Books keep me sane when I am not travelling. Here is another selection of books I read in the last little while, guaranteed to make you want to pack your bags and hit the road.
Red sands: reportage and recipes through Central Asia from hinterland to heartland - Carline Eden
Red Sands, the follow-up to Caroline Eden’s multi-award-winning Black Sea, is a reimagining of traditional travel writing using food as the jumping-off point to explore Central Asia. In a quest to better understand this vast heartland of Asia, Caroline navigates a course from the shores of the Caspian Sea to the sun-ripened orchards of the Fergana Valley.
A book filled with human stories, forgotten histories and tales of adventure, Caroline is a reliable guide using food as her passport to enter lives, cities and landscapes rarely written about. Lit up by emblematic recipes, Red Sands is an utterly unique book, bringing in universal themes that relate to us all: hope, hunger, longing, love and the joys of eating well on the road.
Adventure Coordinators review: I loved this book for its human-scale stories, the personal encounters, the photography and recipes. 8.5 out of 10
The old ways - Robert MacFarlane
Robert Macfarlane travels Britain's ancient paths and discovers the secrets of our beautiful, underappreciated landscape.
Following the tracks, holloways, drove-roads and sea paths that form part of a vast ancient network of routes criss-crossing the British Isles and beyond, Robert Macfarlane discovers a lost world - a landscape of the feet and the mind, of pilgrimage and ritual, of stories and ghosts; above all of the places and journeys which inspire and inhabit our imaginations.
Adventure Coordinators review: I loved this book for its insights and its eloquent writing, a style I would call "poetry in motion". Take this observation when he sees a young boy running down a wintry slope, arms outstretched: "Lift is created by the onwards rush of life over the curved wing of the soul " 9 out of 10.
The other side of paradise - Julia Cooke
Change looms in Havana, Cuba's capital, a city electric with uncertainty yet cloaked in clichés. Journalist Julia Cooke, who lived there at intervals over a period of five years, discovered a dynamic scene: baby-faced anarchists with Mohawks gelled with laundry soap, whiskey-drinking children of the elite, Santeriatrainees, pregnant prostitutes, university graduates planning to leave for the first country that will give them a visa.
Eye-opening and politically prescient, The Other Side of Paradise offers a deep new understanding of a place that has so confounded and intrigued us.
Adventure Coordinators review: an enjoyable insightful read although a little slow at times. 6.5 out of 10
The hero's way: Walking with Garibaldi from Rome to Ravenna - Tim Parks
In the summer of 1849, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Italy’s legendary revolutionary, was finally forced to abandon his defense of Rome to prevent slaughter and destruction at the hands of a huge French army.
Against all odds, Garibaldi was determined to turn defeat into moral victory. On the evening of July 2, riding alongside his pregnant wife, Anita, he led 4,000 hastily assembled men to continue the struggle for national independence elsewhere. Hounded by both French and Austrian imperial armies, the garibaldini marched hundreds of miles across the Appenines, Italy’s mountainous spine, and after two months of skirmishes and adventures arrived in Ravenna with just 250 survivors.
Best-selling author Tim Parks set out in the blazing summer of 2019 to follow Garibaldi's arduous journey through the heart of Italy. In The Hero’s Way he delivers a superb travelogue that captures Garibaldi’s determination, creativity, reckless courage, and profound belief.
Adventure Coordinators review: while Parks likes to talk about himself, this did not distract too much from what otherwise is a fascinating story. 8 out of 10.
National parks of Europe - Lonely Planet
A celebration of and practical guide to Europe's areas of incredible natural beauty. Step into a world boasting hilltop coastal villages, frozen Arctic landscapes and sweeping mountain ranges - and discover the 60 most breathtaking national parks, as well as itineraries for experiencing their top sights and activities. The beautiful hardback includes:
- Suggested itineraries for long and short visits
- The essential activities for every season
- Awe-inspiring landscape photography
- How to get to each park and where to stay
- Illustrations of local wildlife to look out for
Adventure Coordinators review: a great inspirational book for anyone who would like to explore a lesser-known side of Europe. 8 out of 10
Rough magic: riding the world's loneliest horse race - Lara Prior-Palmer
At the age of nineteen, Lara Prior–Palmer discovered a website devoted to “the world’s longest, toughest horse race” ― an annual competition of endurance and skill that involves dozens of riders racing a series of twenty–five wild ponies across 1,000 kilometers of Mongolian grassland. On a whim, she decided to enter the race. She was utterly unprepared for what awaited her.
Riders often spend years preparing to compete in the Mongol Derby, a course that re–creates the horse messenger system developed by Genghis Khan. Many fail to finish. Prior–Palmer had no formal training. She was driven by her own restlessness, stubbornness, and a lifelong love of horses. She raced for ten days through extreme heat and terrifying storms, catching a few hours of sleep where she could at the homes of nomadic families. Battling bouts of illness and dehydration, exhaustion and bruising falls, she decided she had nothing to lose. Each dawn she rode out again on a fresh horse, scrambling up mountains, swimming through rivers, crossing woodlands and wetlands, arid dunes and open steppe, as American television crews chased her in their jeeps.
Told with terrific suspense and style, in a voice full of poetry and soul, Rough Magic captures the extraordinary story of one young woman who forged ahead, against all odds, to become the first female winner of this breathtaking race.
Adventure Coordinators review: a great read for anyone interested in Mongolian culture and way of life. 8 out 10
The cyclist who went out in the cold - Tim Moore
Scaling a new peak of rash over-ambition, Tim Moore tackles the 9,000km route of the old Iron Curtain on a tiny-wheeled, two-geared East German shopping bike.
Asking for trouble and getting it, he sets off from the northernmost Norwegian-Russian border at the Arctic winter's brutal height, bullying his plucky MIFA 900 through the endless and massively sub-zero desolation of snowbound Finland.
Sleeping in bank vaults, imperial palaces and unreconstructed Soviet youth hostels, battling vodka-breathed Russian hostility, Romanian landslides and a diet of dumplings, Moore and his 'so-small bicycle' are sustained by the kindness of reindeer farmers and Serbian rock gods, plus a shameful addiction to Magic Man energy drink.
Haunted throughout by the border detritus of watchtowers and rusted razor wire, Moore reflects on the curdling of the Communist dream, and the memories of a Cold War generation reared on the fear of apocalypse -- at a time of ratcheting East-West tension.
After three months, 20 countries and a 58-degree jaunt up the centigrade scale, man and bike finally wobble up to a Black Sea beach in Bulgaria, older and wiser, but mainly older.
Adventure Coordinators review: you sometimes shake your head at the antics Tim Moore thinks up but his books are always enjoyable and insightful. 8.5 out of 10
Pass the butterworms: Remote Journeys Oddly Rendered - Tim Cahill
In Pass the Butterworms Cahill takes us to the steppes of Mongolia, where he spends weeks on horseback alongside the descendants of Genghis Khan and masters the "Mongolian death trot"; to the North Pole, where he goes for a pleasure dip in 36-degree water; to Irian Jaya New Guinea, where he spends a companionable evening with members of one of the last head-hunting tribes.
Whether observing family values among the Stone Age Dani people, or sampling delicacies like sautéed sago beetle and premasticated manioc beer, Cahill is a fount of arcane information and a master of self-deprecating humor.
Adventure Coordinators review: anyone with an interest in travel will find something of interest in this collection of magazine articles. 7.5 out of 10