My heart is warm with the friends I make,
And better friends I’ll not be knowing,
Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take,
No matter where it’s going.”
~ from Edna St. Vincent Millay's Travel
Voyager: Travel Writings by Russell BanksThough Russell Banks is known for acclaimed novels such as Affliction and The Sweet Hereafter (which have both been made into award-winning movies), he now turns his keen eye to travel writing. In Voyager, his thought-provoking essays vary in time (taking place over several decades), place (destinations include the Andes, Cuba, Florida, Alaska, North Carolina, Scotland, and the Caribbean), and purpose (such as fun, work, a college reunion, and eloping with his fourth wife). As the essays coalesce, they provide an intimate examination of Banks' life as well as an evocative look at the world.
The Return: Fathers, Sons, and the Land in Between by Hisham MatarHaving left Libya when he was an eight-year-old boy, London-based writer Hisham Matar finally returns, hoping to learn his father's fate. Matar's family fled their homeland when Muammar Qaddafi took control in 1978; they moved first to Kenya, then Egypt, as Qaddafi's government hunted dissidents and their families, kidnapping or murdering them. Matar's father took cloak-and-dagger precautions, but in 1990, he was kidnapped in Cairo and sent to the worst prison in Libya. Riveting, powerful, and personal, The Return is a must-read for anyone interested in Libya or lyrically told family stories; for another look at the effect of political upheaval on ordinary people, pick up Janine di Giovanni's The Morning They Came For Us.
The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America's National Parks by Terry Tempest WilliamsIn honor of the United States National Park Service's centennial this year, naturalist and author Terry Tempest Williams reflects on 12 of the 400+ parks, seashores, monuments, and recreation areas that are, as she so elegantly puts it, "portals and thresholds of wonder." Visiting Gettysburg, Alcatraz Island, Grand Teton, Acadia, Gates of the Arctic, and more, she reflects on her trips and her own past as well as the history of the parks, how politics and people have shaped them and continue to shape them, and the environmental issues they face. Gorgeously illustrated with selections from several accomplished photographers, The Hour of Land is a fascinating book that nature lovers will cherish. Wonder what it'd be like if an entire family traveled to a bunch of the parks? Try Michael Lanza's Before They're Gone.
Walking the Himalayas by Levison WoodWhat does an adventurous travel writer do after walking the length of the Nile? Take a 1,700 mile trek through the Himalayas! Recounting his trip from Afghanistan (where a helicopter dropped him off in a remote area) to Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Bhutan, British explorer and travel writer Levison Wood discusses the history, religions, and cultures of the people he encounters, including His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. There were adventurous moments, too, of course, involving landslides, monsoons, tigers, and crocodiles. Where will Wood go next? It's recently been announced he'll say "hola" to Central America, walking from northeastern Mexico to Colombia.
Midnight in Siberia: A Train Journey into the Heart of Russia by David GreeneDavid Greene, a co-host of NPR's Morning Edition, spent several years based in Russia, and in Midnight in Siberia, he describes his eye-opening travels along the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Traveling third class from Moscow to Vladivostok, he meets ordinary but fascinating people -- from singing babushkas to entrepreneurial teens -- and shares food and time with them. Using this trip as a lens, he also focuses on the challenges faced by 21st-century Russia. For another entertaining look at this vast, storied place, try Ian Frazier's acclaimed Travels in Siberia.
Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo by Tim ParksIs touring Italy via its trains wonderful, terrible, or both? Find out in this humorous, eye-opening travelogue by English ex-pat Tim Parks, who has lived in Italy since 1981. Riding all over the country, from top to toe and many places in between, he uses Italy's trains to examine Italian life, past and present. Describing the memorable people he encounters (many of whom hate the train system), he offers a historical look at the railroads (he rides in cars from pre-World War II and modern high-speed ones) and thoughtfully yet entertainingly ponders Italian society at large. Having raised a family in Italy and written three previous Italian travel books (including the bestselling Italian Neighbors), Parks is an excellent and wryly insightful guide to his adopted country.
Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar by Paul TherouxIn the 1970s, author Paul Theroux took a railroad trip through Eastern Europe, Asia, India, China, Japan, and Siberia, and wrote about his adventures in The Great Railway Bazaar, a book that became a modern travel classic. More than 30 years later, he revisited the past and recreated his journey, which revealed the dramatic changes that had occurred since the writing of his original travelogue. Publishers Weekly says, "no matter where his journey takes him, Theroux always sends back dazzling postcards." Ghost Train to the Eastern Star is a must-read for fans of Theroux, travel, and trains.
Train: Riding the Rails that Created the Modern World -- From the Trans-Siberian... by Tom ZoellnerDo you love trains or wonder what the world would be like without them? Then climb on board the Train express! Combining fascinating social history and a sparkling travelogue with lyrical language, author (and train buff) Tom Zoellner engagingly chronicles the innovation and sociological impact of railway technologies that have changed and continue to change the world. Lucky him, he also travels to such far-flung locales as India, Britain, Russia, China, Peru, Spain, and the United States, soaking up local culture and riding an assortment of trains, from old stalwarts to modern bullet trains. All aboard!
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