Monday, July 2, 2012

Travels to Greece - a non fiction reading list

I am planning a weeklong (too short for me) trip to Greece with friends in the fall so I have laid out a reading list to prepare.  In this post I'll review three of the nonfiction books I have recently read.  In a later post(s) I'll review some excellent fiction set in Greece.

The Olive Grove by Katherine Kizilos, Lonely Planet Publications, 1997
This is a travel memoir written by an Australian journalist of Greek extraction.  The author wanders through Greece, connects with her Greek relatives and describes people and places both on some of the islands and the mainland.  This book I think is more for the traveler who has a better handle on Greek history and culture than I did.   It is roughly organized into sections but really doesn't lend itself to a quick lookup of information.  I did enjoy this book for its  intimate and somewhat emotional look at the people the author meets.  Might be fun to read as you traveled through Greece on an extended stay.

Hellas by Nicholas Gage, Gazelle Distribution, 2002

If you know as little about Greek history, geography and culture as I did, this book is positively indispensable.  The author starts the story in ancient times and relates the history in a very readable way right up to the beginning of the twenty first century (unfortunately no comments on the current Greek crises).  He examines the different parts of the country and the cultural differences they have.  Sections on religion, politics, food and drink and the outsized Greek personality are all included.  This book is concise (230 pages) and loaded with useful information.  Highly recommended.

Eurydice Street by Sofka Zinovieff,Grata Uk, 2005

The author, raised in Britian has married a Greek government employee and they move back to Athens with their two children.  The book relates her experiences in her first year living in Greece.  She had lived in Greece as a student years before so she had some idea of what the experience would bring.  The story is set mainly in Athens but she does have sections on Greek villages and especially the affinity that Greeks have for their native villages.  Using members of her husbands family to illustrate her story she brings alive the blood-spattered history of Greece since WWII.  Using her own experience trying to gain Greek citizenship she tells of the difficulties working with Greek government employees.  The relationship of Greeks to their Orthodox Church is described by looking at the religious holidays that are celebrated each year.  The deeply negative feelings that Greeks have to the US and the UK are explained (in typical ugly American fashion I had no idea of the Greek feelings and the US actions that caused them).    This is a highly readable book and in my opinion a must read.  The stories the author tells are indelible in my mind.  I am only sorry that this story ends in the late 1990's so I didn't get the author's take on present day Greek troubles.  In looking for books to read about Greece I have stumbled on an excellent author you should read -Greek travel or not.  I am looking forward to her next book, the fictional The House on Paradise Street.  (Note Eurydice Street was a little hard to come by, I had to order at Amazon from a UK publisher but it was reasonably priced and came within a week.)

Any reader suggestions of other books on Greece I should read?

1 comment:

Zibilee said...

I think it's so wonderful that you are going to Greece! I would love to visit one day, and to see the sights. I think the books you read on the subject are amazing, and I also think that they have given you a great background for your trip, as well as a little excitement and enthusiasm for what's to come! Excellent mini-reviews. I can't wait to hear about your trip! It sounds awesome!