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Eight books that will have you pack your bags and travel (part 11)

At Adventure Coordinators we love travel books. They inspire us to travel, let us learn about destinations we are about to visit or help us understand cultures, history and politics far and wide. In our series of books that inspire to travel, here is another handful.

The places in between - Rory Stewart

In January 2002 Rory Stewart walked across Afghanistan-surviving by his wits, his knowledge of Persian dialects and Muslim customs, and the kindness of strangers. By day he passed through mountains covered in snow, hamlets burned by the Taliban, and communities thriving amid the remains of medieval civilizations. By night he slept on villagers' floors, shared their meals, and listened to their stories of the past. Along the way Stewart met heroes and rogues, tribal elders and teenage soldiers, Taliban commanders and foreign-aid workers. He was also adopted by an unexpected companion-a retired fighting mastiff he named Babur in honor of Afghanistan's first Mughal emperor, in whose footsteps the pair was following.

Through these encounters-by turns touching, con-founding, surprising, and funny-Stewart makes tangible the forces of tradition, ideology, and allegiance that shape life in the map's countless places in between.

Adventure Coordinators review - a good read featuring the people, history and geography of Afghanistan; it taught me a new angle on the causes of conflict in the country. 8 out of 10

Consumption - Kevin Patterson

Consumption is a haunting story of a woman’s life marked by struggle and heartbreak, but it is also much more. It stunningly evokes life in the far north, both past and present, and offers a scathing dissection of the effects of consumer life on both north and south. It does so in an unadorned, elegiac style, moving between times, places and people in beautiful counterpoint. But it is also a gripping detective story, and features medical reportage of the highest order.

Adventure Coordinators review - a good read if you want to learn more about life in Arctic Canada. 7 out of 10

The Olive Series: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Olive Oil in the South of France - Carol Drinkwater

When Carol Drinkwater and her fiancé Michel, are given the opportunity to purchase ten acres of an abandoned olive farm in the South of France, they find the region's splendor impossible to resist. Using their entire savings as a down payment, the couple embark on an adventure that brings them in contact with the charming countryside of Provence, its querulous personalities, petty bureaucracies, and extraordinary wildlife. From the glamour of Cannes and the Îles de Lérins to the charm of her own small plot of land-which she transforms from overgrown weeds into a thriving farm, Drinkwater triumphantly relates how she realized her dream of a peaceful, meaningful life.

Adventure Coordinators review - the 7-volume Olive series makes for an easy read, despite the sometimes poor style. I found volumes 4 and 5 (The Olive Route and The Olive Tree) , where the author travels around the Mediterranean basin the most interesting. 7 out of 10

The Valleys of the Assassins: and Other Persian Travels - Freya Stark

Hailed as a classic upon its first publication in 1934, The Valleys of the Assassins firmly established Freya Stark as one of her generation's most intrepid explorers. The book chronicles her travels into Luristan, the mountainous terrain nestled between Iraq and present-day Iran, often with only a single guide and on a shoestring budget.

Stark writes engagingly of the nomadic peoples who inhabit the region's valleys and brings to life the stories of the ancient kingdoms of the Middle East, including that of the Lords of Alamut, a band of hashish-eating terrorists whose stronghold in the Elburz Mountains Stark was the first to document for the Royal Geographical Society. Her account is at once a highly readable travel narrative and a richly drawn, sympathetic portrait of a people told from their own compelling point of view.

Adventure Coordinators review - ever since seeing an exhibit about the area at the Royal Ontario Museum, the region has intrigued me. The book made therefore for an interesting read, sprinkled as it is with observations and a dose of humor. 7 out of 10

Down the Danube: From the Black Forest to the Black Sea – Guy Arnold

The River Danube, rising in the Black Forest area of southern Germany, and flowing east through eight countries, and three capital cities, is one of the world's great rivers, flowing for 2840 kilometres [1,705 miles] eventually reaching the Black Sea. The widely-travelled author decided to travel its length, beginning by covering the first 400 kilometres from Donaueschingen on foot, and carrying absolute minimum luggage. He gives vivid descriptions of barge travel, towns, cities and villages, the people he meets, but always-the river is the centre of the narrative.

Adventure Coordinators review - the author is mostly a spectator rather than actively meeting people. However, reading about his travels when communism was still a thing in Eastern Europe, made for a good read. 7 out of 10

Horizon - Barry Lopez

From the National Book Award-winning writer, humanitarian, environmentalist and author of the now-classic Arctic Dreams: a vivid, poetic, capacious work that recollects the travels around the world and the encounters--human, animal, and natural--that have shaped his extraordinary life. Poignantly, powerfully, it also asks "How do we move forward?"

Taking us nearly from pole to pole--from modern mega-cities to some of the most remote regions on the earth--Barry Lopez, gives us his most far-ranging yet personal work to date, in a book that moves through decades of his life as it describes his travels to six regions of the world: from the Oregon coast where he lives to the northernmost reaches of Canada; to the Galapagos; to the Kenyan desert; to Botany Bay in Australia; and in the resounding last section of this magisterial book, unforgettably to the ice shelves of Antarctica.

As he revisits these myriad travels, Lopez also probes the long history of humanity's quests and explorations. Through his journeys, and friendships forged along the way with scientists, archaeologists, artists and local residents, Lopez searches for meaning and purpose in a broken world.

Revelatory, powerful, profound, this is an epic work of nonfiction that makes you see the world differently: a crowning achievement by one of our most humane voices--one needed now more than ever.

Adventure Coordinators review - fascinating read, hard in part. I especially enjoyed, and could relate to, his adventures in Antarctica. 7 out of 10

In Sicily - Norman Lewis

A loving take on an extraordinary island, based on Norman Lewis's sixty-year fascination with all things Sicilian. Dedicated to a Sicilian journalist killed by a Mafia bomb, Lewis rarely lets us forget the presence of organized crime. We benefit from his friendships with policemen, journalists, and common people. Moreover, he writes beautifully of landscape and language, of his memories of his first father-in-law (professional gambler, descendant of princes and member of the Unione Siciliana), of Sicily's changing sexual mores, of the effects of African immigration, of Palermo and its ruined palaces - and of strange superstitions, witches, bandits, and murder.

Adventure Coordinators review - it took me a while to get into Lewis' writing style but once i did I read the book twice, back to back. Sicily was bumped up my bucket list because of this book. 8.5 out of 10

Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica - Sara Wheeler

This is a book about the call of the wild and the response of the spirit to a destination that exists perhaps most vividly in the mind. Sara Wheeler spent seven months in Antarctica, living with its scientists and dreamers. No book is more true to the spirit of that continent--beguiling, enchanted and vast beyond the furthest reaches of our imagination. Chosen by Beryl Bainbridge and John Major as one of the best books of the year, recommended by the editors of Entertainment Weekly and the Chicago Tribune, one of the Seattle Times's top ten travel books of the year, Terra Incognita is a classic of polar literature.

Adventure Coordinators review - loved this book. Funny at times, spiritual at others, insightful and honest throughout. 9 out of 10.nture Coordinators review - a light read, perhaps best saved for the beach (or quarantine). At times it feels a little long winded. Then you realize she has written six more novels on the subject and you wonder how many of those you can read. 6.5 out of 10


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