A travel book recommendation: Landskipping: Painters, Ploughmen and Places by Anna Pavord

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2cyjfOU.
An American reader ends up wanting to invite Pavord, obviously a very thoughtful companion, on a trip to the Alaskan wilderness or the California desert.
Book description from Google Books:
In Landskipping, Anna Pavord explores some of Britain’s most iconic landscapes in the past, in the present, and in literature. With her passionate, personal, and lyrical style, Pavord considers how different artists and agriculturists have responded to these environments. Like the author’s previous book The Tulip, Landskipping is as sublime and picturesque as its subject. Landskipping features an eclectic mix of locations, both ecologically and culturally significant, such as the Highlands of Scotland, the famous landscapes of the Lake District, and the Celtic hill forts of the West Country. These are some of the most recognizable landscapes in all of Britain. Along the way, Pavord annotates her fascinating journey with evocative descriptions of the country’s natural beauty and brings to life travelers of earlier times who left fascinating accounts of their journeys by horseback and on foot through the most remote corners of the British Isles.
The book is rated 3.34/5 at goodreads.com, from 32 ratings. See 7 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/1TEfdnE.
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A travel book recommendation: The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature by J. Drew Lanham

A critic review (source Star Tribune) can be read at: http://strib.mn/2essGxr.
When you’re done with “The Home Place,” it won’t be done with you. Its wonders will linger like everything luminous.
Book description from Google Books:
“In me, there is the red of miry clay, the brown of spring floods, the gold of ripening tobacco. All of these hues are me; I am, in the deepest sense, colored.” From these fertile soils of love, land, identity, family, and race emergesThe Home Place, a big-hearted, unforgettable memoir by ornithologist and professor of ecology J. Drew Lanham. Dating back to slavery, Edgefield County, South Carolina–a place “easy to pass by on the way somewhere else”–has been home to generations of Lanhams. InThe Home Place, readers meet these extraordinary people, including Drew himself, who over the course of the 1970s falls in love with the natural world around him. As his passion takes flight, however, he begins to ask what it means to be “the rare bird, the oddity.” By turns angry, funny, elegiac, and heartbreaking,The Home Place is a remarkable meditation on nature and belonging, at once a deeply moving memoir and riveting exploration of the contradictions of black identity in the rural South–and in America today.
The book is rated 4.30/5 at goodreads.com, from 76 ratings. See 18 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2dA8vjh.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2sqUbig.

A travel book recommendation: The Trials of the King of Hampshire: Madness, Secrecy and Betrayal in Georgian England by Elizabeth Foyster

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2fkIPZZ.
No Wallop emerges from this gothic tale with any glory, but – for those outside the family – there is much to enjoy in the earl of Portsmouth being rescued from the archives as a great character of the age, unvarnished and unhinged.
Book description from Google Books:
“Gracefully written.” –The New York Times Book Review “If this were a novel, no one would believe it.” — Sarah Wise, author ofInconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty and the Mad-Doctors in Victorian England “Reveals an aristocratic household turned upside down by scandal and mental illness. Taboos of sex, death, and politeness are routinely shattered, with tragic, sometimes hilarious results. Unputdownable. –John Guy, bestelling author ofElizabeth: The Forgotten Years The 3rd earl of Portsmouth was a peculiar man but, by most accounts, a harmless one. An aristocrat of enormous wealth, he kept company with England’s most famous names, inviting Jane Austen to balls and having Lord Byron as chief witness to his second marriage. For the first fifty years of his life he had moved with ease in high society, but at the age of fifty-five his own family set out to have him declared insane. Elizabeth Foyster invites us into the most extraordinary, expensive and controversial British insanity trial ever heard. Amid accusations of abductions, sodomy, blackmail and violence, jurors have to decide if Portsmouth is just a shy, stammering eccentric or a sinister madman attempting to mask his dangerous and immoral nature.The Trials of the King of Hampshire is both provocative and heart-rending.
The book is rated 3.79/5 at goodreads.com, from 39 ratings. See 13 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2dQEqcg.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2twY3D1.

A travel book recommendation: The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition: A Compendium of Knowledge from the Classical Islamic World by Shihab al-Din al-Nuwayri

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2dI3stO.
Beyond these more obvious charms, the pleasure of “The Ultimate Ambition” lies in exploring its bewildering scope, a range emblematic of the broad imaginations and curiosities of the 14th-century Islamic world.
Book description from Google Books:
For the first time in English, a catalog of the world through fourteenth-century Arab eyes–a kind of Schott’s Miscellany for the Islamic Golden Age An astonishing record of the knowledge of a civilization, The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition catalogs everything known to exist from the perspective of a fourteenth-century Egyptian scholar and litterateur. More than 9,000 pages and thirty volumes–here abridged to one volume, and translated into English for the first time–it contains entries on everything from medieval moon-worshipping cults, sexual aphrodisiacs, and the substance of clouds, to how to get the smell of alcohol off one’s breath, the deliciousness of cheese made from buffalo milk, and the nesting habits of flamingos. Similar works by Western authors, including Pliny’s Natural History, have been available in English for centuries. This groundbreaking translation of a remarkable Arabic text–expertly abridged and annotated–offers a look at the world through the highly literary and impressively knowledgeable societies of the classical Islamic world. Meticulously arranged and delightfully eclectic, it is a compendium to be treasured–a true monument of erudition. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
The book is rated 4.05/5 at goodreads.com, from 39 ratings. See 10 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2fefq3M.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2pOiIg6.

A travel book recommendation: John Aubrey, My Own Life by Ruth Scurr

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2dHzZDK.
The best reason to pick up “John Aubrey: My Own Life,” however, is simply to experience his shrewd and charming company. He was interested in everything, and each topic that flickers under his gaze is sharply illuminated.
Book description from Google Books:
“A game-changer in the world of biography.” –Mary Beard, The Guardian Shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award Born on the brink of the modern world, John Aubrey was witness to the great intellectual and political upheavals of the seventeenth century. He knew everyone of note in England–writers, philosophers, mathematicians, doctors, astrologers, lawyers, statesmen–and wrote about them all, leaving behind a great gift to posterity: a compilation of biographical information titled Brief Lives, which in a strikingly modest and radical way invented the art of biography. Aubrey was born in Wiltshire, England, in 1626. The reign of Queen Elizabeth and, earlier, the dissolution of the monasteries were not too far distant in memory during his boyhood. He lived through England’s Civil War, the execution of Charles I, the brief rule of Oliver Cromwell and his son, and the restoration of Charles II. Experiencing these constitutional crises and regime changes, Aubrey was impassioned by the preservation of traces of Ancient Britain, of English monuments, manor houses, monasteries, abbeys, and churches. He was a natural philosopher, an antiquary, a book collector, and a chronicler of the world around him and of the lives of his friends, both men and women. His method of writing was characteristic of his manner: modest, self-deprecating, witty, and concerned above all with the collection of facts that would otherwise be lost to time. John Aubrey, My Own Life is an extraordinary book about the first modern biographer, which reimagines what biography can be. This intimate diary of Aubrey’s days is composed of his own words, collected, collated, and enlarged upon by Ruth Scurr in an act of meticulous scholarship and daring imagination. Scurr’s biography honors and echoes Aubrey’s own innovations in the art of biography. Rather than subject his life to a conventional narrative, Scurr has collected the evidence–the remnants of a life from manuscripts, letters, and books–and arranged it chronologically, modernizing words and spellings, and adding explanations when necessary, with sources provided in the extensive endnotes. Here are Aubrey’s intricate drawings of Stonehenge and the ancient Avebury stones; Aubrey on Charles I’s execution (“On this day, the King was executed. It was bitter cold, so he wore two heavy shirts, lest he should shiver and seem afraid”); and Aubrey on antiquity (“Matters of antiquity are like the light after sunset–clear at first–but by and by crepusculum–the twilight–comes–then total darkness”). From the darkness, Scurr has wrested a vibrant, intimate account of the life of an ingenious man.
The book is rated 4.16/5 at goodreads.com, from 109 ratings. See 25 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/1sDJzwi.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2tZbECc.

A travel book recommendation: Citizen Clem: A Biography of Attlee by John Bew

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2fljAXG.
This book will become required reading for the present-day Labour party as it tears itself apart in a desperate attempt to redefine a credible socialism for the 21st century.
Book description from Google Books:
Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, Winston Churchill’s wartime heroics and larger-than-life personality propelled him to the center of the world stage. To most, he remains Great Britain’s greatest Prime Minister, his fame and charisma overshadowing those who followed in his footsteps. Yet while he presided over his country’s finest hour, he was not its most consequential leader. In this definitive new biography, John Bew reveals how that designation belongs to Clement Attlee, Churchill’s successor, who launched a new era of political, economic, and social reform that would forever change Great Britain. Bew’s thorough and keen examination of Attlee, the former leader of the Labour Party, illuminates how his progressive beliefs shaped his influential domestic and international policy. Alternatively criticized for being “too socialist” or “not radical enough,” Attlee’s quiet tenacity was intrinsic to the success of his party and highly pertinent to British identity overall. In 1948, he established the National Health Service as part of his “British New Deal”-a comprehensive, universal system of insurance, welfare, and family allowances to be enjoyed by all British citizens. Attlee also initiated key advancements in international relations by supporting the development of both the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and by granting independence to India, Burma, and Ceylon. More controversially, he sanctioned the building of Britain’s nuclear deterrent in response to the rise of the Soviet Union and the threat of atomic bombs. Clement Attlee: The Man Who Made Modern Britain explores his tenure in the years after the war, as he presided over a radical new government in an age of austerity and imperial decline. Bew mines contemporary memoirs, diaries, and press excerpts to present readers with an illuminating and intimate look into Attlee’s life and career. Attentive to both the man and the political landscape, this comprehensive biography provides new insight into the soul of a leader who transformed his country and by extension the vast empire over which it once ruled.
The book is rated 4.53/5 at goodreads.com, from 68 ratings. See 9 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2dR9EQF.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2tY6ZQY.

A travel book recommendation: MacArthur at War: World War II in the Pacific by Walter R. Borneman

A critic review (source Washington Times) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2dozNGl.
As Mr. Bornemann concludes, “there was never much middle ground” concerning MacArthur. The “wildest superlatives” at both ends of the spectrum was false. A necessary read for anyone who attempts to understand the man.
Book description from Google Books:
A Finalist for the Gilder Lehrman Prize for Military History at the New-York Historical Society The definitive account of General Douglas MacArthur’s rise during World War II, from the author of the bestseller The Admirals.World War II changed the course of history. Douglas MacArthur changed the course of World War II. MACARTHUR AT WAR will go deeper into this transformative period of his life than previous biographies, drilling into the military strategy that Walter R. Borneman is so skilled at conveying, and exploring how personality and ego translate into military successes and failures.Architect of stunning triumphs and inexplicable defeats, General MacArthur is the most intriguing military leader of the twentieth century. There was never any middle ground with MacArthur. This in-depth study of the most critical period of his career shows how MacArthur’s influence spread far beyond the war-torn Pacific.
The book is rated 4.37/5 at goodreads.com, from 91 ratings. See 20 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2dozMm4.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2u9VEgM.

A travel book recommendation: The Penguin History of Modern Vietnam by Christopher Goscha

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2feUgT5.
Goscha has provided quite simply the finest, most readable single-volume history of Vietnam in English.
Book description from Google Books:
“Over the centuries the Vietnamese have been both colonizers themselves and the victims of colonization by others. Their country expanded, shrunk, split and sometimes disappeared, often under circumstances far beyond their control. Despite these frequently overwhelming pressures, Vietnam has survived as one of Asia’s most striking and complex cultures. As more and more visitors come to this extraordinary country, there has been for some years a need for a major history – a book which allows the outsider to understand the many layers left by earlier emperors, rebels, priests and colonizers. Christopher Goscha’s new work amply fills this role. Drawing on a lifetime of thinking about Indochina, he has created a narrative which is consistently seen from ‘inside’ Vietnam but never loses sight of the connections to the ‘outside’. As wave after wave of invaders – whether Chinese, French, Japanese or American – have ultimately been expelled, we see the terrible cost to the Vietnamese themselves. Vietnam’s role in one of the Cold War’s longest conflicts has meant that its past has been endlessly abused for propaganda purposes, and it is perhaps only now that the events which created the modern state can be seen from a truly historical perspective. Christopher Goscha draws on the latest research and discoveries in Vietnamese, French and English. His book is a major achievement, describing both the grand narrative of Vietnam’s story but also the byways, curiosities, differences, cultures and peoples that have done so much over the centuries to define the many versions of Vietnam.”
The book is rated 3.89/5 at goodreads.com, from 53 ratings. See 13 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2feVnlR.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2tw6ei6.

A travel book recommendation: The Glamour of Strangeness: Artists and the Last Age of the Exotic by Jamie James

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2ctQov6.
In this esoterically learned and ­always entertaining book, Jamie James offers biographical sketches of aesthetic extremists who decided to settle somewhere foreign to them…
Book description from Google Books:
According to Paul Bowles, a tourist travels quickly home, while a traveler moves slowly from one destination to the next. In The Glamour of Strangeness, Jamie James describes “a third species, those who roam the world in search of the home they never had in the place that made them.” From the early days of steamship travel, artists stifled by the culture of their homelands fled to islands, jungles, and deserts in search of new creative and emotional frontiers. Their flight inspired a unique body of work that doesn’t fit squarely within the Western canon, yet may be some of the most original statements we have about the range and depth of the artistic imagination. Focusing on six principal subjects, Jamie James locates “a lost national school” of artists who left their homes for the unknown. There is Walter Spies, the devastatingly handsome German painter who remade his life in Bali; Raden Saleh, the Javanese painter who found fame in Europe; Isabelle Eberhardt, a Russian-Swiss writer who roamed the Sahara dressed as an Arab man; the American experimental filmmaker Maya Deren, who went to Haiti and became a committed follower of voodoo. From France, Paul Gauguin set sail for Tahiti; Victor Segalen, a naval doctor, poet, and novelist, immersed himself in classical Chinese civilization in imperial Peking. In The Glamour of Strangeness, James evokes these extraordinary lives in portraits that bring the transcultural artist into sharp relief. Drawing on his own career as a travel writer and years of archival research uncovering previously unpublished letters and journals, James creates a penetrating investigation of the powerful connection between art and the exotic.
The book is rated 3.53/5 at goodreads.com, from 17 ratings. See 5 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2ctRh6K.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2sgMif8.

A travel book recommendation: Trials of the Earth: The True Story of a Pioneer Woman by Mary Mann Hamilton

A critic review (source NPR) can be read at: http://n.pr/2cL1cVL.
Beyond everything else, this memoir impresses on readers just how easy it was to vanish in an earlier America…How fortunate that the manuscript of Trials of the Earth didn’t meet that same fate.
Book description from Google Books:
The astonishing first-person account of Mississippi pioneer woman struggling to survive, protect her family and make a home in the early American SouthNear the end of her life, Mary Mann Hamilton (1866 – c.1936) began recording her experiences in the backwoods of the Mississippi Delta. The result is this astonishing first-person account of a pioneer woman who braved grueling work, profound tragedy, and a pitiless wilderness (she and her family faced floods, tornadoes, fires, bears, panthers, and snakes) to protect her home in the early American South. An early draft of Trials of the Earth was submitted to a writers’ competition sponsored by Little, Brown in 1933. It didn’t win, and we almost lost the chance to bring this raw, vivid narrative to readers. Eighty-three years later, in partnership with Mary Mann Hamilton’s descendants, we’re proud to share this irreplaceable piece of American history. Written in spare, rich prose, Trials of the Earth is a precious record of one woman’s extraordinary endurance and courage that will resonate with readers of history and fiction alike.
The book is rated 3.90/5 at goodreads.com, from 976 ratings. See 184 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2cL2eRi.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2s4wyMf.