Havana: A Subtropical Delirium
by Mark Kurlansky
Award-winning author Mark Kurlansky, who wrote the bestesellers Salt and Cod, here turns his keen eye to the beloved city he's been visiting for 30 years: Havana, Cuba. In this adoring travelogue/history, Kurlansky shares personal stories and offers details about the 500-year-old Caribbean city's past and present, people, culture, sports, and music, as well as its appearances in art and literature (yes, Hemingway is discussed). Havana is a complex place, and if you want a talented guide to help you understand this elegant yet downtrodden city, pick up Havana, which includes not only recipes but pen-and-ink drawings by the talented author.
The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung... by Doug MackWhen people think about what makes up the United States, they probably think of the 50 states -- but there are other places that are often forgotten (if people know about them at all). Tracing the author's visits to some far-flung U.S. territories, including the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands, this informative, amusing book provides a fascinating look at each place, its role in history, the people who live there, and their ideas about statehood. If you think you know the United States but can't locate the territories on a map, pick this up -- after all, they are part of the country, too!
The Alps: A Human History from Hannibal to Heidi and Beyond by Stephen O'SheaThough he's afraid of heights, Stephen O'Shea decided to take a road trip across the Alps, visiting parts of France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy, and Slovenia. Driving a souped-up muscle car, he traveled around hairpin turns, through quaint villages, and up and down (and up and down) steep mountain roads. While lightheartedly describing his adventure, he shares information about the people and places he encountered along the way and comments on the rugged area's appearances in history and fiction (covering everyone from Hannibal and Hitler to Mary Shelley, Sherlock Holmes, and Heidi). The Alps should pique the interest of those who enjoy reading fun travelogues full of cool information (Bill Bryson fans, we're talking to you!).
Seeking Something More From Life
A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman by Joan AndersonIf living alone in a rustic Cape Cod cottage for a year while you sort through your future sounds like paradise, read on. Middle-aged Joan Anderson did just that after her husband took a job in another state and she decided she wasn't going with him (the kids were grown and their marriage was stale). Moving into the family's summer cabin, Joan discusses how her explorations -- walking the beach, swimming with seals, working at a fish market, and making new friends (including the widow of famed psychologist Erik Erikson) -- helped her focus and learn more about what she wanted out of life. A 2016 movie version of this bestselling 1999 book stars Karen Allen.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl StrayedIn this "unsentimental memoir" (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), recently divorced 26-year-old Cheryl Strayed sets out on the 1,100-mile Pacific Coast Trail (PCT), walking solo from California, through Oregon, and on to Washington State. Strayed, a completely inexperienced hiker, had plenty of baggage with her, and we're not just talking about her too-heavy backpack. Though the book is centered around her time on the trail and her dealings with snakes, bears, and blisters, sections of Wild discuss the troubles that sent Strayed (back)packing, including her mother's death, the end of her marriage, and her own reckless behaviors.
The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric WeinerWant more happiness in your life? Maybe you don't need a better job or to lose ten pounds -- maybe you just need a change of scenery. National Public Radio correspondent Eric Weiner traveled the globe, investigating not what happiness is, but where it is. His first stop was Rotterdam, where he consulted scientist Ruut Veenhoven, compiler of the World Database of Happiness, which ranks countries' happiness levels. From there, Weiner, a self-professed grump, visited such "happy" places as Iceland, India, Qatar, Great Britain, and America. The result? "A charming, funny and illuminating travelogue" (The Washington Post).
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