Tag Archives: history

Pagan Spain by Richard Wright

Pagan SpainPagan Spain by Richard Wright

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A master chronicler of the African-American experience, Richard Wright brilliantly expanded his literary horizons with Pagan Spain, originally published in 1957. The Spain he visited in the mid-twentieth century was not the romantic locale of song and story, but a place of tragic beauty and dangerous contradictions. The portrait he offers is a blistering, powerful, yet scrupulously honest depiction of a land and people in turmoil, caught in the strangling dual grip of cruel dictatorship and what Wright saw as an undercurrent of primitive faith. An amalgam of expert travel reportage, dramatic monologue, and arresting sociological critique, Pagan Spain serves as a pointed and still-relevant commentary on the grave human dangers of oppression and governmental corruption.

Richard Wright won international renown for his powerful and visceral depiction of the black experience. He stands today alongside such African-American luminaries as Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison, and two of his novels, Native Son and Black Boy, are required reading in high schools and colleges across the nation. He died in 1960.

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A Paris Year: My Day-to-Day Adventures in the Most Romantic City in the World

A Paris YearA Paris Year: My Day-to-Day Adventures in the Most Romantic City in the World

by Janice MacLeod

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Part memoir and part visual journey through the streets of modern-day Paris, France, A Paris Year chronicles, day by day, one woman’s French sojourn in the world’s most beautiful city. Beginning on her first day in Paris, Janice MacLeod, the author of the best-selling book, Paris Letters, began a journal recording in illustrations and words, nearly every sight, smell, taste, and thought she experienced in the City of Light. The end result is more than a diary: it’s a detailed and colorful love letter to one of the most romantic and historically rich cities on earth. Combining personal observations and anecdotes with stories and facts about famous figures in Parisian history, this visual tale of discovery, through the eyes of an artist, is sure to delight, inspire, and charm.

JANICE MACLEOD, the illustrator and author of the New York Times best-selling book Paris Letters, was born in Canada and worked in advertising for many years until she decided to slip away from corporate drudgery and spend time abroad. During her time in Paris, she painted letters about her travels and mailed them to friends, who encouraged her to sell the personalized illustrated letters on Etsy. Since then, MacLeod has sent out thousands of letters to fans worldwide.

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Tristes Tropiques

claude levi strassTristes Tropiques

by Claude Levi Strauss

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This watershed work records Claude Levi-Strauss’s search for -a human society reduced to its most basic expression.- From the Amazon basin through the dense upland jungles of Brazil, Levi-Strauss found the societies he was seeking among the Caduveo, Bororo, Nambikwara, and Tupi-Kawahib. More than merely recounting his time in their midst, Tristes Tropiques places the cultural practices of these peoples in a global context and extrapolates a fascinating theory of culture that has given the book an importance far beyond the fields of anthropology and continental philosophy. The author’s fresh approach, sense of humor, and openness to the sensuous mystique of the tropics make the scientific thrust of the book eminently accessible.
Claude Levi-Strauss (1908-2009), the founder of structural anthropology, was born in Belgium and studied at the University of Paris. A member of the French Academy, he authored numerous works, including Structural Anthropology, The Savage Mind, and Myth and Meaning. Patrick Wilcken is the author of Claude Levi-Strauss: The Father of Modern Anthropology. He lives in London. John Weightman (1915-2004) and Doreen Weightman (d. 1985) together translated several important anthropological works of Claude Levi-Strauss and a book about Rousseau by Jean Guehenno.

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Flaneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London

FlaneuseFlaneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London

by Lauren Elkin

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The flâneur is the quintessentially masculine figure of privilege and leisure who strides the capitals of the world with abandon. But it is the flâneuse who captures the imagination of the cultural critic Lauren Elkin. In her wonderfully gender-bending new book, the flâneuse is a “determined, resourceful individual keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city and the liberating possibilities of a good walk.” Virginia Woolf called it “street haunting”; Holly Golightly epitomized it in Breakfast at Tiffany’s; and Patti Smith did it in her own inimitable style in 1970s New York.

Part cultural meander, part memoir, Flâneuse takes us on a distinctly cosmopolitan jaunt that begins in New York, where Elkin grew up, and transports us to Paris via Venice, Tokyo, and London, all cities in which she’s lived. We are shown the paths beaten by such flâneuses as the cross-dressing nineteenth-century novelist George Sand, the Parisian artist Sophie Calle, the wartime correspondent Martha Gellhorn, and the writer Jean Rhys. With tenacity and insight, Elkin creates a mosaic of what urban settings have meant to women, charting through literature, art, history, and film the sometimes exhilarating, sometimes fraught relationship that women have with the metropolis.

Called “deliciously spiky and seditious” by The Guardian, Flâneuse will inspire you to light out for the great cities yourself.

“Deliciously spiky and seditious, [Elkin] takes her readers on a rich, intelligent and lively meander through cultural history, biography, literary criticism, urban topography and memoir . . . I defy anyone to read this celebratory study and not feel inspired to take to the streets in one way or another.” –Lucy Scholes, The Observer (London)

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The Alps: A Human History from Hannibal to Heidi and Beyond

The AlpsThe Alps: A Human History from Hannibal to Heidi and Beyond by Stephen O’Shea

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For centuries the Alps have seen the march of armies, the flow of pilgrims and Crusaders, the feats of mountaineers, and the dreams of engineers?and some 14 million people live among their peaks today. In The Alps, Stephen O’Shea takes readers up and down these majestic mountains, battling his own fear of heights to journey through a 500-mile arc across France, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, Austria, and Slovenia.

O’Shea, whose style has been hailed for its “engaging combination of candid first-person travel writing and absorbing historical narrative” (Chicago Sun-Times), whisks readers along more than 2,000 years of Alpine history. As he travels pass-by-pass through the mountains, he tells great stories of those (real and imagined) who have passed before him, from Hannibal to Hitler, Frankenstein’s monster to Sherlock Holmes, Napoleon to Nietzsche, William Tell to James Bond. He explores the circumstances behind Hannibal and his elephants’ famous crossing in 218 BCE; he reveals how the Alps have profoundly influenced culture from Heidi to The Sound of Music; and he visits iconic sites, including the Reichenbach Falls, where Arthur Conan Doyle staged Sherlock Holmes’s death scene with Professor Moriarty; Caporetto, the bloody site of the Italians’ retreat in World War I; and the Eagle’s Nest, Hitler’s aerie of a vacation home.

O’Shea delves into Alpine myths and legends, such as the lopsided legs of the dahu, the fictitious goatlike creature of the mountains, and reveals why the beloved St. Bernard dog is so often depicted with a cask hanging below its neck. Throughout, he immerses himself in the communities he visits, engagingly recounting his adventures with contemporary road trippers, watchmakers, salt miners, cable-car operators, and yodelers.

“I would follow Stephen O’Shea anywhere he travels, and this book is a real adventure, both geographically and intellectually–an eloquent and engaging exploration that shows how and why these dizzy peaks have for centuries been at the forefront of the European cultural imagination.”–Ross King, best-selling author of Brunelleschi’s Dome.

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The Lost City of Z (Movie Tie-In): A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

thelostcityofZThe Lost City of Z (Movie Tie-In): A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann

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In 1925, the legendary British explorer Percy Fawcett ventured into the Amazon jungle, in search of a fabled civilization. He never returned. Over the years countless people perished trying to find evidence of his party and the place he called -The Lost City of Z.- In this masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, journalist David Grann interweaves the spellbinding stories of Fawcett’s quest for -Z- and his own journey into the deadly jungle, as he unravels the greatest exploration mystery of the twentieth century.

David Grann is a longtime staff writer at The New Yorker. He has written about everything from New York City’s antiquated water tunnels to the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, from the hunt for the giant squid to the mysterious death of the world’s greatest Sherlock Holmes expert. His stories have appeared in several Best Americanwriting anthologies, and he has written for The New York Times MagazineThe AtlanticThe Washington PostThe Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic.

-Suspenseful. . . . Rollicking. . . . Reads with all the pace and excitement of a movie thriller. . . . The Lost City of Z is at once a biography, a detective story and a wonderfully vivid piece of travel writing that combines Bruce Chatwinesque powers of observation with a Waugh-like sense of the absurd. Mr. Grann treats us to a harrowing reconstruction of Fawcett’s forays into the Amazonian jungle, as well as an evocative rendering of the vanished age of exploration.- — The New York Times 


-Breathtaking. . . . Grann brings Fawcett’s remarkable story to a beautifully written, perfectly paced fruition. . . . Any writer who can breathe life into letters written by scientists in the early 1900s deserves more than a hat tip.- — The Los Angeles Times
-Thoroughly researched, vividly told. . . . Grann recounts Fawcett’s expeditions with all the pace of a white-knuckle adventure story. . . . A thrill ride from start to finish.- — The Washington Post

-In a hyperconnected and exhaustively charted world, here is a revelation about wildness and the mad desire to plunge into it. . . . Unfathomably riveting. . . . Grann wildly delivers the goods.- 
GQ

-Brilliant. . . . Impressively researched and skillfully crafted. . . . Grann makes abundantly clear in this fascinating, epic story of exploration and obsession, [that] the lethal attraction of the Amazon mystery remains strong.- 
The Boston Globe

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The World on a Plate: 40 Cuisines, 100 Recipes, and the Stories Behind Them

World on a plateThe World on a Plate: 40 Cuisines, 100 Recipes, and the Stories Behind Them by Mina Holland

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Eat your way around the world without leaving your home in this mouthwatering cultural history of 100 classic dishes.
Best Culinary Travel Book (U.K.), Gourmand World Cookbook Awards
Finalist for the Fortnum & Mason Food Book Award
When we eat, we travel. So begins this irresistible tour of the cuisines of the world, revealing what people eat and why in forty cultures. What s the origin of kimchi in Korea? Why do we associate Argentina with steak? Why do people in Marseille eat bouillabaisse? What spices make a dish taste North African versus North Indian? What is the story behind the curries of India? And how do you know whether to drink a wine from Bourdeaux or one from Burgundy?
Bubbling over with anecdotes, trivia, and lore from the role of a priest in the genesis of Camembert to the Mayan origins of the word “chocolate” “The World on a Plate “serves up a delicious melange of recipes, history, and culinary wisdom to be savored by food lovers and armchair travelers alike.”

“There are cookbooks that teach you to cook, others that help you to understand gastronomy. “The World on a Plate” feeds your soul.” –Ferran Adria

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Higher: 100 Years of Boeing

Higher 100 years of BoeingHigher: 100 Years of Boeing by Russ Banham

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Over the course of a century, the Boeing Company has grown from a small outfit operating out of a converted boathouse producing a single pontoon plane made from canvas and wood into the world’s largest aerospace company. The thrilling story of the celebrated organization is one filled with ambition, ingenuity, and a passion to exceed expectations. Higher 2 In this lavishly illustrated book, published to coincide with Boeing’s 100th anniversary, Pulitzer Prize nominated author Russ Banham recounts the tale of a company and an industry like no other one that has put men on the moon, defended the free world, and changed the way we live.”

Higher 3“HIGHER ably commemorates Boeing’s enduring achievement, gliding nimbly through its triumphs of design, engineering and manufacture and, not least, its memorable contributions to wars won.”
-The Wall Street Journal”

a lavishly illustrated and meticulously researched overview of the aerospace giant’s first century.”
-Aviation Week

 

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On the Trail of Genghis Khan: An Epic Journey Through the Land of the Nomads

On the Trail of Genghis KhanOn the Trail of Genghis Khan: An Epic Journey Through the Land of the Nomads by Tim Cope

Grand Prize Winner, Banff Mountain Festival Book Competition

The relationship between man and horse on the Eurasian steppe gave rise to a succession of rich nomadic cultures. Among them were the Mongols of the thirteenth century–a small tribe, which, under the charismatic leadership of Genghis Khan, created the largest contiguous land empire in history. Inspired by the extraordinary life nomads lead, Tim Cope embarked on a journey that hadn’t been successfully completed since those times: to travel on horseback across the entire length of the Eurasian steppe, from Karakorum, the ancient capital of Mongolia, through Kazakhstan, Russia, Crimea and the Ukraine to the Danube River in Hungary.

From horse-riding novice to spending months in the saddle, he learnt to fend off wolves and would-be horse-thieves, and grapple with the haunting extremes of the steppe as he crossed sub-zero plateaux, the scorching deserts of Kazakhstan and the high-mountain passes of the Carpathians. As he travelled he formed a close bond with his horses and especially his dog Tigon, and encountered essential hospitality–the linchpin of human survival on the steppe–from those he met along the way.

Cope bears witness to how the traditional ways hang in the balance in the post-Soviet world–an era that has brought new-found freedom, but also the perils of corruption and alcoholism, and left a world bereft of both the Communist system upon which it once relied, and the traditional knowledge of the nomadic forefathers.

A journey of adventure, endurance and eventual triumph, “On the Trail of Genghis Khan” is at once a celebration of and an elegy for an ancient way of life.

This great journey gives the lie to any notion that the world is too much known. It’s an astonishing feat of courage and imagination, travelling in its own rich dimension–of nomad history and the horse.–Colin Thubron

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In the Footsteps of Marco Polo

In the footsteps of Marco PoloIn the Footsteps of Marco Polo by Denis Belliveau & Francis O’Donnell

Did Marco Polo reach China? This richly illustrated companion volume to the public television film chronicles the remarkable two-year expedition of explorers Denis Belliveau and Francis O’Donnell as they sought the answer to this controversial 700-year-old question. With Polo’s book, The Travels of Marco Polo, as their guide, they journeyed over 25,000 miles becoming the first to retrace his entire path by land and sea without resorting to helicopters or airplanes. Surviving deadly skirmishes and capture in Afghanistan, they were the first Westerners in a generation to cross its ancient forgotten passageway to China, the Wakhan Corridor. Their camel caravan on the southern Silk Road encountered the deadly singing sands of the Taklamakan and Gobi deserts. In Sumatra, where Polo was stranded waiting for trade winds, they lived with the Mentawai tribes, whose culture has remained unchanged since the Bronze Age. They became among the first Americans granted visas to enter Iran, where Polo fulfilled an important mission for Kublai Khan. Accompanied by 200 stunning full-color photographs, the text provides a fascinating account of the lands and peoples the two hardy adventurers encountered during their perilous journey. The authors’ experiences are remarkably similar to descriptions from Polo’s account of his own travels and life. Laden with adventure, humor, diplomacy, history, and art, this book is compelling proof that travel is the enemy of bigotry a truth that resonates from Marco Polo’s time to our own.”