenced Islam and its thinkers. If you have already read “The Alchemist”, I’m sure you will find a lot of similarities
“Indonesia etc…” by Elizabeth Pisani (Usa-Uk)
“I had one rule: always say yes. Considering that Indonesians are one of the most hospitable peoples on the planet, there would have been many. Tea with the sultan? “Fantastic!” Attend a wedding procession? “I’d love that!” Visiting a leper colony? “Surely!” Sleeping under a tree with a nomad family? “Why not?” Dog for dinner? “Oooh, sure.” This policy took me to islands I had never heard of. I was welcomed into the homes of priests and peasants, policemen and fishermen, teachers, bus drivers, soldiers, nurses. I traveled mostly by ship and on noisy, rickety buses that fired Indo-pop at maximum volume and had vomit bags hanging from the roof. Sometimes, however, I have had a charter flight or have taken refuge in a comfortable leather seat in a car with tinted windows. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I have not been treated kindly. And also the number of days I haven’t talked about corruption, incompetence, injustice and the low blows of cruel fate “. Indonesia etc. is the story of a 20,000 km long adventure across Indonesian land, sea and sky. The author traveled alone, by all means, using empathy and observation skills to offer us a funny story without being banal, informative and never boring.
One of the most particular books I read in 2022 and the one that most of all corresponds to my idea of a “travel book”. In the company of Elizabeth Pisani we will in fact go to discover all of Indonesia and its wonders, coming into contact with a reality that, although distant and little known, represents one of the centers of the current and future economy. Furthermore, Indonesia, despite being the country with the largest number of Muslims in the world (just under 250 million), is home to 23.5 million Christians at the same time (more than twice as many as there are in Greece), 4 million of Hindus and nearly 2 million Buddhists. A unique and extraordinary country, which could be the destination of your next trip.
“Rom, genti libere” by Santino Spinelli (Italy)
Always the object of suspicion and harassment, persecution and genocide (think of the 500,000 Roma and Sinti massacred by the Nazis), the Roma people are one of the oldest minorities of the Old Continent, among the most dynamic and deeply rooted. Yet we know nothing about them, starting from the fact that we use Roma as a synonym for “gypsies”, while instead it is one of the five ethnic groups (in addition to Sinti, Kale, Manouches and Romanichals) that make up the Romani population. For the first time, an Italian Roma scholar offers us an overall history of this people, from the original migrations to the contemporary situation, embracing their culture and social values, artistic expressions, up to political organizations. This story gives us back the “invisible” identity of the Roma, the evolution of traditions and millenary values handed down in everyday life: an identity ignored by the stereotypes of nomadic camps that transform the mistakes of a few into collective guilt; relegated to the ghetto of poverty and social exclusion by the same pseudo-voluntary associations; finally annihilated by the current policy of assimilation through Romphobia. Famous actors such as Michael Caine, Bob Hoskins, Yul Brynner, Rita Hayworth, footballer Michael Ballack, professors from prestigious universities, even a Nobel Prize, a Prince, a President of the Republic and a Blessed belong to the Romani population. Preface by Moni Ovadia.
The essay I was telling you is just that, a truly unique and powerful book, able to tell the story of the most persecuted people in history and who still suffer constantly absurd and unworthy phenomena of racism wherever they go. The text contains any question or curiosity you may have ever had about the Roma people, an impossible pearl not to mention since I am writing the article during the anniversary of Samudaripen, the Nazi genocide against them, during which they lost their life from 500,000 to half a million people and who, even today, are demanding justice.
La cucina turca: Ricette senza tempo (Turkey)
The cuisine is the expression of the culture and history of peoples. What we eat, as well as what we don’t eat, draws the boundaries of our identities. Each bite conveys history, culture, beliefs and experience, so much so that the simplest way to introduce a foreigner to your culture is to present your cuisine to him. Turkish cuisine is a journey that begins centuries ago. Her saddlebag filled up through the various cultures she came into contact with during this journey. Its very diversity preserves the secrets of a vast geographical area, testifies to a land of tolerance and also contains formidable stories in which the sharing between different cultures, religions and ethnic origins continues uninterrupted. For the first time, the most complete recipe book of Turkish cuisine is presented in Italy, a gastronomic tradition characterized by the presence of many very different regional cuisines: the cuisine of the Aegean and Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, Anatolia and the regions of the southeast of Turkey. This work was created by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey and written by famous chefs and leading researchers and academics with the aim of sharing the deep Turkish gastronomic tradition, with recipes ranging from appetizers to desserts, up to methods of leavening and food preservation. Are you ready to go on this journey with us?
As far as I’m concerned, summer is a time when you travel not only with imagination, but also with taste, and what’s better to combine the two than a book that tells all the best recipes and details present in Turkish culture? The text, released on August 1st, is an excellent excuse to get in the kitchen and let your taste buds try making you return to the flavors of your travels in Turkey or stimulating you with new and incredible dishes.
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