When I can't travel, I read about travel. Here are eight more travelogues I enjoyed.
Hum If You Don't Know the Words – Bianca Marais
Life under Apartheid has created a secure future for Robin Conrad, a ten-year-old white girl living with her parents in 1970s Johannesburg. In the same nation but worlds apart, Beauty Mbali, a Xhosa woman in a rural village in the Bantu homeland of the Transkei, struggles to raise her children alone after her husband's death. Both lives have been built upon the division of race, and their meeting should never have occurred...until the Soweto Uprising, in which a protest by black students ignites racial conflict, alters the fault lines on which their society is built, and shatters their worlds when Robin’s parents are left dead and Beauty’s daughter goes missing.
Told through Beauty and Robin's alternating perspectives, the interwoven narratives create a rich and complex tapestry of the emotions and tensions at the heart of Apartheid-era South Africa. It is a beautifully rendered look at loss, racism, and the creation of family.
Adventure Coordinators review - a gripping story with lots of twists, sparkling with the dry wit I remember from my South African travels. 8 out of 10.
In the Empire of Genghis Khan - Stanley Stewart
Vivid, hilarious, and compelling, this eagerly awaited book takes its place among the travel classics. It is a thrilling tale of adventure, a comic masterpiece, and an evocative portrait of a medieval land marooned in the modern world. Eight and a half centuries ago, under Genghis Khan, the Mongols burst forth from Central Asia in a series of spectacular conquests that took them from the Danube to the Yellow Sea. Their empire was seen as the final triumph of the nomadic "barbarians." In this remarkable book Stanley Stewart sets off on a pilgrimage across the old empire, from Istanbul to the distant homeland of the Mongol hordes. The heart of his odyssey is a thousand-mile ride, traveling by horse, through trackless land.
On a journey full of bizarre characters and unexpected encounters, he crosses the desert and mountains of central Asia to arrive at the windswept grasslands of the steppes, the birthplace of Genghis Khan.
Adventure Coordinators review - this book brought back lots of memories of my own trip to Mongolia. A great read for anyone who has been or is planning to go. 8 out of 10
The Arctic Grail: The Quest for the North West Passage and the North Pole - Pierre Berton
Scores of nineteenth-century expeditions battled savage cold, relentless ice and winter darkness in pursuit of two great prizes: the quest for the elusive Passage linking the Atlantic and the Pacific and the international race to reach the North Pole. Pierre Berton's #1 best-selling book brings to life the great explorers: the pious and ambitious Edward Parry, the flawed hero John Franklin, ruthless Robert Peary and the cool Norwegian Roald Amundsen. He also credits the Inuit, whose tracking and hunting skills saved the lives of the adventurers and their men countless times.
These quests are peopled with remarkable figures full of passion and eccentricity. They include Charles Hall, an obscure printer who abandoned family and business to head to a frozen world of which he knew nothing; John Ross, whose naval career ended when he spotted a range of mountains that didn't exist; Frederick Cook, who faked reaching the North Pole; and Jane Franklin, who forced an expensive search for her missing husband upon a reluctant British government.
Pierre Berton, who won his first Governor General's award for The Mysterious North, here again gives us an important and fascinating history that reads like a novel as he examines the historic events of the golden age of Arctic exploration.
Adventure Coordinators review - a must read for anyone travelling to the Canadian Arctic and wishing to give more meaning to their journey. 8.5 out of 10
The Once and Future World, Nature As It Was, As It Is, As It Could Be - J.B. MacKinnon
From one of Canada's most exciting writers and ecological thinkers, a book that changes the way we see nature and shows that in restoring the living world, we are also restoring ourselves.
The Once and Future World began in the moment J.B. MacKinnon realized the grassland he grew up on was not the pristine wilderness he had always believed it to be. Instead, his home prairie was the outcome of a long history of transformation, from the disappearance of the grizzly bear to the introduction of cattle. What remains today is an illusion of the wild--an illusion that has in many ways created our world.
In three beautifully drawn parts, MacKinnon revisits a globe exuberant with life, where lions roam North America and 20 times more whales swim in the sea. He traces how humans destroyed that reality, out of rapaciousness, yes, but also through a great forgetting. Finally, he calls for an "age of restoration," not only to revisit that richer and more awe-filled world, but to reconnect with our truest human nature. MacKinnon never fails to remind us that nature is a menagerie of marvels. Here are fish that pass down the wisdom of elders, landscapes still shaped by "ecological ghosts," a tortoise that is slowly remaking prehistory. "It remains a beautiful world," MacKinnon writes, "and it is its beauty, not its emptiness, that should inspire us to seek more nature in our lives."
Adventure Coordinators review - while strictly not a travel book, there is enough here a traveller interested in nature and wildlife might want to learn about his/her chosen destination. 7.5 out of 10