Summer is in full swing and in case you belong to the lucky group of people who have time for a break from work and to enjoy life, we put together a list of beautiful reads for the beach, the mountain, or simply your city balcony, wherever you find your own personal retreat to indulge in stories about cities across the world.
Flâneuse – Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London by Lauren Elkin
“From the French verb flâner, the flâneur, or ‘one who wanders aimlessly’, was born in the first half of the nineteenth century, in the glass-and-steel-covered passages of Paris. […] the flâneur understands the city as few of its inhabitants do, for he has memorized it with his feet.” A beautiful read, inspired by Virginia Woolf’s Street Haunting, about an American woman wandering around cities in Europe and Asia, understanding the histories of cities and stories of their women, diving into different cultures and different times, trying to understand herself while creating a new life. We recommend buying comfortable shoes together with this book, as you may start wandering, not wanting to stop.
The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf
A historical, adventurous and illuminating read about the life and scientific explorations of Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859). Humboldt a visionary and the most famous scientist of his time advanced the concept of the multi-functionality of nature and collaborated widely across the scientific disciplines. His travels to Latin America and relationships with Goethe, Thomas Jefferson, Simon Bolivar among others informed his view of the natural world and its interconnectedness through the social, physical and life sciences to be a ‘unified whole’ where ‘nature everywhere speaks to man in a voice… familiar to his soul’. Humboldt’s writings may have well laid the foundations for the concept of biophilia and early on recorded the human impact on the natural environment and the unforeseeable consequences on future generations. The book provides an inspiring journey through global geographies, evolving sciences and turbulent times driven by Humboldt’s holistic understanding of the natural world that influenced the work of Charles Darwin, John Muir and any enthusiastic reader.
How Paris became Paris – The Invention of the Modern City by Joan DeJean
A very well researched and charmingly written history of Paris, not just the capital of France, but also the “Capital of the Universe”. A city where the city itself is the monument. A place where most of our current concepts of urban planning and infrastructure systems were coming from, starting with the invention of street lights in the City of Light, the invention of sidewalks in a city where people just walk without a destination, and the invention of public space as means of showing off the latest trends in fashion in the Capital de la Mode. If you haven’t been to Paris, you will definitely book your flight there after having read this book.
Gebrauchsanweisung für Wien by Monika Czernin
Joyfully written directions on where to go and what to see when in Vienna, the world city of classical music, coffee culture, and … quality of life. In a loving way, Monika Czernin describes the not always easily understood attitudes of people living in Vienna, explaining where prejudices come from in this formerly imperial city. Melancholic stories from Vienna’s central cemetery, the aristocracy of its city beach at the Old Danube River, the Gänsehäufel, and illusion and reality when it comes to theater or … politics. Beautifully written and a must-read for everyone living in or traveling to Vienna.
The Nature Fix – Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams
A reoccurring topic at Urban Breezes: biophilia and the effects of nature on people, especially when it comes to city living. Florence Williams spent quite some time researching and traveling around the world to find different concepts on what nature does to the human body and mind. With this book, she was able to collect scientific milestones of this field, combine them with personal experiences she gained in the U.S., Asia, and Europe during her research, and tell an indulging story on her journey of what it is that makes our behavior, attitudes, and mental and physical capacities change in nature. If you haven’t already made a decision on where to go for vacation, you will probably choose a nature setting after reading this book.
Chikago by Theodora Bauer
Austria in the 1920s, two sisters, a fiancé and the possibility to travel across the Atlantic to this faraway land called America. Theodora Bauer, a rising star in the Austrian literature world, beautifully describes how a family makes their way to the land of freedom and big dreams. First, a pre-warning at the arrival in New York, where the Statue of Liberty is looking down on them rather critical than welcoming, and then the story of a family torn apart in the difficulties of immigrant life in the Southside of Chicago. A piece of history of immigrants living in the U.S., as heartbreaking as so many of them are.