choosing instead country roads (obviously also
avoiding planes and airports), his experiences
reinforced his conviction that the truest way
to travel is the “old” way, “the proud highway,
the rolling road.” His intended “interview-
ees,” the people he wanted to talk to and learn
from about the nature of being a southerner,
were the “underclass.” Who best would know
what distinctive southern life was like than the
“submerged twenty percent.” Contradictions
abound in the South he explored, but just
as those conflicts were the enticement for his
repeated visits, they also represent the allure
of this rigorous, poised, serious, and puls-
ing-with-life exploration of all aspects of the
multisided American South. —Brad Hooper
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Theroux’s
books always appear on the best-seller list,
and his latest may prove to be his most
popular book yet.
Gap Year Girl: A Baby Boomer Adventure
across 21 Countries.
By Marianne C. Bohr.
Sept. 2015. 372p. She Writes, paper, $16.95
(9781631528200); e-book, $9.95 (9781631528217). 910.4.
Though this title may snag bona fide “
gap-year” readers (those seeking a break before
college), the U.S. girl here is 55, and she and
her husband, Joe, after seeing their last child
through college, have given up jobs, home, and
possessions for the dream of a lifetime—a year
to “wander through our destinations in search
of local color, history, architecture, drink, and
food.” Hence, steering clear (mainly) of pricey
destinations, Bohr and her intrepid husband
visit the Pyrenees, Slovenia, and Albania in addition to France, Italy, Holland, and Turkey. A
year in France when 21 made Bohr determined
to return, and though she notes that many
boomers crave and insist on predictability,
these two seek out the unknown and find it in
locations famous and relatively obscure overseas. Bohr provides a pretrip countdown and
schedule, but the majority of the book details
the backstories, specialties, and highlights of
the places they visited. Bohr’s freshly detailed
look will satisfy and perhaps intrigue boomers
with the time and money (and bravery), and
her heartfelt realization, “The most important
thing in life is to be kind,” should resonate with
all readers. —Eloise Kinney
No Baggage: A Minimalist Tale of Love
By Clara Bensen.
Jan. 2016. 272p. Running Press, $26 (9780762457243);
e-book (9780762457250). 910.4.
Months after a tentative recovery from a
mental breakdown, Bensen met Jeff on an
online dating site. She was sensitive and reclusive, fragile and afraid to venture out. He was
an academic at loose ends, living in his office
and prone to taking spontaneous trips. No
commitments, but would she travel with him
to Istanbul and on to London, with no luggage and no itinerary? Could this be the way
to let go of her chronic anxiety? Off they go to
Istanbul, relying on the cosmos—and strang-
Anyone who has not read these superior books is to be envied, because they have all 10 of them to look forward to! They were
reviewed in Booklist between September 15, 2014, and September 1,
2015. —Brad Hooper
Adventures on the Anthropocene. By Gaia Vince. 2014. Milkweed,
Vince went on an ambitious, often risky global journey to see how people are adapting to
changes on our warming planet. She reminds us that we are a superbly adaptive species.
Beijing Bastard: Into the Wilds of a Changing China. By Val Wang. 2014. Gotham, $27
The author’s immigrant parents were born in China, and her decision to live in that
country resulted in this lively and accessible memoir, which offers a fascinating look at
the populous, bustling Chinese capital before the 2008 Olympics kick-started its transformation.
Drink Time! In the Company of Patrick Leigh Fermor. By Dolores Payas. Tr. by Amanda
Hopkinson. 2015. IPG/Trafalgar Square, $11.95 (9781909657625).
As the translator of his books into Spanish, Payas knew legendary British travel writer
Patrick Leigh Fermor toward the end of his long life. Her book is a remembrance of the
indelible impression he left on her.
Five Nights in Paris. By John Baxter. 2015. HarperPerennial, $14.99 (9780062296252).
Baxter was conducting literary tours of his beloved Paris when a visitor, enamored of
Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris, asked him about leading nocturnal explorations, and
Baxter was game.
The Naked Mountaineer: Misadventures of an Alpine Traveler. By Steven Sieberson.
2014. Univ. of Nebraska, $19.95 (9780803248793).
Despite his experience, the author, in his absorbing and often humorous memoir, conveys the sense of wonder, enthusiasm, and pure love of mountain climbing characteristic
of a newcomer to the sport.
Pirate Hunters. By Robert Kurson. 2015. Random, $28 (9781400063369).
The author takes his knowledge of the underwater world and applies it to the search for
the sunken pirate ship Golden Fleece and its booty.
Shackleton: By Endurance We Conquer. By Michael Smith. 2014. Oneworld, $30
Polar explorer Shackleton has finally received the literary treatment his legendary life
SS United States. By John Maxtone-Graham. 2014. Norton, $75 (9780393241709).
This big, gorgeous book celebrates the “career” of the SS United States, the U.S.
entry in the international stable of ocean-liner queens that reigned as the “only” way
to travel in the decades before crossing the Atlantic became more economical and
speedier by jet plane.
Walking the Woods and the Water. By Nick Hunt. 2014. Nicholas Brealey, $17.95
In paying homage to the great British travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor, Hunt re-creates
Fermor’s legendary trek through Europe in the 1930s, which Fermor wrote about in three
classic travel memoirs.
Without You, There Is No Us. By Suki Kim. 2014. Crown, $24 (9780307720658).
The author, pretending to be a Christian missionary, was able to get a job teaching at a
special internationally funded school in North Korea, and the result is a rare and nuanced
look at that hidden country’s culture.
TOP 10 LITERARY TRAVEL BOOKS