The best books with a combination of personalities, travel, and food

Ma Thanegi Author Of Nor Iron Bars a Cage
By Ma Thanegi

The Books I Picked & Why

Travels with Myself and Another

By Martha Gellhorn

Book cover of Travels with Myself and Another

Why this book?

This book is, in my opinion, the best travelouge ever. She has been my hero since I read her For Richer or Poorer and saw what she said about my fellow countrymen: ''They were stronger in their defencelessness than the various khaki-clad people who overrun them'. She got straight to the core of the matter. And how true about being overrun: happening, again, right now, early 2021.

Her Travels with Myself and Another is my favorite among her works. It is full of powerful insight and absolutely great writing whatever she was describing, be it meeting Chiang Kai-shek (she was not impressed) or Zhou Enlai (she was) or people in the street

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Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise

By Ruth Reichl

Book cover of Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise

Why this book?

Among the many genres of literature that I enjoy from Harry Potter to The Brothers Karamazov, I like best those that are about food and people with vibrant personalities. This book hits the jackpot: its all about haute cuisine of mouth-watering fusion of tastes with elegant plating and, the best of it, the glamorous and sexy or quirky or snooty individuals enjoying an excellent. .... or not....meal. The author already has one bombshell of a personality and the many identities she assumed to remain incognito in her job as a food critic for the New York Times all came alive. I wish I could have been right at their table.

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Burma: Rivers of Flavor

By Naomi Duguid

Book cover of Burma: Rivers of Flavor

Why this book?

Naomi Duguid has been coming to Burma since the restrictive 1980s. In one interview she said this about her MO: ''I would go to smaller places and hang around, sipping a tea in tea shops, pedaling around on an old bicycle, taking photos. .. in the amazing markets. And gradually, after several days, I would become a familiar sight so that people would start to connect with me, open up a little....''
For me, it is a rare and precious record of the cuisine of our races, their lives, and cuisine. And for others, I am sure it's about discovering new worlds.

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Traveling Below the Speed Limit

By Janet Brown

Book cover of Traveling Below the Speed Limit

Why this book?

Always eloquent, insightful and at times, funny...such as how a mispronounced word in the tonal languages of the region might end in shared hilarity or bloodshed, Janet Brown describes her travels in Thailand and other SE Asian countries with warmth and joy. Her slow pace exudes sympathy, understanding, and enjoyment of the people and their lifestyles.

She said she learned from great travel writers that 'curiosity and observation can make a walk around the block become a journey', and I felt I was right by her side, enjoying the mood, the people, and especially, the food.

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Communion: A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam

By Kim Fay, Julie Fay Ashborn

Book cover of Communion: A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam

Why this book?

Having lived in Vietnam in the 1990s for four years, the author longed to return and did so ten years later with her photographer sister Julie. Together with her old friend Huong, they travelled to seven cities to record regional dishes. They enjoyed eating haute cuisine and home-cooked meals, and at small eateries that are each famous for a specialty so, at times, they were racing through thick traffic on motorbike taxis to two places for the day's lunch.

Kim gives a clear sense of the vibrant environment and the people's lives, their strength, and friendliness. One could almost taste the fresh and light cuisine through the innovative words of Kim and Julie's wonderful photos.

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