Ten Travel Books for Twenty Twelve

I’ve been on a serious book binge lately.  I checked out three (thick-ish) books from the English library over Christmas break and read.them.ALL.  I find myself back at this (small-ish) library every week, searching for my next fix.

I’ve always loved to read, but with two kids, who has time?  Apparently me!  And maybe you, too.

Since I currently have NO travel plans (sniff, sniff), I thought perhaps I could drown out the call to wander with books.  About wandering.  Arm-chair-road-warrior-grade.

I’ve compiled a list below and shared it with you, oh fellow want-to-but-can’t-right-now traveler.  However, I should come clean that there IS a caveat: I have not read all of these books.  In fact, I’ve only read the first one on the list (which was fantastic, by the way).  The rest are to (hopefully) discover.

If you’ve read any of those mentioned below, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment below with your two cents.  Did I leave a book off the list you would’ve included?  Leave that in the comments as well.

Black Earth by Andrew Meier.  “A compassionate glimpse into the extremes where the new Russia meets the old,” writes Robert Legvold (Foreign Affairs) about Andrew Meier’s enthralling new work. Journeying across a resurgent and reputedly free land, Meier has produced a virtuosic mix of nuanced history, lyric travelogue, and unflinching reportage. Throughout, Meier captures the country’s present limbo—a land rich in potential but on the brink of staggering back into tyranny—in an account that is by turns heartrending and celebratory, comic and terrifying.

3mph: The Adventures of One Woman’s Walk Around the World by Polly Letofsky.  In 1974, as a 12-year-old growing up in Minneapolis, Polly Letofsky was inspired by a Minnesota man who had become the first man to walk around the world. Twenty-five years later, she left her home in Colorado, to begin her life-long dream to walk around the world. Letofsky s five-year adventure would take her across four continents, 22 countries and more than 14,000 miles. Touched by several family members and friends who had breast cancer, she also shared her passion for increasing awareness of the disease and raised more than $250,000 for various breast cancer programs throughout the world. Letofsky s long-awaited book, 3MPH: The Adventures of One Woman s Walk Around the World, is filled with humor, drama, adventure, and most of all, inspiration. With razor-sharp observation, she writes with complete honesty, taking her readers through the pain and glory of being a woman in search of all that the world had to offer.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide by Peter Allison.  Whatever You Do, Don’t Run is a hilarious collection of true tales from top ­safari guide Peter Allison. In a place where the wrong behavior could get you eaten, Allison has survived face-to-face encounters with big cats, angry ­elephants, and the world’s most unpredictable animals-herds of untamed tourists and foolhardy guides whose outrageous antics sometimes make them even more dangerous than a pride of hungry lions !Join Allison as he faces down charging lions-twice; drives a Land Rover full of tourists into a lagoon full of hippos; and adopts the most ­vicious animal in Africa as his “pet.” Full of lively humor and a genuine love and respect for Botswana and its rich wildlife, Whatever You Do, Don’t Run takes you to where the wild things are and introduces you to a place where every day is a new adventure!

I Never Intended to Be Brave: A Woman’s Bicycle Journey Through Southern Africa by Heather Andersen.  Not yet ready to return to the States after her service as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, Heather Andersen sets her dream of exploring southern Africa by bicycle in motion. Her group dwindles to just two before the trip even starts and she finds herself traveling with a man she’s never met before. Tension between them builds until the inevitable split, and Heather continues on alone through unfamiliar lands. With great appreciation and understanding, she vividly describes her surroundings, the colorful people she encounters, and the adventure of traveling in foreign cultures as a solo woman on a bicycle. With the question of whether it’s safe never far from her mind, she forges her own path through southern Africa—and life. Along the way, she trusts her intuition and the kindness of strangers, appreciates the rhythm of an unscheduled life on the road, and rediscovers her commitment to leading the life she wants.

The Woman Who Fell from the Sky: An American Woman’s Adventures in the Oldest City on Earth by Jennifer Steil.   Restless in her career and her life, Jennifer, a gregarious, liberal New Yorker, initially accepts a short-term opportunity in 2006 to teach a journalism class to the staff of The Yemen Observer in Sana’a, the beautiful, ancient, and very conservative capital of Yemen. Seduced by the eager reporters and the challenging prospect of teaching a free speech model of journalism there, she extends her stay to a year as the paper’s editor-in-chief. But she is quickly confronted with the realities of Yemen–and their surprising advantages.  In teaching the basics of fair and balanced journalism to a staff that included plagiarists and polemicists, she falls in love with her career again. In confronting the blatant mistreatment and strict governance of women by their male counterparts, she learns to appreciate the strength of Arab women in the workplace. And in forging surprisingly deep friendships with women and men whose traditions and beliefs are in total opposition to her own, she learns a cultural appreciation she never could have predicted.

The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious – and Perplexing – City by David Lebovitz.  Like so many others, David Lebovitz dreamed about living in Paris ever since he first visited the city in the 1980s. Finally, after a nearly two-decade career as a pastry chef and cookbook author, he moved to Paris to start a new life. Having crammed all his worldly belongings into three suitcases, he arrived, hopes high, at his new apartment in the lively Bastille neighborhood.  But he soon discovered it’s a different world en France.  From learning the ironclad rules of social conduct to the mysteries of men’s footwear, from shopkeepers who work so hard not to sell you anything to the etiquette of working the right way around the cheese plate, here is David’s story of how he came to fall in love with—and even understand—this glorious, yet sometimes maddening, city.

Invisible China: A Journey Through Ethnic Borderlands by Colin Legerton and Jacob Rawson.  In this eloquent and eye-opening adventure narrative, Colin Legerton and Jacob Rawson, two Americans fluent in Mandarin Chinese, Korean, and Uyghur, throw away the guidebook and bring a hitherto unexplored side of China to light. They journey over 14,000 miles by bus and train to the farthest reaches of the country to meet the minority peoples who dwell there, talking to farmers in their fields, monks in their monasteries, fishermen on their skiffs, and herders on the steppe.  In Invisible China, they engage in a heated discussion of human rights with Daur and Ewenki village cadres; celebrate Muhammad’s birthday with aging Dongxiang hajjis who recount the government’s razing of their mosque; attend mass with old Catholic Kinh fishermen at a church that has been forty years without a priest; hike around high-altitude Lugu Lake to farm with the matrilineal Mosuo women; and descend into a dry riverbed to hunt for jade with Muslim Uyghur merchants. As they uncover surprising facts about China’s hidden minorities and their complex position in Chinese society, they discover the social ramifications of inconsistent government policies–and some deep human truths as well.

Life is a Trip: The Transformative Magic of Travel by Judith Fein.  (No decent description available, so here is a short biography.)  Judith Fein was born with a pen in her mouth. She’s been publishing since the age of 6. Judith lived in Europe and North Africa for 9 years, where she wrote plays and ran a theatre company. She was a successful Hollywood screenwriter, playwright and speaker, and, for the past decade, she has been an award-winning travel journalist and editor whose work has appeared in more than 100 international publications. She occasionally takes people on exotic trips with her, gives inspirational talks, leads workshops, makes films and teaches travel writing (with her husband Paul Ross, who teaches travel photography).  Judith is a travel addict, and her blogs and articles are full of the humor and cultural discoveries that are her trademark.

The Best Women’s Travel Writing 2011: True Stories from Around the World edited by Lavinia Spalding.  This title is the seventh in an annual series—The Best Women’s Travel Writing—that presents inspiring and uplifting adventures from women who have traveled to the ends of the earth to discover new places, peoples, and facets of themselves. The common threads are a woman’s perspective and compelling storytelling to make the reader laugh, weep, wish she were there, or be glad she wasn’t.

The Travel Book from Lonely Planet Publications. Celebrate the world. 229 countries & destinations to explore, 817 beautiful images to inspire. Bigger, brighter and bolder than ever, the second edition of Lonely Planet’s definitive travel pictorial has been revised and updated to be even more inspiring than the last. The Travel Book captures the essence of every country on the planet through stunning photographs and atmospheric text. User-friendly A-to-Z coverage and double-page spreads of every country make this book a total delight.

(Descriptions from amazon.com.  I make no money on these links; they are purely for your convenience.)

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