The San Francisco Travel Book Club
Meets the first Monday of Every Month at 7:00 PM
Books Inc. the Marina, 2251 Chestnut Street, San Francisco.
July 2015 Selection: Back in America after twenty years in Britain, Bill Bryson decided to reacquaint himself with his native country by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. The AT offers an astonishing landscape of silent forests and sparkling lakes and to a writer with the comic genius of Bill Bryson, it also provides endless opportunities to witness the majestic silliness of his fellow human beings.
For a start there's the gloriously out-of-shape Stephen Katz, a buddy from Iowa along for the walk. Despite Katz's overwhelming desire to find cozy restaurants, he and Bryson eventually settle into their stride, and while on the trail they meet a bizarre assortment of hilarious characters. But "A Walk in the Woods" is more than just a laugh-out-loud hike. Bryson's acute eye is a wise witness to this beautiful but fragile trail, and as he tells its fascinating history, he makes a moving plea for the conservation of America's last great wilderness. An adventure, a comedy, and a celebration, "A Walk in the Woods" has becomea modern classic of travel literature.
June 2015 Selection: In Dark Star Safari the wittily observant and endearingly irascible Paul Theroux takes readers the length of Africa by rattletrap bus, dugout canoe, cattle truck, armed convoy, ferry, and train. In the course of his epic and enlightening journey, he endures danger, delay, and dismaying circumstances.
Gauging the state of affairs, he talks to Africans, aid workers, missionaries, and tourists. What results is an insightful meditation on the history, politics, and beauty of Africa and its people, and "a vivid portrayal of the secret sweetness, the hidden vitality, and the long-patient hope that lies just beneath the surface" (Rocky Mountain News). In a new postscript, Theroux recounts the dramatic events of a return to Africa to visit Zimbabwe.
May 2015 Selection: The World of Venice is a classic book that offers an incomparable take on an incomparable city. Jan Morris's new foreword brings readers up to date on 1990s Venice, a city jam-packed with its admirers, jangling its profits, flaunting its theatrical splendors, enlivened once more by that old Venetian aphrodisiac - success. Incorporating the best aspects of travel writing and popular history, Morris transcends both genres by creating a composite portrait of Venice, artfully blending the fabled city's rich past with its current reality. Writing with singular zest and perceptiveness, Morris explores each of the city's aspects in all of its seasons, evoking the character of this unique locale through its arts, its food, and the personality of its people.
April 2015 Selection: Peter Mayle, francophile phenomenon and author of "A Year in Provence," brings another delightful (and delicious) account of the good life, this time exploring the gustatory pleasures to be found throughout France.
The French celebrate food and drink more than any other people, and Mayle shows us just how contagious their enthusiasm can be. We visit the Foire aux Escargots. We attend a truly French marathon, where the beverage of choice is Chteau Lafite-Rothschild rather than Gatorade. We search out the most pungent cheese in France, and eavesdrop on a heated debate on the perfect way to prepare an omelet. We even attend a Catholic mass in the village of Richerenches, a sacred event at which thanks are given for the aromatic, mysterious, and breathtakingly expensive black truffle. With Mayle as our inimitably charming guide, we come away with a satisfied smile (if a little hungry) and the compelling desire to book a flight to France at once.
March 2015 Selection: A SCOTSMAN NON-FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR
Vanessa Able wanted a truly independent Indian adventure, but nothing prepared her for the noise, chaos and terror of driving 10,000 km around the subcontinent or for finding the love of her life.
Behind the wheel of a yellow Tata Nano (the world s cheapest car), Vanessa steers the reader through a hilarious, high-octane adventure. Taking any help she can get from loopy spiritual gurus to professional driving instructors, and even a divine insurance policy she drives her way around an alien road network through India s white-knuckle traffic where vehicle size, full-beam lights and roads that simply disappear seem to trump all common sense. Narrowly escaping death by truck, she learns the real rules of the road, the vehicle pecking order, what to do when the SH11T hits the fan and to appreciate the true kings of the dusty tarmac: the bullocks.
En route, she falls hopelessly in love with a mathematician named Thor who might be, ironically, the worst driver she s ever met. Their romance does not start promisingly the first rendezvous is interrupted by that universal passion-killer, Delhi belly but will they survive unexpected sheep-jams, a car full of elephant slime, and the endless cacophony of horns?
February 2015 Selection: More than 20 well-known writers and celebrities share the travel experiences that shaped their personalities and changed their lives. Contributors include Dave Eggers, Richard Ford, Pico Iyer, John Berendt, Alexander McCall Smith and Jane Smiley.
About Lonely Planet: Started in 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel guide publisher with guidebooks to every destination on the planet, as well as an award-winning website, a suite of mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet's mission is to enable curious travellers to experience the world and to truly get to the heart of the places they find themselves in.
November 2014 Selection: "Travel connoisseurs divide the world into those places they've been dying to visit or revisit and places they'd never set foot in but are glad someone else did. This year's volume of travel writing . . . focuses mostly on the latter with derring-do dispatches." -- "USA Today"
A far-ranging collection of the best travel writing pieces published in 2013, collected by guest editor Paul Theroux. "The Best American Travel Writing" consistently includes a wide variety of pieces, illuminating the wonder, humor, fear, and exhilaration that greets all of us when we embark on a journey to a new place. Readers know that there is simply no other option when they want great travel writing.
October 2014 Selection: A round-the-world bicycle tour with one of the most original artists of our day.
Urban bicycling has become more popular than ever as recession- strapped, climate-conscious city dwellers reinvent basic transportation. In this wide-ranging memoir, artist/musician David Byrne-who has relied on a bike to get around New York City since the early 1980s-relates his adventures as he pedals through an engages with some of the world's major cities. From Buenos Aires to Berlin, he meets a range of people both famous and ordinary, shares his thoughts on art, fashion, music, globalization, and the ways that many places are becoming more bike-friendly. "Bicycle Diaries" is an adventure on two wheels conveyed with humor, curiosity, and humanity.
September 2014 Selection: NO ONE TRAVELS QUITE LIKE RICHARD GRANT and, really, no one should. In his last book, the adventure classic "God's Middle Finger, "he narrowly escaped death in Mexico's lawless Sierra Madre. Now, Grant has plunged with his trademark recklessness, wit, and curiosity into East Africa. Setting out to make the first descent of an unexplored river in Tanzania, he gets waylaid in Zanzibar by thieves, whores, and a charismatic former golf pro before crossing the Indian Ocean in a rickety cargo boat. And then the real adventure begins. Known to local tribes as "the river of bad spirits," the Malagarasi River is a daunting adversary even with a heavily armed Tanzanian crew as travel companions. Dodging bullets, hippos, and crocodiles, Grant finally emerges in war-torn Burundi, where he befriends some ethnic street gangsters and trails a notorious man-eating crocodile known as Gustave. He concludes his journey by interviewing the dictatorial president of Rwanda and visiting the true source of the Nile. Gripping, illuminating, sometimes harrowing, often hilarious, "Crazy River "is a brilliantly rendered account of a modern-day exploration of Africa, and the unraveling of Grant's peeled, battered mind as he tries to take it all in.
August 2014 Selection: First published more than thirty years ago, Paul Theroux's strange, unique, and hugely entertaining railway odyssey has become a modern classic of travel literature. Here Theroux recounts his early adventures on an unusual grand continental tour. Asia's fabled trains -- the Orient Express, the Khyber Pass Local, the Frontier Mail, the Golden Arrow to Kuala Lumpur, the Mandalay Express, the Trans-Siberian Express -- are the stars of a journey that takes him on a loop eastbound from London's Victoria Station to Tokyo Central, then back from Japan on the Trans-Siberian. Brimming with Theroux's signature humor and wry observations, this engrossing chronicle is essential reading for both the ardent adventurer and the armchair traveler.
July 2014 Selection: Part of the annual Travelers' Tales series that was launched in 2004 to celebrate the world's best travel writing, this title offers perspectives that are global, and themes that encompass high adventure, spiritual growth, romance, hilarity and misadventure, service to humanity, and encounters with exotic cuisines and cultures.
June 2014 Selection: With the high-octane humor, infallible radar for the absurd, and post-punk sensibility that have made him the premier adventure writer of our time, Cahill reports on the road trip to end all road trips: a journey from Tierra del Fuego to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska--accomplished in a record-breaking 23 1/2 days.
May 2014 Selection: With plenty of sunscreen and a cold beer swaddled in his sleeping bag, writer and botanist Jim Malusa bicycled alone to the lowest point on each of six continents, a six-year series of "anti-expeditions" to the "anti-summits." His journeys took him to Lake Eyre in the arid heart of Australia, along Moses' route to the Dead Sea, and from Moscow to the Caspian Sea. He pedaled across the Andes to Patagonia, around tiny Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, and from Tucson to Death Valley. With a scientist's eye, he vividly observes local landscapes and creatures. As a lone man, he is overfed by grandmothers, courted by ladies of the night in Volgograd, invited into a mosque by Africa's most feared tribe, chased by sandstorms and hurricanes -- yet Malusa keeps riding. His reward: the deep silence of the world's great depressions. A large-hearted narrative of what happens when a friendly, perceptive American puts himself at the mercy of strange landscapes and their denizens, "Into Thick Air" presents one of the most talented new voices in contemporary travel writing.
April 2014 Selection: The only thing "gonzo gastronome" and internationally bestselling author Anthony Bourdain loves as much as cooking is traveling. Inspired by the question, "What would be the perfect meal?," Tony sets out on a quest for his culinary holy grail, and in the process turns the notion of "perfection" inside out. From California to Cambodia, A Cooks' Tour chronicles the unpredictable adventures of America's boldest and bravest chef.
March 2014 Selection: This mesmerizing portrait of a proud man who, through three decades and successive repressive regimes, heroically braved persecution to bring books to the people of Kabul has elicited extraordinary praise throughout the world and become a phenomenal international bestseller. "The Bookseller of Kabul" is startling in its intimacy and its details - a revelation of the plight of Afghan women and a window into the surprising realities of daily life in today's Afghanistan.
February 2014 Selection: A Best Book of the Year: NPR, "The Boston Globe," "Entertainment Weekly, " "Vogue, "St. Louis Dispatch ""
At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother's death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State--and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, "Wild" powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.
August 2015 Selection: A runaway "San Francisco Chronicle" bestseller, "Cool Gray City of Love" is a one-of-a-kind book for a one-of-a-kind city. It's a love song in 49 chapters to an extraordinary place, taking 49 different sites around the city as points of entry and inspiration-from a seedy intersection in the Tenderloin to the soaring sea cliffs at Lands End. Encompassing the city's Spanish missionary past, a gold rush, a couple of earthquakes, the Beats, the hippies, and the dot-com boom, this book is at once a rambling walking tour, a natural and human history, and a celebration of place itself-a guide to loving any place more faithfully and fully.