*Sigh* I read this book in 2008 when the hype was at the highest point, and while I did enjoy parts of it, I could not get past the author's tone. The...more*Sigh* I read this book in 2008 when the hype was at the highest point, and while I did enjoy parts of it, I could not get past the author's tone. The first few chapters were so hard for me to stomach. Yes, she was going through a divorce and it was sad and painful... but she acted/wrote like her experience was so absolutely unique. In a country where divorce rates are sky high, it was just hard for me to feel such pangs of sympathy (as she was wallowing on the floor of the bathroom...) The split seemed to be agreed upon in pretty certain terms... I guess that just sort of set the stage for me.
Also had a few hangups along the way regarding some of her thoughts. Couldn't get past the air of "fake it till you make it" qualities in the book. That being said, I liked the travels in India and Indonesia best. Italy seemed way too self-indulgent for my tastes, but I guess that was sort of the point: Excess, young lover, and loads of pasta. India was easier for me to relate to personally, and I liked her thoughts and stories about her meditation, and her work at the ashram. When she went to Indonesia, I enjoyed hearing the stories of her travels around the island, and the teachings of her friend/guru.
...I think that one of the most interesting/revealing things I learned about this author and this book came from a friend of mine when we were talking about the book a few months after I read it. My friend related the experience of traveling to hear the author speak at a local book store for a signing event. She was excited to talk to her and asked her how her meditation practice has evolved since her time at the ashram, described in the book. Gilbert replied: "Oh, I don't have time for that anymore."
That little quote summed it up for me. She picked up, made her checklist of places to be and things to do, traveled, made her money with the memoir, and moved on to her next thing. In this way, it all felt like a set-up. She just did all of this in order to relate her experience in book form. Of course, I do not know what is in her heart or her mind, but it just left an impression on me. It was as if nothing she learned truly "stuck". I guess I was just left wondering what her friends at ashram would think - they were merely characters in the very dramatic play. (less)
My first introduction to Bryson's work - and now he is one of my favorites!
Very funny travelogue! Bryson retraces the steps of his summer trip in Eur...moreMy first introduction to Bryson's work - and now he is one of my favorites!
Very funny travelogue! Bryson retraces the steps of his summer trip in Europe in the late 1960s. Now he is older, and wiser, and offers a great deal of information about how Europe has changed, and how it has remained the same. Starting in Scandinavia, he travels around a good portion of the European continent. There were some countries he missed (I would have loved to hear what he said about Iberia, and Greece, and some more of the Eastern European states), but it was great fun to read. I found myself laughing out loud many times!(less)
Why would a talented and gifted young man walk away from his life of promise and lead the life of a penniless wanderer? Jon Krakauer, the nature/trave...moreWhy would a talented and gifted young man walk away from his life of promise and lead the life of a penniless wanderer? Jon Krakauer, the nature/travel journalist, takes on this question in the story of Chris McCandless, who after two years of coast-to-coast travel, was found dead in the Alaskan wildreness.
Krakauer retraces McCandless's steps from his childhood to his days at Emory and uncovers a smart, compassionate young man who revelled in the works of Tolstoy, Jack London, and other figures who advocated a simple self-sufficient existence, turning away from money, government, etc. He interviews several people that Chris, "Alex Supertramp" as he calls himself, met in his hitch hiking travels and discusses his journal writings. I appreciated Krakauer's style of being in the story as an author/journalist, but keeping the story in its purest form.
Krakauer first encountered this story after McCandless's death in 1992. He wrote a feature story in Outside magazine, but was very interested in McCandless, so he decided to research the events more. This book is the further research. He provides some insight and answers some of the questions with his own experiences as a mountaineer and outdoorsman. (less)
Such an engaging book - Weiner's dry wit and self-deprication made me laugh more than once. The book was so strong throughout, with only a few excepti...moreSuch an engaging book - Weiner's dry wit and self-deprication made me laugh more than once. The book was so strong throughout, with only a few exceptions, and while gaining insight into my own experiences and happiness, I learned about many other people and cultures. This book definitely fueled the wanderlust.
I knew next to nothing about Captain James Cook when i picked up this book... history books generally gloss over his voyages, even though he explored...moreI knew next to nothing about Captain James Cook when i picked up this book... history books generally gloss over his voyages, even though he explored an area that encompasses nearly 1/3 of the globe. Horwitz's urge to learn all he could about the man and his work is infectious... you can see this in the text rubbing off on those around him, as seen in Roger, his companion on many of his "Cook" travels.
Retracing Captain Cook's three voyages, relying heavily on the diaires of Cook himself, Horwitz decides to take a short trip to the Pacific Northwest to sail for 10 days in a replica of Cook's ship. He wanted a feel for the life or a seaman, and he sure gets it!! Next he sets off to Australia and New Zealand. His journalistic style brings in great aspects of history, anthropology, and language. He interviews Maori people in New Zealand and Aborigines in Australia, asking them what memories their people have of Cook and his men. Both groups remember Captain Cook, oftentimes in a negative light. It does not appear that they despise Cook as a man, but more of what he stood for, and what his exploration meant for the native culture.
Horwitz and Roger then begin to island hop around the Pacific. I particularly liked the time they spent on the island of Niue (like Horwitz, I had never heard of this island.) Describing the scene, Horwitz claims it may be the last part of Polynesia that is not spoiled by commercialism and tourists. He and Roger stay for a week on this small island (only 11 miles long!) and try to unravel the mystery of the hula hula (Cook's men were scared away from these islands by men with red teeth, and they named the island Savage Island because they thought the people were cannibals).
Roger and Horwitz go to Yorkshire, England, Cook's birthplace (and Roger's too), and take part in a few days of the Cook festival. They meet Cliff, the young president of the Captain Cook society, and try to find out as much as they can about the enigmatic Cook. Going to Cook's own home gives Horwitz a different take on the man, and he learns more about Cook's beliefs and his philosophies.
Their travels end in Hawaii, like Cook's did in 1778. They commemorate Cook on the beach where he was killed.
The other aspect of this book that fascinated me was how Horwitz tried to get "into Cook's head". Cook was a son of the Enlightenment, and did not come to Polynesia with preconceived notions of God, Gold, and Glory like earlier explorers. He wanted to discover and learn about others, and was very scientifically conscious for a man of his time. (less)
I listened to this all day - the story was so compelling, yet so tragic. Krakauer describes his ascent to Everest's summit in 1996, and describes the...moreI listened to this all day - the story was so compelling, yet so tragic. Krakauer describes his ascent to Everest's summit in 1996, and describes the tragedies of losing teammates on the trip. An amazing account of adventure in a truly breathtaking landscape. (less)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful: 5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational and Engaging Account, July 9, 2006
Although large in size, and fille...more 1 of 1 people found the following review helpful: 5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational and Engaging Account, July 9, 2006
Although large in size, and filled with breathtaking photographs, this book includes so much more than the regular "picture book". Robyn's thoughtful words make you feel as if you are traveling right along with her and her famous camels. The story is engaging and heart-wrenching; and the reader runs through the same emotions that Robyn feels at each leg of the journey, from the tragedy of loss to the jubilation of completion.
Beautiful and introspective - and very highly recommended. (less)
My first introduction to de Botton's work - totally loved his style and the way he delved into history to tell the stories about travel. A great book....moreMy first introduction to de Botton's work - totally loved his style and the way he delved into history to tell the stories about travel. A great book. (less)
Following in the footsteps of Scottish explorer Mungo Park, who traversed the land and the river in the eighteenth century, Salak sets out to kayak do...moreFollowing in the footsteps of Scottish explorer Mungo Park, who traversed the land and the river in the eighteenth century, Salak sets out to kayak down the Niger River in the west African country of Mali. Unlike Park's ill-fated -and ultimately fatal- journey, Salak makes it to Timbuktu, the ancient "city of gold" right below the Saharan desert. Her journey was funded by the National Geographic Society, and she often runs into the hired photographer who is documenting her travels at stops along the river. (His photographs of Salak's journey can be seen on her website) She sets out from Old Segou with only a few vocabulary words of local tribal languages and a working knowledge of French. She has her inflatable red canoe, and a backpack of supplies.
Salak's writing style is very engaging - her strength and her fortitude come across in her writing, though never with a tone of arrogance. Each trial or trouble she encounters (and they are many: ripping a bicep muscle on the first day, hostile tribes, hippopatomi, dysentery) is documented clearly and unbiased. Any other person would have called it quits - but Salak finds courage and prevails in all of the circumstances.
Interwoven throughout her own narrative, Salak recounts Park's journey, over two hundred years before her own. Park was taken hostage, many of his crew members died, and he eventually died as well, although the circumstances surrounding his death are unclear. Salak relies on Park's diaries and determines that while they are from centuries ago, many of the stories hold true: other places have changed, but this region of Africa has largely remained the same.
My only criticism of the book is that this incredible journey is condensed into a rather small book. I would have enjoyed more passages about the river itself, describing the geography, the biology, and the life of this body of water. The river is undoubtedly a character in the book, but it is largely unknown to the reader - a looming figure that is left a mystery. Perhaps this was done consciously, showing that the river cannot be understood or predicted. The other complaint comes from the last chapter: when Salak arrives in Timbuktu, she makes it her mission to free two "slave" women (they work without compensation and are fully abused by their masters, yet the Malian government refuses to call it "slavery", despite this whole caste of people - the Bella - being continuously subjugated) from their Tuareg masters. She describes how this has been one of the missions of the whole trip. Then why did she mention it for the first time in the last 10 pages of the book? As a reader, I felt a little cheated for not knowing this earlier... that should have been something talked about at the beginning of the account. Her work is admirable, without a doubt, and she does "free" two women and gives them gold coins in order to start their own business. This whole encounter is discussed so quickly, that it almost seems like a gloss-over of the whole practice. Salak has to know that giving these women a gold coin is not going to make their life better; that being said, I am not discounting her action. One woman cannot go up against hundreds of years of the "peculiar institution" in a slowly developing country. I do wonder what happened to those two women after Salak left them in Timbuktu, only minutes after "freeing" them.
Salak's amazing journey left me hungry for more adventure - luckily she has a few more books on her other travels. She is a strikingly brave and courageous person, and a good writer too. I look forward to more. (less)
Due to the size of this book, many would simply think of it as a coffee table photography book. While the photos are quite stunning, all captured by D...moreDue to the size of this book, many would simply think of it as a coffee table photography book. While the photos are quite stunning, all captured by Davis himself over the last 25 years in the field, it is the text that is the real gem. Davis currently researches as a National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence, but his career has led him to very remote areas of the world to learn about the distinct "ethnosphere", and the modern phenomenon of these vanishing cultures. With amazing detail, gathered first-hand and through interviews, he discusses his research in British Columbia, the Andes of Peru and Bolivia, the Amazon basin (Peru, Brazil, Ecuador),lowland Orinoco settlements in Venezuela and Colombia, Haiti, Malaysia, Kenya, Tibet, Australia, and Nunavut (among others with less detail). He notes that great effort has been put towards protecting biodiversity, while cultural diversity, as well as language is being lost everyday. With nods to many of the great anthropologists and scientists of the 19th and 20th century, he recognizes that modern nations can enrich themselves by accepting and encouraging the inherent diversity, "not as failed attempts at modernity", but as new opportunities to see the human experience in full color.
I have had the great opportunity to see Dr. Davis speak twice at the National Geographic Society in DC, both times sharing stories and research in Peru. His insights have enriched my travels, and reading this book made me long for Peru even more!(less)