The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson

road-to-little-dribblingIn 1995, Bill Bryson traveled throughout England and recorded his humorous, exceedingly grumpy observations in Notes from a Small IslandTwenty years older and now a citizen of the U.K., he sets off to recreate his trip, traveling by foot, road, and railway to revisit some places and discover others.  He trudges along deserted footpaths, decries the state of historical monuments, and leaves no digression unexplored.  By turns affectionate and excoriating, The Road to Little Dribbling is a perfect homage to his adopted land.

Quote:
“I wondered idly what the builders of Stonehenge would have created if they’d had bulldozers and big trucks for moving materials and computers to help them design.  What would they have created if they had had all the tools we have?  Then I crested the brow of the hill with a view down to the visitor center, with its café and gift shop, its land trains and giant parking lot, and realized I was almost certainly looking at it.”

Author:
Bill Bryson is the author of various travel books, including Neither Here Nor There and In a Sunburned Country, as well as non-fiction such as At Home and The Mother Tongue.  Bryson currently lives in England with his family.

Published:  2015
Length:  385
Set in: England; Scotland

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My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

my-life-on-the-roadIn My Life on the Road, activist Gloria Steinem details her life through the lens of her travels.  From a childhood filled with long car trips to her post-college time in India and her many zigzags across the country as a journalist, Steinem has spent the majority of her life away from home.  Broken into both chapters and shorter reflections, she provides insights into the hard work of movement-building, the creation of Ms. Magazine, and the evolution of her feminism.  While My Life on the Road is not a standard, chronological memoir, it is a remarkably forthright and perceptive book.

Quote:
“My last hope is to open up the road — literally.  So far it’s been overwhelmingly masculine turf.  Men embody adventure, women embody hearth and home, and that has been pretty much it.  Even as a child, I noticed that Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz spent her entire time trying to get back to Kansas, and Alice in Wonderland dreamed her long adventure, then woke up just in time for tea.”

Author:
Gloria Steinem is an American journalist, feminist, and social organizer.  She has written for the New York Magazine, Esquire, and Ms. Magazine – which she co-founded in 1972.  Her books include The Thousand IndiasRevolution from Within, Moving beyond Words, and My Life on the Road.  

Published:  2015
Length:  255 pages 
Set in:  United States

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Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana’s Cajun Coast by Mike Tidwell

imageBayou Farewell is part travelogue, part cultural study, and also a well-researched plea for the preservation of an entire ecosystem and way of life.  When Mike Tidwell first ventured south of New Orleans, he knew nothing of the continuous destruction of the bayous. Only when he sees “tree cemeteries” — clusters of dead trees in multiple feet of water that mark disappeared land — does he begin to understand the steady land loss occurring in one of America’s most important marsh systems.  Published in 2003, Bayou Farewell is also a chilling, prophetic account of the devastation that Hurricane Katrina delivered just two short years later.

Quote:
“It’s no wonder car license plates in Louisiana today still bear the motto ‘Sportsman’s Paradise.’  For people who live directly off the land, that’s just another way of saying ‘place of plenty.’  And for the past two hundred years, South Louisiana has been exactly that; it’s been the quasi paradise those original Loudunais peasants dreamed of when they left France so many generations ago, enduring famine, war, shipwreck, persecution, and endless humiliations along the way before their progeny, at long last, settled here and prospered here, in Louisiana, across this vast and fertile coast, across this New Acadia.  This promised land.”

Author:
Mike Tidwell is an author, documentary filmmaker, and the founder and director of the Chesapeake Climate Outreach Network.  His books include Bayou Farewell, The Ravaging Tide, and Amazon Stranger. 

Published:  2003
Length:  384 pages
Set in:  Louisiana, United States

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Finding George Orwell in Burma by Emma Larkin

imageEmma Larkin’s travelogue about Burma (renamed Myanmar in 1989 by the totalitarian military government) is an exploration of the country’s politics, culture, and ties to George Orwell’s life and fiction.  In the 1920s, Orwell lived and worked in Burma as an imperial policeman under British colonial rule, and his time there heavily influenced his 1934 novel Burmese Days and several essays.  By tracing Orwell’s path through Burma and witnessing the government’s use of oppressive, violent tactics against its own people, Larkin draws parallels between the current Burmese political climate and the worlds depicted in both 1984 and Animal Farm.

Quote:
“The best-known of the seven commandments in Animal Farm is the final one, which states that all animals are equal. Later, as the ruling pigs grown in greed and power, they add an addendum: all animals may be equal, but some animals are more equal than others. In Burma it is the ethnic Burmese who are more equal than others, and the Burmese government practices a policy of ‘Burmanization’ in ethnic areas.”

Author:
Emma Larkin is a journalist and the author of Finding George Orwell in Burma and Everything is Broken: A Tale of Catastrophe in Burma. 

Published:  2004
Length:  304 pages
Set in:  Myanmar (Burma)

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Time’s Magpie: A Walk in Prague by Myla Goldberg

imageIn 1993, Myla Goldberg spent a year living and teaching in Prague, and in 2003, she returned to visit the city she loves.  In Time’s Magpie, she treats readers to a tour of her favorite buildings, parks, and neighborhoods.  From unfortunate run-ins with the Prague police to startlingly fast subway escalators and the oddities of carnival marzipan treats to the history of the city’s noon bells, Goldberg’s short travel book is filled with interesting and insightful moments.

Quote:
“Though the silence that reigns here is as potent and welcome as a familiar smell, appreciable to anyone who has spent concerted time in a library, there is an underlying sense of tension unique to this place, as if at any moment a robed monk might materialize to slap the back of a dozing neck with a ruler and grill the poor soul on the finer points of catechism.”

Author:
Myla Goldberg is an American musician, novelist, and non-fiction writer.  Her books include Time’s Magpie: A Walk in Prague, Bee Season, The False Friend, and Wickett’s Remedy.  

Published:  2004
Length:  114 pages
Set in:  Prague,  Czech Republic

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The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey by Ernesto Che Guevara

motorcycle diariesIn 1950, 23-year-old Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado decided to take a year off from their studies to travel South and Central America on a motorbike they called La Poderosa.  Carrying few possessions and little money, they left Buenos Aires for a nine-month journey through Argentina, Peru, Chile, and several other countries.  Along the way, they sleep in fields and barns, visit leper colonies, fall off the bike more times than they can count, work on board a steamship in exchange for free passage, and witness the poverty and injustice that would inform Guevara’s infamous revolutionary career.

Quote:
“At night, after the exhausting games of canasta, we would look out over the immense sea, full of white-flecked and green reflections, the two of us leaning side by side on the railing, each of us far away, flying in his own aircraft to the stratospheric regions of our own dreams.  There we understood that our vocation, our true vocation, was to move for eternity along the roads and seas of the world. ”

Author:
Ernesto Che Guevara (1928-1967) was a doctor, writer, and revolutionary guerrilla leader who played a large role in the Cuban Revolution of the 1950s.  He was captured and executed in 1967 while attempting to gather a guerrilla militia in the mountains of Bolivia.

Published:  1993
Length:  175 pages
Set in:  Argentina; Chile; Peru; Ecuador; Colombia; Venezuela; Panama; and Florida, United States

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A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

a walk in the woodsWhen Bill Bryson decides he wants to hike the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail, he buys an unreasonable amount of equipment, calls his friend Katz to join him, and then reads way more about bear attacks than seems advisable.  As Bryson and Katz set off into the wilderness, they discover their limitations as long-distance hikers and encounter both the beauty and the strangeness of the woods.

Quote:
“Distance changes utterly when you take the world on foot.  A mile becomes a long way, two miles literally considerable, ten miles whopping, fifty miles at the very limits of conception.  The world, you realize, is enormous in a way that only you and a small community of fellow hikers know.  Planetary scale is your little secret.”

Author:
Bill Bryson is the author of various travel books, including Neither Here Nor There and In a Sunburned Country, as well as non-fiction such as At Home and The Mother Tongue.  Bryson currently lives in England with his family.

Published:  1997
Length:  397 pages
Set in:  Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, United States

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The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America by Bill Bryson

the lost continentWhen Bill Bryson returns to America after a decade living in England, he decides to reacquaint himself with his native land by driving nearly 14,000 miles down forgotten highways, along strip malls, and through national parks.  Along the way, he finds humor in every restaurant and RV, and scopes out candidates for the perfect small town.

Quote:
“In the morning I awoke early and experienced that sinking sensation that overcomes you when you first open your eyes and realize that instead of a normal day ahead of you, with its scatterings of simple gratifications, you are going to have a day without even the tiniest of pleasures; you are going to drive across Ohio.”

Author:
Bill Bryson is the author of various travel books, including Neither Here Nor There and In a Sunburned Country, as well as non-fiction such as At Home and The Mother Tongue.  Bryson currently lives in England with his family.

Published: 1989
Length:  299 pages
Set in:  United States

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Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

notes from a small islandIn Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson travels Great Britain by road and rail.  On his rambling circuit of the island, he visits most major cities and marvels at the names of less well-known places like Titsey and Farleigh Wallop.  Along the way, despite his frequent quips about the food, the language, and the customs, he falls in love again with his adopted home.

Quote:
“By the time I had finished my coffee and returned to the streets, the rain had temporarily abated, but the streets were full of vast puddles where the drains where unable to cope with the volume of water.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but you would think that if one nation ought by now to have mastered the science of drainage, Britain would be it.”

Author:
Bill Bryson is the author of various travel books, including A Walk in the Woods and In a Sunburned Country, as well as non-fiction such as At Home and The Mother Tongue.  Bryson currently lives in England with his family.

Published:  1995
Length:  324 pages
Set in:  England, Scotland, Wales

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Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe by Bill Bryson

neither here nor thereBill Bryson first backpacked across Europe with his friend Katz (hilariously familiar to all who’ve read A Walk in the Woods) in the early 1970s.  Twenty years later, he sets out to retrace their steps.  As in any of his travel books, no country, city, or cultural icon is spared the bite of Bryson’s humor.

Quote:
“But that’s the glory of foreign travel, as far as I am concerned.  I don’t want to know what people are talking about.  I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything.  Suddenly you are five years old again.  You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life.  Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.”

Author:
Bill Bryson is the author of various travel books, including A Walk in the Woods and In a Sunburned Country, as well as non-fiction such as At Home and The Mother Tongue.  Bryson currently lives in England with his family.

Published:  1992
Length:  254 pages
Set in:  Norway, France, Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey

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