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Longitude News | For Customers, Friends and Partners of Longitude


  1. 1. John Muir: Celebrating 100 Years
  2. 2. New & Noteworthy: Hudson River, Switzerland, Asia
  3. 3. Featured Guides: Frommer's Easyguides
  4. 4. The Way to Go: New Transportation Titles
  5. 5. New in Paperback: Behind, Nearby, Faraway, Other Side
  6. 6. In Memoriam: Peter Matthiessen

Dear Traveler,

This April 21 we're celebrating John Muir Day to honor the naturalist whose legacy lives on in writers who seek to preserve the beauty of the natural world — both on the page and in the parks. Bookending our celebration of Muir you'll find our tribute to conservationist Peter Matthiessen who died April 5, leaving behind his own powerful legacy in over 30 enlightening books.

Naturalists make the best travelers, with their acute powers of observation trained on their surroundings. While many of our books are about "where" we travel, this month we're thinking about "how" we get there. In his new book The Idle Traveller Dan Kieran asks us to ponder the question: Do we really travel anymore or do we just arrive? As Jason Cochran, Editor-in-Chief of Frommers.com, instructs in his artful introduction to London, "Just walk and open your eyes." Books about the art of walking and looking inspire us to slow down and consider the world around us, as Muir did over 100 years ago.

Jodie Vinson


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Naturalist John Muir died in 1914, leaving a legacy that has lingered over the past century. To celebrate his life, we're highlighting his work alongside new books about naturalists in the field, including Rachel Carson (and her sisters), Bill McKibben, Jane Goodall and E.O. Wilson.

John Muir and the Ice That Started a Fire
(USW741, $25.95)

Kim Heacox shows his appreciation for American original John Muir in this penetrating ode to the fascinating outdoorsman. He charts Muir's transformation from adventurer to pioneering glaciologist and conservationist, from impassioned explorer to inventor and scientist in the tradition of the Scottish Enlightenment.

Rachel Carson and Her Sisters, Extraordinary Women Who Have Shaped America's Environment
(NAT294, $26.95)

Award-winning journalist Robert Musil examines the pivotal role that Rachel Carson and the women she influenced have played in the environmental movement. His tribute encompasses nature writers, scientists and ecological pioneers, including Sandra Steingraber, Terry Tempest Williams, Devra Davis and Susan Fenimore Cooper, who overcame manifold obstacles to build the modern American environmental movement.

A Window on Eternity, A Biologist's Walk Through Gorongosa National Park (SAF339, $30.00)

A testament to biodiversity and the majesty of the natural world, E.O. Wilson's exploration of Gorongosa National Park takes the reader into deep gorges and forests near the Rift Valley. Accompanied by stunning full-color photos, Wilson's journey reveals new species, describes how the jungle reclaims devastated areas and introduces us to the term "bioblitz." Wilson's Letters to a Young Scientist (NAT276, $13.95), in which the Pulitzer Prize-winning biologist answers the fundamental questions about what it takes to be a scientist, is now in paperback.

The Wild Muir, Twenty-two of John Muir's Greatest Adventures (CAL337, $11.95)

This entertaining collection of some of Muir's finest writing recounts a few of his riskier adventures — from his avalanche ride off the rim of Yosemite Valley to death-defying falls he suffered in the Alaskan frontier. Another, more outrageous side of the activist outdoorsman.

Wandering Home, A Long Walk Across America's Most Hopeful Landscape (USE616, $14.99)

In this illuminating meditation on landscape and environmental responsibility, prominent American ecologist and environmental activist Bill McKibben begins a three-week walk from Vermont's Mt. Abraham to his former home in the Adirondack Mountains. Along the way, he meets with environmentally conscious folk including activists, writers, organic farmers, a vintner, a beekeeper and environmental studies students to discuss important questions about nature and climate change.

The Galapagos, A Natural History (GPS114, $27.99)

Editor of the magazine of the Galapagos Conservation Trust and author of Lonesome George (GPS70, $16.00), Henry Nicholls charts the human and natural history of the archipelago from its fiery origins through famous visitors and current conservation challenges.

"For those who have been lucky enough to visit, a trip to the Galapagos is likely to be up there amongst the most memorable experiences of their lifetime. The animals show no prejudice, no fear, but accept humans for what they are, just another species attempting to live in this inhospitable outpost. Experiencing this equanimity with nature is so moving that it has the power to alter the course of human lives, to transform the way we think about our place in the world and the way we behave towards its other inhabitants, human and non-human alike." —Henry Nicholls

Seeds of Hope, Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants (NAT290, $30.00)

In this passionate meditation on the importance of trees and plants, Goodall introduces readers to botanists and their inspiring projects, including the Millennium Seed Bank. The narrative reflects on her childhood in England, where she discovered a love for botany, and her life with the chimpanzees in the Gombe Forest. Most importantly, she extols the many benefits of plants, including their ability to heal.

My First Summer in the Sierra (CAL309, $30.00)

Published in collaboration with Yosemite Conservancy, this handsome hardcover, 100th anniversary edition of Muir's classic account features Scot Miller's stunning color photographs of Yosemite and the High Sierra.


The History of the Hudson River Valley (USE600, $45.00)

The Hudson River Valley has seen a truly historic flowering of art, literature, architecture, innovation and revolutionary fervor. As author Vernon Benjamin notes, it has been a place of contradictions — a place of beauty that inspired artists from James Fenimore Cooper to Thomas Cole and also a major theater to the horrors of both the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War.

Conversations on the Hudson (USE605, $24.95)

Designer Nick Hand chronicles a one-of-a-kind 500-mile bicycle trip up the Hudson River, detailing his encounters with a seed librarian, a printer, a brewer, a stone sculptor, a sheep farmer, a distiller, a boat restorer and a maple syrup producer, among many others.

Slow Train to Switzerland (SWZ80, $29.95)

When the Junior United Alpine Club left London on a trip to Lucerne, Switzerland in 1863, it marked the birth of mass tourism and, as bestselling author Diccon Bewes puts it, of "going on holiday." In his trademark breezy, intelligent prose, Bewes experiences firsthand how tourism and time have caused a sea of change in Switzerland. With an Alpine Club member's journal in hand, he follows their route, comparing past and present.

Coming Out Swiss, In Search of Heidi, Chocolate and My Other Life (SWZ82, $26.95)

Part memoir, part history, part travelogue, Anne Hermann's passionate celebration of what it means to be Swiss intertwines personal revelation with cultural fact.

Asia's Cauldron, The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific (ASA94, $26.00)

Foreign affairs scholar and author of The Revenge of Geography Robert Kaplan interprets American and world interests where the Western Pacific meets the Indian Ocean in this well-researched travelogue and political primer. Kaplan emphasizes China's increasing assertiveness and the area's store of natural resources as he explains why this corner of the globe is an important and turbulent region we should all be watching.

Bending Adversity, Japan and the Art of Survival (JPN441, $29.95)

A dynamic portrait of contemporary Japan by Financial Times Asia editor David Pilling. Beginning in 2011 after the tsunami, Pilling interviewed numerous Japanese, including novelist Haruki Murakami, former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, industrialists and bankers, activists and artists, teenagers and octogenarians, in an attempt to de-mystify the often misunderstood island nation.

Tibet, An Unfinished Story (TBT163, $29.95)

Stefan and Leslie Brown Halper reveal the often mythologized Tibet as a nation struggling to avoid suppression from China and Russia while reaching out to the U.S. in an effort towards autonomy. The Halpers use declassified CIA and Chinese documents to tell the history of one country's fight for independence, with an analysis of current Chinese policies.


If you haven't seen Frommer's new EasyGuides, lightweight guidebooks full of practical, easy to absorb information, you're bound to miss out on some important attractions, authentic experiences and expert advice. Jason Cochran, Editor-in-Chief of Frommers.com and author of two recently released guides in the series, Walt Disney World and Orlando and London, kindly contributed some sage advice about how to see London, a sampling of what the new series offers.

"London has a reputation for history, but in truth, it's dug under, restored, renovated, catalogued and overturned so routinely that you're unlikely to find a mote of dust left there by John Major, let alone King John. London's attitude is modern, not stuffy. In today's London, teeth are straight and white, food swings with an Asian twang and history now rests mostly in books and in imagination.

No, what London really does is tradition and lots of it. Rome may be the Eternal City, but London is an incessant reinvention that clusters around a few inviolable essentials. With the exception of some dearly protected, centrally located spots steeped in tradition — pubs, churches, mansions, banks and of course, lawyers' offices — behind closed doors and beyond the center, most of London is refurbished between epochs the way the West End's playhouses change sets between shows.

London's streets are the perfect metaphor for the city as a whole. If we were able to speed up time, we would see buildings rise and fall along them in quick succession. But the routes between those ephemeral structures have barely shifted since the Romans and Medievals first beat them.

Some of my favorite days in London have nothing to do with its museums (best in the world), restaurants (top of the game) and grande dame hotels (no city does them better, and in greater quantity). No, the best days are the ones when I start walking with no plan at all. Just walk and open your eyes.

That's how you create the indelible vision, obsessively invoked by Monet, of greeting dawn on the Thames as the boats begin to stir. Or of surveying the city with the yuppies and purebred dogs on Primrose Hill. Or of drinking yourself into a progressive sense of gratitude and discovery by ambling from pub to pub near the canals that slice quietly through Islington or Limehouse.

A city like London can never be truly grasped until you have learned to join the dots and see it as a whole, the way the ancients saw mere constellations and immortalized them by speaking their stories out loud."



Whether by foot, rail or gondola, these new books are all about getting there.

A Philosophy of Walking (WLK14, $24.95)

Frederic Gros, a professor at the University of Paris, delivers a philosophical treatise on walking in its many forms, including the pilgrimage, the protest march, the journey and the ramble, explaining how a good stroll can influence our understanding of ourselves and the world through the walks of famous writers and philosophers like Thoreau, Rimbaud, Rousseau, Nietzsche and Kant.

"By walking, you escape from the very idea of identity, the temptation to be someone, to have a name and a history — The freedom in walking lies in not being anyone; for the walking body has no history, it is just an eddy in the stream of immemorial life." —Frederic Gros

The Way to Go, Moving Through Sea, Land and Air (TVL575, $35.00)

Renowned public works scholar Kate Ascher explores how the world moves in this well-illustrated and thoroughly researched chronicle of the evolution of transportaiton, providing great insight into histories that often get taken for granted.

Gondola (ITA439, $26.00)

Popular mystery writer Donna Leon turns her attention to the trademark Venetian gondola and its time-honored traditions. Leon provides background on the gondola's medieval origins, explains how the boats are constructed and (on an accompanying CD) presents the robust and manly "gondolieri" singing their "baracoles," Italian boat songs. Leon also just released the 23rd installment in her internationally best-selling Commissario Brunetti series, By Its Cover (ITA438, $26.00), in which the Venetian policeman must comb Venice for a murderer who has been stealing books from a prestigious library.

Full Steam Ahead, A Golden Age of Cruises
(TVL589, $44.95)

From exclusive late-1800s pleasure boats to giant steamers and beyond, the cruise has remained an alluring mainstay for travelers. This coffee-table history of cruises chronicles their golden age with photographs and illustrations, archival documents and excerpts from passengers' journals. Interspersed are large-format contemporary pictures of destinations in the Mediterranean, Scandinavia and the Caribbean.

Train: Riding the Rails That Created the Modern World (WLD253, $27.95)

An informative, impassioned and entertaining history of railway travel around the world from the frigid trans-Siberian railroad to the antiquated Indian Railways and futuristic Mag-Lev trains. Tom Zoellner examines mechanics and innovations, trains' impact on societies and America's culture of ambivalence to mass transit.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (WLD256, $17.99)

An accordion-style fold-out book, this stylish compilation includes 100 icons throughout the history of transportation arranged in a timeline format. Appropriate for kids and fun for all.


Behind the Beautiful Forevers (IDA654, $16.00)

In telling the story of a colorful and compelling collection of slumdwellers sandwiched between Mumbai's airport and a string of luxury hotels, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Katherine Boo elucidates not only their humanity, but also the wretched system that they are up against. Her main character is Abdul, a young Muslim whose skill at sorting recyclable garbage almost manages to lift his perspicacious family out of the slums — until petty jealousies, religious discrimination and, above all, rampant corruption, intervene.

The Faraway Nearby (ICL62, $16.00)

Blending memoir and essay, Rebecca Solnit's spiraling inquiry brings us to the Icelandic arctic as the narrator struggles with her mother's illness and disintegrating memory. Through a series of digressive stories that take us across cultures and regional boundaries, Solnit empathetically explores the forces of connection, inheritance, the making of art and the construction of the self.

On Looking, Eleven Walks With Expert Eyes
(NYC247, $16.00)

A psychology professor and author of the remarkable Inside of a Dog (BST196, $16.00), Horowitz turns from canine perception to humans in this engaging, smart exploration of the world in 11 rambles around New York City, each with a different colleague. Reminiscent of John Berger's masterpiece About Looking (GEN119, $15.95).

The Politics of Washing, Real Life in Venice
(ITA441, $14.95)

Drawing from the experience of living with a family in Venice, Polly Coles provides anecdotes of ordinary life in an extraordinary place, vividly portraying a city besieged by tourism and caught between ancient tradition and modern necessity.

Idle Traveller (TVL591, $13.95)

In his comical, thought-provoking meditation on how to travel well, British travel writer Dan Kieran extolls the virtues of staycations and asks us to reconsider how we travel.

The Other Side of the Tiber, Reflections on Time in Italy (ITA373, $16.00)

An ardent Midwesterner transplanted to Parma, where she has lived for decades, Wallis Wilde-Menozzi returns to her "Rome Years" in this soulful meditation on the people, places, ruins, statues and many layers of the Eternal City. She's particularly astute on art (with two chapters on Carravaggio and one on Michelangelo), but it is her ability to conjure the life of the city that sets the book apart. You'll want to linger in the atmospheric Arco degli Acetar, where once upon a time she rented a room.


In the opening pages of The Snow Leopard, as he takes his first steps on a pilgrimage in the Himalayas in the wake of his wife's death, Peter Matthiessen passes an aged man being carried by four servants on his last pilgrimage to the Ganges. "I nod to Death in passing," Matthiessen writes, "aware of the sound of my own feet upon my path."

Matthiessen, a prolific writer, traveler, conservationist and Zen master, has left that well-worn path. His passing on April 5 preceded the publication of his final book In Paradise by three days.

The novel draws on Matthiessen's experiences at a Zen retreat in Auschwitz during which participants broke out into a joyful dance. "Why then do we not despair?" the novel's epigraph, quoting Anna Akhmatova, wonders. This search for the human ability to rejoice in the face of great loss is at the heart of much of Matthiessen's work.

Matthiessen published over 30 books of fiction and non-fiction and is the only person to receive the National Book Award in both genres. An ardent naturalist, he wrote about scientists seeking the origins of humanity in the Rift Valley in The Tree Where Man Was Born, of his travels in New Guinea with Michael Rockefeller (who would disappear on a later expedition, a mystery explored in Carl Hoffman's new book Savage Harvest), of the South American wilderness in The Cloud Forest, of the disappearing tradition of Caribbean turtle hunting in Far Tortuga and of many other far-flung places and endangered cultures.

One might mourn the passing of such a gifted and generous author. Or, one might dance.

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Connect FacebookP.S. An invitation to join us on Facebook! At the end of the month we'll enter the names of every reader who has liked our Facebook page into a drawing for a $50 gift certificate, applicable to any product on our site. While you're there, leave a comment and let us know where you'll be traveling this year.