September 12, 2009

Take Me Away...Triple Threat

Take Me Away Saturday

As a lover of books that take place in different cultures and are about different cultures, Take Me Away is a way to share this love with you, my readers and friends!

Each week I feature a different country or culture (ex. Cherokee, Jewish, etc. that do not have a specific country per se) and list some books that can transport you there.

I am keeping a map of the countries we visit and a list of the specific cultures, which you can see at the bottom of this post. Here is a list of where we've been so far:
Inuit Culture Egypt
Australian Aborigines
Brazil India
Sierra Leone
Sioux Nation
Spain Japan
Haiti Kenya
Norway Taiwan
Turkey Chile

This week we are visiting the countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. These three countries together are known as The Baltic States. They are in Northern Europe beside the Baltic Sea.

Here is an easy to see map of where these countries are located:
For more information on these countries, click here.

Click on the titles of the books to go to or Barnes & to read reviews and/or purchase the book.

The Baltic Revolution: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Path to Independence by Anatol Lieven
Anatol Lieven presents an intimate and engaging portrait of the history and culture of the Baltic states from their ancient origins to their contemporary status. He explores the culture and personality of the Baltic peoples, their religious and racial differences, their relations with Russia and with the West. Drawing on a wide range of sources including interviews, newspaper accounts, and his own observations, he describes and analyzes the rise of national movements in each of the three countries after Glastnost and the possibilities for democracy and Europeanization or for ethnic conflict and nationalist dictatorship. Publisher: Yale University Press Genre: Nonfiction, European History, World War I

War in the Woods by Mart Laar
With the Soviet reoccupation after World War II, Estonians faced a choice of submitting to Communist puppets or trying to survive in the traditional refuge of their forests while waiting for help from the West which never came. Those who chose the second course, Estonia's "Forest Brothers", mounted an armed resistance which, for more than a decade, seriously challenged Soviet rule. This is their story, told for the first time by sources within Estonia. This account is drawn from interviews with Forest Brothers who survived and relatives of those who died, and from documents and photographs from Soviet KGB files. It reflects Estonian courage and humor, the faith and sacrifice of a people suppressed, and the indomitable determination of a free nation to regain independence. Publisher: Howell's House Genre: Nonfiction, European History, World War II, Politics

The Rings of My Tree: A Latvian Woman's Journey by Jane E. Cunningham
A young Latvian woman is caught up in a whirlwind of war forcing her into an unnatural migration for life. Her life is saved by good timing, acts of kindness, her own passivity, and a stranger in uniform. A story of extraordinary strength and honesty. An insight into daily living inside Nazi Germany for those forced to fly before they had wings of courage. Publisher: Llumina Press Genre: Nonfiction, Biography, European History, Women's History

A Visitor from Latvia by Sandra Upeslacis
The Petersons family of Toronto receives a visitor from the homeland. Life will never be the same, and romance may be to blame. A Visitor from Latvia follows the trials and tribulations of Andrejs Kalnins, a young Latvian lawyer, and his lively Canadian cousin, Klara. This is a story about love and relationships, loss and reconciliation, and the enduring resilience of families set against the backdrop of the Latvian-Canadian and contemporary Latvian experience. Publisher: Town Press Genre: Fiction, Women's Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Knitted Lace of Estonia: Techniques, Patterns, and Traditions by Nancy Bush
Combining some of the oldest knitted artifacts in Northern Europe with authentic tips and expert advice, this distinctive guidebook demonstrates a wide range of knitting knowledge. Featuring 14 heirloom-quality projects, this savvy reference includes traditional lace-knitting techniques such as the starburst, twig, peacock, and lily of the valley patterns. Modern variations on classic methods and adding lace edges are also explored, and photographs from several Estonian museums beautifully illustrate various completed designs. With accessible graphed and written instructions, the projects include Estonian-style shawls, stoles, and scarves. Publisher: Interweave Press Genre: Nonfiction, Crafts

Night of the Hawk by Dale Brown
Set in the immediate future, this blockbuster demonstrates the exciting possibilities open to the techno-thriller in a post-Soviet world. Lithuania, seeking to remove the last traces of Soviet rule, plans to get rid of a secret research facility where scientists have developed a Stealth-type bomber--with the involuntary aid of none other than David Luger, presumed killed in Flight of the Old Dog . Luger has instead been captured, brainwashed and given a new identity, but somehow he has retained his professional expertise. Informed of his survival, the U.S. government mounts a rescue. But Gen. Brad Elliott, who led the Old Dog mission, makes plans of his own involving the EB-42 Megafortress, with its bristling array of missiles and electronics. Then the two operations become entangled in a Lithuanian uprising and an invasion from neighboring Belarus. While the rescue subplot is neither credible nor necessary, and while the Old Dog's frequently recycled crew is becoming somewhat shopworn, the Lithuanian story line sets the stage for dramatic high-tech adventure. Publisher: Penguin Group Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Action & Adventure

The Merry Baker of Riga by Boris Zemtzov
Mix one American expatriate, "inherited" managers, Soviet-trained bakers, and a Danish baking instructor with an Irish accent. Blend in the collapse of the Soviet legal system, derelicts that heave bricks through windows for sport, and mafiya racketeers. Put all them together in a decrepit bakery plant, and you will have just a taste of what lies between the pages of Boris Zemtzov's charming new travelogue, "The Merry Baker of Riga." An American businessman with no roots in Latvia, Boris Zemtzov nonetheless decided to establish a Western-style bakery there in 1992, just after the collapse of the Soviet. Forced to ramp up to speed with learning the culture of a new country, he must also find a common language with the managers he "inherited" from the Soviet Enterprise. Together they divide tasks and work to establish "The Merry Baker," repairing a decrepit bakery plant, finding retail space where almost none exists, and re-training Soviet-trained bakers. Along the way, Zemtzov's experience with Russian mafiya, racketeers who threaten to drive him out of business results in the first "sting" operation launched by an expatriate in the former Soviet Union. Publisher: Stanford Oak Press Genre: Nonfiction, Travelogue

Vilnius Poker by Ricardas Gavelis and Elizabeth Novickas
An assemblage of troubled grotesques struggle to retain identity and humanity in an alternately menacing and mysterious Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, under Soviet rule in the 1970s and 1980s. The late Gavelis's first translation into English centers on Vytautas Vargalys, a semijustifiably paranoid labor camp survivor who works at a library no one visits while he desperately investigates the Them or They responsible for dehumanizing and killing the humans around him, including his wife, Irena; his genius friend, Gedis; and the young siren, Lolita. Meanwhile, failed intellectual Martynas chronicles Vargalys's struggle and the city's mysterious energy in his mlog, library worker Stefanija Monkeviciute dwells on her wavering faith and personal humiliations, and the city itself speaks in the voice of a dog, claiming that Vilnius can't distinguish dreams from reality. Wrought—and fraught—with symbolism and ennui, the oppressive internal monologues of the characters and the city show the intense importance and equal absurdity of life. Publisher: Open Letter Books Genre: Fiction, Mystery

The Food and Cooking of Estonia, Latvia, & Lithuania by Silvena Johen
The carefully compiled selection by Baltic specialist Silvena Johen conveys the eating traditions of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Supported with over 300 specially commissioned photographs, the reader can absorb the diverse influences and relish the rustic tastes of these three little-known cuisines. Publisher: Anness Publishing, Ltd. Genre: Nonfiction, Cooking

This is not, of course, an exhaustive list. Do you want to share book recommendations that feature Estonia, Latvia, and/or Lithuania? Or do you want to share other thoughts? Please leave a note in the comments!

Be sure to check back next week for another trip in books! Here is what is coming up for the next three Take Me Away Saturday posts:

September 19: The Asian country of Vietnam
September 26: South American country of Peru
October 3: The country of New Zealand (Fiction Edition)

The Take Me Away Map of Countries Visited:

Cultures Visited:
Sioux Culture
Australian Aborigines
Inuit Culture


  1. The cover for knitted Lace of Estonia is just gorgeous. The Rings of My Tree sounds really interesting. A friend of mine from college is Latvian. Her parents managed to get out during the war. This might be a story I would really like.

  2. Estonians are also known for their song festivals. During the USSR years, the Soviets attempted Russification - that is, insisting all their people and those in the satellite countries speak Russian and use it to conduct official business. There was a lot of resistance, but because of the attachment Estonians have to their singing, resistance took a really interesting form there.

    In June, 1987, a cycle of mass demonstrations started featuring spontaneous singing in Tallinn (capital of Estonia). Over 10,000 people a night packed the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds, where they sang patriotic and national songs forbidden by the Soviet regime. By 1988, some 300,000 Estonians were going to these songfest protests!

    I know there is a movie about it, "The Singing Revolution," and probably a book, but you can read about the movie here:

  3. nice. Those look like great books. ive always been really interested in russia and eastern europe- looks right up my alley! :-)

  4. You just keep giving me more books ideas to add to be tbr list!!
    I have an award for you here

  5. Your posts on international books really amaze me!! Someday I hope to catch up with you. :-)

  6. How coolio! I honestly don't know much about these countries. In fact, if you didn't mention they were the Baltic States, I'd have a hard time finding them on a map (geography was never my strong suit).

  7. I don't know that I've ever read anything from any of these countries. Thanks for spotlighting possible reads.

  8. I really really liked this post. I'm currently reading a book that takes place in Pakistan/India and the conflict about Kashmir. I love this feature because I really like to learn about other cultures/people/religion/ name it!! There are many books you listed today that I would seriously like to read! :)


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