Robert Kaplan usually looks outward from the United States. Ever since President Bill Clinton was spotted with a copy of Balkan Ghosts under his arm (and it was devoured by the entire White House staff) Kaplan’s career has skewed towards precarious situations abroad. Now, in his latest book Earning the Rockies, the foreign policy expert rediscovers America on a cross-country drive all the way from Massachusetts to San Diego.
Due to recent changes in relations between Cuba and the United States, many books have been published about the island nation, but few have centered on its capital with the kaleidoscopic focus of award-winning author Mark Kurlansky’s Havana, A Subtropical Delirium. In accessible prose worthy of the elegant metropolis itself, Kurlansky, a longtime Caribbean correspondent, profiles Cuban music, literature, food and, of course, baseball. Kurlansky uses literary references to add color and context to his own experiences in Havana.
The journey begins with Mack in his gym shorts. It’s laundry day in his apartment in Minneapolis, and he’s sorting through some quarters, setting a few aside to add to his wife’s state quarter collection, which includes coins from the first incorporated state, Delaware (1787) to the last, Hawaii (1959). But there are a few empty slots in her cardboard portfolio, beyond Hawaii. “Oh, right,” Mack remembers, “We have territories.”