Travel can be an unbalanced mistress, long stretches of sitting and waiting, and short bursts of beauty, anxiety, and adventure. After burning days in a cabin deep in Patagonia, 60 hour bus rides through the Atacoma Desert, and long sunny afternoons upon my American return, I have had ample time to root through a somewhat bookwormishly large number of written volumes. Sifting through both the extraordinary and the extraordinarily bad, I have distilled the most interesting and read-worthy books below.
Travels in Siberia - Ian Frazier - A tale of Frazier's obsessions and observations with the vast, oft ignored, swath of earth in Eastern Russia. Fascinating for even the those disinterested in the geographic subject matter. This is the best, most transporting, and far and away the most interesting book I've read this year-- if your going to pick one to read, pick this one, I read it twice this summer.
Freedom - Jonathan Franzen - Again brilliant writing and a relation/revulsion at the characters dysfunctions create immense readability, though not as put together as Franzen's former, still a necessary read.
Where Men Win Glory - Jon Krakauer - As I am in the habit of reading everything Jon Krakauer writes, his odyssey of former pro football player and army ranger, Pat Tillman was on my required reading list. An incredibly moving story, a smart take on American world affairs, and powerful profile of a man guided by high principals and ideals.
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed - Jared Diamond - A bit intellectually heady, but an important read. Using both retrospective wisdom and failure, it's seemingly prophetic of the times to come.
The Devil in the White City - Erik Larson - Well written historical non-fiction, melding the forgotten triumphs of the 1894 Chicago's Worlds Fair with an account of the fiendish, inhuman killings of a charismatic serial killer of the same period.
In Patagonia - Bruce Chatwin - Mystical and vagabond in its presentation, Chatwin's unique prose recounts his travels within the vastly barren Patagonia, from Buenos Aires all the way to end of the earth in Tierra Del Fuego, the bottom of the world proves to be a land full of outcasts, displaced idealists, and lost legends collected. A recommended read to peer into a forgotten, little known, and isolated world of exiles.
Born To Run - Christopher McDougall - Notable for its unbelievable story of an race of indigenous peoples who have completely isolated themselves from the outside world, from both popular and anthropological study. If their fascinating and complete isolation wasn't fascinating enough, McDougall also recounts his foray into running ultra long distances and this tribes seemingly magical affinity for super marathons.
Moonwalking With Einstein - Joshua Foer - This changed my whole perspective on memory, its possibilities, and the process by which it works. Foer makes it interesting and easy to read.