Often a non-travel novel creates the vividness and depth of a town or village or city better than travel book might.
But recommending a book is always tricky, so here are two recent reads and likes:
In Travels with a Tangerine, Tim Mackintosh-Smith sets out to follow the footsteps of the great Arab/Muslim traveler, Ibn Battuta, who 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.
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, and the intrigue of French and German intelligence operatives.
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!
Shadows 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.
Let me know what you think!