National Read a Book Day - Featured Header Image - Kirsten Alana

National Read a Book Day

Today is National Read a Book Day. As a bibliophile who owes much of her knowledge not to what she learned in school but what she has read, I figured it might be a good day to finally talk a little bit about my love of books. From my earliest memories of reading Out of Africa and Ann of Green Gables to my later discovery of printed Encyclopedias and Historical Nonfiction, most of my vivid imagination I owe to the worlds I found within the pages of books.

Read because I can’t….

Is it any wonder then that travel photography later became a career for me? If I couldn’t write, I could at least capture worlds and present them in visual form much the way writers do with their words. And yes, I did try to be a writer. Through childhood writing programs and even in university, I tried. But I can’t write the way a real writer can, properly. With actual flair, proper grammar and on command. The on command part is the hardest for me. If I HAVE to write something, there’s a virtual guarantee the words will never ever come. No matter how hard I try.

But I can read anywhere, at any time, for no reason at all other than simply for the enjoyment of doing so. I read so thoroughly that people can talk to me, even yell, and I might never know they’re doing so. I read with the type of abandon that others shop the Nordstrom annual sale with.

So during this weekend’s trip to Yosemite and Sequoia, I decided to leave my phone in my purse, turn off all notifications and read whenever we weren’t hiking, driving or taking pictures. This was one of the best choices I’ve made in years. I read so much. Felt so happy. Didn’t miss the internet one bit! I’m already looking forward to our next vacation where I’ll have another chance to catch up on reading the new travel books that I’ve been eyeing at Books-A-Million.

Here are just a few of my old favorites and recent discoveries:

Travel Books to Read

West with the Night by Beryl Markham || and || Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Pretty simply, there’s just something about Beryl and her life that grabbed me deeply. And has never let go. To the point that one of my tattoos essentially is about and for her. I don’t want to say more because I want you to discover her life the same way I did, knowing nothing before diving in.

Out of Africa by Karen Blixen

Blixen and Markham both loved Denys Finch Hatton. The way they each write about Kenya while it was British West Africa, is captivating in a way that few others who have written about Africa are. To me at least. And I’ve read a lot of books about the continent. These ladies just got it in a singular way.

the above books were heavily influential in my own desire to travel to Kenya and Tanzania, below I’m sitting in Amboseli in Kenya staring out over the lands they each described 

Kirsten in Kenya after she read about the country from Blixen and Markham.

The New Paris by Lindsey Tramuta

Lindsey is a friend who I think I first met online and later face-to-face during my first ever trip to Paris when I wasn’t exactly young but was definitely still naive to much of the ways of the world and certainly to what is or is not French. I owe much of the realism that I have as a Francophile to Lindsey’s honest take on life and love in one of the world’s most loved cities through all that she writes in this book, on her blog and in her print articles.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

I actually didn’t love this book the first time I read it. The theme attracted me since the idea of feeling lost and wanting to find myself has often been a part of my life. However, I recently heard Strayed keynote at TravelCon. After that I want to give this book another try. There’s something about meeting a person that often gives you new insight into their book. I hope that happens when I re-read Wild.

Nonfiction Books to Read

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain

His first book is still my favorite. Even the updated version still holds the same appeal for me. I keep this book directly above my computer on my desk. Every time I feel like a failure, I glance up at it and I remind myself of the depths from which he rose to become one of the world’s most celebrated personalities in food and travel. I will always miss his way with words and feel grateful we have some of them imprinted for all time.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Like many Americans, I thought I knew the Obamas. They seemed like a fairly open book during their time in the White House and I appreciated what seemed like a genuine approachability in their character. Michelle’s book showed me I knew nothing. But it also gave me a deep appreciation for the sacrifice, hard work and devotion that she and Barack have to public service. It’s now my favorite political memoir. Read Becoming by Michelle Obama - National Read a Book Day - Kirsten Alana

What books do you love reading? Any in particular that you think I should add to my list? 

  • September 08, 2019

    I love these picks! And your trip to Yosemite with a book – with notifications far away – sounds like absolute bliss.

    I’ve been cutting back on Instagram these days – it’s no longer working on my old smartphone so that helps too 😀 So I only use it on my laptop. And it’s made such a difference to my evenings.

    I either watch an episode or two of a series or read for an hour and then listen to some podcasts. I’m amazed at how many books I’m now able to get through when I don’t have those constant notifications going off all the time and the phone so conveniently nearby.

    Dee ~ Vanilla Papers

    • September 08, 2019

      That situation with only being able to use Instagram on desktop sounds like such sweet relief in a weird way. How do you upload new photos though?

      And I’m glad you like my book picks! <3

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