Photography Books: Abandoned America + Apples of Uncommon Character

These photography books offer gorgeous photos and fascinating stories combined. | Book reviews by NewberyandBeyond.com
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I’m not sure what to call this type of book, in which the photos are the main draw and the writing is almost secondary (coffee table books, perhaps?). I settled on photography books, which I think describes the attraction. Both of these books are worth a look.

Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream

If the creation of a structure represents the values and ideals of a time, so too does its subsequent abandonment and eventual destruction. In “Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream,” internationally acclaimed photographer Matthew Christopher continues his tour of the quiet catastrophes dotting American cities, examining the losses and failures that led these ruins to become forsaken by communities that once celebrated them. (Summary via Goodreads.com)

I am weirdly obsessed with abandoned places, so this book is right up my alley. It’s filled with amazing photographs and descriptions of abandoned places, from a classic ghost town to abandoned institutions, schools, game farms, and more. The photos by themselves are fascinating, but the stories of how and why these places were abandoned adds so much to the book.

My single complaint about this book is that it significantly needs a final edit. I try not to be nitpicky about typos or small grammatical errors, so please note that I mean more than those small problems in my critique of this book. There are unfinished sentences, as well as editorial notes that I know the author and/or editor never meant to be seen. It distracts the reader a bit from the wonderful storytelling, but it’s still not enough to deter me from giving this book my highest rating. I loved it, and I can’t wait to read the author’s other similar book.

Rating: Re-read Worthy

Apples of Uncommon Character

In his classic A Geography of Oysters, Rowan Jacobsen forever changed the way America talks about its best bivalve. Now he does the same for our favorite fruit, showing us that there is indeed life beyond Red Delicious-and even Honeycrisp. While supermarkets limit their offerings to a few waxy options, apple trees with lives spanning human generations are producing characterful varieties-and now they are in the midst of a rediscovery. From heirlooms to new designer breeds, a delicious diversity of apples is out there for the eating. (Summary via Goodreads.com)

If you’ve ever refused to eat an apple because you thought it might be bland, one-note, or overly sweet, you need to explore the world of apples Jacobsen presents in Apples of Uncommon Character. This book features a collection of uncommon, often antique apples that I now want to eat immediately.

Every page has gorgeous photos of the apples, interspersed with the author’s notes on the taste, history, and usage of that type of apple and information on how Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith, and Red Delicious came to rule the American grocery. It’s fascinating stuff.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

My Holiday in North Korea

My Holiday in North Korea is a strange and fascinating glimpse at one of the most closed-off countries in the world. | A book review by NewberyandBeyond.com
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Several days being chaperoned to and from deserted factories and propaganda museums? A determined (but inaccurate) hatred toward Americans and the United States–except for you, of course? Paranoia that no one around you is telling you the truth? Welcome to My Holiday in North Korea.

“In My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth, Wendy shares a glimpse of North Korea as it’s never been seen before. Even though it’s the scariest place on Earth, somehow Wendy forgot to check her sense of humor at the border.

But Wendy’s initial amusement and bewilderment soon turned to frustration and growing paranoia. Before long, she learned the essential conundrum of “tourism” in North Korea: Travel is truly a love affair. But, just like love, it’s a two-way street. And North Korea deprives you of all this. They want you to fall in love with the singular vision of the country they’re willing to show you and nothing more.

Through poignant, laugh-out-loud essays and 92 color photographs of North Korea rarely published, Wendy chronicles one of the strangest vacations ever. Along the way, she bares all while undergoing an inner journey as convoluted as the country itself.” (Summary via Goodreads.com)

I found this book hilarious, depressing, and all around fascinating. The world of North Korea, the country’s attempts at propaganda, and the people themselves are so interesting.

Wendy does a great job of cataloging her mixed feelings about the country. At some points, the “perfect” world that North Korea tries to present is so outdated it’s laughable, and everything Wendy’s handlers say and do seems so scripted that Wendy starts keeping a list of things she thinks were real moments. But at other times, the incredible power that the government wields over all its citizens (and, to a lesser extent, its tourists) hits home in a horrifying way.

Wendy is an entertaining, humorous writer (although, fair warning, there is some salty language), but her photos are what really drew me in. On almost every page, there are photos of the things Wendy saw on her “propaganda tour”–empty factories, stoic guards, and large statues of Korean rulers–mixed in with a few rare unposed pictures. They are absolutely fascinating. The glimpses they provide into this extremely closed-off country are eye-opening.

If you want to get your travel fix without having to actually travel to North Korea, My Holiday in North Korea is probably your best bet.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

P.S. Have you (or someone you know) been a tourist in North Korea? I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments!

Budapest, Part II

I am back from my trip to Budapest! I am exhausted and struggling to get back into the swing of work and responsibilities, but we had an amazing trip. As promised in my last Budapest pictures post, I’ve collected photos of some of my favorite moments from our vacation. (And, of course, there are some book-related moments included!)

Thanks for hanging out with me during this Write 31 Days series of All Things Books! I’ve enjoyed the challenge of posting every day, and I hope you’ve found something to enjoy in this hodge-podge of bookish posts. I’d love to hear in the comments which posts were your favorites, or if you have a great idea for something you’d like me to post about in the future!

31 Days of All Things Books by NewberyandBeyond.com
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Sunday Photo #4

31 Days of All Things Books by NewberyandBeyond.com
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Happy Sunday! This is the last Sunday photo of my Write 31 Days series. I hope your weekend has been full of books–though maybe not so many books as are shown in this picture.

Write 31 Days: All About Books | A series from NewberyandBeyond.com
When I tried carrying this huge stack of books through the library, a librarian handed me a basket and said, “This is for people who don’t know how to stop.”

The Best of Budapest, Part I

Almost exactly three years ago, I went on a trip that changed my life. As part of my student teaching, I spent eight weeks at an international school in Budapest, Hungary, and I loved every second of it. Right now, I’m back there again, which is almost unbelievable. This country certainly has its flaws (the recent handling of the influx of refugees is a notable instance), but it was my first ever trip abroad, and Hungary still holds a special place in my heart. Enjoy these memories, and when I get back, I’ll post part two!

And because this month is all about books, here’s the main book story I remember from my time overseas: Because I was in eastern Europe, I decided this would be the perfect time to finally read Dracula (Hungary gets at least a few passing mentions in the book). I started it and promptly abandoned it 15% of the way in, it freaked me out so badly. I quickly moved on to a re-read of Jane Eyre–not really related to my geographical location, but a lot better suited to my frame of mind!

The Best of Budapest, Part I | 31 Days of All Things Books by NewberyandBeyond.com
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