Books

Reviewed by Richard West We greet the new year with a brilliant new travel-book phylum: the literary atlas. Since the 1500’s when Flemish geographer, Gerhardus Mercator drew up the first collection of modern maps and named it after the mythical figure holding up the world on the cover, the atlas

By Richard West ‘Tis the season of inflatable Santas, Christmas lights, and those creepy electric-twig reindeer in yards with endlessly grazing heads. And drum roll, please end-of-the-year lists!  Including our modest contribution, the Top Five Travel Books of 2010. For a while it seemed an hexceedingly hexed year of mediocrities

By Richard West Musica  letitiae comes medicina dolorum: “music is the companion of joy, the balm of sorrow.” And so are certain books, especially so when they are great ones returned from obscurity. 

Reviewed by Richard West “Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms/Strong and content I travel the open road,” yawps Walt Whitman in his “Song of the Open Road.” After reading Ted Conover’s exhaustively-researched and earnestly-written The Routes of Man: How Roads Are Changing the World and the Way We Live

Don George. Interviewed by Everett Potter San Francisco’s Book Passage bookstore is one of the great American independent bookstores. Anyone with more than a passing interest in travel literature also knows it as the home of the Annual Travel Writers and Photographers Conference, which this year has expanded to cover

Reviewed by Richard West Gavin Pretor-Pinney’s The Cloudspotter’s Guide may be the most valuable guidebook you buy, for it’s obviously not of a place but a guide to everywhere above you. Pretor-Pinney is founder of The Cloud Appreciate Society, founded from his love of nature’s free abstract art gallery and,

In the history of Christendom, there are relics, and then there is the “prepuzio,” the Holy Foreskin of Jesus Christ. It had been in safely kept in the crumbling Italian hilltown of Calcata for centuries but disappeared in December of 1983. Writer David Farley set out to investigate the mystery

  Andrzej Stasiuk. By Richard West In Fado, Polish writer Andrzej Stasiuk writes not of Portugal’s national songs of lost love but Central and Eastern Europe’s lost villages seldom visited by travelers. Should you happen upon the mining village of Rudnany in Slovakia, a Hogarthian jumble of the poor, you’d

  Reviewed by Richard West Howard McCord, a medievalist professor for 43 years, grew up walking the New Mexico badlands on his great-uncles’ ranches, and in “Walking to Extremes In Iceland and New Mexico,” still loves “the gentle stupor of walking.” He also can coax literary music from lava and

Reviewed by Richard West Recall  the popular chin-stroking adage about Hong Kong when the British returned it to the Chinese in 1997: "past imperfect, present tense, future conditional." It immediately came to mind regarding Sri Lanka after I finished reading Not Quite Paradise, Adele Barker's interesting account of living and