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The Green Life: Book Roundup Wednesday: Travel Narratives in Nature

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January 12, 2011

Book Roundup Wednesday: Travel Narratives in Nature

Environmental Books Every Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. This week, we’re recommending travel narratives about self-discovery in the wilderness.

Crossing the Heart of Africa (by Julian Smith, $15, HarperCollins, Dec. 2010): Subtitled “An Odyssey of Love and Adventure,”Julian Smith’s book evokes both romance and adventure as he attempts to follow in the footsteps of British adventurer Ewart Grogan, the first person to walk across the length of Africa, in order to quell anxieties he has about his impending marriage. Through Smith’s recounting, readers encounter mountain gorillas in their natural habitat, the White Nile at Wadelai, and a portrait of Africa as seen from two time periods.

Two Coots in a Canoe: An Unusual Story of Friendship (by David E. Morine, $23, Globe Pequot Press, Sept. 2009): Hailed as entertaining and poignant, this book follows the journey of two friends, retired CEO Ramsay Peard and the conservationist author, as they canoe down the 400-mile long Connecticut River, relying on the kindness of strangers to shelter them through the nights. The two men’s journey is interspersed with encounters that are both humorous and dark, culminating in a revelation that will leave readers reeling from the shock.

Following Isabella: Travels in Colorado Then and Now (by Robert Root, $20, University of Oklahoma Press, May 2009): Following in the footsteps of Isabella Bird’s classic travel narrative, A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains, Robert Root retraces Bird’s three-month trek across Colorado in his own journey through the formidable yet majestic Front Range. Drawing on historical letters, excerpts from several of Bird’s works, and his own experience, Root interweaves two stories into one, a highly descriptive tale that works as a critique and as an original recounting of a journey across the unknown.

Long Way Home: On the Trail of Steinbeck's America (by Bill Barich, $26, Walker & Co., Oct. 2010): What did John Steinbeck, famous author and restless traveler, both love and hate about America? In Long Way Home, Bill Barich asks himself this question as he embarks on a six-week road trip from New York to San Francisco via U.S. Route 50, highlighting the beauty and idiosyncrasies of America’s heartland along the way.

Saved by the Sea: A Love Story with Fish (by David Helvarg, $26, Thomas Dunne Books, May 2010): David Helvarg has always been in love with the sea. In his latest book, he shares this love with readers as he chronicles the adventures he’s had exploring underwater caverns; swimming with sharks in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern Oceans; and, in a lifetime pursuit, pushing for protection for the world’s seas. His writings can be read as both a memoir and a plea, but most of all, as a loving tribute to the natural world.

--Shirley Mak

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