OBSERVER NEWS

SAISers Book Trips, and Offer Fall Break Reading Picks

by RUI ZHONG

WASHINGTON — In a matter of days, students, staff and faculty at the Washington campus will prepare to start Fall Break. For some, Fall Break involves a relaxing “stay-cation” to catch up on schoolwork or rest up before final exams. For others, Fall Break presents a week-long opportunity to travel for sightseeing, meet ups, or the celebration of Thanksgiving with family and friends.

Travelers often dread the week of Thanksgiving due to the congestion of long lines and longer-than-usual waits at American airports and train and bus stations. Washington, D.C., a major travel hub, is no exception to this rule. The SAIS Observer asked several students about their travel reading recommendations and what they loved about their books and magazines of choice.

“My favorite magazine is The Economist, because it’s the best congregate of topics that are interesting to me” explains M.A. candidate Yilong Xu. She lists topics such as China, economics and the environment as subjects of interest, and believes that The Economist’s graphics presentation of stories is able to “put [topics] into perspective really well.” Xu also reads the New Yorker and Time Magazine while traveling, but reads The Economist most often due to the subjects it covers.

M.A. candidate Dafe Oputu recommended a few non-fiction books. “Last summer, I really enjoyed reading Devil in the White City [by Erik Larson] while travelling to Chicago,” Oputu said. While the book discusses the factual account of the construction of the Chicago World’s Fair, told in parallel with the crimes of the serial killer H.H. Holmes, Oputu appreciates that the story “is told in a narrative” format. “I love Chicago and I’m a huge history buff,” he explains. He also expressed interest in the topic of urban development, “particularly [of] cities I’m new to.” He plans to travel to Atlanta for Fall Break, picking a more internationally-focused read for the trip in The Fate of Africa: A History of the Continent since Independence, by Martin Meredith. Oputu is also considering Washington Goes to War by David Brinkley, or “how Washington DC grew during and after World War II because government got bigger.”

While traveling, M.A candidate Deepika Padmanabhan prefers books over magazines and newspapers. Her travel reading picks included works of fiction, and she cited Haruki Murakami, Anton Chekov, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky as go-to authors. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami is Padmanabhan’s recommendation, who credits the novel as being “beautifully written in a way that’s familiar but also confrontational in the right way. Even when there are themes of magical realism, it’s all just so sadly familiar.” Regardless of travel plans, she plans on reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera over break. “It’s about a woman who’s in love with a man who loves her but also is a womanizer. But the general theme is that everything happens, all at once, [both] choices and fate. So it ceases to lose that ‘weight’.”

Travel reads are taking SAIS students into current events, within cities and different places, and inside the complex minds of fictional characters. If you have favorite picks for vacations and stay-cations, please let us know by leaving a comment.

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