It’s summer “ and the reading should be easy,” so I came up with a short list of a few travel novels that I found especially rich and exciting.
Very often a travel novel is a far better read than a guide book. It creates a vividness and depth of a town or village or city more memorably, and so, with temps hovering in the 90’s, here are my summer picks for a lazy read:
In Travels with a Tangerine, Tim Mackintosh-Smith sets out to follow the footsteps of the great Arab/Muslim traveler, Ibn Battuta.
Battuta left his native Tangier in 1325, covered three times the distance of Marco Polo, and returned 30 years later…after some 75,000 miles of wandering.
Mackintosh-Smith cuts corners (he doesn’t have 30 years to spend), but he captures the spirit of the intrepid traveler in many of the places Battuta visited.
In the fog that surrounds things Islamic today, Macintosh-Smith’s book is reassuring and exciting.
In The Spies of Warsaw, by Alan Furst, the inadvertent hero of the book is Warsaw, Poland, a fading, elegant dowager of a city, lovely and classy but trapped by the juggernaut of World War 1.
Add to the mystery and intrigue, a French and German intelligence operation and some cool spies, and the read is terrific.
Furst unfolds the betrayals and ravishment of the city, even as we are immersed in her streets, balls, halls and great deceptions. A great and passionate love story.
Colin Thubron has always been a master story teller.
Shadow of the Silk Road takes us on the greatest land route on earth, the Silk Road, that fabled, splendid commercial road from the heart of China through the steppes of Asia to Iran and finally ending up in Antioch, once Syrian territory, now Turkish.
But Thubron brings the hamlets and people and ruins and forgotten villages and their lives to life as he journeys by donkey cart, car, bus, truck and camel.
It’s a travelers’ tale richer than any traveler could take or tell.
And picture Amsterdam 1659, a tight community of Portuguese Jews, and one of them stumbles upon coffee as a commodity.
A whole new market opens up and we are there in the midst of the smells, sounds and characters of Amsterdam. This is The Coffee Trader, by David Liss, a novel about commerce that succeeds brilliantly in giving us Amsterdam in the 17th century.
Let us know what you think.