Essays

The Monos Reading List

Words By Sheila Lam

 

We've put together a list of works that have inspired us to see the world from a new perspective. These are not city guides, nor are they strictly about travel, but they have nonetheless expanded our global outlook and stoked the embers of adventure.

 

We love picking up a book in person at our favourite book store. Still, for online purposes, we've connected non-affiliate links to each book below on Bookshop.org, a Certified B Corporation which supports local bookshops across the United States. In addition, we highly recommend Better World Books for our Canadian and international readers, which ships new and pre-loved books and donates to hundreds of non-profit organizations. 

 

A Month in Siena by Hisham Matar

A Month in Siena follows the Pulitzer Prize-winning author to the medieval Italian city in search of family, art, and consolation. You are transported through vignettes of Siena, vivid works from the Sienese School of painting, and personal encounters with the city’s inhabitants. A Month in Siena is an exquisite – if at times heartbreaking – pocket memoir that illuminates our inner landscapes and explores the richness and grace of life and loss. With pages so beautifully written, you’ll find yourself returning to these contemplations as often as Matar. 

 

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer explores the idea that we are “the younger brothers of Creation” and how this concept can help us understand our relationship with the world. She weaves her knowledge as a botanist and professor of plant ecology with the wisdom of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation into a compassionate and powerful reminder that we must all listen and learn from this earth. As Kimmerer explores the themes of ecological consciousness, she tenderly recounts the myths of the Potawatomi people and celebrates the many gifts of Turtle Island.

 

Appetites: A Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain

Few saw the world as wonderfully as Anthony Bourdain. A masterful storyteller, one of his most compelling skills was his keen observations and appreciation of the Everyman. Appetites: A Cookbook offers a collection of favourite recipes and unexpectedly, though not unsurprisingly, the most arresting remarks on places and people. To understand, you need not look any further than his passage on the humble NYC bodega sandwich. 

 

 

On Beauty And Being Just by Elaine Scarry

In On Beauty And Being Just, Elaine Scarry argues that beauty can also serve as a force for social justice. She believes beauty's direct appeal to the senses enables us to experience a state of aliveness. This uplifting effect draws attention away from ourselves and toward those around us. In her book, Scarry draws inspiration from various writers and thinkers, including Plato, Homer, and Marcel Proust, offering philosophical criticisms and a passionate plea for change.

 

Out of the Sun: On Race and Storytelling by Esi Edugyan

Internationally acclaimed author Esi Edugyan tackles the relationship between art and race in Out of the Sun, exploring the portrayal of African-American history in art. Through various mediums, including literature, film, and visual art, she draws upon mixed cultural criticism and historical anecdotes to create a framework for exploring “the world of shadows.” Among the topics, she addresses Europe and the Art of Seeing, America, and the Art of Empathy.

 

The World of Apartamento: Ten Years of Everyday Life Interiors by Omar Sosa, Nacho Alegre, and Marco Velardi

With its unique appreciation of home design and engaging chaotic photography, Apartamento breaks traditional boundaries and provides readers with a glimpse into the world’s most inspiring interiors. The World of Apartamento celebrates the magazine’s 10th anniversary and is a testament to influence; featuring over 300 photographs enriched by personal stories of subjects like Chloe Sevigny, Yorgos Lanthimos, and Ezra Koenig.

 

Home/Land: A Memoir of Departure and Return by Rebecca Mead

After 30 years in New York City, writer Rebecca Mead and her family moved back to London, fleeing the political climate in the US and establishing a new home for her dual-national son. In this memoir, Mead explores the various facets of her life, including her childhood in Weymouth, New York, and England, coming to terms with her family’s legacy. It is a touching account of the journey of leaving an adopted country and returning to your native land and all the complexity that bears. 

 

 

In the Distance by Hernan Diaz

In his debut, Hernan Diaz delivers a gripping fictional story about a young Swedish immigrant named Håkan Söderström who is separated from his brother Linus as they travel to America in the 1840s. Realistic in its portrayal of loneliness, foreignness, and exploration, it shares in stunning moments and some of the finest landscape writing. He encounters criminals, naturalists, Indigenous, and religious figures along the way, turning his own tale into legend.

 

Holiday: The Best Travel Magazine That Ever Was by Pamela Fiori

From 1946 to 1977, Holiday was one of the most popular magazines in the world. It was known for its bold and imaginative designs and a roster of talented writers, such as Joan Didion, Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, and Truman Capote. At its peak, Holiday invited postwar America to explore the world, providing a comprehensive view of travel. In her book, Pamela Fiori chronicles the magazine's history and why it stood out amidst the turbulence of the jet age.

 

Ghosts of Spain by Giles Tremlett

With smart and spirited prose, Giles Tremlett applies his experience as a correspondent for The Economist and The Guardian covering Spain and Catalonia tackling politics and social commentary in a love letter to the place he called home for more than 20 years. Ghosts of Spain uncovers the various issues that have affected the country in a provocative and vividly written book, dense in information and historical context.

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