Saturday, August 31, 2013


There was a period where I was fascinated by barbarians from the outside coming to destroy civilization.  In the 1980s I saw an ad for the History Book Club and it featured enough titles on outside marauders that I signed up.  My first acquisitions were on Goths, Huns and the Celts.

 1.  The Devil's Horseman: The Mongol Invasion of Europe, James Chambers (1979).  A bad day for Europe when the Mongol armies swept across the Danube on Christmas Day 1241.  Known as "the Devil's Horseman," they were lead by the illiterate military genius Genghis Khan.   Known as barbarians to Western Europe, their tactics have been studied into modern day.  One of my History Book Club purchases. 

 2.  History of the Goths, Herwig Wolfram (1988).  Once thought of a outsiders who brought down the Roman Empire, Wolfram's thesis is that the Goths were misunderstood.  A dense scholarly study originally written for a German audience.  Another History Book Club purchase.

3.  The Celts, Gerhard Herm (1976).   From the northern reaches of Europe, the Celtic warriors were feared for their painting their bodies with blue war paint and appearing as naked madmen on the field of battle.  Later known as a "Roman Nightmare," they helped bring about the fall of the Empire.  Third in the barbarian (History) book club buys.  

4.  The March of the Barbarians, by Harold Lamb, (1940).  Lamb wrote numerous books on Genghis Khan and the Mongols in the 1940s.  He blends history with great story telling.  Can't remember where I bought but a good chance from an Amherst, MA used book store.  

5.  National Geographic Society the Vikings by Howard La Fay (1972).  As barbarians go, the Vikings were lighting quick raiders.  They pillaged their way across Europe, North Africa and even into the Islamic World on the shores of the Caspian Sea.  As you'd expect from NG, great pictures and illustrations.  Bought used most likely in the State Department used book store. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Traveling Parallels

There are many goals and routes you can devise for travel.  A few have decided that following the fat part of the earth, along the equator, is the way to go.  And there there's one contrarian.

1.  Following the Equator: and Anti-Imperialist Essays,  Mark Twain (Part of the Oxford Edition (1996).  Bought new as part of complete collection of Mark Twain -- one of the best book values I've ever invested in.


2.  Equator: A Journey, Thurston Clarke (1988).  Bought used somewhere.


3.  The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam, Eliza Griswold (2010).  Not quite the equator -- ten degrees north.  This seems to be the rough dividing line between Islam and Christianity.  Griswald explores the fault line from Nigeria to the Philippines.  Bought new. 


4.  Pole to Pole With Michael Palin, Michael Palin (1992).  Palin is the contrarian in the bunch traveling up and down rather than side to side.  Companion to the BBC TV series.  Bought used somewhere.  

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Adventure A to Z

If you want to organize your adventures and discoveries three different ways: by geography, by person and by experience.  Here are three.

1.  The Oxford Book of Exploration, Selected by Robin Hanbury-Tenison (1993).   Excerpts of famous and obscure adventures divided into the seven continents with entries ordered chronologically.  Bought used at an impromptu book sale on the steps of townhouse in Adams Morgan.



2.  Dictionary of Discoveries, I.A. Langnas (1959).   Organized by explorer.  Starts with Luigi, Duke of Abruzzi, Italian mountain climber and participant in Italian Arctic expeditions and ends with Eugen Zintgraff, German explorer of Africa.   Bought used at The Bookshop in Chapel Hill, NC. 

3.  The Rand McNally Almanac of Adventure: A Panorama of Danger and Daring, Richard Whittingham (1982).   An attempt to cover everything--going over Niagra Falls in a barrel, rowing the Atlantic, walking on the moon, Brahma Bull riding and climbing skyscrapers.  Bought used somewhere.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


The mystical mountain regions of the Himalayas have captivated western imaginations: British imperial ambitions in the Great Game, spiritual questers seeking enlightenment, or hippies seeking a groovy end of a trail in Kathmandu.  Here's my miscellaneous collection. 

1.  Seven Years in Tibet, Heinrich Harrer (1954).  Austrian Harrer was an expert mountaineer preparing to climb a Himalayan peak when he was interred in India by the British.  He escaped his internment camp to make his way into Tibet.  Harrer gains the confidence of a young Dali Lama and stays in the mountain country until 1950 when he was forced out by the Chinese Communists.  40 pages of black and white photos.  Later made into a movie with Brad Pitt as Harrer.  Book-of-the-Month Club edition.  Bought used at an unremembered location.   

2.  Roof of the World: Tibet, Key to Asia, Amaury de Riencourt (1950).   In 1946, de Riencourt trekked into Tibet to study the mysticism of the Tibetan lamas.  He provides a portrait of the country with great detail on the capital city of Lhasa.  Black and white maps and photos.   Inscription from Christmas 1950, "Greetings to you Helen, you who are to me one of life's gifts - a friend who has been with me and through many years!  Love Louise."  Bought used at the State Department Bookstore.

3.  Tibet: A Chronicle of Exploration, John MacGregor (1970).  Pen-named by a U.S. Department of State diplomat who found the Himalayas irresistible.  This is history of European fascination and exploration of Tibet starting from the time of Marco Polo.  Black and white photos, illustrations and historical maps.  Bought used at the State Department Bookstore.

4.  Zanskar: The Hidden Kingdom, Michel Peissel (1979).  Piessel was an explorer of Himalayan lands.  Zanskar sits at the top of India next to Pakistan and Tibet in the Himalayan Range.  He befriends the two "kings" who rule this closed land.  Color photos.  Bought used, possibly at the State Department Bookstore. 

5.  Mustang: The Forbidden Kingdom, Michel Peissel (1967).  Isolation within Isolation -- Mustang is an area within Nepal.  Peissel continues his successful exploration of this remote area.  Bought used somewhere.

6.  Bayonets to Lhasa, Peter Flemming (1961).  Veteran adventurer of central Asia and brother of Ian Flemming, Peter Flemming provides a chapter in the history of the Great Game between Russia and England.  In 1904, the British incursion into Tibet was led by Colonel Francis Younghusband, soldier and mystic.  Bought used at the State Department Bookstore.  

7.  Stones of Silence, George Schaller: Journeys in the Himalayas (1980).  Mostly a study of wildlife of the Himalayas.  Color photos.  Bought at the State Department Bookstore.

8.  Beyond the High Himalayas, William O. Douglas (1952).  Written by the late Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.  Black and white and color photos and maps.  Bought used at the State Department Bookstore. 

9.  Tibetan Marches, Andrea Migot (1948).  Migot was a French Army doctor who journeyed alone through Eastern Tibet and China in order to research aspects of Tibetan Buddhism  During this journey he tried but failed to reach Lhasa disguised as a lama.  Bought used somewhere.  

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Great Waters


I grew up on the Great Lakes.  The lakes were always a backdrop for work, play and history.  During his teenage years, my father worked as a steward on passenger ships between Detroit and Buffalo.  My hometown of Huron, Ohio is the southern most port on the Great Lakes.  In the 1970s, ocean going freighters would come from the Soviet Union or Taiwan to load grain from the town's landmark Pillsbury grain silos.  In next door Sandusky, the coal docks picked up rail cars and tipped trainloads of  Appalachian coal into ship holds.  In the summer, we would boat over to the islands of western lake Erie and take our vacation the northern shore of Lake Michigan.  In junior high, I was fascinated by the fact that Oliver Hazard Perry had won a major naval battle  a few miles off shore during the War of 1812.  I wrote an English paper in middle school on ship wrecks on Lake Erie.  In November of that year was the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior.  My favorite fish of all time are Lake Erie Perch.  During that time, I put together a small collection books.

1.  Gales of November: The Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald, Robert J. Hemming (1997).  The Fitzgerald sinking was a reminder of how deadly shipping could be on the Great Lakes.  Christmas gift.












2.  A Pictorial History of the Great Lakes by Harlan Hatcher (1963).  Large picture book showing history and modern life on the Great Lakes.  Given to my father one Christmas and later inherited. 



3.  Land of the Inland Seas, by William Ellis (1994).  Beautiful color pictures. Christmas gift.  

Dwight Boyer wrote a series of books on the great lakes.   His books tell a stories of shipwrecks, storms, and mysteries.  Most of these acquired during my "shipwreck" phase in junior high.  

4.  Great Stories of the Great Lakes, Dwight Boyer (1966).



5.  Ghost Ships of the Great Lakes, Dwight Boyer (1968). 

 6. True Tales of the Great Lakes (1971).

 7.  Strange Adventure Adventures of the Great Lakes (1974).

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Song of Hiawatha

I grew up around the names of Native Americans.  Sandusky (Wyandot for cold water), on Lake Erie and Huron High School across from Shawnee Place and down the road from Miami Place and Tecumseh Place.  Summers in Northern Michigan looking out t the Manitou Islands and hearing the Chippewa legend of the Sleeping Bear.   To the north, the land of Hiawatha.  Here's my collection of Native American books.

1.  Four American Indians: King Philip, Pontiac, Tecumseh, Osceola, Edison Whitney and Frances Perry (1904).  Histories of four great Native American leaders published as a text book for high schools.   Heavy stock paper with illustrations.  Bought used at the State Department Bookstore with a personal library stamp, William Locke.

2.  Indian Stories, Major Cicero Newell (1912).  Also a school book explaining Native American family life, their skills at hunting and fighting.  Focuses mostly on Dakota tribe.  Illustrations and pictures and well organized.  Curious note inside on fly-leaf, "3 oldest members of U.S. Senate Carter Glass 82, Norris 73 M. Henry King"  Bought used someplace.

3.  On the Rez, Ian Frazier (2001).  Frazier spent a time on modern day Indian Reservations, especially that of the Oglala Sioux,  in the plains and badlands of the American West. Crazy Horse, perhaps the greatest Indian war leader of the 1800s, and Black Elk, the holy man whose teachings achieved worldwide renown, were Oglala.  Bought used at B.J.'s Books, Warrenton, VA.

4.  Dictionary of the Amerian Indian, John Stoutenbugh, Jr (1960),  Reference book of 431 pages of entries from Aatsosni to Zuni.   Ex Libris Stamp for Opal Durrer Chrickenberger.  Bought used somewhere.

5.  Two Old Women: An Alaskan Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival, Velma Walllis (1993).  Based on an Athabaskan Indian legend of two elderly woman abandoned by a migrating tribe in the upper Yukon River in Alaska.  Stamped withdrawn from Berlin Township Public Library, Berlin, OH; bought from the Library's used book sale.  

6.  Hiawatha, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, illustrated by Susan Jeffers (1996).  Longfellow's Song of Hiawatha illustrated as a children's book.  "On the shores of Gitche Gumee, Of the shining Big-Sea-Water..."  Bought new.

7.  Amercian Hertiage Book of Indians (1961).  Color plate illustrations, maps and sketches.   Christmas 1973.

Friday, May 3, 2013


It's difficult to be objective about yourself.  Sometimes it takes an outsider to offer a different perspective.  As Americans, our natural disposition is to be liked.  But that's not always the case.  Here's my short collection of outsiders who have come to America and reported their findings.  Some admirers; some less so.

1.  Cio America!  An Italian Discovers the U.S.  Beppe Severgnini (1995).  Columbus discovered America and five hundred years later, Italian journalist, Beppe Severgnini, rented a row house in Washington's Georgetown neighborhood and recorded his observations for the next year.  Severgnini offers a wonderful sense of detachment to make his observations amusing showing affection for America but also gently poking fun.  Bought used somewhere.

2.  American Notes: A Journey, Charles Dickens (1842; Fromm edition, 1985).  In 1842, Charles Dickens toured the U.S. writing about Wall Street, the prison system, slavery and the American press.  He didn't like America much concluding that we were a bunch of "intensified bores."  Bought used at the State Department Bookstore.  

3.  American Journals, Albert Camus.  Nobel laureate Camus kept journals of his travels to North and South America between 1946 to 1949.  In his notes on the U.S. he writes that "everything in America is done to prove that life is not tragic."   Christmas gift 1987 from my mother at the end of my "Camus phase".  

4.  The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America, Bill Bryson (2001).  Bryson, an Iowa native, lived an ex-pat life in the U.K. for 25 years and returned to the U.S. for a look around.  He's included here because his 25 years give him the outsider's eye.   I'm a big Bryson fan but a lot of his remarks in Lost seem like he's whining about easy targets in small town America.  Bought used somewhere.

5.  Broken Image: Foreign Critics of America, ed. by Gerald Emanuel Stern (1972).  Mostly a collection of Europeans who had contempt for America: Lenin, H.G. Wells, Sigmund Freud ("I regret Columbus ever discovered it!"), and Hitler.  Bought used somewhere.

6.  Democracy in America, Alexis De Tocqueville (1835; 1946 edition).  Described as "perhaps the greatest work ever written on one country by the citizen of another."  De Tocqueville traveled extensively through the U.S. in the early 1830s.   He offered extensive and often prescient observations of the U.S. political and legal system.    Inscription: "Christmas 1946 Annabelle, Loreine and J.T. Kendrick, American Embassy, Warsaw, Poland."  Bought used at the State Department Bookstore.


Monday, April 22, 2013

From Persia to Iran

For two years, I lived ten miles from the Iranian border.  I had always wanted to see it's great religious and historical sites going back to the days of Xerxes and Darius the Great.  But at the time Iran was off limits to Americans and in any case belligerent toward American hikers.  Meanwhile, I collected some books to help me with armchair travel to Iran. 

1. Touring Iran, Philip Ward (1971).  The author published a series of tourist guides to middle eastern hot spots (Touring Libya (3 volumes) and Touring Lebanon) back when  A tourist guide adventurous westerners might have been able to travel there in relative safety.  Ward's guide is definitely for the intellectually minded tourist.  Maps, black and white photos, useful words and phrases and basic information about the cities.  Bought used at the State Department Bookstore.


2.  The Legacy of Persia, Ed. by A.J. Arberry (1953).  Collection of histories written by English scholars.  From anicient times to the 19th Century.  Black and white photos of historical buildings and artistic artifacts.   Helpful timelines of different dynasties.   Bought used at the State Department Bookstore.  

3.  Persian Pilgrimages: Journeys Across Iran, Afshin Molavi (2002).  Molavi is a western educated journalist who travels back to his home country to report on the full spectrum of historical and religious sites and everyday Iranian life.  Bought at Second Story Books, Washington, DC.  

4.  In the Name of God: The Khomeini Decade, Robin Wright (1989).  Wright provides the definitive history of Khomeini's revolution from the takeover of the American Embassy through the decade of the 1980s.  Bought new.

5.  Iran, Iranian Department of Publications and Broadcasting (1963).   Part of my collection of out of date or obscure tourist guides.  This tourist booklet that would have been published at the time the Shah was pushing his country toward more openness.  Bad resolution color and black and white photography.  Bought used at the State Department Bookstore.

6.  A Narrative of Turkey and Persia, Vol II, Rev. Horatio Southgate (1840).  Historically fascinating.  Book describes itself as providing occasional observations upon the conditions of Mohammedanism and Christianity.  Narrative is told through the eyes of a christian minister.  Engravings of historical sites.  Birthday gift; label inside says it was originally sold by James B. Dow Bookseller and Stationer, Boston.  


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Somewhere in the South Pacific

The most remote place on earth is the expanse of the Pacific Ocean.  I've flown over it and traveled to some of its remote islands.  The first adventure was to visit a friend who had signed onto the Peace Corps and was posted Fiji and the Bikini Atoll.  The second was to the Bikini Atoll to return with my Dad 60 years after he had been stationed there as US Navy Corpsman as part of Operation Crossroads--the test of two Atomic bombs. Bikini was the most remote place I've been on earth.  One plane a week that island hopped from a series of other remote islands.  The remoteness felt like a physical presence hanging over your shoulder.  Here's my short collection on the Pacific Ocean. 

1.  A Pattern of Islands, Arthur Grimble (1952).   Grimble started his career as an official in the British Colonial Service posted to small British possessions in the Pacific.  He collected his stories of life among local fisherman, tribal chiefs, and tribal groups on the Gilbert and Ellis Islands between the world wars.  Bought used at the State Department books store.


2.  The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equitorial Pacific, J. Maarten Troost (2004).    Troost was a restless academic who went looking for paradise on the South Pacific island of Tarawa.  His story becomes one of finding anti-paradise aggravated by  a series of mishaps.  Bought new on Amazon.


3.  Dark Islands, John W. Vondercook (1937).  Vandercook seeks out the most remote places:  New Guinea, the Soloman Islands and Fiji.  Most fascinating are his encounters with near Stone Age tribes in New Guinea.  Black and white photos.  Inscription: To Mrs. L.A. McCall one of the apolostic christians From Mary and Redd Turner, July 16th, 1944.  (Missionaries?)  Bought used State Department Bookstore.   

4.  Cruise of the Snark, Jack London (1911).  After Jack London achieved success as an author, he used his money to buy a sail boat and set off as an adventurer in the Pacific.  The book contains his illustrations and first-hand accounts of his travels to Hawaii and the Soloman Islands.  Bought used at the State Department Bookstore. 


5.  South Pacific Handbook, David Stanley and Bill Dalton (1980).  A guide book to South Pacific Islands with maps, illustrations and short narratives of each island.  Bought who knows where. 

6.  For the Good of Mankind: A History of the People of Bikini and their Islands, Jack Niedenthal (2001).   Niedenthal was a Peace Corps volunteer to the Marshall Islands.  He tells the history of the Bikinians and how they were removed from the island in advance of Operation Crossroads in 1946.

7.  See also The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling in the Pacific, in the Paul Theroux entry