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   Part of my collection of out of date or obscure tourist guides.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

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Africa: Lost and Found

Africa holds the largest desert, greatest jungles, mythic rivers, and a intense, almost destructive draw for European explorers.  Here's my smattering of books on the second largest continent. 

1.  The Lost Cities of Africa, Basil Davidson (1959).  Fifteen hundred years before Europeans explored the interior of Africa, cities thrived with trade.  Davidson tells the story of these lost cities through the detective work of archeology .  Bought used State Department Bookstore.  


2.  The Africans, David Lamb (1985).  Part travelogue, part history, Lamb traveled 300,000 miles through sub-Saharan Africa.  Lamb talks with Presidents-for-life, guerrilla leaders, and even witch doctors.  Bought used State Department Bookstore.  


3.  Venture To the Interior, Laurens Van Der Post (1952).  Van Der Post lead an extraordinary life as a a farmer, soldier, prisoner-of-war and writer.  This story is of his trek to one of the most remote areas of Central Africa.  Van Der Post faces hostile locals but is profoundly affected by the scenery.  Some black and white maps.  Bought used State Department Bookstore. 


 4.  To Timbuktu: A Journey Down the Niger, Mark Jenkins (1997).   Two American friends return fifteen years after their first attempt to reach the city of legend, Timbuktu.  Color photos.  Bought through a remainder book catalog.

5.  Sahara Unveiled: A Journey Across the Desert, William Langewiesche (1996).  Desolation beyond imagination.  Langewiesche experiences mirages, psychological challenges and the nomads of the world's largest desert.  Some pictures.  Bought used in a used book store now forgotten. 

6.  African Discovery: An Anthology of Exploration, Perham & Simmons (1957).  A Hall of Fame collection of explorers: Mungo Park, David Livingstone, Morton Stanley, Sir Richard Francis Burton.  Illustrated with maps and vintage drawings.  Interior book sticker showing "Blackwell's Oxford, England"  An indecipherable name penned inside.  Bought somewhere.   


7.  King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa, Adam Hochschild (1999).  Horrifying account of the attorcities carried out by Belgian King Leopold II.  Hoschschild comments that something about Africa causes Europeans to lose their minds.    Can't remember where I bought this. 


8.  Darkstar Safari, Paul Thereoux (see Paul Thereoux blog entry).