Notes from the Nightstand: Books to Consider

I’d be a pretty lame writer if I didn’t read a lot, so I try to read real books regularly. Here are a few I’ve checked out lately that are worth a look. ¬†One travel book, one travel e-book, and one that’s a kick in the pants in any media.

First up, one I should have read before I ever went to Mexico City, or moved to Mexico for a year, but finally got to this past month after meeting David Lida twice. First Stop in the New World is the kind of book that only a bilingual, long-time resident of the city could write. It’s insightful, probing, and full of telling details the author went after like a real journalist. (For a while he was editor of a major magazine in the city.) It’ll teach you more about the world’s second-largest city than you knew you wanted to know and it does it in an amusing and enjoyable fashion. I’m certainly not the first to rave about this book; just check out the media reviews on Amazon. It’s a keeper.

He’s got a great blog on D.F. too. See DavidLida.com

This next one will be hard to read in bed unless you find a way to get it onto an iPad. It’s a landscape-layout e-book with lots of photos, so even if you’re geeky enough to convert it to ePub it won’t work on the Kindle. So curl up with your laptop and check out Surviving the Indian Railway.

It was written by Drew Gilbert, otherwise known as husband of the Almost Fearless blog‘s Christine Gilbert. This isn’t an exhaustive how-to book on traveling throughout India by train really, rather a travelogue about his 16-day whirlwind circumnavigating Inda by rail.

There is some good planning information though, including how to deal with the inherent frustrations of trying to be a flashpacker in a developing country. (Hint, you are a slave to scarce electrical outlets.) Plus there are plenty of essentials, like buying an Indrail pass, figuring out meals (you won’t go hungry), and dealing with the dreaded squat toilets on a moving train.

Reading this fun romp brought back lots of memories, some pleasant, some intentionally buried, but it shows you that traveling by rail in India is still one of the world’s most interesting adventures—and a screaming bargain. This is one of the best-looking e-books I can remember reading, with interesting photos on almost every page. That means of course, that there’s not really all that much text in the end. You can read the whole thing in an hour or two. But the price is right: $10. Click here to view more details

This last one doesn’t have much to do with travel unless you’ve had trouble actually making those travel plans a reality. The simple title is Do the Work and that’s what it’s imploring you to do. If the author was just some motivational guru this pithy little book wouldn’t have much merit, but he’s a successful fiction author, screenwriter, and author of The War of Art.

As you can probably guess from all the plates I have spinning in the air and the books I’ve published, getting things done and out the door has never been one of my biggest problems, but still I struggle now and then. I’ve also been involved in some group projects lately where some of my teammates definitely should have read this book, then read it again for good measure. Ideas are great, but if you’re not overpowering the resistance—from friends, from relatives, from partners, and from the little voice inside your head—then you’ll never meet the milestones and turn those ideas into something that matters. You won’t ship the product, you won’t make the investment, you won’t launch the promotion that’s going to make a big splash.

Or you won’t actually take that big trip around the world you’re planning. There are a million reasons not to go traveling and no shortage of people who will readily supply those reasons whether you want to hear them or not. Learning to power past the resistance and bring great things to life is the real key to success—and maybe to happiness too. Do the Work is good medicine on how to get there.

(In an odd pricing quirk, the hardcover of this book is actually cheaper than the Kindle version—and easier to read because of all the typeface changes. Get that one if you’re not on the move.)

Comments
  1. Miranda

    First Stop in the New World is probably the best book period on understanding Mexico and Mexican culture. For the city itself, it’s an amazing primer on how things work and what makes everything click.

  2. Bob Broughton

    _Mexican Days_ by Tony Cohan is another good one. It includes a chapter about Las Posas, but there’s a couple of other chapters that read like _Star Trek_ episodes; Cohan visits and describes towns where the people speak a language unknown to the rest of the world, have different food, clothing, etc.

    • tim

      I just hung out with Tony C. for a year—he lives in Guanajuato! Glad you liked that book!

  3. Mark Lester

    Hi Tim,
    I’m the guy who organised the trip Drew Gilbert was lucky enough to be invited to join. It was a charity exercise, normal people dont invite over a dozen Indian virgins they have never even met on a journey that was supposed to be certain disaster, but turned out to be so cool that the participants would actually be able to make money out of it selling their story. I arranged everything, including hiring several buses, and brought everyone’s tickets to Mumbai for them. It took 2 years to work out, which involved an awful lot of research which meant that we utilised our time off the train to the maximum. It also caused an awful lot of stress telling the entire world that I was going to do this and working hard to raise money for kids.
    Anyhow, it was called The Great Circular Indian Railway Challenge, and there’s an absolutely free blog about it here
    http://gcirc.wordpress.com. If you find it useful though you could always donate the $9.99 you saved to Railway Children, or just spend it on beer.

    All the best
    Mark

    The Great Circular Indian Railway Challenge
    http://gcirc.wordpress.com

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