New Travel Books for February

This month offers a guided tour by countless authors across the varied terrains of Morocco, Syria and Ethiopia. After reading these first hand encounters, make the baby steps towards visiting some of these places yourself with Lonely Planet’s new seasonal compendium Where to Go When, one of it’s more practical tomes, equally as good for drooling at as it is for the meticulous planning of the trip of a lifetime. For more backyard insights, consult the moody waters of Islands and uncover some of the unseen realities of the submerged rocks surrounding the endlessly fascinating archipelago we call Aotearoa and New Zealand.

Syndetics book coverMorocco : in the labyrinth of dreams and bazaars / by Walter M. Weiss ; translated by Stefan Tobler.
“Walter M. Weiss brings extensive knowledge of the region to bear as he travels the breadth and depth of the country’s social and geographical contrasts. Weiss visits the settings of modern legends, such as Tangier, as well as the two medieval centres Fès and Meknès, and sees earthen kasbahs and Marrakech’s bazaar. On the way, he meets acrobats, Sufi musicians, pilgrims, craftsmen, beatniks, rabbis, and Berber farmers–a kaleidoscope of variety and cultural influence.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe street philosopher and the holy fool : a Syrian journey / Marius Kociejowski.
“The ancient land of Syria remains for many a sinister and forbidding destination, only recently opening up to foreign travellers. Marius Kociejowski presents a completely fresh and unexpected face to this mysterious country. Based on his own visits to Syria, The Street Philosopher and the Holy Fool describes a journey which brings him into contact with a host of colourful and unusual characters, each of whom is an outsider of sorts.” (adapted from Amazon.com summary)

Syndetics book coverEthiopia : through writers’ eyes / edited by Yves-Marie Stranger.
“This book is the perfect companion to any exploration of Ethiopia, be it in the precarious saddle of an Abyssinian pony, or from the folds of an armchair. A compendium of all things Ethiopian, the book throws wide-open the precious windows of understanding, allowing you to gaze deeper into the landscape and people with additional wonder.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLonely Planet’s where to go when : the ultimate trip planner for every month of the year / written by Sarah Baxter & Paul Bloomfield.
Where To Go When, the ultimate trip planner for every month of the year, is a beautifully illustrated book that is both practical and inspiring. For every month of the year it presents 30 recommendations of destinations that are at their best during each month, whether due to their climate, or value or because there’s a lot going on.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverInspired journeys : travel writers in search of the muse / edited by Brian Bouldrey.
“Full of humor, profundity, and obsession, these are tales of writers on peregrine paths. Some set out in search of legends or artistic inspiration; others seek spiritual epiphany or fulfillment of a promise. All of these pilgrimages are worthy journeys–redemptive and serious. But a time-honored element of pilgrimage is a suspension of rules, and there is absurdity and exuberance here as well.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverForty shades of white : my amazing Antarctic journey / Ginni Bazlinton.
“Ginni Bazlinton signed up for a voyage to the planet’s fifth largest continent. Antarctica was a vast unknown to her when she set off on the rugged scientific vessel, the Akademik Shokalskiy. For this grandmother ‘from next door’ her encounter with an area known to so few becomes the gateway to a profound attachment to the miracle that is Antarctica and a keener understanding of the Earth and humanity’s ambiguous role within it.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIslands : a New Zealand journey / Bruce Ansley and Jane Ussher.
“New Zealand is surrounded by hundreds of islands, mainly remnants of a larger land mass now beneath the sea. Some are idyllic retreats; others have poignant histories of castaways, prisons and leper colonies. Some have become sanctuaries, safe from destructive predators; some are farmed by fifth and sixth generations of the same family; others are isolated outposts, barely sustaining life at all; while some are hidden where you’d least expect…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNever put all your eggs in one bastard / Peta Mathias.
“In this ‘memoir of sorts’, Peta looks back at the patterns of her life while she embarks on the next big stage in it- selling her beloved cottage in Auckland to buy a dilapidated old house in Uzos in the south of France and transforming the old wreck into a stylish home and cooking school. Spiced with recipes, the thrills and tribulations of reinventing yourself and her trademark humour, this book is really about never putting all your eggs in one bastard.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverParis by Ladurée Paris / text, Serge Gleizes ; photography, Pierre-Olivier Signe ; translator, Jonno Slysa.
“In Paris by Ladurée, author Serge Gleizes compiles the iconic luxury patisserie’s 200 favorite Parisian addresses and guides readers to the best that the most elegant city in the world has to offer in cuisine, interior design, table décor, beauty, fashion, hotels, and culture–in a book small enough to carry while traveling.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBy the seat of my pants / edited by Don George.
“Lonely Planet knows that some of life’s funniest experiences happen on the road. These 31 globegirdling tales that run the gamut from close-encounter safaris to loss-of-face follies, hair-raising rides to culture-leaping brides, eccentric expats to mind-boggling repasts, wrong roads taken to agreements mistaken. The collection brings together some of the world’s most renowned travellers and storytellers with previously unpublished writers.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Recent History Picks for January

This month have a look at far-reaching histories on today’s nation-states both new and old in Tokyo: A Biography and A History of South Sudan. Leaf through the intimate notes of Lydia Ginzburg from St. Petersburg under siege, or the unpredictable encounters of Tom Lutz’ ramblings through every country in the world. Take a trip through past and future in Robert L. Kelly’s Fifth Beginning, or follow the indigenous footsteps that made it back to deal directly with empire, at the heart of London.

Syndetics book coverNotes from the blockade, and, A story of pity and cruelty / Lydia Ginzburg
“From her experience as a survivor of the 900-day siege of Leningrad, Lidiya Ginzburg has created a remarkable hero in whom she distils the experience of life under siege. Though she depicts the harrowing conditions, the reader takes away an impression of the dignity, vitality, and intellectual resilience of the thinking mind as it makes sense of extreme experience. This classic work of documentary fiction will be the first introduction of a major 20th-century Russian writer to many English-language readers.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIndigenous London : native travellers at the heart of empire / Coll Thrush.
“Historian Coll Thrush offers an imaginative vision of the city’s past crafted from an almost entirely new perspective: that of Indigenous children, women, and men who travelled there, willingly or otherwise, from territories that became Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the United States, beginning in the sixteenth century. Thrush illustrates how London learned to be a global, imperial city and how Indigenous people were central to that process.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAnd the monkey learned nothing : dispatches from a life in transit / Tom Lutz.
“Without an itinerary and without a goal, Tom Lutz is on a mission to visit every country on earth, describing personal encounters in rarely visited spots and anecdotes from way off the beaten path. With an eye out for both the sublime and the ridiculous, Lutz falls, regularly, into the instant intimacy of the road with random strangers.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNative American almanac : more than 50,000 years of the cultures and histories of indigenous peoples / Yvonne Wakim Dennis, Arlene Hirschfelder and Shannon Rothenberger Flynn.
“A primer on the Native American experience, presenting the rich history and continuing legacy of the indigenous and tribal nations. Fascinating biographies, insightful quotes, detailed data and absorbing narratives bring the stories of indigenous people to life, bringing unique insight into the American nation.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA history of South Sudan : from slavery to independence / Øystein H. Rolandsen, M. W. Daly.
“South Sudan is the world’s youngest independent country. Established in 2011 after two wars, South Sudan has since reverted to a state of devastating civil strife. This book provides a general history of the new country, from the arrival of Turco-Egyptian explorers in Upper Nile, […] to the Anglo-Egyptian colonial era. The book concludes with coverage of events since independence, with insights into what the future might hold.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverUnder the shadow : rage and revolution in modern Turkey / Kaya Genç.
“Turkey stands at the crossroads of the Middle East―caught between the West and ISIS, Syria and Russia, and governed by an increasingly forceful leader. Acclaimed writer Kaya Genç; has been covering his country for the past decade. In Under the Shadow he meets activists from both sides of Turkey’s political divide, getting to the heart of the compelling conflicts between history and modernity in the Middle East.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTokyo : a biography : disasters, destruction and renewal : the story of an indomitable city / Stephen Mansfield.
“The history of Tokyo is as eventful as it is long. In a whirlwind journey through Tokyo’s past from its earliest beginnings up to the present day, this Japanese history book demonstrates how the city’s response to everything from natural disasters to regime change has been to reinvent itself time and again.  Readers see a city almost unrivalled in its uniqueness, a place that–despite its often tragic history–still shimmers as it prepares to face the future.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMy brother’s keeper : Christians who risked all to protect Jewish targets of the Nazi Holocaust / Rod Gragg.
My Brother’s Keeper unfolds powerful stories of Christians from across denominations who gave everything they had to save the Jewish people from the evils of the Holocaust. In one gripping profile after another, these extraordinary historical accounts offer stories of steadfast believers who together helped thousands of Jewish individuals and families to safety. Many of these everyday heroes perished alongside the very people they were trying to protect.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe fifth beginning : what six million years of human history can tell us about our future / Robert L. Kelly.
“From four key pivot points in the six-million-year history of human development, Kelly looks ahead, giving us evidence for what he calls a fifth beginning, one that started about AD 1500 that some would call “globalization.” Kelly predicts that this will include the end of war as a viable way to resolve disputes, the end of capitalism as we know it, the widespread shift toward world citizenship, and the rise of forms of cooperation that will end the near-sacred status of nation-states. However, the author is cautiously optimistic: he dwells not on the coming chaos, but on humanity’s great potential.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe illustrated story of England / Christopher Hibbert ; illustrated by John Broadley ; new chapter by Dr Seán Lang.
“This concise and fast-paced introduction to English history keeps the reader enthralled through the entire course of the country’s political, economic, and cultural landscape, covering the whole sweep of English history from the Stone Age to the present. In this newly illustrated edition, John Broadley’s unique tableaux-like illustrations capture the landscape, costumes, and characters of the history that Hibbert’s text so vividly evokes.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Revolution & War – Recent History Picks for December

This month’s picks are a stark reminder that disruption and change are built into the fabric of daily life and therefore: history. The humanity and sensitivity with which these stories are told are a revolt in themselves to the violence they often contain. Some books, like the one published by the brand new National Museum of African American History in Washington D.C.’s Smithsonian, Dream a World Anew, use this change as a central driver – an inspiring compass through adversity and breakthroughs, rather than struggle alone.

Syndetics book coverThe Soviet century / Moshe Lewin ; edited by Gregory Elliott.
“Although the formal structures of the USSR are defunct, Lewin argues that a ghost of the system still lives as a biographical and institutional reality, especially in Russia. For those interested in the history of the Soviet Union, this study will provide a lavish feast, as it is full of empirical and interpretive detail about its institutions and leaders. Written by one of the old Soviet hands, this work, as a one-volume history of the USSR, will be hard to replace.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Great War for New Zealand : Waikato 1800-2000 / Vincent O’Malley.
“A monumental new account of the defining conflict in New Zealand history. It was war in the Waikato in 1863-64 that shaped the nation in all kinds of ways: setting back Māori and Pākehā relations by several generations and allowing the government to begin to assert the kind of real control over the country that had eluded it since 1840. Vincent O’Malley focuses on the human impact of the war, its origins and aftermath.”  (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSisters of the Somme : true stories from a First World War field hospital / Penny Starns.
“With First World War casualties mounting, there was an appeal for volunteers to train as front-line medical staff. Despite their training these young women were ill-prepared for the anguished cries of the wounded and the stench of gangrene and trench foot awaiting them at the Somme. Isolated from friends and family, most discovered an inner strength, forging new and close relationships with each other and establishing a camaraderie that was to last through the war and beyond.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDisunion : a history of the Civil War / edited by Ted Widmer, with Clay Risen and George Kalogerakis.
“Between 2011 and 2015, the Opinion section of The New York Times published Disunion, a series marking the long string of anniversaries around the Civil War, the most destructive, and most defining, conflict in American history. The works were startling in their range and direction, some taking on major topics, like the Gettysburg Address and the Battle of Fredericksburg, while others tackled subjects whose seemingly incidental quality yielded unexpected riches and new angles.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPasschendaele : requiem for doomed youth / Paul Ham.
Passchendaele tells the story of ordinary men in the grip of a political and military power struggle that determined their fate and has foreshadowed the destiny of the world for a century. Paul Ham lays down a powerful challenge to the idea of war as an inevitable expression of the human will, and examines the culpability of governments and military commanders in a catastrophe that destroyed the best part of a generation.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCaught in the revolution : Petrograd, 1917 / Helen Rappaport.
Caught in the Revolution is Helen Rappaport’s masterful telling of the outbreak of the Russian Revolution through eye-witness accounts left by foreign nationals who saw the drama unfold. Between the first revolution in February 1917 and Lenin’s Bolshevik coup in October, Petrograd (the former St. Petersburg) was in turmoil. Rappaport draws upon this rich trove of material, to carry us right up to the action–to see the Revolution as it happened to an assortment of individuals who suddenly felt themselves trapped in a ‘red madhouse'” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDream a world anew : the African American experience and the shaping of America / introduction by Lonnie G. Bunch III ; edited by Kinshasha Holmes Conwill.
“History will be made and embraced when the National Museum of African American History and Culture, a long-in-the-works and crucial addition to the Smithsonian Institution, opens on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in September 2016. With 275 color illustrations and essays brief and extended by two dozen scholars and curators, this welcoming overview covers a broad spectrum of subjects from slavery to African American artists and athletes.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBeautiful idiots and brilliant lunatics : a sideways look at twentieth-century London / Rob Baker.
“From the return of local hero Charlie Chaplin to the protests that blighted the Miss World competition in 1970, the book covers the events and personalities that reflect the glamorous, scandalous, political and subversive place London was and is today. Meticulously researched and beautifully written, the stories span the twentieth century and cover the width and breadth of the capital, revealing that London is much more than the sum of its parts.” (summary adapted from amazon.com)

Syndetics book coverHopeless but optimistic : journeying through America’s endless war in Afghanistan / Douglas A. Wissing.
“Wissing is everywhere in Afghanistan, sharing an impressionistic view from little white taxis coursing across one of the world’s most mine-ridden places; and compelling inside views from within embattled frontline combat outposts, lumbering armored gun trucks and flitting helicopters, brain trauma clinics, and Kabul’s Oz-like American embassy. He includes the real stuff of life: the austere grandeur of Afghanistan and its remarkable people; warzone dining, defecation, and sex; as well as the remarkable shopping opportunities for men whose job is to kill.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Everything Maps! New Travel Picks for November

Delve into this month’s stunning array of new maps and atlases, presenting places familiar and strange in a new light. To start getting lost in these is to start dreaming the existing world anew. With this comes the imperative to go out and uncover the world – whether in your neighbourhood or on the other side of the globe.

Syndetics book coverAtlas of improbable places : a journey to the world’s most unusual corners / Travis Elborough & Alan Horsfield.
“It is perhaps the eighth wonder of our world that despite modern mapping and satellite photography our planet continues to surprise us. Hidden lairs beneath layers of rock, forgotten cities rising out of deserted lands and even mankind’s own feats of engineering eccentricity lie in the most unusual of destinations. Travis Elborough goes in search of the obscure and bizarre, the beautiful and estranged. Beautiful maps and stunning photography illustrate each hidden place. (adapted from amazon.com)

413N1YK8daL._SX352_BO1,204,203,200_[1]Curiocity : in pursuit of London / Henry Eliot & Matt Lloyd-Rose.
“Curiocity
is the most beautiful and unusual guidebook ever written about London. Structured as an A to Z, its 26 chapters explore the city from all angles, with themes as diverse as crowdedness, sex, gentrification, time, sewers and the occult, illustrated by stunning hand-drawn maps. The 26 maps show show London from a child’s perspective, the airspace above the city, the ground beneath your feet, London reimagined as a giant prison, and much more.” (adapted from amazon.com)

Syndetics book coverAtlas obscura : an explorer’s guide to the world’s hidden wonders / Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras & Ella Morton.
“Drawing on material from the ever-expanding website of the same name, this ersatz tour guide to the fabulously interesting secret corners of the globe is arranged geographically by continent and country. Whether describing a Canadian museum that showcases world history through shoes, a pet-casket company that will also sell you a unit for your severed limb, a Greek snake festival, or a place in the Canary Islands where inhabitants communicate through whistling, the authors have compiled an enthralling range of oddities. […]” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGreat city maps.
“Step onto the streets of cities around the world, and understand the cultures and civilizations that created them with Great City Maps. This beautifully illustrated book explores the world’s most celebrated historical city maps. Richly detailed ancient and modern maps of important cities take you on a journey across the globe in stunning detail, from Athens to Alexandria and Cape Town to Cairo, with close up views of each city’s most intriguing features […]” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBest. state. ever. : a Florida man defends his homeland / Dave Barry.
“Every few months, Dave Barry gets a call from some media person wanting to know, “What the hell is wrong with Florida?” Somehow, the state’s acquired an image as a subtropical festival of stupid, and as a loyal Floridian, Dave begs to differ. Sure, there was the 2000 election. And people seem to take their pants off for no good reason. And it has flying insects the size of LeBron James. But it is a great state, and Dave is going to tell you why. Join him as he celebrates Florida from Key West at the bottom to whatever it is that’s at the top, from the Sunshine State’s earliest history to the fun-fair of weirdness that it is today.” (adapted from amazon.com)

Syndetics book coverLove of country : a Hebridean journey / Madeleine Bunting.
“An extraordinary journey deep into the history and landscape of the Hebrides, exploring their turbulent history, the spread of their influence, and how these islands shaped the nations of Britain.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOur delicious adventure : recipes and stories of food and travel / Jane Grover
“Yearning to break with the routine of the everyday, Jane Grover and her family spent a season exploring Australia’s southern coastline from Sydney to Perth and recorded their adventures in delicious, juicy detail. Join her as she gathers cockles on the Fleurieu Peninsula, nets blue swimmer crabs in Streaky Bay, savours local raspberries from the Albany Farmers’ Market and eats freshly shucked oysters from the shoreline of Bruny Island in Tasmania.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCrossing the Congo : over land and water in a hard place / Mike Martin, Chloe Baker, Charlie Hatch-Barnwell.
“In 2013, three friends set off on a journey that they had been told was impossible: the north-south crossing of the Congo River Basin, from Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to Juba, in South Sudan. […] Crossing the Congo is an offbeat travelogue, a story of friendship and what it takes to complete a great journey against tremendous odds, and an intimate look into one of the world’s least-developed and most fragile states, told with humor and sensitivity.” (adapted from amazon.com)

Recent History Picks

Every month is a reminder that history reading lets us travel through multiple dimensions, a space heightened through time, shedding light on both the most exhausted and uncharted grounds.

Syndetics book coverSunken cities : Egypt’s lost worlds : the BP exhibition / edited by Franck Goddio and Aurélia Masson-Berghoff.
“This book showcases a spectacular collection of artefacts, coupled with a retelling of the history by world-renowned experts in the subject (including the sites’ long-term excavator), bringing the reader face-to-face with this vibrant ancient society.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFear drive my feet / Peter Ryan.
“At age eighteen, Peter Ryan was an intelligence operative, patrolling isolated regions of New Guinea during World War II. Isolated, with Japanese forces closing in, he endured the hardships of the jungle without adequate supplies, a radio, or even a proper map. Ryan’s gripping account has become a classic memoir of the war in the Pacific, rarely out of print in forty years.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGhost empire / Richard Fidler.
“In 2014, Richard Fidler and his son Joe made a journey to Istanbul. Fired by Richard’s passion for the rich history of the dazzling Byzantine Empire – centred around the legendary Constantinople – we are swept into some of the most extraordinary tales in history. The clash of civilizations, the fall of empires, the rise of Christianity, revenge, lust, murder. Turbulent stories from the past are brought vividly to life at the same time as a father navigates the unfolding changes in his relationship with his son.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe art of time travel : historians and their craft / Tom Griffiths.
“No matter how practised we are at history, it always humbles us. No matter how often we visit the past, it always surprises us. The art of time travel is to maintain critical poise and grace in this dizzy space.’ In this landmark book, eminent historian and award-winning author Tom Griffiths explores the craft of discipline and imagination that is history.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe drone eats with me : a Gaza diary / Atef Abu Saif.
“An unforgettable rendering of everyday civilian life shattered by the realities of twenty-first-century warfare. Israel’s 2014 invasion of Gaza lasted 51 days, killed 2,145 Palestinians (578 of them children), injured over 11,000 people, and demolished more than 17,000 homes. Atef Abu Saif, a young father and novelist, puts an indelibly human face on these statistics, providing a rare window into the texture of a community and the realities of a conflict that is too often obscured by politics.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverEggs or anarchy : the remarkable story of the man tasked with the impossible : to feed a nation at war / William Sitwell.
Eggs or Anarchy is one of the great, British stories of the Second World War yet to be told in full. It reveals the heroic tale of how Lord Woolton, Minister for Food, really fed Britain. A grammar school-educated genius, he was a fish out of water in Churchill’s cabinet and the PM himself doubted Woolton would survive due to the unstinting criticism he faced from colleagues, the press and public.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCan you tolerate this? : personal essays / Ashleigh Young.
“In this spirited and singular book, Young roams freely from preoccupation to preoccupation Hamilton’s 90s music scene, family histories, a boy with a rare skeletal disease, a stone-collecting French postman, a desire for impossible physical transformation ¿ trying to find some measure of clarity amid uncertainty. How to bear each moment of experience: the inconsequential as much as the shattering? Her search takes us through poignant, funny and raw territories.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGeneration revolution : on the front line between tradition and change in the Middle East / Rachel Aspden.
“In 2003, Rachel Aspden arrived in Egypt as a 23-year-old trainee journalist. She found a country on the brink of change. The new generation were stifled; caught between a dictatorship with nothing to offer them and autocratic parents still clinging to tradition and obedience after a lifetime of fear. Following the stories of four young Egyptians, Aspden unravels the complex forces shaping the lives of young people caught between tradition and modernity.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBlack square : adventures in the post-Soviet world / Sophie Pinkham.
Black Square is a multidimensional portrait of a period of tumultuous change, and of a generation that came of age after the fall of the USSR, only to see protestors shot on Kiev’s main square, Crimea annexed by Russia, and a bitter war in eastern Ukraine. We meet a charismatic doctor fighting the AIDS epidemic even as he struggles with his own drug addiction; an iconoclastic artist with a penchant for public nudity; and a Russian-Jewish clarinettist agitating for Ukrainian liberation.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCalifornia comeback : how a “failed state” became a model for the nation / Narda Zacchino, with Christopher Scheer.
“In the most economically important state in the country–and the 7th largest economy in the world–a political revolution of historic importance has occurred which has not been sufficiently covered by the media. In the state where the Reagan Revolution was born, there has recently occurred a remarkable progressive revolution under the leadership of another governor, four-term Democrat Jerry Brown.”  (adapted from Syndetics summary)

New Travel Picks for September

Let this month’s travel picks take you on a stroll. Take a meander through a damp and ephemeral landscape in Rain, test walking upside down in But What If We’re Wrong? all while being careful to not drop off the ‘edge of the Earth’ in Maps That Changed the World.

Syndetics book coverPinpoint : how GPS is changing technology, culture, and our minds / Greg Milner.
“Greg Milner takes us on a fascinating tour of a hidden system that touches almost every aspect of our modern life. While GPS has brought us breathtakingly accurate information about our planetary environment and physical space, it has also created new forms of human behavior. We have let it saturate the world’s systems so completely and so quickly that we are just beginning to confront the possible consequences.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe wonder trail : true stories from Los Angeles to the end of the world / Steve Hely.
“Who should read this book? […] So: People taking trips, people who aren’t taking trips, people who like trips, people who don’t like trips, and people who want to be entertained, delighted and informed should all enjoy this book.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMaps that changed the world / edited by O. E. Clark ; introduction by Professor Jeremy Black.
“From beautifully engraved sixteenth-century Dutch maps to sinister Nazi maps, this stunning compendium features some of the most famous cartography ever created. Stretching back to when explorers feared dropping off the “edge of the world.” Organized chronologically, the collection shows the evolution of map-making from all corners of the globe.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRain : four walks in English weather / Melissa Harrison.
“An evocative meditation on the English landscape in wet weather by the acclaimed novelist and nature writer, Melissa Harrison. Whenever rain falls, our countryside changes. Fields, farms, hills and hedgerows appear altered, the wildlife behaves differently, and over time the terrain itself is transformed. Blending her expeditions with reading, research, memory and imagination, Harrison reveals how rain is not just an essential element of the world around us, but a key part of our own identity too.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverUnder the tump : sketches of real life on the Welsh Borders / Oliver Balch.
“Hay-on-Wye is world famous as the Town of Books. But when travel writer Oliver Balch moved there, it was not just the books he was keen to read, but the people too. After living in London and Buenos Aires, what will he make of this tiny, quirky town on the Welsh-English border? To help guide him, he turns to Francis Kilvert, a Victorian diarist who captured the bucolic rural life of his day. Does anything of Kilvert’s world still exists? And could a newcomer ever feel they truly belong?” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBut what if we’re wrong? : thinking about the present as if it were the past / Chuck Klosterman.
“But What If We’re Wrong? visualizes the contemporary world as it will appear to those who’ll perceive it as the distant past. Chuck Klosterman asks questions that are profound in their simplicity: How certain are we about our understanding of gravity? How certain are we about our understanding of time? What will be the defining memory of rock music, five hundred years from today? […] It’s about how we live now, once “now” has become “then”.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWelcome to the goddamn ice cube : chasing fear and finding home in the great white north / Blair Braverman.
“A revelatory memoir of the author’s efforts to develop the strength and resilience to survive in the demanding landscapes of Norway and Alaska describes her physically exhausting survival endeavors on a ruthless arctic tundra marked by violent natural and human threats.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGone wild : stories from a lifetime of wildlife travel / Malcolm Smith.
“Often amusing, sometimes romantic or fraught with danger, these 30 short stories are about local people, spectacular places and the special wildlife the author sets out to find. The stories include seeking out Arabian Oryx on the searing plains of the Saudi desert; eiderdown collecting in Iceland, crouching in swirling clouds and darkness on a knife-edge ridge in the rugged Madeiran mountains and swimming with Grey Seals off the Pembroke coast.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverEpic bike rides of the world : explore the planet’s most thrilling cycling routes.
“Discover 200 of the best places to ride a bike in this beautifully illustrated hardback. From family-friendly, sightseeing urban rides to epic adventures off the beaten track. Destinations range from France and Italy, for the world’s great bike races, to the wilds of Mongolia and Patagonia. These journeys will inspire – whether you are an experienced cyclist or just getting started.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Hidden – Recent History Picks for August

Much is about what lays hidden under the surface in this month’s picks. Whether it be the beauty amid the grit, strategy under adversity, violence disguised by calm, or the tensions behind a façade, these reads promise compelling depths of meaning.

Syndetics book coverBad history : how we got the past wrong / Emma Marriott.
“Much of what we know about historical events is based on generally accepted ‘facts’: St Patrick was Irish; Roman gladiators would fight to the death; the Wild West was full of danger. Each entry in this informative book will discuss the case for and against these commonly accepted truths, and corrects what you thought you knew about history.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe fall of heaven : the Pahlavis and the final days of imperial Iran / Andrew Scott Cooper.
“An immersive, gripping account of the rise and fall of Iran’s glamorous Pahlavi dynasty, written with the cooperation of the late Shah’s widow, Empress Farah, Iranian revolutionaries and US officials from the Carter administration. The Fall of Heaven recreates in stunning detail the dramatic and final days of one of the world’s most legendary ruling families, the unseating of which helped set the stage for the current state of the Middle East.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAngela Merkel : Europe’s most influential leader / Matthew Qvortrup.
“With the storytelling gifts of a novelist, Matt Qvortrup gives readers unprecedented, personal insight into Frau Merkel’s upbringing under communism. This is the story–told for the first time in English–of how Merkel and her staff of mostly female advisors repeatedly outsmarted the old boys network of conservative male politicians in Germany, turning her country into a more liberal and more prosperous place.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLucie Aubrac : the French resistance heroine who outwitted the Gestapo / Siân Rees.
“In May 1943, a young Frenchwoman called Lucie Aubrac engineered the escape of her husband, Raymond, from the clutches of Klaus Barbie, the feared Gestapo chief later known as the “Butcher of Lyon.” Spirited out of France with Raymond by the RAF, Lucie arrived in London a heroine. Siân Rees’s penetrating, even-handed account offers a thrilling portrait of a brave, resourceful woman who went to extraordinary lengths for love and country.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAncient worlds : an epic history of east & west / Michale Scott.
“Acclaimed historian and TV presenter Michael Scott guides us through an epic story spanning ten centuries to create a bold new reading of the classical era for our globalised world. Scott challenges our traditionally western-focused perception of the past, connecting Greco-Roman civilisation to the great rulers and empires that swept across Central Asia to India and China resulting in a truly global vision of ancient history.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRio de Janeiro : extreme city / Luiz Eduardo Soares ; translated by Anthony Doyle.
“Luiz Eduardo Soares tells the story of Rio through the everyday lives of its people: gangsters and police, activists, politicians and struggling migrant workers, each with their own version of the city. Taking us on a journey into Rio’s intricate world of favelas, beaches and corridors of power, Soares reveals one of the most extraordinary cities in the world in all its seething, agonistic beauty.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe view from the corner shop : the diary of a wartime shop assistant / Kathleen Hey ; edited by Patricia and Robert Malcolmson.
“Kathleen Hey spent the war years helping her sister run a grocery shop in the Yorkshire town of Dewsbury. From July 1941 to July 1946 she kept a diary for the Mass-Observation project, recording the thoughts and concerns of the people who used the shop. What makes Kathleen’s account such a compelling read is the immediacy of her writing. People were pulling together on the surface, but there are plenty of tensions underneath.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCrusade and jihad : origins, history and aftermath / Malcolm Lambert.
“Malcolm Lambert investigates the histories of Christianity and Islam to trace the origins and development of crusade and jihad. In a narrative that brims with larger than life characters – among them, Richard Lionheart, Nur al-Din, Saladin, Baybars and Ghengiz Khan – he describes the fiercely fought struggles to control the sacred places of the Middle East between the seventh and thirteenth centuries.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFor king and another country : Indian soldiers on the Western Front, 1914-18 / Shrabani Basu.
“Over a million Indian soldiers fought in the First World War, the largest force from the colonies and dominions. Their contribution, however, has been largely forgotten. Shrabani Basu delves into archives in Britain and narratives buried in villages in India and Pakistan to recreate the War through the eyes of the Indians who fought it. Above all, it is the great story of how the War changed India and led, ultimately, to the call for independence.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverZero hour : 100 years on : views from the parapet of the Somme / Jolyon Fenwick.
“The first day of the battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916, was the most devastating event of the First World War for the British army. 14 panoramas show the Somme’s major sites as they look today. Zero Hour is simultaneously a celebration of the renewing power of nature, and a powerful and unconventional reminder of the horrors of the past.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Big Ideas – Recent History Picks for July

Epic histories are offered in this month’s round-up, encompassing the revolutions in China and Russia and the turbulent change of the Middle East. The latter two regions inspire a multi-vocal approach that embraces subjectivity and variation in perspective.

Syndetics book coverThe cultural revolution : a people’s history, 1962-1976 / Frank Dikötter.
“Acclaimed by the Daily Mail as ‘definitive and harrowing’ , this is the final volume of ‘The People’s Trilogy’. After the economic disaster of the Great Leap Forward that claimed tens of millions of lives between 1958 and 1962, an ageing Mao launched an ambitious scheme to shore up his reputation and eliminate those he viewed as a threat to his legacy. The stated goal of the Cultural Revolution was to purge the country of bourgeois, capitalist elements he claimed were threatening genuine communist ideology.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSoutheast Asia : an introductory history / Milton Osborne.
“While giving due regard to the early history of the region, Osborne concentrates on the changes that have taken place since the 18th century: the impact of colonial rule, economic transformations of the 19th and 20th centuries, the emergence and triumph of the independence movements, the impact of social change, and the pivotal roles played by religion, ethnic minorities, and immigrant groups. He also provides an introduction to the art of the region and a comprehensive guide to literature about Southeast Asia.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOnce in a great city : a Detroit story / David Maraniss.
“It’s 1963 and Detroit is on top of the world. The city’s leaders are among the most visionary in America. […] Once in a Great City shows that the shadows of collapse were evident even then. Before the devastating riot. Before the decades of civic corruption and neglect, and white flight. Before people trotted out the grab bag of rust belt infirmities and competition from abroad to explain Detroit’s collapse, one could see the signs of a city’s ruin. Detroit at its peak was threatened by its own design. It was being abandoned by the new world. Yet so much of what Detroit gave America lasts.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHistorically inevitable? : turning points of the Russian Revolution / edited by Tony Brenton.
“Marx held that the progression of society from capitalism to communism was ‘historically inevitable’. In Russia in 1917, it seemed that Marx’s theory was being born out in reality. But was the Russian Revolution really inevitable? This collection of fourteen contributions from the world’s leading Russian scholars attempts to answer the question by looking back at the key turning points of the revolution.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe history book.
“Travel back in time with the latest instalment in the bestselling Big Ideas series. The History Book charts world history from the dawn of civilisation to the modern culture we live in today. From the origins of homo-sapiens to the release of Nelson Mandela, from the French Revolution to the Space Race, The History Book is a stunning exploration of the human timeline up to and including modern Islam, the world wide web, and the global financial crisis.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDefending the motherland : the Soviet women who fought Hitler’s aces / Lyuba Vinogradova ; with an introducation by Antony Beevor ; translated from the Russian by Arch Tait.
“Battling not just fearsome Aces of the Luftwaffe but also patronising prejudice from their own leaders, women such as Lilya Litvyak and Ekaterina Budanova are brought to life by the diaries and recollections of those who knew them, and who watched them live, love, fight and die.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverShifting sands : the unraveling of the old order in the Middle East / edited by Raja Shehadeh and Penny Johnson.
Shifting Sands brings together fifteen impassioned and informed voices to talk about a region with unlimited potential, and yet which can feel, as one writer puts it, “as though the world around me is on fire.” This collection has as its framing event the Sykes-Picot agreement, which marks its centenary this year. […] For all those who are wearied by the debates surrounding the Middle East ‘often at best ill-informed and at worst, defeatist propaganda’ this intelligent, reasoned perspective on life in the Middle East is a breath of fresh air.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAssholes : a theory of Donald Trump / by Aaron James.
“Make America Great Again? Donald Trump is an asshole is a fact widely agreed upon–even by his supporters, who actually like that about him. But his startling political rise makes the question of just what sort of asshole he is, and how his assholedom may help to explain his success, one not just of philosophical interest but of almost existential urgency. […] You will never think about Donald Trump and his Art of the Deal the same way after reading this book. And, like it or not, think about him we must.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Modi effect : inside Narendra Modi’s campaign to transform India / Lance Price.
“Political parties in Britain, Australia and North America pride themselves on the sophistication of their election strategies, but Modi’s campaign was a master-class in modern electioneering. His team created an election machine that broke new ground in the use of social media, the Internet, mobile phones and digital technologies. […] These pioneering techniques brought millions of young people to the ballot box as Modi trounced the governing Congress Party led by the Gandhi dynasty.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSaved to remember : Raoul Wallenberg, Budapest 1944 and after / Frank Vajda.
“Frank Vajda, a major figure in Australian neurology, was a boy in Budapest, Hungary, during the Second World War. He witnessed the attempt by Hitler’s Nazis and a fascist Hungarian militia to murder him, his family and the rest of the Jews of this nation. Frank survived in the care of his courageous and ever-resourceful mother. Vajda vividly and matter-of-factly conveys what life was like for Jews trying to stay alive in a world where the law of the land, backed up by brute soldierly force, suddenly determined that they were to be killed, and how they hid, bluffed, and fought to avoid that fate.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Trail or Rail – New Travel Picks for July

Trail enthusiasts should check out Walking to Camelot and The 50 Greatest Walks in the World. Alternately, The Road I Ride and Ticket to Ride both explore the thrills and pleasures of experiencing the world at a faster pace.

Syndetics book coverThe 50 greatest walks of the world / Barry Stone.
“With walks that will appeal to everyone regardless of ability, The 50 Greatest Walks of the World includes American classics such as the Appalachian Trail, Buckskin Gulch, and the Bright Angel Trail to Phantom Ranch, as well as personal favourites such as Italy’s Cinque Terre Classic and the Isle of Skye’s Trotternish Ridge, one of Britain’s finest ridge traverses with almost 2,500m of ascents. Whether it’s a climb, a stroll, or a life-changing slog, this book has the walk for you.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA boy of China : in search of Mao’s lost son / Richard Loseby.
“The author’s search for a son of Chinese leader Chairman Mao, who was abandoned by Mao in 1934 during the famous Long March. The search takes the author all over China, from Shanghai west to Tibet and Sichuan then to Jiangxi in the southeast. He describes the places he visits, his discoveries and his meetings with fascinating characters along the way.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWalking to Camelot : a pilgrimage through the heart of rural England / John A. Cherrington.
“John Cherrington and his 74-year-old walking companion set out one fine morning in May to traverse the only English footpath that cuts south through the rural heart of the country, a formidable path called the Macmillan Way. […] The historical merges with the magic of the footpath, with Cherrington making astute, often humorous observations on the social, cultural, and culinary mores of the English, all from a very North American perspective.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPerforming indigenous culture on stage and screen : a harmony of frenzy / Marianne Schultz.
“Examining corporeal expressions of indigenousness from an historical perspective, this book highlights the development of cultural hybridity in New Zealand via the popular performing arts, contributing new understandings of racial, ethnic, and gender identities through performance. The author offers an insightful and welcome examination of New Zealand performing arts via case studies of drama, music, and dance, performed both domestically and internationally.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThis road I ride : my incredible journey from novice to fastest woman to cycle the globe / Juliana Buhring.
“18,000 miles, 152 days, 4 continents, 19 countries, 29 punctures, 6 big mountains, 1 desert and a cyclone later, Juliana Buhring came back just days before Christmas with a Guinness World Record. Empowering, inspiring, often humorous, This Road I Ride is testimony to the power of sheer will to overcome any obstacle. Discover a true story of adventure, blood, sweat and gears.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAccidentally Istanbul / Nancy Knudsen.
“Nancy Knudsen never meant to go to Istanbul. Maybe she might have included it as part of a holiday along with other dazzling European cities such as Venice, Paris or Salzburg. But the idea of actually living in a Muslim country as an ordinary citizen rather than tourist or expat corporate executive, would never have occurred to her. Knudsen’s story is vivid, lively and sometimes hilarious, full of insights into things she wished she’d known before she arrived with not a word of Turkish.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTicket to ride : around the world on 49 unusual train journeys / Tom Chesshyre.
“Experience the world by train. Why do people love trains so much? Tom Chesshyre is on a mission to find the answer by experiencing the world through train travel – on both epic and everyday rail routes, aboard every type of ride, from steam locomotives to bullet trains, meeting a cast of memorable characters who share a passion for train travel. Join him on the rails and off the beaten track as he embarks on an exhilarating whistle-stop tour around the globe.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverVoyager : travel writings / Russell Banks.
“The acclaimed, award-winning novelist takes us on some of his most memorable journeys in this revelatory collection of travel essays that spans the globe, from the Caribbean to Scotland to the Himalayas. Now in his mid-seventies, Russell Banks has indulged his wanderlust for more than half a century. […] Voyager brings together the social, the personal, and the historical, opening a path into the heart and soul of this revered writer.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLondon rising : illicit photos from the city’s heights / Bradley L. Garrett, Alexander Moss, Scott Cadman ; with illustrations by Lizzie Mary Cullen
“In this book, an intrepid crew of city explorers share dizzying photos and stories collected while journeying up, over, and into the London skyline. Over the course of seven years, a well-respected team of adventurers has embarked on scores of not-quite-legal investigations inside, below, and above the city’s hidden infrastructures. Readers will enjoy these indefatigable explorers’ quest to make their native city both known and accessible to anyone who shares their curiosity.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Courage – Recent History Picks for June

Highlights from this month include the critically acclaimed Secondhand Time which made Svetlana Alexeivich a Nobel laureate last year. Dogs of Courage by Clare Campbell carries on the theme of bravery in the face of change, acknowledging the most unsung war heroes.

Syndetics book coverSecondhand time : the last of the Soviets / Svetlana Alexievich ; translated by Bela Shayevich.
“Already hailed as a masterpiece across Europe, Secondhand Time is an intimate portrait of a country yearning for meaning after the sudden lurch from Communism to capitalism in the 1990s plunged it into existential crisis. A series of monologues by people across the former Soviet empire, it is Tolstoyan in scope, driven by the idea that history is made not only by major players but also by ordinary people.” — The New York Times (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDogs of courage : when Britain’s pets went to war, 1939-45 / Clare Campbell and Christy Campbell.
Clare Campbell told the fascinating story of what it was like for Britain’s pets when the world was at war. This time, she follows the incredible journey of the dogs who conscripted to fight for their country, with some even returning with medals for their bravery.

Syndetics book coverBitter freedom : Ireland in a revolutionary world / Maurice Walsh.
“Long mythologized but seldom understood, the story of Irish independence and its grinding aftermath in the early part of the twentieth century has been told only within a parochial Anglo-Irish context. Now, in the critically acclaimed Bitter Freedom, Maurice Walsh, with “a novelist’s eye for detailing lives in extremis” (Feargal Keane, Prospect), places revolutionary Ireland within the panorama of nationalist movements born out of World War I.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe first migration : Māori origins 3000BC – AD1450 / Atholl Anderson.
“Thousands of years ago migrants from South China began the journey that took their descendants through the Pacific to the southernmost islands of Polynesia. Atholl Anderson’s synthesis of research and tradition charts this epic journey of New Zealand’s first human inhabitants. Taken from Tangata Whenua: An Illustrated History this text weaves together evidence from numerous sources: oral traditions, archaeology, genetics, linguistics, ethnography, historical observations, palaeoecology, climate change and more.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMy holiday in North Korea : the funniest/worst place on Earth / Wendy E. Simmons.
“Most people want out of North Korea. Wendy Simmons wanted in. Through poignant, laugh-out-loud essays and 92 never-before-published color photographs of North Korea, Wendy chronicles one of the strangest vacations ever. Along the way, she bares all while undergoing an inner journey as convoluted as the country itself.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe way to the spring : life and death in Palestine / Ben Ehrenreich.
“Ruled by the Israeli military, set upon and harassed constantly by Israeli settlers who admit unapologetically to wanting to drive them from the land, […] this is a population whose living conditions are unique, and indeed hard to imagine. In a great act of bravery, empathy and understanding, Ben Ehrenreich, by placing us in the footsteps of ordinary Palestinians and telling their story with surpassing literary power and grace, makes it impossible for us to turn away.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIndependence or union : Scotland’s past and Scotland’s present / T.M. Devine.
“There can be no relationship in Europe’s history more creative, significant, vexed and uneasy than that between Scotland and England. […] But as Devine makes clear, it has for the most part been a relationship based on consent, not force, on mutual advantage, rather than antagonism – and it has always held the possibility of a political parting of the ways. With the United Kingdom under a level of scrutiny unmatched since the eighteenth century Independence or Union is the essential guide.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe sister queens : Isabella & Catherine de Valois / Mary McGrigor.
“Isabella de Valois was 3 years old when her father suddenly went mad. […] Isabella’s sister, Catherine de Valois, became the beautiful young bride of Henry V. Like her sister, Catherine was viewed as a bargaining chip in times of political turmoil, yet her passionate love affair with the young Owain Tudor established the entire Tudor dynasty. The Sister Queens is a gripping tale of love, exile and conflict in a time when even royal women had to fight for survival.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPaper tiger : inside the real China / Xu Zhiyuan ; translated from the Chinese by Michelle Deeter and Nicky Harman.
“Xu Zhiyuan describes the many stages upon which China’s great transformation is taking place, from Beijing’s Silicon district to a cruise down the Three Gorges; he profiles China’s dissidents, including Liu Xiaobo, Ai Weiwei and Chen Guangcheng; and explores lesser-known stories of scandals that rocked China but which most people outside that country did not hear about. Xu Zhiyuan understands his homeland in a way no foreign correspondent ever could.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe anatomy of the Zulu army : from Shaka to Cetshwayo, 1818-1879 / Ian Knight.
“Forces of the independent Zulu kingdom inflicted a crushing defeat on British imperial forces at Isandlwana in January 1879. The Zulu Army was not, however, a professional force, unlike its British counterpart, but was the mobilized manpower of the Zulu state. […] Knight analyzes the Zulu’s fighting methods, weapons and philosophy, all of which led to the disciplined force that faced the British army in 1879.” (Syndetics summary)