Reading Russia: The Reindeer People

It took me close to a year to read this book. Not because of anything negative but because I wanted to really absorb it, to get to know it.

The older I get, the more obsessed I’ve become with The North. I want to travel above the Arctic Circle, I want to watch the Northern Lights, and see a polar bear where polar bears live. Not sure why this fascination has become so strong…maybe as the planet gets warmer, the cold feels like powerful magic?

But why try to explain it? Just jump in and learn instead. This book, The Reindeer People: Living With Animals and Spirits in Siberia by Piers Vitebsky, is excellent immersion in a world few of us will ever get to see. You’re introduced to an amazing cast of characters, and it’s easy to develop a deep bond with just about the whole crew, the reindeer, and the natural world that dominates their lives. Highly recommended, and I feel certain you will finish it much faster than I did!

Reindeer Pulling a Sledge
Reindeer Pulling a Sledge (image by Elen Schurova from Moscow, Russia via Wikimedia Commons)

Reading Russia: Nothing is True and Everything is Possible

It’s been awhile since I last posted. The Holidays were busy, I traveled quite a bit after the first of the year, and now…there’s a pandemic.

Life is something, huh? There are endless things to say about it all, but this is not the place even though it might be the time. Plus, I’ve been drinking rum for a few hours and I have nothing of real value to offer you.


So, let’s talk about Russia! I had big plans: I was going to read across the wide expanse of Russian literature, from the classics to modern rule-breakers, but I stalled out. As is my style I found my way to some non-fiction titles, because real life is often just as interesting as any novel.


That’s certainly the case with this book: Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev. Written before The Age of Trump, it now reads as an eerie foretelling of the future we Americans willingly (at least some of us) walked right into. Truth means nothing. Cheap emotions are everything. Everything is for sale.

It’s a bleak story but it is fascinating and, for me, an absolute must-read. Learn about the world you now live in, and maybe find your way through.

The skyline of modern Moscow
The skyline of modern Moscow (Image by Deensel via Wikimedia Commons)

Country #57: Russia

Russia. Russia. Russia.

I’ll be honest…I wasn’t automatically happy to pick this one out of the bunch. I have lots of feelings about the current state of things, in a political sense.

BUT, I’m an American. My country is not an easy entity for non-Americans to process, and I certainly always hope that people don’t judge me by the actions of my government. So the least I can do for my brothers and sisters in Russia is to offer them the same courtesy.

And think about what I would miss if I closed my mind and heart to all things Russian: literature, history, art, FOOD. I can’t do that, no matter how uneasy I am with the world right now…so…here we go.

Reading South Korea: Drifting House

When I was doing research for South Korean literature, I came across a list in Vanity Fair of  5 Korean Novels You Should Read.  One of the first things said was “these aren’t Beach Reads”. And indeed – they are NOT.  I’m going to take their advice and run with it anyway; three of the five recommendations are sitting in my living room.  First up: Drifting House, by Krys Lee.

This book kicked my ass. The long-lasting devastation of war. The destruction, down to the family level, of a nation torn apart. What it means to be an immigrant, and then again the next level of being a first-generation kid, carrying all that weight and more. This collection of short stories digs in deep, grabs you by the collar and doesn’t let go. There were moments of wanting to put it down, to just return it to the library and find something else easier to digest, but nope. The author manifested this unflinching thing, and it was on me to stay. Even though it wasn’t always easy, it was entirely worth it.

Seoul at Night
Seoul at Night (image by KLuwak , via Wikimedia Commons)