Spring is here, which means that many of us are in the throes of planning our summer travels. Whether you’re going to Europe or your local shady park bench, you’ll need a good book to take with you. In this installment of What We’re Reading we’ve checked out some hot new titles, traveling from a charming English village to the railroads of the Wild West; from Paris to Los Angeles to Africa, Asia, and South America. Here are our picks to inspire your next trip, or to simply bring along for the ride.
THE ROUTES OF MAN
How Roads are Changing the World
By Ted Conover
We use them every day, but we rarely take a moment to consider the roads we traverse as anything more than a means to reach a destination. In his newest book, The Routes of Man, Ted Conover takes an in-depth look at six roads around the world and explores their significance in building the cultures around them. The author travels from a lumber route in the Peruvian Amazon to an East African highway in the heart of the AIDS epidemic to a barricaded stretch in the West Bank. In the past, Conover’s engaging style of immersion journalism has led readers on journeys with hobos on trains, shuttling people across the Mexican border, and guarding inmates in Sing Sing prison. In The Routes of Man he delivers an entertaining and poignant account of roads and the people they carry.
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MAJOR PETTIGREW’S LAST STAND
By Helen Simonson
Set in Edgecombe St. Mary, a quaint village in the English countryside, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is a charming tale of love, family, and honor. Major Pettigrew, an established local fixture who values propriety and respect, falls in love with Mrs. Ali, a Pakistani woman who oversees the town shop. Tensions rise when the townspeople and the pair’s families express their disapproval of the match, and Pettigrew must chose between local tradition and what he feels is truly right. The characters are storybook embodiments of virtues and vices, all with a decisively British flavor.
APPETITE FOR AMERICA
How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire that Civilized the Wild West
By Stephen Fried
Who is Fred Harvey? There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of him. Yet you’ve probably stayed at a hotel, or eaten at a restaurant, that owes a debt to ideas he pioneered. And even if you’ve never been to the Grand Canyon, you’ve at least heard of it. Fred Harvey had such an impact on so many things that have become commonplace in American culture, from the hospitality industry to railroads to our national parks, that it’s curious his story has stayed under the radar to so many. Appetite for America is an enlightening look at the man who helped define how Americans travel, where we go, and what we do along the way. As Stephen Fried chronicles the entrepreneur’s epic rise, he also presents the exciting history of the American West.
CLAUDE & CAMILLE
A Novel of Monet
By Stephanie Cowell
While art is the subject, it’s passion, not painting, that drives Claude and Camille. The story begins as a young Claude Monet tries to realize his artistic ambition. His talents lead him to Paris, circa 1865, where he pals around with Cézanne, Pissarro, Renoir, and Bazille. It’s here that Monet finds Camille, his model, muse, and true love. Using real people and events, Stephanie Cowell paints a fictional, yet honest portrait of the painter’s relationships and career. And because it’d be hard to tell the story of Monet without some lily pads, the story is broken up by interludes from an older Monet, as he reflects in the serene gardens of Giverny.
THE CALIFORNIA ROLL
By John Vorhaus
Meet Radar Hoverlander, con man extraordinaire, who’s out to score the scam of a lifetime. With his comical posse of cohorts, Hoverlander (if that is his real name) plots and blunders his way through a series of schemes in order to rob the Chinese government. The story has all the jazzy, snappy dialogue you’d expect in an LA-based con novel—between the triple-crosses, snukes, and flapdoodles it reads like Raymond Chandler meets Doctor Seuss. While it doesn’t evoke a sense of place like some of these other books, The California Roll is a great bet for a long plane ride; you’ll be left guessing who’s on what side until the very end.