Reading enriches travel, allowing the past to infuse our present experiences with meaning. In an exclusive interview with Longitude, author Alison Singh Gee explores how her past influenced her travels, noting that all of her "deeply-felt imaginings about the world have come from books."
This month we're immersing ourselves in the past with a look at the history of the world through objects. Then we're off to follow in the footsteps of great travelers with nominees for the Dolman Travel Book Award. In honor of Britain's prestigious prize we're traveling to England, on the trail of the Tudors, Jane Austen and Winston Churchill. You can even map the past with McElfresh Historical Maps.
This vividly illustrated book provides a fresh perspective on world history by revealing how our ancestors lived through the objects they fashioned. Featuring such diverse objects as the watch Napoleon used to synchronize with his generals at Waterloo, the oldest book written in the Americas and the Mayan Dresden codex.
Historian Gary Sheffield provides historical context for a host of Great War antiques, including the Turkish pith helmet, the Lusitania, Winston Churchill's cigar, the first German flammenwerfer (flamethrower) and the zeppelin. An innovative way to appreciate WWI history.
A look at 100 books, inventions, artworks and technological advancements that changed the way birds have been watched and recorded. Objects include an Egyptian field guide, the HMS Beagle and aluminum bird rings. A great gift for bird enthusiasts.
Hailed by The Times of London as "a splendid reminder of the philatelic glories of the past," this book tells the rich, layered and breathtaking history of Britain through 36 of its fascinating, often beautiful and sometimes eccentric postage stamps. Author Chris West's A History of America in Thirty-Six Postage Stamps (USA577, $28.00) is due out next month.
Dr. Richard Kurin relates fascinating stories about historical objects like Neil Armstrong's space suit, the Wright brothers' plane and Dorothy's ruby red slippers, reminding us that history still has a vital presence in our lives. Beautifully illustrated with color photographs that take readers on a rich journey through America's collective memory.
Assembled from Patrick Leigh Fermor's manuscripts by friend and biographer Artemis Cooper, with the travel writer Colin Thubron, this is perhaps the most personal of all Leigh Fermor's books, catching up with young Paddy in the fall of 1934 and following him through Bulgaria and Romania to the coast of the Black Sea.
Oliver Bullough follows a lone dissident priest, Father Dmitry Dudko, from the forests of western Russia to the tundra of the north to the bustling streets of Moscow, revealing the challenges that face modern Russia, including population decline, imminent economic collapse and toxic levels of alcohol abuse.
The Parisian journalist Sylvain Tesson chucks it all to live alone for five months in an isolated hut on the shores of Lake Baikal in this reflective account that tackles not only chopping firewood and finding food but also questions like "How should a person live?"
In this detailed guide, David Long delves into little-known gems among London's famous landmarks, including Saxon burial grounds and medieval plague pits, Roman barges and modern business megaliths. A fine way to get off the beaten track in London.
Peter Ackroyd's monumental book brings the years of the Tudor dynasty to life, from the storied and bloodstained reign of Henry VIII to the short-lived kingship of Edward VI (The Teenage King), the brief restoration of Roman Catholicism by his half-sister Mary I (Bloody Mary) and the stable rule of Elizabeth I (The Virgin Queen).
A vivid journey through the physical environs of the great English author, including 120 color illustrations and explanatory chapters by an accomplished Austen scholar. Kim Wilson's profiles include: Steventon Rectory, Bath, Southampton, Chawton Cottage, London and Winchester.
Revealing the man behind the office, military historian Ashley Jackson introduces Churchill as "a modern man who embraced change and spurned the conventions of his time and class." Churchill, he also writes, was enormous fun.
4. FEATURED MAPS: MCELFRESH HISTORICAL MAPS
McElfresh Historical Maps are beautiful hand-drawn topographical portrayals of historical events. Known for their accuracy and artistry, these folded maps cover such momentous points in history as the battle at Normandy, Pearl Harbor and even Ernest Shackleton's famous expedition in the Antarctic. Each colorful plan is full of historical detail, with an in-depth exploration of a theme relating to the memorable event on the reverse.
Veteran travel writer Jan Morris hails the Venetian Renaissance painter Vittore Carpaccio in this charming homage to his work. In the course of writing her classic book on Venice, Morris became utterly enchanted with the historical presence of this sometimes-overlooked artist. Now she indulges her infatuation with this handsomely designed and imminently entertaining exploration that ranges from biography to art interpretation to Morris's genre of expertise: personal odyssey. Includes 70 photographs featuring Carpaccio's artwork. This book is now slotted to release mid-October; pre-order your copy now!
Italian writer Corrado Augias plunges into the Italian character, revealing the difference between how outsiders view Italians and how Italians view themselves. His narrative weaves in and out of literature, history and location, bringing to life the characters that have made Italy what it is: a land of beauty and contradiction.
Veteran travel writer and journalist John Keahey delves into a little-known part of one of Italy's most popular regions. While much has been written on Tuscany's east, Keahey journeys to Tuscany's far west to describe unexplored coastal landscapes, local cuisines and rich cultural histories. From coastal towns to vineyards farther inland to the Tuscan archipelago, Keahey reveals the rewards of moving beyond the beaten path.
Piero Antinori, one of the oldest Italian vintners still producing, recounts the history of the Antinori family, which spans 27 generations back to 1385, and reflects on the ongoing traditions and passion for the craft. He explores the undeniably Tuscan traits: an appreciation for cuisine, an emphasis on hospitality and an affinity for the land.
From local authors to classic writers like Cicero and Shakespeare and 20th-century greats D.H. Lawrence, Oscar Wilde, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams and Ezra Pound, this literary survey reveals Sicily's multifaceted personality through literature.
Damon Galgut's fictionalized biography of E.M. Forster focuses on the British novelist's unforgiving childhood in England, the process of writing his masterpiece A Passage to India and his repressed homosexuality. The narrative moves between staid England, bustling Cairo and vibrant, absurd India circa the British Raj.
In a country where women's rights struggle to keep up with rapid modernization, the story of Sampat Pal and her Pink Gang illuminates the thrilling possibilities of female grassroots activism in today's India.
Veteran guidebook author Louise Nicholson teamed up with National Geographic photographers to produce this profusely illustrated travel guide, which also features maps, practical travel information and good overviews of culture, nature and history.
Harriet Tuckey's book is both the history of what went into the first successful ascent of Mt. Everest in 1953 and a biography of her father, Dr. Griffith Pugh, who transformed the British approach to high-altitude mountaineering, opening the way to the golden age of Himalayan climbing.
From the award-winning Chinese-American journalist Alison Singh Gee comes this glittering expatriate memoir about finding love and navigating the difficulties of an Indian royal family. In the "swish, fragrant existence" of Hong Kong glitterati, the young writer meets her future husband Ajay and dives into his world: a hundred-room palace outside New Delhi. Gee strives for acceptance by his family and experiences the beauty and cultural history of India.
LONGITUDE: In Where the Peacocks Sing, you describe the infamous crowded mini buses of Hong Kong and the trials of flying coach halfway around the world. As a world traveler, what is your favorite mode of transportation?
ALISON: Add to that list that I've ridden to the Taj Mahal on a camel, through the Andaman Sea on a small open-air skiff, and through Bombay in an auto rickshaw (and caught a nasty pollution cold because of it). But my favorite way to travel remains catching the Star Ferry to cross Victoria Harbour at night during Chinese New Year, when all the skyscrapers are trussed up with lights. I still dream about that.
LONGITUDE: Window seat or aisle?
ALISON: I'm ashamed to admit that I've done some truly underhanded things to get an aisle seat. (Er, no details.)
LONGITUDE: Throughout Where the Peacocks Sing you weave in anecdotes from your childhood in L.A., using the past to interpret your actions as an adult. You describe opening a library book as a child to an image of an Indian palace. You were mesmerized. How do your early experiences as a reader dictate your life's direction? Are there other books that have led you to places, simply by opening your imagination to a world you had yet to encounter in life?
ALISON: I love building my fantasies of faraway places by reading books set in foreign lands or cities. In fact, all of my deeply-felt imaginings about the world have come from books. As a child, the Narnia series led me to believe (or hope) I was English in my last life, and that belief had me feigning a posh accent, wearing Laura Ashley dresses and collecting tea sets for many years. In the end, the attachment to Narnia changed my whole course in life. I ended up studying as both an undergraduate (Cambridge) and a graduate student (University of London) in England, and made friends that I've had for life. The country and the culture have become part of me. I wrote my college thesis on the folklore motifs of Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior and only then did I begin to dream of a life in China. I also recall reading from John Muir when my family took a summer vacation to Yosemite: "Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world." I'm now looking for great books set in Iceland — that's my new dreamscape!
Did you hear the news? This summer, the UNESCO World Heritage list reached its 1,000th site with the inclusion of the Okavango River Delta in northwest Botswana. Selected for their unique cultural or natural heritage, these historic places make some of the best travel destinations. The fifth edition of UNESCO's guide to World Heritage Sites, which organizes the sites by order of inscription, is forthcoming at the end of September.
From the Galapagos and Mesa Verde to China's Mount Sanqingshan National Park and Al-Hijar in Saudi Arabia, this beautifully illustrated compendium includes color photographs, a map and succinct descriptions of each archaeological site, monument, city or park. The fully updated fifth edition includes 45 new site inscriptions made in 2012 and 2013, including the Red Basque Bay Whaling Station in Canada, the Namib Sea, the Medici Villas and Gardens in Tuscany and Mount Etna in Sicily.
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