For those days we are unable to travel, here is another handful of books we have read and enjoyed.
100 Journeys for the Spirit: Sacred, Inspiring, Mysterious, Enlightening - various authors
Sacred grounds and even simple landscapes can put us in direct touch with the spirit. From the prehistoric megaliths of Carnac in Brittany to the Shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad, Iran, to the giant medicine wheel at Bighorn, Wyoming, 100 Journeys for the Spirit reveals the mysticism enveloped in these tranquil settings. Accompanying the superb photographs are descriptions of each place, including 25 personal responses from esteemed writers and poets. Plus, a gazetteer provides key facts for those wishing to visit the locations themselves.
Adventure Coordinators review - I loved this book. I read it during the pandemic and it was a balm for my soul. When you read it you will find some places speak to you and others less so. But it is good to be reminded that some places are more than a mere sight. 8.5 out of 10
Around the world in 80 trains - Monisha Rajesh
From the author of Around India in 80 Trains comes another witty and irreverent look at the world and a celebration of the glory of train travel. Monisha offers a wonderfully vivid account of life, history and culture in a book that will make you laugh out loud - and reflect on what it means to be a global citizen - as you whirl around the world in its pages
Packing up her rucksack - and her fiancé, Jem - Monisha embarks on an unforgettable adventure that will take her from London's St Pancras station to the vast expanses of Russia and Mongolia, North Korea, Canada, Kazakhstan, and beyond. The ensuing journey is one of constant movement and mayhem, as the pair strike up friendships and swap stories with the hilarious, irksome and ultimately endearing travellers they meet on board, all while taking in some of the earth's most breathtaking views.
Adventure Coordinators review - a good read, even though some areas get skimmed over rather quickly. It made me long for a train journey shared with strangers you would have otherwise never met. 8 out of 10
Access all areas - Sara Wheeler
Sara Wheeler has shown that she is not only one of the finest travel writers of her generation but a very fine biographer too. Published to coincide with her fiftieth birthday, Access All Areas gathers together a selection of her shorter pieces, both journalism and introductions to other books.
As one would expect, the frozen poles of the earth feature often, whether she is spending the night in Captain Scott's hut or reliving the adventures of Shackleton and Nansen. But its hot places feature too - Malawi, Kerala, Cuba and Bangladesh.
Adventure Coordinators review - as always, I love Sara Wheeler's travel writing. But this publication is heavy on book introductions, reviews and sundry short articles, which makes it feel a little bit like the publisher ran out of material and threw a few things together just to get a book to market. 6 out of 10 for the whole book, 8 out of 10 for the travelogues.
Four Scottish Journeys: An Identity Rediscovered - Andrew Eames
Travelling through the wild north-west in winter, between Clyde and Tweed in spring, through the Hebrides in summer and along the east coast in autumn, the author explores Scotland through the people he meets along the way. His range covers steel workers from Ravenscraig and marginalized Highland landowners, peat-cutting on Islay and prawn-trawling in the Clyde, talking to the new millionaire owner of the island of Gigha and visiting an oil rig following the ceilidh trail up the islands and joining the royal watchers at the Braemar Gathering. The result is a picture of Scotland as it really is today, not under a tartan wrapping.
Adventure Coordinators review - thoroughly enjoyed Andrew Eames' storytelling, somewhat of a lost art. The people he meets and the history behind places really liven up his travel account. 8.5 out of 10
Behind Putin's curtain - Stephan Orth
In this humorous and thought-provoking book, Orth ventures through Russia's vast and mysterious territory to uncover a real, unfiltered country not seen in today’s headlines: authentic, bizarre, dangerous, and beautiful. Sidestepping the well-trod tourist path, he travels the country from Moscow to Vladivostok — across seven time zones and almost 9,500 kilometers — making stops in Chechnya, Saint Petersburg, Siberia, and beyond. Staying with an eclectic array of hosts, he bumps into gun nuts, Internet conspiracy theorists, faux shamans, and Putin fans; learns to drive in death-defying Russian style; and discovers how to cure hangovers by sniffing rye bread. But he also sees a darker side of the country, witnessing firsthand the effects of Putin’s influence in the run-up to the 2016 American election and the power of propaganda in this “post-fact” era.
Adventure Coordinators review - a laugh-out-loud book at times, this book made me want to visit Russia again, specifically those off-the-beaten-track places Stephan Orth writes about, and to meet with the country's wonderful people. 8 out of 10.
An Empire of the East: Travels in Indonesia - Norman Lewis
Graham Greene called Lewis "one of the best"; Pico Iyer said he's "one of the world's last unguarded secrets"; and Anthony Burgess said "his prose is almost edible." And yeah, he's pretty good. Lewis visits deep into the leafy and political jungles of Sumatra, East Timor, and Irian Jaya,describing the lurking perils of Indonesian restaurants that cook their food once a week and political land mines as well. "Empire" is a scholarly and well-written treatment of Indonesia.
Adventure Coordinators review - I liked the book for Lewis' travels to off-the-beaten-track areas and reporting on the issues at hand. I did at times have to do a double take - his flowery language and comments bordering on racist had me think the book was written in 1893 rather than 1993. 7 out of 10.
Lonely Planet 1000 Ultimate Adventures
Hankering to tackle a long-distance trek, or an icy mountain peak? 1000 Ultimate Adventures brings together activities and challenges to captivate and inspire gung-ho adventurers and armchair travellers alike. From the epic to the local, on land, sea or even in mid air, the offerings here will encourage you to dream, plan and set off on your own adventure. Explore the world!
Adventure Coordinators review - A good selection of soft and hardcore adventures around the world, listing both classic trips and lesser-known ones. 8 out of 10
The Immeasurable World: Journeys in Desert Places - William Atkins
In the classic literary tradition of Bruce Chatwin and Geoff Dyer, and for readers of Ryszard Kapuscinski and Rory Stewart, a rich and exquisitely written account of travels in eight deserts on five continents that evokes the timeless allure of these remote and forbidding places and their inhabitants. Restless, unhappy in love, and intrigued by the Desert Fathers who forged Christian monasticism in the Egyptian desert, William Atkins decided to travel in six of the world's driest, hottest places: the Empty Quarter of Oman, the Gobi and Taklamakan Desert of northwest China, the Great Victoria Desert of Australia, the man-made desert of the Aral Sea in Kazkahstan, the Black Rock and Sonoran Deserts of the American Southwest, and Egypt's Eastern Desert. Each of his travel narratives effortlessly weaves aspects of natural history, historical background, and present-day reportage into a compelling tapestry that reveals the human appeal of these often inhuman landscapes.
Adventure Coordinators review - enjoyed the author taking me to places few travellers venture and showing parts of the world unknown to most. 7.5 out of 10