Emperor Guan, Three Pines Newsletter, Lighthouses, Library Museums & More: Endnotes 26 August

Emperor Guan, Three Pines Newsletter, Lighthouses, Library Museums & More: Endnotes 26 August

Friday, 26 August, 2022

Every Friday, we celebrate the weekend — and all the reading and relaxing and daydreaming time ahead — with Melissa's favorite book- and travel-related links of the week. Why work when you can read fun stuff?!

This post is part of our Endnotes series.


The regal-looking monkey above is a depiction of Emperor Guan, a beloved mythical character in China, based on the 3rd-century, real-life military general named Guan Yu. Legend says that Guan Yu was smart, brave, loyal, and strong enough to fight ten thousand people at once. He was deified during the Sui Dynasty, and his adventures were chronicled in the 14th-century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingoms (which is the Chinese equivalent of the Iliad). Then a few years ago, British artist Thomas Powell memorialized Emperor Guan in this mural on a wall in Penang, Malaysia. Powell is beloved in his adopted home of George Town for his colorful street art and his unique depictions of the Chinese zodiac which combine animal heads with human bodies. ‘I was painting a pair of deer-headed pieces when it hit me: because all the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac are meant to represent people, why not draw an animal head on a human body, symbolizing what the creature represents.’ Learn more about the artist in this interview and his website.

  • Ooh, this is fun and will add some great books to your TBR: The worst fashion disasters in fiction. ‘Clothes can be many things. They keep us warm. They offer comfort. They differentiate a wedding from a funeral. They can make us feel more like ourselves, or render us someone else entirely. But these scenes of sartorial disaster and distress, as well as, on occasion, defiance, acknowledge that fashion is not always easy or enjoyable.’

  • Sort of related: A ‘what are you wearing?’ quiz featuring garments and shoes from around the world.

  • The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson is a fantastic book, and I couldn’t be more excited that Keanu Reeves will be playing Daniel H. Burnham, the architect of the World’s Fair of 1893 in Chicago. (Maybe you want to celebrate by making some Chicago Dogs?)

  • Summer’s not over yet! Here are 7 historic lighthouses that stand guard over rocky cliffs and sandy beaches.

  • You can ride a railbike through California’s ancient redwood groves, and it looks like so much fun. ‘Railbikes are two-seated, four-wheeled designs that run along the centuries-old tracks through the ancient forests just outside of Fort Bragg. Made with lightweight materials, the upcycled rigs are largely pedal-powered, although they have an electric component for hills and more difficult stretches of the miles-long route.’

  • These National Geographic photos of polar bears napping among flowers and enjoying leisurely swims are like getting punched in the face with happiness.

  • On pretending to have read books. ‘We have always been prone to exaggerate our capacity for books, but talking about specific books one has not read — let alone basing entire stand-up sets on them — used to be frowned upon… But it was also as easily remedied, should one wish. There were a few classics one needed to be acquainted with — Middlemarch, Vanity Fair, perhaps Mme Bovary to show willing — and only three or four new books a year of importance — Bonfire of the Vanities, Wild Swans, perhaps a reissue of Absolute Beginners. [Now] it is quite impossible to keep up or even to tread water.’

 illustration of three pine trees with the words coming fall 2022

  • Inspector Gamache fans assemble! I’m super excited to let you know I’ll be contributing to Notes from Three Pines, a fanzine on substack inspired by Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache novels. The essays will celebrate the food, the characters, the rich relationships, and the vivid settings the author weaves into her stories. You can sign up for the free newsletter right here.

  • Slovenia is a beautiful place with hiking in the Julian Alps and boating on Lake Bled, plus the charming capital city of Ljubljana, castles, and fantastic food. Inside Hook makes a case for why you should visit Slovenia asap, and our travel-writer pal Mark Baker shares his latest adventures there, which included kayaking and mountain biking in a cave.

  • 9 of the Best Travel Podcasts to Take You Away. (And here’s a previous list of 10 Podcasts to Help You Find Your Next Favorite Book.

  • ‘In the Chester Beatty Library, there are books made entirely of jade. There are picture scrolls featuring calligraphy by the brother of the Japanese emperor. There are papyrus codices… Armenian hymnals, Renaissance catalogues of war machines, and monographs on native Australian fauna. There is all of this and more — thousands and thousands of other works diverse in period and place of origin, waiting for human eyes.’ Read more in Ode to the Library Museum.

  • Well, this is mesmerizing:


New Episode of The Library of Lost Time

In each mini-podcast episode, we discuss two book releases at the top of our TBR, then share a fun book- or travel-related distraction. Get all the episodes and books galore here.

 photo of actor douglas henshall in a blue coat standing on a dock by the ocean

This time, we get excited about two new book releases: Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Daniel Silva and A Dreadful Splendor by B.R. Myers. Then Mel explains why she’s smitten with Detective Inspector Jimmy Pérez and the Shetland TV series, based on the books by Ann Cleeves. [transcript]


Wishing you something so cool, it makes your head spin.

Top image courtesy of Colin Roe/Unsplash.

Want to keep up with our book-related adventures? Sign up for our newsletter!

keep reading

Every Friday, we share our favorite book- and travel-related links. This week, we've got an over-the-top reading journal, underrated European cities, the romance of Elinor Glyn, uncanny Daphne du Maurier, and more.
Every Friday, we share our favorite book- and travel-related links. This week, we've got a 20-year book club, the history of amusement parks, best US bookstores, national park restaurants, travel posters, and more.
Every Friday, we share our favorite book- and travel-related links. This week, we've got the most beautiful museum restrooms, a charming comic about tea, a dragon attack quiz, an essay by Andrew Sean Greer, and more.

sharing is caring!

Can you help us? If you like this article, share it your friends!

our mission

Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.

our patreon

Strong Sense of Place is a listener-supported podcast. If you like the work we do, you can help make it happen by joining our Patreon! That'll unlock bonus content for you, too — including Mel's secret book reviews and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.

get our newsletter
We'll never share your email with anyone else. Promise.

This is a weekly email. If you'd like a quick alert whenever we update our blog, subscribe here.

no spoilers. ever.

We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.

super-cool reading fun
reading atlas

This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.

get our newsletter
We'll never share your email with anyone else. Promise.
follow us

Content on this site is ©2024 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.