Posts tagged books
A Literary Trip To Seven Continents

Can't afford that around the world ticket quite yet? You're not alone, as the average $4,000 cost for a RTW ticket an put most people off who haven't extensively planned for it. Then there's the lodging, food and, well, lots of other things. So while you're saving up to go globetrotting on the ultimate adventure, try out some of these books to help keep the wanderlust stoked. You can even put them on a Kindle and bring them with you. 


Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times writer Jeffrey Gettleman takes us on a trip into the life of an East African Bureau chief in Love, Africa: A Memoir of Romance, War and Survival. Gettleman spends most of the book talking about his two loves; Africa and his wife Courtenay. Part memoir of a foreign correspondent and part journal of a marriage taking place at different times on different continents, you can sense the push-pull that often comes with having multiple passions. Those looking for an analytical look at modern day Africa may be a bit disappointed as Gettleman leaves his journalistic tendencies at work in favor of a more rambling, story based memoir. What you miss out on in analysis, though, is more than made up for in the spirited adventures that take place against the backdrop of Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and more. 


Okay so Antarctica may not be on everyone's list for a RTW trip, but it's still a continent. Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration recounts the unbelievable story of Douglass Mawson 100-mile solo journey to get back to his team at the Australasian Antarctic Expedition in 1913. Throughout the book you get to experience life on the ice via some never before seen photographs from Frank Hurley. One of only three that had left the camp three months earlier, Mawson battled blinding wind, snow, and starvation as he walked for 31 days, most of that with no companions. The fact that Mawson made it back to camp alive, even if he was almost unrecognizable, is a testament to the human will to survive in even the harshest of conditions. If adventure survival thrillers are what you like, Alone on the Ice will not disappoint. 


The Asian continent is vast. Like it holds some 4.4 billion people kind of vast. In From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia, Indian essayist and novelist Pankaj Mishra looks at the forces and ideas that shaped modern day China, India, and a majority of the Muslim world by highlighting three people; Jamal al-Din al-Afghani; Chinese reformer Liang Qichao; and poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. A timely book, Mishra has given a beautiful and accessible account of the "intellectual and political awakening of Asia" as colonial empires fell. A great read for those that like to keep up with current events and anyone wanting to visit China, India or the Middle East. 


Ever wanted to set out on a 1,700-mile journey across the Australian outback with four camels and a dog? Well, Robyn Davidson's Tracks might be the book for you. In 1977 Davidson started her journey from Alice Springs to cross the dessert of West Australia. The motivation for her journey isn't quite clear, which may be one of the reasons Tracks is so appealing. It seems that Davidson sought adventure for adventure's sake. There's no jilted lover story or mid-life crisis, just a strong, independent woman who saw a challenge and accepted it. The fact that she spent nearly two years preparing the camels for the trip shows the shear determination of Davidson. As an added bonus, you can check out the photo book Inside Tracks: Robyn Davidson's Solo Journey Across the Outback by photographer Rick Smolan, who met Davidson three times on her nine-month journey. They even made a film adaption in 2013 starring  Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver. 


I'm a Europhile so when I found Ancestral Journeys: The Peopling of Europe from the First Venturers to the Vikings by Jean Manco, I was hooked. I've spent countless hours digging through genealogy records to find out what part of England my family is from so any book that works backwards focusing on new research to find out exactly where Europeans come from is perfect for me. As a continent, Europe is usually subdivided in genres so finding a book that represented the whole was challenging. By looking to the past and understanding the roots of where each subset of European civilization came from, we can better understand the Europe of today. Equal parts archaeology, history, linguistics and genetics, Ancestral Journeys will make you want to dig deeper into your own family history, no matter what continent they came from. 


North America

Enough has been written about big cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City so for a change of pace, pick up The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America by Bill Bryson. A meandering chronicle as Bryson traveled (travelled if you're British) 14,000 miles on a road trip in search of the "true America" in the late 1980s, any fan of Theroux will be right at home. With an ever changing geography in cities, small towns and rural areas may seem more familiar in Bryson's account. A native of Iowa, Bryson had lived in England for almost ten years before the epic American road-trip that became The Lost Continent. As travel writing goes, this one ranks right up there with the modern greats. It'll make you wonder if''Missouri looked precisely the same as Illinois, which had looked precisely the same as Iowa.'' It'll also make you want to gas up your car (or charge your Tesla) and hit the open road. 

South America

In The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, David Grann tells the story of British explorer Percy Fawcett in 1925 who, along with his son, disappeared into the Amazon in search of an ancient city. Grann journeys into the same rainforest as he tries to retrace the fateful steps of Fawcett and son and unravel the mystery left behind. Part Indiana Jones and part Unsolved Mysteries, The Lost City of Z will captivate you as Grann looks at new archeological evidence to find out if the city Fawcett and his son were searching for actually existed. A great read for any lover of history, mystery and adventure. 



What books would you recommend for each continent? Let us know in the comments below. 

Cincinnati's Mercantile Library

Libraries were a place of adventure for me as a child. I spent countless hours rummaging through books, living out fantasies in pages and inserting myself into history. I got that same sense of wonder and awe when I stepped into The Mercantile Library in downtown Cincinnati. Founded in 1835 as the Young Men's Mercantile Library Association, the library currently resides on the 11th and 12th floors at 414 Walnut Street, where its been since 1908.  


I was fortunate to have a tour of the Mercantile Library with author and Religion News Service blogger Jana Riess which included some of the history of the building itself and look at some of the old and oversized books with the library's Executive Director, John Faherty. He described the Mercantile as a "working library" and not a museum.

Amy B. Hunter, Literary Programs and Marketing Manager for the Mercantile Library, brought out some of the oldest books in the library's collection for us to look at. There's something otherworldly about scanning pages bound in 1614 on subjects like Egyptian Hieroglyphics, you can almost feel the knowledge pouring off the paper. I've always believed in the power of reading and transformation. It was this method that took me to London and Paris years before I would ever step on an airplane.


A Lease Like No Other

Throughout its history, the Mercantile Library has hosted Herman Mellville, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ralph Waldo Emerson and many other great wordsmiths. The lease for the library at its current location was signed for a 10,000-year occupancy, cost $10,000 and was written by Alphonso Taft, the father of President William Howard Taft.

Just the look and feel of the small library was magical. The rich wood and dark metal cut a stark contrast to the bright book covers and white busts. Riess talked about how some people come and eat lunch and read the newspaper in the library, and I can see why. The deep brown leather in the couches mixes with the wood flooring and sparse decoration to create an inviting atmosphere for study, deep thinking or simple enjoyment.


In a 2014 article written by Faherty when he worked for the Cincinnati Enquirer, he mused on whether the Mercantile Library was the "city's prettiest place?"

The floors are wood, the windows are gigantic and the air is filled with the unmistakable smell of old books. There are glass floors in the stacks to let light filter through because the library was built before the invention of the light bulb. -John Faherty.


If you find yourself in Cincinnati, make sure to stop by the Mercantile Library, a haven of knowledge, beauty and wonder in the heart of the Queen City.

Thanks to Jana Riess for showing us this magical place. Be sure to check out her books The Twible and Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray and Still Loving My NeighborYou can find Riess' blog for Religion News Service here.