Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Shadow of the Silk Road” as Want to Read:
Shadow of the Silk Road
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Shadow of the Silk Road

3.75  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,541 Ratings  ·  298 Reviews
To travel the Silk Road, the greatest land route on earth, is to trace the passage not only of trade and armies but also of ideas, religions, and inventions. Making his way by local bus, truck, car, donkey cart, and camel, Colin Thubron covered some seven thousand miles in eight months—out of the heart of China into the mountains of Central Asia, across northern Afghanista ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published July 1st 2008 by Harper Perennial (first published 2007)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Shadow of the Silk Road, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Shadow of the Silk Road

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Nov 15, 2013 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, travel
It would be a waste of time to recreate the reviews already posted here, all glowing and full of accolades, many deserved, though I was less enchanted with the book overall than some readers. I thought it was a solid and interesting piece, recounting some of his earlier travels, but I was not blown away. I enjoyed some of the historical information, especially tidbits such as that remnants of a Roman legion settled in China, but his focus seemed to consistently zero in on the crumbling world he ...more
Style detracted from content.
Shadow of the Silk Road is a phenomenal book. The author, British travel writer Colin Thubron, traveled from Xian, an ancient capital of China, to Antioch in Turkey along the silk road, blending broad historical knowledge with acute observations of contemporary life.

Thubron speaks Mandarin and Russian, and was able therefore to speak directly with many of the people on his journey, at least until he arrived in Afghanistan. A theme throughout the book is the mix of peoples, with tribes and nation
there are parts of this book that are amazing (Xian comes to mind and several of the strangers he meets on his journey) but sadly the author's writing style is very much one that I don't like - overly descriptive almost as if he was being paid by the word. If you like old British travelogues - where the flowery prose is more important than the tale - this may be the book for you. On the other hand, if you are looking for something more - its still here - but its buried.

Jan 17, 2012 Kevin rated it it was ok
One of my favorite genres is the travel narrative--Paul Theroux, Tony Horwitz, Bill Bryson. And one of my favorite travel narrative locations is China--it’s vast, geographically, socially.. any way you look at it. I was looking forward to this book because it combined a couple of my favorite genres. But I’m under whelmed. It seems Thubron was on journey to work out some personal demons or issues. This would be fine, but combining it with a travel narrative is confusing--is it a travel book? A me ...more
Tony Taylor
Shadow of the Silk Road records a journey along the greatest land route on earth. Out of the heart of China into the mountains of Central Asia, across northern Afghanistan and the plains of Iran and into Kurdish Turkey, Colin Thubron covers some seven thousand miles in eight months. Making his way by local bus, truck, car, donkey cart and camel, he travels from the tomb of the Yellow Emperor, the mythic progenitor of the Chinese people, to the ancient port of Antioch—in perhaps the most difficul ...more
Nov 02, 2014 Marguerite rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
Colin Thubron's account of an epic journey along the Silk Road is an interesting mix of history and travelogue. He has a good eye and ear for detail and a knack for finding interesting people. His determination to find important historical sites that have been overlooked/sanitized is impressive. The pace, maybe like that of travelers on the Silk Road of old, is slow. I wish there were photos, but I don't think he'd have gotten access to some sites if he'd traveled with a camera.

His writing is oc
Mindy McAdams
Aug 13, 2014 Mindy McAdams rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel, nonfiction
I do not read a lot of travel narratives, but now and then I select one because each page I open while thumbing through (or previewing on Amazon) holds something interesting and makes me want to keep on reading. This book passed my small test, and I was not disappointed.

Many others have praised Thubron's way with words. I would join them but for a small caveat: sometimes he overdoes it. Sometimes the poetry overexerts itself and threatens to smother the prose. But not too often!

This was a long j
Sep 03, 2010 Gabriela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travelogues
Colin Thubron is not only "the pre-eminent travel writer of his generation" as The SUNDAY TELEGRAPH says about him...he is much, much more than that and his latest book is his legacy for this genre.
Delving into the milleniums of history while going along what used to be the Silk Road, from Xian to Antioch, he diggs out stories on people, temples,tombs,cities-that-have-been, abandoned citadels, forgotten villages, disappeared civilizations.... and tells them with such a melancholic, melodic thril
Nov 26, 2013 Caroline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, travel
Thubron captures a panoply of voices from along the silk road, reflecting all the ethnicities that have intermixed through the last 3,000 years as traders and conquerors moved back and forth. He is an amazingly brave man to have moved through the deserts and battlegrounds of the Uigars, Iraquis and Iranians with nothing but a rucksack, some maps and whatever drivers and translators he could pick up along the way. But this made him approachable, and he had Russian and at least rudimentary other l ...more
I totally loved this book, specially the travels through China! Perhaps I shouldn't say that - the travel through Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan were also fascinating. The peoples, the faiths, the customs - both over centuries passed and now today - all were discussed. Little things like the facial characteristics and body forms and hats worn were so well described. Each cultural group became an identity. I have to visit China ..... I don't know if I would be brave enough for ...more
May 06, 2016 Parvathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a Marco Polo-esque journey through the Silk Road, from Chinese Xian to Turkish Antioch, through lands that have become a literal palimpsest, with centuries-old cultures evolving and changing with every new encounter with traders or invaders. There are the Chinese Uighers, stuck with China while their closest neighbours all have gained nationhood from a splintering Soviet Union; newly-formed Central Asian republics where older generations recall Stalin with fondness; an Afghanistan that is t ...more
Shadow of the Silk Road is a book about a journey that took Colin Thubron through the countries in Central Asia where the famous trading route ran across. Starting in Chinese Xian and finishing in Antakya (Turkey).
As any other book of this genre, the narrative heavily focuses on descriptions about the places Thubron visited and their history. By history I mean brief remarks, for the most part, that Thubron added to give some historical background to the narrative.

20 years before this journey, Th
Aug 08, 2013 Lida rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read doggedly to make it to 118 pages, then skimmed the rest of the book, making sure to read the detailed description of his 4-hour-long root canal sans anesthesia. I read the part of the book detailing Mr. Thubron's travels in China and Tibet. I couldn't tell you what he described; I found that when I would be done reading a passage, I would be unable to picture what he was talking about. One of my friends put it best when she said, "He is not very painterly." I found the lofty vocabulary an ...more
Janet Eshenroder
The author wove stories of the Silk Road's history with memories from his own trips 10 or more years earlier and with minute details of what he found at sites just prior to 2008(the book's publish date). If I pulled out single sentences I could marvel at their descriptive qualities, yet(for me) the prose often got in the way of the story. I grew tired of so many nouns having adjectives, of landscape and buildings so often being anthropomorphized. I do give kudos for a very thorough picture of se ...more
Jun 26, 2011 Juha rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people interested in cultural history, especially along the Silk Road.
This book records the eight-month journey that the author took through what is probably the most fascinating part of the world, traveling west from China through Central Asia, Afghanistan, Iran, ending in Turkey. He writes amazingly beautiful prose and his observations are deep and heartfelt, often containing intricate details about the landscapes, cultures, people he encounters. He talks to a wide variety of people and, importantly, gets them to talk to him. A famous British travel writer, he h ...more
May 15, 2014 Maggie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, travel
in the shadow of (the scam from) "a million little pieces" i wondered about a third of the way into this book if it could be trusted: could this one man truly have traveled 7000 miles on his own? are the stories he relates so fantastic to be believed or has he invented them? how many languages DOES he know in order to successfully get through this journey?

half way through the book i decided to give mr. thubron the benefit of the doubt not least because i looked him up on the web and decided tha
Thubron's story, which essentially is his travels interspersed with digressions of rumour, history, memory and observations, was well written and mostly interesting. I enjoyed his route (starting in Xi'an) and his explanation for his path. All in all I was mildly interested but can see his forte lies in true historical analysis and I found my mind wandering during his seemingly self-indulgent rambles down various routes.

I was galvanised by his description of the importance of the Silk Road in hi
Apr 18, 2008 Annie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008_books
It took me a long time to work through this, as it often does with non-fiction. I liked the blend of history, description, and people's stories. I didn't know much about a lot of the areas Thurbon traveled. My only complaint was that, while Thurbon was upfront about a lot of the current realities, there were obvious places where he glossed over things. The amount of latitude given to him to just wander around China was a little hard to credit, for example, and at key moments, rides just amazingl ...more
Un gran bel libro, perfettamente nello stile di Thubron.
Grazie alla sua bravura nello scrivere mi permette di visitare paesi nei quali, onestamente, non credo di andare a breve e soprattutto fa spesso interessanti divagazioni storiche raccontando i luoghi che va vedere. I suoi incontri con le persone, poi sono sempre fonte di riflessione e conoscenza e da appassionata di antropologia non posso che apprezzarli moltissimo.
Apr 01, 2016 Alexandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, 2012, travel, 2016
Parts of this are truly haunting; I think this is going to be a book I feel weeks after finishing it. Thubron's depiction of people is masterful, small, intimate details to create a sense of personality. Granted, I did feel I needed a dictionary handy at times, and that broke the spell of his writing somewhat. Other times, he tended to ramble, weaving in and out of deep history, leaving me behind in the present or the past. I couldn't always keep up with him. And despite the helpful maps and th ...more
Nancy Jurss
4 stars for his descriptions of encounters of the people he met during his travel through China, Central Asia, Iran, and Turkey. 2 stars for his endless descriptions of landscapes that sounded the same as the previous one. 4 stars for his interesting insights into the history of some of the areas. 2 stars for his descriptions of one ruined mosque after another.

Colin Thubron has a very distinguished pedigree as a writer, but the prose in this book was a little overly florid for this travelogue.
Krishna Sookrit
Jan 24, 2016 Krishna Sookrit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love this book. I have always been fascinated with travels of days gone by. This is one of the best books that traverse the silk route, along with a lot of detailed history. Couldn't put it down, read it in 3 days.
Jan 14, 2009 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For Shadow of the Silk Road, Thubron traveled the entire length of the former Silk Road between China and the West, and as such, two-thirds of the book focus on locales outside of Central Asia. Nonetheless, it too was thoroughly engrossing, and I highly recommend it. However, since the space of time which Thubron spent in Central Asia in this book was much less than the time spent in this region for The Lost Heart of Asia, it isn’t as detailed or informative. If you can only read one of the two ...more
Feb 02, 2010 SK rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Thubron is a travel writer and, according to some reviewers, is well-respected. This book details his return journey along the Silk Road starting in China and going west through regions that have seen much political, cultural and military upheaval. He travels without credentials trying to attract as little attention as possible. His descriptions of the terrain, art, housing, food, people, religious and conveyance are extremely detailed--too much for me. For those who have a background in art his ...more
Apr 05, 2016 M. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To write well about one’s travels is difficult, as Colin Thubron observes in an afterword to “Shadow of the Silk Road.” Even the best prose (and Thubron is a wonderful writer) can’t save an account of ‘I saw this, then I saw that.’ Thubron’s genius derives from his deep knowledge of the history and culture of the lands he traverses and from his way of winding an almost dream-like envisioning of the past into a faded, but still seething, present.

Everywhere he goes (and this includes the scaling o
Sep 16, 2015 Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At first I found the writing a bit hard to get behind. Another old white guy writing a throwback travel book. But Thubron is a great narrator and writer, and easy to sympathize with, unlike, say, Paul Theroux. I learned a lot from this book and recommend it to anyone interested in the elusive places that constituted the silk road. At times, Thubron even make me want to leave my camera behind on my next trip. He also encouraged me to seek out the "Nestorian" pagoda south of Xi'An. You can find it ...more
Babak Fakhamzadeh
This is no frivolous account of a journey along the Silk Road. Introspective, in depth, almost scholarly. I had to read slowly to fully grasp the whole text. A joy.
The author traveled from beyond Xian, in the heart of China and once the imperial capital, also the home of the terra-cotta warriors, to the Mediterranean at Antioch, now Antalya.

Not only is Thubron's journey epic, his retelling is fantastic. His prose is gorgeous, his sentiment melancholic. Interspersed with in-depth histories of peo
Jan 06, 2015 Jamie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Thubron is a brave man. His travels were often dangerous as he made his way through areas of remote China and war torn Afghanistan. He rode on camels through the deserts and hitched rides in cars that often broke down while driving over the mountains.

His story told of the wares that were traded and of the cultures and religions that were spread along this famous path.

I found the history of the people who lived in the countries that he traveled through to be the most interesting part of the
Jun 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
Scriitorul britanic Colin Thubron, călătorește de la Xian, o veche capitală chineză, la Antiohia în Turcia, de-a lungul drumului mătăsii, amestecând cunoștințe istorice cu observațiile despre viața contemporană. Thubron oferă, prin subiectul ales, atât de multe informații istorice și culturale încât poți spune la un moment dat că exagerează. Dar nu, aceasta e singura modalitate pentru a creiona cât mai bine lungul drum al mătăsii.

Drumul mătăsii nu a fost niciodată un simplu drum, ci un fel de si
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The River at the Center of the World: A Journey Up the Yangtze & Back in Chinese Time
  • In Xanadu: A Quest
  • The Carpet Wars: From Kabul to Baghdad: A Ten-Year Journey Along Ancient Trade Routes
  • Mirrors of the Unseen: Journeys in Iran
  • Apples Are from Kazakhstan: The Land That Disappeared
  • Slowly Down the Ganges
  • Chasing the Sea: Lost Among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia
  • Ghost Train to the Eastern Star
  • Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History of a Lost Land
  • Foreign Devils on the Silk Road
  • So Many Enemies, So Little Time: An American Woman in All the Wrong Places
  • The Roads to Sata: A 2000-Mile Walk Through Japan
  • Travels with a Tangerine: A Journey in the Footnotes of Ibn Battutah
  • The Road to Oxiana
  • The Marsh Arabs
  • Arabia
  • The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed
  • Motoring with Mohammed: Journeys to Yemen and the Red Sea
Colin Thubron, CBE FRSL is a Man Booker nominated British travel writer and novelist.

In 2008, The Times ranked him 45th on their list of the 50 greatest postwar British writers. He is a contributor to The New York Review of Books, The Times, The Times Literary Supplement and The New York Times. His books have been translated into more than twenty languages. Thubron was appointed a CBE in the 2007
More about Colin Thubron...

Share This Book

“Sometimes a journey arises out of hope and instinct, the heady conviction, as your finger travels along the map: Yes, here and here ... and here. These are the nerve-ends of the world ...” 4 likes
“mountains, and cried: ‘That is the tomb of Kochoi, the companion of Manas!” 0 likes
More quotes…