As the long days offer plenty of hours of natural light for reading, now is the perfect time to add to your summer reading list. The following books will undoubtedly keep readers turning pages throughout their summer vacations.
Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff is a fascinating look at the life of one of the most well-known and perhaps least understood female historical figures. The complicated, to say the least, ruler of Egypt is probably best known through the many depictions in literature and in film, notably the massive production starring Elizabeth Taylor which is probably the first thing that comes to mind when we think of Cleopatra. Though a massive amount has been written about Cleopatra through the ages, most of it was written years after her death. Documents from her lifetime are scarce and there may be only one with her actual handwriting from 33 BC, a single word, ginesthoi, Greek for “Let it be done.” If you are wondering why a book about “that Egyptian woman” would be mentioned here in a Greek-American newspaper, it should be noted that Cleopatra belonged to the ruling family of Egypt, the Ptolemies, who were, of course, Greek.
Regional Greek Cooking by Dean and Catherine Karayanis offers a charming culinary journey through Greece and opens with an enchanting introduction that sums up the powerful connections between Greek cuisine, culture, and family. The book is separated into four parts, Mainland Greece, the Islands, Asia Minor and Cyprus, and Drinks (titled What Would Greeks Drink with This?) and the parts are separated into chapters focusing more closely on specific places within those regions. Recipes for all occasions are featured in the book with the famed ingredients of Greece and Cyprus you would expect to find. From almond cake to Macedonian zucchini pie (kolokithopita) with feta, the book brings together a wide range of recipes to enjoy shared with the authors from villages, tavernas, and restaurants across Greece and Cyprus. The section on the many types of ouzo and wines available throughout Greece as well as the microbreweries producing a wide variety of beers is a useful introduction to the alcoholic beverages Greeks pair with most foods.
Prospero’s Cell: A Guide to the Landscape and Manners of the Island of Corfu by Lawrence Durrell offers a unique look at the island through the acclaimed writer’s perspective. Durrell was a critically hailed and beloved novelist, poet, humorist, and travel writer best known for the Alexandria Quartet of novels, which were ranked by the Modern Library as among the greatest works of English literature in the twentieth century. A passionate and dedicated writer from an early age, Durrell’s prolific career also included the groundbreaking Avignon Quintet, whose first novel, Monsieur (1974), won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and whose third novel, Constance (1982), was nominated for the Booker Prize. He also penned the celebrated travel memoir Bitter Lemons of Cyprus (1957), which won the Duff Cooper Prize. Durrell corresponded with author Henry Miller for 45 years, and Miller influenced much of his early work, including a provocative and controversial novel, The Black Book (1938). Durrell died in France in 1990.
The above-mentioned books are all available online, in libraries and bookstores.