Friday, September 5, 2008

Travel: funny, enlightening, and a tad scary

Since I don't travel much (Seattle doesn't really count, now does it...) I always get a vicarious thrill from reading the travel accounts of others. As a genre, travel books can actually take on quite a wide variety of forms.
Funny: Having slogged away a few years in the islands of the Pacific (The Sex Lives of Cannibals and Getting Stoned With Savages), J. Maarten Troost now turns his bemused attention to the largest nation on Earth - China. Lost on Planet China: the strange and true story of on man's attempt to understand the world's most mystifying nation is another droll story of Troost's attempt to fit his modern American slacker soul into an entirely different culture.
Enlightening: Tony Horowitz is a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and the author of the bestselling Blue Latitudes: boldly going where Captain Cook has gone before. Recently made aware of his (and most Americans') ignorance of North American exploration between Columbus and the Pilgrims, he decides to travel around the continent following the footsteps of 16th century Europeans. A Voyage Long and Strange: rediscovering the new world is a great example of literary nonfiction - you are completely entertained as you learn all sorts of new things.
A Tad Scary: An absolutely complete, all-encompassing, soup-to-nuts guide for anyone who is going to travel anywhere, Peter Greenberg's The Complete Travel Detective Bible is also a little frightening. No dab hand at domestic travel myself, I usually find the process uncomfortable but uneventful. After leafing through 600 pages of topics such as no-fly lists, medical evacuations, airline bankruptcy, and passport security, I feel like I never want to get on a plane again. That being said, this book is an amazing resource for travelers. Did you know that there are such things as pregnancy spas, frequent-flier miles for pets, and sleep concierges? If you're looking for pet-friendly hotels, DIY bike tours, visa requirements, or nudist travel opportunities, this is the book for you. Just bring your St. Christopher's medal along.

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