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Travel Writing Picks

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Travel Writing Picks

Back in November a bunch of the librarians at Bridgewater decided to do a little armchair travel and read about the various adventures people have had around the globe.


Allison, Peter — Don’t Look Behind You
Blurbed by Jane

This book is a memoir about Peter Allison’s life as a safari guide in different parts of Africa. Allison is a wonderful story teller, and the book is full of adventure and suspense with a generous dose of humor mixed in. He provides vivid descriptions of the beauty of Africa and shows great respect for the wildlife he loves so much.


Geist, Bill — Way Off the Road: Discovering the Peculiar Charms of Small-Town America
Blurbed by Yvonne

CBS News reporter Bill Geist writes about some of his funniest adventures and found that most of them happen in small towns. He tells of Frozen Dead Guy Day in a small town in Colorado where tourists can pay to see a hunk of ice in a shed that is apparently the frozen dead guy himself. A geographically challenged town in Minnesota that wanted very badly to have a parade yet the main street was only two blocks long. Viola! It’s the stand still parade and viewers get up and walk around it. Figure eight school bus racing in Florida. Mike the Headless Chicken festival where a bird that lived for two years without a head back at the turn of the last century is still celebrated. There are even towns so small the population stands at just one or two. This is a great laugh-out-loud book and on audio it’s hilarious, especially since the author reads his own book. In what other book will you learn all about the cow pie Mecca of the world! Yes, in serious cow pie throwing contests they actually import the cow pies… (From Oklahoma in case you were curious…)


Gilman, Susan Jane — Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven
Blurbed by Yvonne

Wow. I couldn’t stop listening to this one. It’s so unbelievable, funny, scary and heartbreaking it has to be true. It’s 1986 and the People’s Republic of China has been open to tourists for what seems to be minutes. The only guidebook was written by a bunch of hippies that started a thing called Lonely Planet. So of course, armed with this publication, two recent Brown grads decide they have to go and that is where they will start their one year trip around the world. Woefully unprepared (they don’t speak the language, hardly know where they are going) Susan and Clare set off into the unknown world that is China. As if things weren’t bad enough, Clare starts talking about her world curriculum she needs to write. And how the Mossaud and the CIA are after her. And how she will die if she doesn’t get a proper toilet. It’s the story of how Susan slowly realizes that Clare isn’t just being a spoiled rich brat and how she helps her friend and tries to keep her own sanity and escape a land of rules and the unknown. The most wonderful things about this book are the helpful and kind people that they meet along the way including a Canadian nurse that accompanies the girls from the hinterlands all the way back to New York City. It makes you laugh because the author has such a light tone, but you’re on the edge of your seat for most of the book wondering what international incident they are about to become a part of.


Neufeld, Josh — A Few Perfect Hours
Blurbed by Chris

Josh Neufeld and his then-girlfriend/now-wife Sari Wilson, both just out of college, decided to see the world together. Over the course of a year and a half, the pair travelled from Hong Kong to Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, the Czech Republic, Turkey, and finally to Prague, where they stayed for a year.

Over the intervening decade, Josh took stories of their travels and put them into comic format. The couple escape death in a cave, work on a farm in Penang, work as extras in a Singaporean soap opera, and get searched on a Serbian train.

The format is very suited to this particular type of storytelling: the pictures tell stories that words alone cannot; the chosen drawings evoke a sense of both the reality of the situation and the internal, emotional meaning that would be lost in a photograph; and the juxtaposition of the words and the images form a more complete story than a much longer book could.

Each chapter is a few pages long, a slice of their lives from that particular period, and it is interspersed with travel tips from the two, often learned the hard way.


Steinbeck, John — Travels with Charley: In Search of America
Blurbed by Brendan

John Steinbeck takes to the highway in 1960 with his companion, a standard poodle named Charley. His aim is to find the America that he has spent his life writing about, telling the stories of the people he meets along the way but refusing to generalize about them. His trip begins in New England, moving through the Midwest, from Montana on to Seattle, and then his birthplace, California, where he finds that you can’t go home again because memories of long ago do not match the reality of the place. He then heads back east through the desert Southwest into Texas. He is repulsed by racial hatred in the South and then finds his way back to his starting point, New York.

It’s interesting to see the parallels to today. He talks about the amount of packaging that we use and throw away. He says that Texans like to talk about secession. He fears the loss of regional dialect brought about by national television stations and the loss of regional cuisine. Most memorable, however, are his conversations with the people he meets. There is no pat answer to his question “What is America like today?” Some things may change, but some things stay the same.


Wisner, Franz — How the World Makes Love: And What it taught a Jilted Groom
Blurbed by Kay

The novel takes the reader on a humorous and eye-opening journey to numerous countries (Brazil, India, Nicaragua, Czech Republic, Egypt). The author is a 42 year old single man (jilted at the altar), who decides to write a book about his travels and lessons learned about love and dating rituals in other countries.

He shares with the reader his doubts on love and the lack of commitment he sees in relationships. Still he continues to interview persons from around the world who tell us the ins and outs of dating in their culture. His adventures and travel log make for an interesting read. But his true life saga about meeting and falling in love with a Los Angeles actress during the writing of his book makes for an appealing and sweet love story.


By | 2017-05-05T16:37:09+00:00 February 2nd, 2010|SCLSNJ Recommended Reads|
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