When I don't travel, I love to read about places I have been, places I plan to travel to, or places I might otherwise never consider.
Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe - Kapka Kassabova
In this extraordinary work of narrative reportage, Kapka Kassabova returns to Bulgaria, from where she emigrated as a girl twenty-five years previously, to explore the border it shares with Turkey and Greece.
Kassabova discovers a place that has been shaped by successive forces of history: the Soviet and Ottoman empires, and, older still, myth and legend. Her exquisite portraits of fire walkers, smugglers, treasure hunters, botanists, and border guards populate the book. There are also the ragged men and women who have walked across Turkey from Syria and Iraq. But there seem to be nonhuman forces at work here too: This densely forested landscape is rich with curative springs and Thracian tombs, and the tug of the ancient world, of circular time and animism, is never far off.
Border is a scintillating, immersive travel narrative that is also a shadow history of the Cold War, a sideways look at the migration crisis troubling Europe, and a deep, witchy descent into interior and exterior geographies.
Adventure Coordinators review - a gem of a book - I could not put it down. 9.5 out of 10
True North: Travels In Arctic Europe - Gavin Francis
The stark, vast beauty of the remote Arctic Europe landscape has been the focus of human exploration for thousands of years. In this striking blend of travel writing, history and mythology, Gavin Francis offers a unique portrait of the northern fringes of Europe. His journey begins in the Shetland Isles, takes him to the Faroes, Iceland, Greenland, Svalbard and on to Lapland. Following in the footsteps of the region’s early pioneers, Francis observes how the region has adapted to the 21st century, giving an observed insight into the lives of people he encounters along the way. As with all the best travel writing, True North is an engaging, compassionate tale of self-discovery, whilst blending historical and contemporary narratives in the tradition of Bruce Chatwin and Robert Macfarlane.
Adventure Coordinators review - well researched and a good read about the furthest reaches of Europe. Some of these areas I have travelled to, which made some of his adventures recognizable. 7.5 out of 10
Dancing Bears: True Stories of People Nostalgic for Life Under Tyranny - Witold Szablowski
Szablowski's on-the-ground reporting—of smuggling a car into Ukraine, hitchhiking through Kosovo as it declares independence, arguing with Stalin-adoring tour guides at the Stalin Museum, sleeping in London’s Victoria Station alongside a homeless woman from Poland, and giving taxi rides to Cubans fearing for the life of Fidel Castro—provides a fascinating portrait of social and economic upheaval and a lesson in the challenges of freedom and the seductions of authoritarian rule.
Adventure Coordinators review - while the title is a bit misleading - there is little nostalgy for tyranny in this book - it does provide a fascinating insight into how lives were upended during the fall of Communism. 7 out of 10
A History of the World in 500 Walks - Sarah Baxter
From geologic upheavals and mad kings to trade routes and saints' ways, this book relates the tales behind the top 500 walks that have shaped our society. It's easy to imagine traveling back in time as you read about convicts and conquistadores, silk traders and Buddhists who have hiked along routes for purposes as varied as the terrain they covered. From prehistory to the present day, take a grand tour of world events at eye-level perspective with accounts that combine knowledgeable commentary with practical detail. You may even be inspired to lace up your own boots!
Adventure Coordinators review - I loved this book for its incredible selection of walks. I added some of them to my ever-growing bucket list. 8.5 out of 10
Couchsurfing in Iran: Revealing a Hidden World Paperback – Stephan Orth
In Couchsurfing in Iran, award-winning author Stephan Orth spends sixty-two days on the road in this mysterious Islamic republic to provide a revealing, behind-the-scenes look at life in one of the world's most closed societies. Thanks to hospitable, English-speaking strangers, Orth gets up close and personal with locals, peering behind closed doors and blank windows to uncover the inner workings of a country where public show and private reality are strikingly opposed.
Adventure Coordinators review - good read of a hidden and often misunderstood country. 7.5 out of 10
An Arabian Journey: One Man's Quest Through the Heart of the Middle East - Levison Wood
Starting in September 2017 in a city in Northern Syria, amidst the deadliest war of the twenty-first century, Wood set forth on a 5,000-mile trek through the most contested region on the planet. He moved through the Middle East for six months, from ISIS-occupied Iraq through Kuwait and along the jagged coastlines of the Emirates and Oman; across a civil-war-torn Yemen and on to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel, before ending on the shores of the Mediterranean in Lebanon. Wood challenges our perceptions of this often-misunderstood part of the world. Through the relationships he forges along the way - and the personal histories and local mythologies that his companions share - Wood examines how the region has changed over thousands of years and reveals a side of the Middle East we don't often see in the media.
Adventure Coordinators review - Not one of his best books, littered as it is with preconceptions. 6.5 out of 10
Imperium - Ryszard Kapuscinski
In Imperium, Kapuscinski gives us a work of emotional force and evocative power: a personal, brilliantly detailed exploration of the almost unfathomably complex empire in our time - the Soivet Union.
He begins with his own childhood memories of the Soviet occupation of Poland and a 1967 journey across Siberia, the Caucasus and Central Asia.
Between 1989 and 1991, Kapuscinski made a series of journeys through the disintegrating Soviet empire, and his account of these forms the heart of the book. He traversed the Soviet Union alone, from the border of Poland to the gulags in far-eastern Siberia and from the Arctic Circle to the edge of Afghanistan.
Imperium is a remarkable work from one of the most original and sharply perceptive interpreters of our world -- galvanizing narrative deeply informed by Kapuscinski's limitless curiosity and his passion for truth, and suffused with his vivid sense of the overwhelming importance of history as it is lived, and of our constantly shifting places within it.
Adventure Coordinators review - Kapuscinski is an author with a style all his own. His curiosity and insights know no bounds. 8 out of 10
Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man's Miraculous Survival - Joe Simpson
Touching the Void is the heart-stopping account of Joe Simpson's terrifying adventure in the Peruvian Andes. He and his climbing partner, Simon, reached the summit of the remote Siula Grande in June 1985. A few days later, Simon staggered into Base Camp, exhausted and frost-bitten, with news that that Joe was dead.
What happened to Joe, and how the pair dealt with the psychological traumas that resulted when Simon was forced into the appalling decision to cut the rope, makes not only an epic of survival but a compelling testament of friendship.
Adventure Coordinators review - I did not think one could write such an exhilarating book about a climbing disaster. But Simpson doesn't disappoint. 8 out of 10