Every month we have been reflecting on the best things we read. In January, we were hanging out in Chiang Mai so we got plenty of reading done.
- Go See Write published a guide to the North Korean gulag. And for a great account of traveling to North Korea, go here.
- You too can help eliminate “pretentious travel douchebag syndrome.” Gary Arndt tells you how.
- Great tips on couple travel at Traveling 9 to 5.
- Check out these 20 surprisingly recyclable things via Mental Floss.
- If you've got a blog, take a look at these tips for success at Twenty-Something Travel.
- Hecktic Travels writes about their dog sledding experience, which looks cool!
- Great post on train travel in Southeast Asia over at BootsnAll.
- From The Featured Creature: orchids that look like animals.
- Adventurous Kate looks back on the 12 best things she ate in 2012.
Books – I read 8 books this month.
- The Human Stain by Philip Roth – My friend Mary Tanner suggested a reading challenge this year that I decided to participate in. The goal is to read each of the Man Booker Prize winners from the last 15 years, plus one book from each of the 5 winners of the Man Booker International Prize, for a total of 20 books. This was the first for me in that challenge. The writing is rather good, and I very much liked it at first but thought it went on too long.
- Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier by Neil deGrasse Tyson – This is a collection of essays (and also video and interview transcripts) by Neil deGrasse Tyson, mostly about the reasons for and against continued US participation in space exploration, and looking into why we haven't done much in this realm lately. It's quite interesting, except for the fact that once you get to a certain point in the book, the rest is very repetitive since he repeats his main points for each outlet.
- Waking Up Married by Mira Lyn Kelly – A fun and light romance novel.
- Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon – This is a time-travel romance series, a genre which I have a particular affection for. The first one is quite good. Sadly, I found the second one tedious and boring and ended up reading the synopsis for the third. I may pick up the fourth and on later since I read that it gets better.
- Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed – I read this for the Almost Fearless travel book club. You can get in on the book club fun for next month. This book is a very personal memoir of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. It's great, but don't expect as much about the hike itself as personal reflection.
- The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson – Sanderson is one of my favorite fantasy authors, and he doesn't disappoint with this richly-imagined novella.
- The Sea by John Banville – The second in my Man Booker Prize challenge, with the distinction of being completely awful.
- Family disappears into the Russian taiga and doesn't see another human being for 40 years.
- The new Facebook.
- Cheese fire disaster.
- Actual plan to build a commercial fusion reactor? I didn't realize we had come so far.
- This blog is so over my head I literally find it funny. Great showing for a post that describes drug development in very simple terms.
- Hanukkah and Thanksgiving overlap this year for the first time since Thanksgiving was established in 1863. It won't happen again for 77,798 years.
- Someone turned a beet garden in a beat generator.
- Well it looks like some scientists might have achieved sub absolute zero temperatures. Which I still don't really understand.
- Art that is tidy versions of other art.
- Japan's extreme gun control.
- What is sticky rice?
Books – Getting over my ennui, I read 15 books this month.
- The Alcatraz Series by Brandon Sanderson – This four-book YA series (with at least one more to come) written by one of my favorite authors isn't as good as his more complex stories, but was by no stretch of the imagination a let down.
- The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson – A new novella which Sanderson has said is, in his opinion, one of the best things he's written. I certainly had no complaints. Short and oh so satisfactory.
- Legion also by Brandon Sanderson – An even shorter new novelette. So it turns out he can write short form well too!
- The Books of the Raksura 1 & 2 by Martha Wells – I love that the world in this fantasy novel feels so endlessly full of mystery and potential. A thousand startlingly diverse empires and races have left their legacy over the Three Worlds. Also all the stories with the flying dragon people are quite good.
- The Wizard Hunters by Martha Wells – The characters run around trying to save their civilization, Ile-Rein, from inter-dimensional invasion. Since the series is called The Fall of Ile-Rein, I don't have much hope for them. Engaging, but a little dark.
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volumes 1-3 by Alan Moore – I don't really care what form it's in, period writing usually gets on my nerves. Still, I enjoyed the series, especially the countless clever literary references. It's a series that managed to both surprise me and elicit surprised laughter from me.
- The Dresden Files #13 & 14 by Jim Butcher – I've kind of derided the first six or so books in this series and I still think they're pretty terrible, but if you keep reading the world and characters get complex enough to be quite interesting. Butcher has really improved as a writer since the early books too and no longer sticks to the exact same plot formula quite so much.
- Longitude by Dava Sobel – I couldn't stop thinking about clocks, star maps, and navigation for days after reading this. That's how good nonfiction should be.
What were your best reads this month?
Every month we have been reflecting on the best things we read. In December, we spent a week in Vientiane, got our Thai tourist visas, and then moved to Chiang Mai!
- An easy way to see if you’re getting a good exchange rate, from Go See Write
- Gary Arndt of Everything Everywhere answers a young reader’s question about the North Pole.
- Jodi of Legal Nomads talks about the Overview Effect.
- How to have good ideas, by Fevered Mutterings.
- Expat Edna shares how she met her fiance.
- Everywhere Once made me really want to visit Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah.
- Matador Network shares some gorgeous wildlife photos from South Georgia Island.
- Where to survive the apocalypse, by The Runaway Guide.
- Go follow these people on Instagram! List brought to you by Over Yonderlust.
- A guide to eating bugs from Migrationology.
- Finally, go look at this hedgehog on Cute Overload.
Books - I read 3 books this month. The internet wildly distracted me from reading.
- City of Glass and City of Fallen Angels, books 3 and 4 of the Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare – The thing about this series is it would have been just fine as a trilogy. I didn’t enjoy book 4 and opted to read a summary of 5 and not even bother with it.
- The Shipping News by Annie Proulx – Book written in “newspaper style.” Difficult to read. Interesting characters, but overall not my favorite.
- Wikipedia article: timeline of the far future.
- Uncovering the secrets to making good dal.
- Spider that builds models of spiders.
- Vending machine that pays you for used phones and chargers by running an instant auction.
- Art exhibit where you climb around on enormous inflatable bubbles.
- Half animal half chair.
- Detailed guide to table bussing strategy.
- Could wine grapes survive in the weird climate in Game of Thrones?
- And, a defense of all the strange words used to describe wine.
- The mold in blue cheese might actually reproduce sexually, not asexually.
- New York had it’s first day in memory without and reported violent crime.
Books - Well I had another month of not reading much, only two books. I started several and couldn’t really get into them. I’m really in the mood for some good nonfiction.
What were your best reads this month?
You may recall that last year I set a goal for myself: read 100 books. And I did! As I mentioned in that post, I wouldn’t set the same goal for this year because it led to me reading crappy books I didn’t really want to read, or skimming the books I was reading. So this year, I didn’t really have a goal (I did set a goal on Goodreads for 30 books, but I knew I’d have no trouble with it).
And so, this year, I have read 62 books. That’s less than last year, and also less than 2009 or 2010 in which I read about 80 each year. However, it’s slightly more than a book a week so not bad at all. I was pretty busy with travel this year, plus losing my Nook slowed me down a lot, so it makes sense. Here’s a roundup of what I read.
The 5 Best Books I Read in 2012
5 – Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
This is a book about ordinary American people that deal with problems that are familiar to people today. Namely the problem of having too much freedom. What do we do with our lives, now that the scope of what is okay to do is so large? The possibilities for your life are becoming more and more endless, and it affects different people in different ways. I have felt this myself, this inability to figure out what to become or how to live my life, because there are just too many choices. It’s a great book with interesting characters, and I would recommend it.
4 – Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford
We’ve covered this one before. And it was good enough to make it into my top five!
3 – Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
Honestly, the story of what happens to our bodies after we die is a fascinating if morbid one. This book is not for the fainthearted but also treats the subject with humor. I’ve been in an anatomy lab so I’ve seen cadavers before, but it was extremely interesting to read more about all the things we use corpses for. Thanks to my friend Colin for letting me borrow this; I could not put it down!
2 – The Green Mile by Stephen King
Stephen King is an author I generally like, and this is an excellent work of his. If you have seen the movie and liked it, you will love the book. It’s fairly similar but as usual I did enjoy the book a tiny bit better.
1 – A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
Yes, I am a fantasy nerd. Yes, I love The Song of Ice and Fire series. And yes, the HBO show is good too. This book, the third one, has been the best so far. All my other nerdy friends agree.
The 5 Worst Books I Read in 2012
- A Geography of Time by Robert V. Levine – I almost feel bad for not liking this because it was recommended and even sent to me by a friend. The idea was interesting but it simply bored me. Too much setup and not enough meat. I am also usually wary of popular books that deal with anthropological subjects, because too often they make me angry, like my most hated book ever, Geography of Bliss. This wasn’t bad like that… just bored me.
- Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind – This book is kind of okay. I’m not really into books that are written as though they might have been written in the 18th century, and this one does that. But I mean, okay, because that’s when it’s set, it’s just a style I am not partial to. But also, the main character is not someone you can really care about. Plus there’s way too many detailed descriptions of scents, something which is notoriously hard to describe in words.
- Extras by Scott Westerfeld – This is the 4th book in the Uglies trilogy. Oh wait! I guess it’s not a trilogy then. Except for the important fact that the first three books are, in fact, a cohesive trilogy. This book tries to project out what might have happened later. Unfortunately, by focusing on totally different characters who aren’t as interesting as the original ones, it just comes out as weak and unnecessary.
- Wild Heat by Bella Andre – Blech. Just a really dumb romance novel. Not even very sexy.
- Love in a Nutshell by Janet Evanovich and Dorien Kelly – Dear Janet Evanovich: Usually, I enjoy your books. They are generally light and fun. But this one just didn’t do it for me. Sorry. Love, Rachel
So, there you have it, the best and worst books of the year for me.
What were your best and worst reads this year?
For those who celebrate it, we’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas!
Our Christmas is consisting of hanging out in Chiang Mai and making some traditional comfort foods. This is by far my warmest Christmas ever, at 26 Celsius (79 Fahrenheit)!
Thailand is a Buddhist country, but you can still find Christmas decorations everywhere in retail establishments, like this tree at Siam Paragon Mall in Bangkok.
As always, thanks for reading! Have a great holiday season.
What are you doing for Christmas?
Well, it’s that time again. Anniversary time. Today, we (Jeff and Rachel) are celebrating 6 years together. It’s not quite as cool as a 5-year anniversary, but it’ll do. Last year I wrote a pretty good review of our 5 years together, and I can’t say much has changed in the last year.
However, we did start two new things together: we started working together on this blog and we started traveling together. We have traveled together before, but never for this long. It has made us realize one important fact. Even though we get along great, we still need our alone time. Being on the road can make that a little more difficult, since you really are together all the time. So we have started adding in time apart, whether it’s one of us going out for a walk or to see a museum and the other staying in, or simply just having some “not-talking time” even if we are in the same room.
If you allow yourselves to do some interesting activities on your own, you will feel more independent and also have more cool topics for conversation!
So do yourself a favor, and if you’re traveling as a couple take a while to yourself sometimes. Your relationship will be much healthier for it.
We’re off to eat something delicious in celebration of us!
This post, the very one you’re reading now, is our 500th post on World Flavor. That’s a pretty big number! I almost can’t believe I’ve written that many posts.
I started World Flavor about a year and a half ago. The decision came as a direct result of my preparations to teach English in South Korea. I have been blogging for a long time, thanks to my computer-programmer supervisor for a NASA internship during high school, who gave me an assignment to research what the word “blog” meant and then create a test blog. I set up a site on some now-defunct blogging platform which I can’t quite remember (my brain says ModBlog but I think I’m wrong). Then, I moved to Xanga, and after that, Livejournal, and then Blogger/Blogspot. I stayed on Blogger a while until I decided to make a ‘real’ blog.
I decided that WordPress was more suited to my idea of a ‘real’ blog so I moved my existing blog, Savour Every Moment, to WordPress and renamed it ‘World Flavor.’ I wanted to keep the original name but no good domain names were available involving that name, so I thought really hard until I came up with one that also had a decent domain name, because part of my transition to a ‘real’ blog involved having my own domain name. At that time there were a couple of results for World Flavor tied to the Culinary Institute of America, but no blogs. Now there is another ‘food and culture’ blog called “A World of Flavors” that comes up above mine! It annoys me a little bit, but what can you do?
Anyway, I set out to make World Flavor a travel and food blog that I would be serious about updating. At first, it was just kind of an exercise to see if I could maintain something like that, and it was mostly aimed at keeping my friends and family updated. As time went on, it became clear that I could in fact maintain it if I really wanted to. I began to get real readers other than people I personally knew, and it just got more exciting.
As readership grew, Jeff expressed some interest in flexing his writing muscles and I allowed him to do a couple of guest posts. We then both decided it would be cool to share the blog, and in March of this year I announced that Jeff would be a regular writer.
We have begun to be approached about sponsorships and advertisement regularly. We have agreed to some, like our sponsored trip to Siem Reap with Skyscanner. But we haven’t yet agreed to any ads beyond Google AdSense, because we aren’t quite sure where we are going from here.
Mostly, I like how the blog is going, but we seem to have hit a point where we aren’t gaining any new readers. We have plenty of loyal followers (and we love you!) but our visitor counts haven’t gone up in quite a while, despite the fact that our Google Pagerank has gone up somehow.
We are looking into new ideas and trying to decide what our goal is anyway. First and foremost, I do this blog because I enjoy it and I love having a record of what I’ve done to look at later. I always hoped I could make some money off of it, but I don’t want to do that at the expense of quality, or offending my readers, or even taking up too much of my time. So for now I’m not doing any more ads. I have decided I will not do sponsored guest posts because I find the content to be uniformly of poor quality, and I don’t like seeing them on other blogs. We are happy to take guest posts from other talented bloggers or even from friends whose writing we like. However, I know that for me I mostly like to see great content written by the blog owner because that is why I put the blog in my RSS feed in the first place.
There are some new directions we’re considering, which shouldn’t affect the regular content you see here. One is introducing video. Our friend Nate, who somehow scored a sweet gig managing Youtube channels (seriously, I cannot believe it’s a job), has convinced us to test out a video element to the blog and we plan to start this soon.
I’m also considering taking the Travel Writing course offered by MatadorU. The purpose of this would be to improve the writing on this blog as well as open up new opportunities for travel writing employment. We have no idea what we’ll do when we return to the US after our 2 years abroad, but now (while we’re living in Chiang Mai for two months) seems like a great time to think about it.
If you’ve read this whole thing, wow, good job, it is pretty long. Or even if you’ve skimmed to the end bit here – I want to say thank you. Thank you for stopping by, whether it is just this one time, sporadically, or regularly. Whether you are my mom, my friend, or someone I don’t know. Our readers really keep us going. It is wonderful to see that people are reading and commenting from all over the world. So again, thanks for reading, and here’s to another 500 great posts! And if you’re in Chiang Mai, Thailand, between now and February 17, let us know and we’ll meet up!
Got any feedback for us? Content you want to see or some that you don’t? Let us know in the comments!
Every month we have been reflecting on the best things we read. In November, we were still in Hanoi for the first few days. We then flew to Bangkok for 2 weeks and after that had a week in Cambodia followed by a few days back in Bangkok.
- We were featured in an interview over at Budget Your Trip! Go check it out (and also, that website is one of my favorite travel resources).
- I may be trying out some of these ways to work online over at The Smart Girl’s Travel Guide.
- An interesting read about US customs problems from Runaway Juno.
- I’ve got my eye on this adventure tour in Slovenia thanks to A Dangerous Business.
- Too Many Adapters posted a nice guide to buying SIM cards in Southeast Asia (I’ve got a nice little collection myself).
- Over Yonderlust has a how-to guide for using Eurail passes.
- I’m even more excited about Genoa thanks to this post on Twenty-Something Travel!
- Nomadic Matt gave me even more cheap accommodation ideas.
- I really want to go to this adventure park in Spain (thanks, The Planet D!).
- Some cool food facts courtesy of Mental Floss.
Books - I only read three books this month! As predicted, the theft of my Nook slowed me down. However, I did get an iPad as a replacement so now I’m back on track!
- City of Bones and City of Ashes, books 1 and 2 of The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare – This is a good supernatural young adult series. It’s a bit different from many of the others out there as the main characters are demon hunters.
- Freedom by Jonathan Franzen – I loved this book! It’s about normal Americans and the anxieties they have regarding the freedoms in their lives. It’s absorbing and reflects a lot of societal issues. It’s also over 500 pages long, so I read it over a couple of weeks.
Links - Honestly I wasn’t keeping up with my RSS feed a whole lot this month, but here are a few links for you.
- George Mason University is planning on opening a campus in Incheon.
- Amazing miniature people doing things in normal sized world.
Books - Well, I didn’t read anything worth noting this month either. So I’m just not going to talk about it.
What were your best reads this month?