See You Again in Pyongyang: A Journey into Kim Jong Un's North Korea by Travis JeppesenWhat it is: an intriguing look at North Korea by writer and artist Travis Jeppesen, who was the first American allowed to study there, taking part in a month-long language program. Commenting on history, art, tourist attractions, popular culture, the constant surveillance, and more, Jeppesen provides a new look at this headline-making, closed-off land.
Try this next: journalist Suki Kim's Without You, There Is No Us (about her short stint teaching the sons of the country's elite), or a North Korean defector memoir, like Hyeonseo Lee's The Girl with Seven Names.
My Twenty-Five Years in Provence: Reflections on Then and Now by Peter MayleWhat it is: the final charming travelogue by beloved British purveyor of Provençal life Peter Mayle, who died earlier this year.
For fans of: Provence, Peter Mayle's earlier atmospheric books, "ex-pats in foreign lands" stories, and travelogues overflowing with cafes and mouthwatering meals.
Try this next: David McAninch's Duck Season, about his family's year in Gascony, or if you like mystery novels, grab Martin Walker's evocative Bruno, Chief of Police novels, set in a French village.
The Debatable Land: The Lost World Between Scotland & England by Graham RobbWhat it's about: With bicycles in tow, Graham Robb and his wife moved to a house situated on part of the 33,000-acre area on the border of England and Scotland known as the "debatable land." Intrigued by his new region, Robb cycled around, dug into the area's history (finding thieves, cattle, King Arthur, and more), met local people, and discovered intriguing historical documents and maps.
For fans of: thoughtful, well-researched travel books, like Rory Stewart's The Marches, which also looks at the Scotland-England border region.
Kings of the Yukon: One Summer Paddling Across the Far North by Adam WeymouthWhat it is: Adam Weymouth's lyrical look at his four-month, 2,000 mile trip down the Yukon River via canoe, following the path of migrating king salmon. As he traveled across Canada and Alaska, he visited indigenous peoples and river communities, met Alaskan reality TV stars, learned about salmon, and pondered people's relationships with nature.
For fans of: Brian Castner's Disappointment River or Mark Adams' Tip of the Iceberg.
River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze by Peter HesslerWhat it's about: Peace Corps volunteer teacher Peter Hessler arrived in the remote town of Fuling in China's Sichuan province in 1996, where he was one of two foreigners.
Why you might like it: Hessler intelligently and evocatively describes his experiences with an unfamiliar people, culture, and landscape, as well as bigger events (Hong Kong reverting to China, construction of the Three Gorges Dam, and the death of Deng Xiaoping).
Try this next: For other young Americans' experiences in China, pick up Michael Meyer's The Road to Sleeping Dragon or John Pomfret's Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China.
An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic by Daniel MendelsohnWhat it's about: Daniel Mendelsohn taught a course on Homer's The Odyssey at Bard College -- and his 81-year-old mathematician father took it (and didn't think Odysseus was such a hero). Afterwards, the two took a ten-day Mediterranean cruise retracing Odysseus's voyage.
Read it for: the engaging combination of memoir, travelogue, and literary guide that coalesces into a poignant look at fathers and sons.
Reviewers say: "sharply intelligent and deeply felt" (Kirkus Reviews); "a small gem of seminar-room slapstick" (Publishers Weekly).
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar NafisiStarring: Azar Nafisi, who left Iran at 13 to study overseas and returned home with a Ph.D years later to a changing land where religious fundamentalists ruled and women now had to wear head scarves.
What it's about: Leaving college instruction in 1995, Nafisi secretly taught banned Western Literature (Lolita, The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, and more) to a group of seven young women for two years.
For fans of: classic novels, Iranian history, and thought-provoking, moving memoirs.
Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West by Dorothy WickendenWhat it's about: In 1916, two well-to-do best friends, Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood, left their homes in Auburn, New York, to teach school in the remote settlement of Elkhead on the Colorado frontier.
About the author: Dorothy Wickenden is the executive editor of The New Yorker and the granddaughter of Dorothy Woodruff; she used letters, conducted interviews, and read newspaper articles to inform this fresh, fascinating fish-out-of-water tale.
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Downers Grove, Illinois 60515