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
Into The Abyss - Benedict Allen
Why do explorers put themselves in dangerous situations? And, once the worst possible situation occurs, how do they find the resources to survive?
In answering these questions, Benedict Allen weaves a series of tales from his own experience as well as that of other explorers including Columbus, Cortez, Scott, Shakelton, Stanley, Livingstone and their modern counterparts: Joe Simpson and Ranulf Fiennes.
Adventure Coordinators review - could have been an interesting read but the book is missing proper structure. What's left is an adventure tale of dogsledding in Siberia. 6 out of 10
The 8:55 to Baghdad: From London to Iraq on the Trail of Agatha Christie - Andrew Eames
With her marriage to her first husband, Archie Christie, over, she decided to take a much needed holiday; the Caribbean had been her intended destination, but a conversation at a dinner party with a couple who had just returned from Iraq changed her mind. Five days later she was off on a completely different trajectory. Merging literary biography with travel adventure, and ancient history with contemporary world events, Andrew Eames tells a riveting tale and reveals fascinating and little-known details en route in this exotic chapter in the life of Agatha Christie. His own trip from London to Baghdad--a journey much more difficult to make in 2002 with the political unrest in the Middle East and the war in Iraq, than it was in 1928--becomes ineluctably intertwined with Agatha's, and the people he meets could have stepped out of a mystery novel. Fans of Agatha Christie will delight in Eames' description of the places and events that appeared in and influenced her fiction--and armchair travelers will thrill in the exotica of the journey itself.
Adventure Coordinators review - entertaining enough, even for those who never read Agatha Christie. 7 out of 10
A goddess in the stones - Norman Lewis
In the 1990s, the fifty-four million members of India’s tribal colonies accounted for seven percent of the country’s total population—yet very little about them was recorded. Norman Lewis depicts India’s jungles as being endangered by “progress,” and his sense of urgency in recording what he can about the country’s distinct tribes results in a compelling and engaging narrative. From the poetic Muria people whose diet includes monkeys, red ants, and crocodiles, to the tranquil mountain tribes who may be related to the Australian Aborigines, to the naked Mundas people who may shoot, with bow and arrow, anyone who laughs in their direction, Lewis chronicles the unique characteristics of the many tribes that find their way of life increasingly threatened by the encroachment of modernity.
Adventure Coordinators review - I was unprepared for a part of the world where tribes have only just emerged from the jungle. Lewis does a great job at researching and describing his travels. 8 out of 10.
Landfalls: On the Edge of Islam with Ibn Battutah - Tim Mackintosh-Smith
For Ibn Batuttah of Tangier, being medieval didn’t mean sitting at home waiting for renaissances, enlightenments, and air travel. It meant traveling the known world to its limits. Seven centuries later, Tim Mackintosh-Smith’s fascination takes him to landfalls in remote tropical islands, torrid Indian Ocean ports, and dusty towns on the shores of the Saharan sand-sea. His zigzag itinerary across time and space leads from Zanzibar to the Alhambra (via the Maldives, Sri Lanka, China, Mauritania, and Guinea) and to a climactic conclusion to his quest for the man he calls "IB"—a man who who spent his days with saints and sultans and his nights with an intercontinental string of slave-concubines. Tim’s journey is a search for survivals from IB’s world—material, human, spiritual, edible—however, when your fellow traveler has a 700-year head start, familiar notions don’t always work.
Adventure Coordinators review - I enjoyed this book for some of its descriptions of what real down-to-earth travels are all about. The author vividly describes some far-off places and I can't wait to read the other books in this trilogy. 8 out of 10