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21. The Hills of Tuscany
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22. Honey, Let's Get a Boat... A Cruising
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23. Bold Spirit : Helga Estby's Forgotten
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24. Educating Alice : Adventures of
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40. The Camino

21. The Hills of Tuscany
by FERENC MATE
list price: $13.95
our price: $11.16
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385334419
Catlog: Book (1999-10-12)
Publisher: Delta
Sales Rank: 25393
Average Customer Review: 4.28 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

As seductive as A Year in Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun,but with the wit and charm of a 1930s romantic comedy, the true-lifeadventure of a couple who chucked New York for a new life in Tuscany. TheMates arrived in Tuscany in the late 1980s knowing no Italian and withonly four weeks to search for the country house of their dreams. On theirlast night there, after having been chased by wild boars and befriendedby a country realtor who also sells pigs and coffins, they finallyconcluded the deal on the hood of a rusting tractor with the lawyerspeaking Italian and them responding in French, English, and Hungarian,in a Tower of Babel version of "Who's on First?" So begins Ferenc Mat'sendearing, in-love-with-life memoir of their first five years in Tuscany,by turns buoyant, reflective, and laugh-out-loud hilarious. His engaging,often poetic prose describes the way of life they were looking for andfound-where neighbors, community, home, and, most of all, children, formthe focal point of daily life. They live in a small thirteenth-centurymonastery, surrounded by their vineyards and olive groves, in thespectacular hills near Siena, a few miles from where The English Patientwas filmed. The Hills of Tuscany-steeped in mesmerizing scenery andwonderful medieval towns, full of unforgettably delightful characters andspectacular food and wine-nourishes body, mind, and soul. If you're notpassionately in love with life at the moment, you'll be hopelessly so bythe time you turn the last page. ... Read more

Reviews (40)

4-0 out of 5 stars Another very enjoyable memoir of life in Tuscany!
I would have bought this book just for the beautiful photo on the dust jacket (which makes you want to leap, Alice-in-Wonderland-like, into the picture). If you have read Under the Tuscan Sun, it will be impossible not to compare the two, but these are definitely different perspectives of Tuscany, written in distinct but equally enjoyable voices. If you have already read Mayes's book, Ferenc Máté's will draw you once again into that languid, colorful world, filled with wonderful tastes, smells and sights. (I worry that Tuscany will be overrun with American tourists. I know that if I don't get some pici with funghi soon, I may faint from hunger!) The Mátés have actually lived year-round in Tuscany since the late '80s, and this book explores their early years of finding a house (already restored), furnishing it, making friends and learning the local ways; his self-deprecating descriptions of bumbling through learning Italian and doing things like cutting hay are very funny. I find it astonishing that his prose is so fluid and easy-to-read given that his first language is apparently Hungarian. Candace Máté's small illustrations throughout are just wonderful. (On another note, just from reading his short bio on the dust flap, I'd really like to see Mr. Máté write his life story, from his escape from Hungary through his many careers and moves. I think it would be fascinating.)

4-0 out of 5 stars ANOTHER TUSCAN CLASSIC
Books on foreigners living in Italy seem to have become a genre unto themselves. In the past year I've read Francis Mayes' 'Under the Tuscan Sun' , Tim Parks' 'Italian Neighbours' and 'An Italian Education', and now Ferenc Mate's 'The Hills of Tuscany'. All are of interest to those of us who regard Italy as the finest country in the world to pursue the simple pleasures of life. The list of things that are better in Italy - food, wine, towns, landscape, people - is just too long and convincing to allow for any other point of view. Its virtues have been so often stated - as they certainly are in all of these books - that they seem like stale cliches, ripe for the assault of skeptics.

The skeptics may have a field day with the early chapters of 'The Hills of Tuscany'. Mate lays it on a bit thick as in this passage about a meal on the Mediterranean coast: "The thing I lust for more than Tuscan food is Tuscan seafood. It is cooked simply with olive oil,salt and black pepper, sometimes parsley and garlic, perhaps a splash of wine, and rarely - on the heavier flavoured sardines or tuna -with capers or tomatoes or olives. My god, I'm like Pavlov's dog just thinking about them all." There's no getting around it - he gushes. Not cool. Paradoxically, this passage also illustrates his strength - the quick, deft descriptions of food, places and people that immediately ring true, i. e. that reflect some of my own experiences in Tuscany.

The book is really in two parts - finding the perfect house in Tuscany and then living in it. The first part is a day by day narrative of the ultimately successful search. His writing about it is not so successful. The trouble is he either gushes or he plods. There are flashes of the glory to come in his sketches of the people and places but he never really makes it seem very interesting.

I'm a little embarrassed by this criticism because Mate sent me a pre-publication copy. Basically, anybody who loves the historic hills of central Italy is Ok in my book. But not sui generis a good writer and I was beginning to despair of Mate. Then he finds the house just outside of Montepulciano, next to Cortona my favourite town in ye olde Tuscany, and he starts to cook, literately and literally.

In the second part of the book he gets down to what he does best - well crafted descriptions of the place and the people. Mate's writing and his wife's diminutive sketches beautifully illustrate the myriad details that fascinate visitors to Tuscany. His sometimes treacly enthusiasm is soon overcome by his ability to sketch a scene with accuracy, brevity and effortless emotion. Here, for instance, he writes of a neighbour's kitchen: "In it, under the vast, clay-tile hood, are two small benches facing each other across the flames." His few words immediately evoke exactly the fireplace I saw in the rustic Banfi winery near Montalcino. Anyone who doesn't stop and marvel at the culture that created this primordial symbol of home should be banned from Italy for life. Tourists come to see the staggering amount of significant western art in the churches and museums. The inveterate Tuscan traveler comes to see what Mate illustrates - the world outside the churches and museums.

His descriptions of his neighbours and their largely edible traditions are the high point of the book. He gets to know his neighbours, to share their labours and the fruits thereof. And what fruits - proscuito & pasta and fresh yellow chickens, wine from the vines growing in the garden, truffles in the forests surrounding his house. The earthly delights are endless and visceral. And he doesn't go to some snooty restaurant with waiters in too shiny shoes. No, he goes next door or just cooks it up a home.

Not that I'm a food snob or know bugger all about wine. But I know good food when I eat it and I've eaten it in Tuscany, at almost any kind of place you can imagine from a 3 star restaurant to a supermarket takeout. But heaven in Tuscany is having your own kitchen and shopping in the countless vegetable shops, butchers, enotecas (wine stores), farmers cooperatives - even going to an organic farm, as we did, and following the proud farmer around while he plucked and pulled out of the ground inarguably fresh eggplant, carrots, potatoes, herbs and wine, Well, he didn't pull the wine out of the ground but he made it himself from the vines right in front of us and it was great. Nothing quite matches cooking in your own, if only for a couple of weeks, rustic kitchen and over indulging under the warm, starry sky. There are few more satisfying experiences in life outside of driving a Ferrari from Monte San Savino to Sienna on the twisty back road. Which I have never done so the food will have to do.

Francis Mayes' instant classic "Under the Tuscan Sun" made me wonder why someone who had not been to this part of the world would buy it. It's a lovely book but I read it because I wanted to know more about a place that fascinates me. Does Tuscany have the power to fascinate even those who have never been there? The sales figures would suggest that it does. It must work like a chain letter - someone who has been there tells someone who hasn't about the book and the power of literate description does the rest. Now we have Mate's book. When I started it, I thought it was an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of Mayes. When I finished it, I realized that it was an entirely different perspective on a many faceted subject. Where Mayes is ethereal and reflective, Mate at his best is earthy and true. His neighbours sound like some of the people I've met in Tuscany. His descriptions of the towns and countryside take me back there. And the food. Good god almighty, his description of the food could put pounds on a supermodel.

Mate's is not the kind of book to carry around with you in Tuscany. It's sparse on traveler's details, perhaps because he doesn't want even more tourists clogging up the landscape. It is meant to be read before or after your trip to savour the pleasures to come or to bask in the warm - I guarantee it - memories of your journey.

5-0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Fantastic!
A wonderful tale of Mate and his wife deciding to settle down in Tuscany. The ups and downs of the language barrier, the dream houses which have been torn down to a knee high wall for a new barn, smokey 'real estate' brokers, and the older bachelor's 'funghi' flirtation with his wife. After finding the ultimate house, there was the addition of the well flavored family next door that kept things interesting. There was always something quirky going on, which I could picture it happening to me. Great read!

4-0 out of 5 stars Like Wine, Improves with Age
Okay, I'm on a roll here. Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes, On Rue Tatin by Susan Loomis, At Home in France by Ann Berry, and now The Hills of Tuscany by Ferenc Mate, and I recommend all. This one's a bit weird though in that it goes on for just over 100 pages leaving me cold and feeling like it's missing something (lacks heart somehow), and like possibly the author just wrote it for the cash. The recounted dialogue also seems stilted. It's meant to be witty but somehow doesn't ring true. Then Ferenc and Candace find their dream house (yes, it takes over 100 pages to get there!) and somehow the tone begins to change. As the chapters pass from this point and the Mates interact with their Italian neighbors it becomes much warmer, more full of heart, and actually a good read I wouldn't hesitate to recommend. It's now left me with the impression that the author wrote it over the years and his skills as a writre improved with time, yet he didn't go back and clean up the earlier chapters which are strangely dry and lackluster. The chapter about the neighbors killing a pig was also interesting to read just how prosciutto was made, etc. Great meals, wine-making, domestic settling in, the clever and timeless ways peasants do things (all lost to us Americans and we're so much the poorer for it), etc., it's all here, just like all the books in this genre, but thankfully it lacks the tone of feeling superior to the locals that some have. Get through those first 100 or so pages and stick with it. It's a pleasant read after that. Now I'm off to read Mate's new book (2000) called A Reasonable Life: Toward a Simpler, Secure, More Humane Existence, as that's EXACTLY the place I'm at in my life at 42 after leaving the New York City rat race for a simpler existence (the rats were winning) after seemingly going into an office 10 years ago, sitting down at a computer, and realizing ten years had gone by, lost forever, and I'm no better for it really, and it's not the life I want or the way I want to live, so now I'm back home in California, putting in my own kitchen garden (potager), etc., and MUCH more fulfilled at the end of each day. The American "efficient" way of doing everything (houses and shopping centers like ugly barracks, food in plastic from a grocery that lacks flavor and aroma, etc.) is robbing us all blind of a rich life, and I for one want off the treadmill to success and to go back to the older and richer ways, hence my interest in these types of books now, and my appreciation for what Mr. Mate has written here.

4-0 out of 5 stars I want to live in Tuscany!
I enjoyed Ferenc Mate's book very much - I loved his descriptions of the hills, the people, the sunsets, the dusty roads, the shopkeepers - I felt like I was right there with him and Candace.

I envy them. It takes guts to move to a foreign country, not knowing anyone, not knowing the language. Mr. Mate has given me much to think about. I can't wait to see the sunsets in Tuscany, but don't know about the rabbit stew...think I may pass on that. ... Read more


22. Honey, Let's Get a Boat... A Cruising Adventure of America's Great Loop
by Ron Stob, Eva Stob
list price: $19.95
our price: $16.96
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0966914031
Catlog: Book (2003-06-01)
Publisher: Raven Cove Publishing
Sales Rank: 31252
Average Customer Review: 4.56 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

This is the story of a couple's travels on a forty-foot trawler cruising 6300 miles and 145 locks around the eastern part of North America known as America's Great Loop or the Great Circle Cruise. Their nautical ineptitude is evident from the beginning, but pulling from their personal and collective strengths, the authors overcome doubt, a lack of experience, and real and imagined horrors. The odyssey is told the way life hands out its adventures -- sometimes humorously, sometimes tragically, but always memorably. The writing is light and appealing, but there is a serious strain running through the book for those who relish history and descriptions of the landscape. Astute and attentive to detail, they chronicled events and kept an account of expenses, equipment and charting. As a result, the appendix/guidebook is worth the price of the book for anyone interested in planning their cruise. Topics include necessary charts and guidebooks, information on locks, sett! ing an itinerary, resource addresses and websites, details on equipment and the best place to be educated about boating. The book has full-color inserts with black and white photographs interspersed throughout. ... Read more

Reviews (16)

5-0 out of 5 stars GREAT BOOK
I have a nautical library of over 450 books dealing with all aspects of boating. This is one of my favorites. If you want technical, try Chapman's, If you want to capture the "why" we go boating, get this book.

I have been a sailor all my life, well, except for the Navy, which was powerboating, so to speak. Anyway, I had not heard of the "Great Loop" until I read this book. Now my wife and I will be buying a power catamaran in January of 2004 and starting our own great loop trip. Thank you Ron and Eva Stob. How many books have you read that spur you to spend a small fortune, risk becoming a boat bum, just so you can enjoy the experiences of the author? A precious few I suspect.

It's nice to see so many other people have read and enjoyed this book and I hope you'll be the next one because that way, I'll see you out on the loop along with us.

"Honey, Let's Get A Boat" is fun, it's practical, and it's humorous: what more could you want? A great read!

5-0 out of 5 stars A delightful read
There are lots of technical boating books out there and they are easy to find. This book chronicles one couple's own adventure on the "Great Loop" in their first cruiser, a 40' (wow) trawler. I loved the writing style--great humor and sometimes romantic descriptions of the goings on (Mr.'s descriptions of Mrs., their married kids' near "marital conflagration" on deck, the story of the chocolates, cruising with the senior ladies. The descriptions of the travel are very well written. The experiences aboard will be appreciated by addicted boaters and non-boaters alike. This is an adventure story. When I finally retire and head for the Great Loop in my cruiser, I will think often and fondly of the Stob's and this delightful book.

2-0 out of 5 stars Don't Buy This Book
Aside from its smug and pretentious writing style, this book is filled with factual inaccuracies and overloaded with trivia that wasn't helpful to me at all. The author could have written about what it's like to live on a boat or what it's like to cruise on the East Coast or even why he chose to cruise the Great Loop. Instead I got treated to page after page of half-baked history (copied from tourist brouchures) and tales of personal slights (real and imagined) from marina owners, fellow boaters, and any local unlucky enough to meet up with 'Grumpy' when things weren't going his way. Don't buy this book. There are others that are better written and more positive.

I recommend A Year in Paradise: How We Lived Our Dream by Stephen Watterson

3-0 out of 5 stars A good guide to a great experience
I enjoyed reading this book, though I don't think it was especially well written. It is the author's experiences and attention to detail that make "Honey, Let's Get a Boat..." worth reading. What I didn't like was his overuse of the simile...it just seemed flowery and excessive. Also, the book could use a bit of editing/proofreading. I do think that Mr. Stob's writing improves as the book progresses, it is almost as though he learned to write as he wrote. Undeniably an important resource for anyone planning a long cruise on the "Great Loop."

5-0 out of 5 stars A Great Read
I lived every leg of the journey with them! Laughed at their naiveness at the beginning, applauded their tenacity, marvelled at their bravery and the way they managed to locate so many points of interest along the way. A good help for when my husband and I live out my dream to do this loop in our 44ft boat. ... Read more


23. Bold Spirit : Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America
by LINDA LAWRENCE HUNT
list price: $14.00
our price: $10.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1400079934
Catlog: Book (2005-01-11)
Publisher: Anchor
Sales Rank: 12866
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Helga Estby and her daughter Clara left Spokane, Washington, in May 1896 to walk to New York City on a $10,000 wager. The money was needed to prevent foreclosure of their mortgage, hopefully saving the family homestead.

Helga was a Norwegian immigrant who married young, bore nine children, and endured fruitless years on the harsh Minnesota prairie before moving West. She and her husband Ole settled near the little Washington farm town of Rockford, only to be wiped out by the nationwide depression of 1893.

Lured by an offer from a mysterious sponsor, Helga was promised funds if she and her daughter walked unaided and unfinanced all the way to New York City. The women "tramped" the railroad lines through Boise, Salt Lake City, Denver, and Omaha before reaching roads and "civilization" in the Midwest. They walked on through Chicago, Pennsylvania, and finally reached New York. On the arduous journey they faced extreme cold and heat, hunger and exposure, and even shot a man in the leg in self-defense. They met with mayors, governors, and other notables, such as, President-elect McKinley on his porch in Ohio.

On Christmas Eve, 1896, the New York World reported their arrival in New York City. What followed was an American tragedy. ... Read more

Reviews (13)

5-0 out of 5 stars Across Frontier America on Foot
If only Bold Spirit was twice as long a book! As it is, author Linda Lawrence Hunt had to supplement the skin and bones story with some history of Norwegian immigrants and of women pioneers in general. I've been fascinated with stories of immigrants and pioneers since I was in grade school, and this is an unexpected story of both, with an almost unbelievable twist - Helga Estby and her nineteen-year-old daughter Clara, walk across the United States hoping to win a $10,000 prize in a contest.

The trouble is, the only information that survives about the walk that took place over a hundred years ago, are newpaper accounts written as the Estbys made their way across the country. There are no diaries or memoirs, and there were no family tales passed on to succeeding generations.

Hunt reconstructs the trek with the newspaper articles and with the little information the surviving family members and acquaintances can provide. It is a fascinating story, and a surprisingly controversial one. Many people at the time condemned Helga for abandoning her husband and children in Washington State while she and Clara pursued a thoroughly unladylike adventure. From what we can tell, Helga was not out to prove anything, she was trying desperately to get the money the family needed to keep their home and land. But the strain Helga and Clara's absence caused in an already stressful time of economic depression was too much. Many of the family couldn't forgive Helga, and Clara left home soon afterward and even changed her name. We aren't told if this move and name change were due to fallout from the walk or if there was some other reason.

Bold Spirit is a great story of an immigrant family's struggle to make it in America (before there were any safety nets), of two women's unprecedented walk across an entire continent, and of an historian's search to reconstruct the remarkable events.

5-0 out of 5 stars Just What America Needs
Bold Spirit is truly a classic -- Helga and Clara Estby's story should be a "required" read for all school students.In today's world of inflated "superheroes" and overblown fiction, this is a realistic look at what true heroism is.It's too bad that Helga never had the opportunity to be recognized as such in person!

5-0 out of 5 stars read this book!
Three cheers to Helga and Clara Estby!I was completely taken in by this book and had not expected to be.This book was a gift and I read it in one sitting, I could not put it down.The author shares the intriguing and wonderful true story of Helga and Clara's bold 4000+ mile WALK across the United States (in just over seven months) in 1896 and it highlights women's suffrage, Victorian views of women and the adventures of these two daring brave souls.Painstakinly researched, the author shares historical information with biographical sketches of both Helga and Clara. A great book and should be on your "to be read" list...you'll love this book!

5-0 out of 5 stars The Silencing of Her Story
One of the things readers might find interesting about Dr. Linda Hunt's book Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America is her final chapter on the Silencing of History. Just as Helga Esby's amazing achievement was very nearly obliterated by her bitter relatives, how many other accomplishments by others outside the mainstream have been lost?

Dr. Hunt lists several ways "theads" that may silence any story that occurs outside societal norms of the day. These threads are Breaking the Code; Underestimating the Worth (Negation by Neglect); Believing One's Experiences are Incomprehensible to Others; Sealing the Shame; Keeping the Peace and Avoiding the Anger.

Reading this book made me consider how many blanks there are in any family's history ... and in any society's history ... and wonder how many other fantastic achievements have been silenced.Surely the fabric of American history can be woven of threads beyond the ones of war, government, mechanical invention and conquest to include stories like Helga's act of desperation and bravery, undertaken at great personal peril to support a family she loved more than her own life.

Bold Spirit is an inspiring story, as is the story of Dr. Hunt's nearly 20-year effort to research and tell the tale of Helga and Clara Estby and the Estby family. Despite overwhelming obstacles in her own life, Dr. Hunt was unable to abandon Helga and Clara.For seventeen years, she searched for clues to Helga Estby and her forgotten journey, often in the blurry microfiche or dusty pages of 100-year-old newspaper accounts. Dr. Hunt traveled to Norway and throughout the United States as she pieced together scraps of information about Helga, gradually weaving them into what she calls a "rag rug" history -- colorful, strong, one-of-a-kind. Along the way, Dr. Hunt contacted widely dispersed family members who had no idea they were related to Helga nor what Helga had accomplished.

The completion of this book is a significant achievement in its own right, and I am so grateful to Dr. Hunt for sharing what she discovered about Helga.Her dedication to Helga and Clara Estby resurrected a story that needs to be heard, and should never be silenced again.

5-0 out of 5 stars Helga's Story
I was completely mesmerized by this book. This remarkable story tells how Helga, a ninetheeth century pioneer woman, accompanied by her daughter Clara, walks across America. The tragic circumstances of her personal life show with heart-wrenching clarity the conflict between the inner and outer life of a woman. It is a fascinating historical account of women's struggle to prove they were fearless and tough. Linda Hunt did an impressive job researching this forgotten story and then writes an unforgetable book. ... Read more


24. Educating Alice : Adventures of a Curious Woman
by ALICE STEINBACH
list price: $24.95
our price: $16.47
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375504419
Catlog: Book (2004-04-06)
Publisher: Random House
Sales Rank: 20933
Average Customer Review: 4.33 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (6)

5-0 out of 5 stars Seeing the world one class at a time
Alice Steinach loves traveling, loves writing, and loves learning. So she wrote her own job description and spent a year taking different classes around the world from French cuisine to Scottish sheepdog handling. The result is "Educating Alice", a trip around our planet without jetlag. There are eight chapters, one for each class.

Cookin' at the Ritz: Every woman has dreamed of taking a course in cooking at the Hotel Ritz in Paris. Alice Steinbach actually had the courage to do it. It's absolutely fascinating to be able to see inside the Ritz's kitchens without having to worry that Chef will raise his eyebrows if your mushrooms aren't sliced perfectly.

Dancing in Kyoto: The only way to find out why girls really become geishas is to take a dance lesson from one as Steinbach did. Apparently, the geishas aren't too happy about Arthur Golden's ""Memoirs of a Geisha." Here are the real facts of a geisha's life.

The Mystery of the Old Florentine Church: Steinbach took as her special project investigating the terrible floods in 1966 that turned the narrow streets of Florence into raging rivers. Steinbach found the human story behind the statistics.

Sense and Sensible Shoes: If you're a Jane Austin fan, this chapter is for you. Steinbach visited Chawton House, near Winchester, England - the manor once owned by Jane's brother - along with an all-star guest list of Austin experts.

Havana Dreams: There's so much politics talked about Cuba that it was a relief to see the island as ordinary Cubans experience it. I have a new respect for these endlessly cheerful people thanks to Educating Alice.

The Secret Gardens: This chapter is for gardeners. Steinbach went on a tour of famous gardens in Provence, France. To the French, gardening is an art form and Provence offers the perfect climate for enthusiastic gardeners.

The Unreliable Narrator: This chapter was a new take on a class for writers. Steinbach signed up for a course in Prague, Czechoslovakia. This is another class where you need to be a good sport. Steinbach is one.

Lassie Come Home: If you've ever struggled to teach your dog to sit on command, Steinbach has a challenge for you: Take a course learning to control the Border collies that Scottish shepherds use to herd sheep. They are the most amazing dogs.

3-0 out of 5 stars Educating Alice
This book was an interesting travelogue of sorts, but does not compare to the beautiful writing of Alice's previous book, Without Reservations. Without Reservations was a journey not only to wonderful destinations which she experienced in depth, but it was also her personal journey of being a 50-something, divorced woman who was also learning how to slow time and experience everything around her. Educating Alice felt like several disconnected chapters that while interesting, were not really related to one another well enough to make me care about moving on to the next chapter. That disjointed feeling left me believing that Alice has maybe fallen back into a hectic schedule of running from place to place and thing to thing in her life. While Without Reservations was beautiful prose to be savoured, parts of Educating Alice read more like a travel column.

The three star rating says it all---it was OK, but not as great as its predecessor.

4-0 out of 5 stars The Case of the Curious Woman
After having read and enjoyed Steinbach's previous book, Without Reservations, I was eager to see what she has been up to in the past few years and if she and Naohiro are still an item. In Without Reservations, Steinbach tells the story of how she took almost a year off from her job, bought an apartment in Paris and fell in love. It is a story of risk and reward. It really happened, but Steinbach tells it like a story.

In Educating Alice, Steinbach has quit her newspaper job for good. The royalties from Without Reservations must be rolling in, because now she can afford to take classes at the Ritz cooking school in Paris, geisha school in Kyoto, and a tour of lovely gardens in Avignon. Not much risk here. There is no apparent relationship among the classes, other than that Steinbach is interested in the subjects.

The only thread that runs through the entire book besides Steinbach herself, is Naohiro, her lover from Without Reservations. But the relationship is established and both Alice and Naohiro seem content to leave it as it is. So there is no conflict or drama. If I hadn't known Naohiro from the previous book, I'm not sure I would have been interested in their romance, which is conducted in Educating Alice mostly through letters.

I did enjoy reading about Steinbach's adventures at the Ritz, the first and best chapter of Educating Alice. Her view of the Upstairs, Downstairs nature of the grand hotel and her descriptions of her classmates and the chef are entertaining. Her discovery of the Oltrarno section of Florence is pleasant, and the adventures she has in Havana are the liveliest of the bunch.

Steinbach says of the Prague creative writing workshop she attends in one chapter, that "I thought the use of fiction techniques might improve my work as a nonfiction writer." While the individual chapters of Educating Alice are told as short stories, it would have been rewarding if the chapters had been parts of a larger story, as well. She didn't need the writing workshop at all. She showed in Without Reservations that she has already mastered that technique.

4-0 out of 5 stars Everything but the why
If you have ever traveled in Europe or wanted to this is a great book.

If you ever wanted to really 'see and connect' with a new city and its people this is a great book.

If you have ever wanted to take a class just because it is interesting...this is a great book.

There were so many great nuggets of wisdom and information in this book that I actually took some notes on the agencies she uses to schedule her 'lessons'. I would love to travel like she has and take many of the classes she has. She is able to embrace the new experiences and feel safe while she explores the cities she visits. She clearly loves her 'self' and has great conversations with the little girl in her that travels with her. While I found some of her lessons not interesting to me, such as the dog training, I was very envious of many of her destinations and experiences.

I gave the book 4 stars instead of 5 because I wanted one more thing from her...WHY? Why did she choose the lessons and places she did? I felt like the chapters were almost like short stories that were not connected to each other and by the end of the book I was a little bored. It would have helped me connect with her if I knew more of why she wanted to go to Prague for instance. She could have taken a writing course anywhere. What was it about Prague that drew her? Was it the teacher of the class? Had she heard something about the city? A gut feeling? Why?

5-0 out of 5 stars A Delightful Exploration
To get the most out of travel, one should have a purpose, such as viewing a particular type of art, collecting foreign miniatures, etc. Alice Steinbach selected "studies"--and what a variety of subjects she chose to learn! Each chapter takes the reader with her into an area of a different country, and leaves one wanting to sharethat very place. From Paris, where she starts from her "fumbling" and somewhat embarrassing days as she began taking cooking lessons at the Ritz, to the last chapter when she tried to learn to train Border Collies to herd sheep in Scotland, the reader goes with Alice, In Japan she stumbles into stylized dancing class and learning Geisha lifstyle. In Cuba, we make new friends of friendly Cubans and discover a great Jazz band. We almost get lost in hidden gardens in France, and wish we were there. We study Jane Austen in England and get an intimate feel of the English countryside, and we help her unravel historic mysteries of an old church in Florence, one that she enters by mistake because she is lost. In Prague we share her own writing for a class, and watch the development of a WWII story as it unfolds with her own adventures. We're indignant at her classmates and their editorial criticisms--but love her outside adventures in Prague. This book is a must for anyone planning to go anywhere--Makes one want to BECOME an Alice! ... Read more


25. Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey into Bhutan
by Jamie Zeppa
list price: $15.00
our price: $10.20
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 157322815X
Catlog: Book (2000-05-01)
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Sales Rank: 40563
Average Customer Review: 4.22 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

In the tradition of Iron and Silk and Bicycle Days, comes the story of a young woman's self-discovery in a foreign land.

At the age of twenty-two, Jamie Zeppa, raised in a small Canadian town by her grandparents, engaged to be married, never having left the North American continent, decided to embark on one great adventure before settling down for a happy, if conventional, life. She sought a place at the outer reaches of the globe and the outer limits of her imagination and ended up in Bhutan, a tiny Buddhist kingdom closed to the West for centuries, an unspoiled land of Himalayan peaks and lush valleys.

Jamie Zeppa went to Bhutan as a teacher on a two-year Canadian government contract. During her early weeks of hardship and disorientation, this neophyte traveler was on the verge of packing it in. After a few weeks more, however, the country and its people worked their alchemy on her; she canceled her trip home for Christmas and requested an extension of her contract. In time, she broke off her engagement. After two years, she was not only in love with the country but also with a young Bhutanese man.

From the pristine, heart-crushing beauty of the landscape to the celebrations and sorrows of its people, Zeppa conjures and captures the true spirit of her unforgettable pilgrim experience. Stirring, poignant, funny, and full of joy, Beyond the Earth and the Sky is at once a classic tale of discovery and adventure, and a love story--between a woman and a country, a people, a man.
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Reviews (58)

3-0 out of 5 stars A personal experience in a remote place
This book is a remarkable tale of one person's courage to make a hard decision about dropping a conventional western life for a remote teaching position, and then having the fortitude to stick with it during the first couple of miserable months, despite coming very close a couple of times to giving it all up and returning to Canada. The author provides us with a very admirable snapshot of her feelings while she is going through all of this, and I would highly recommend this book for anyone who is considering moving to new surroundings or customs.

I originally read this book because I thought it would be more of a travel book about Bhutan, which is hard for foreigners to get into. The book does a reasonable job of providing a description of the terrain, landscape, people, culture, and climate. I also liked the descriptions of the political conflicts that are happening within Bhutan, and hearing about her students' voices about it.

But this book isn't just about Bhutan, it also has an ongoing theme about the author's relationship with her back-home boyfriend and new ones in Bhutan. I guess this was part of her personal story in her Bhutan experience, but I had trouble shifting back to that throughout the book, given the larger scope of the book: a western teacher in a hidden and remote country.

Overall, very good and recommended.

4-0 out of 5 stars A journey for any reader prepared to enter remarkable world
This is a beautiful book that is at once funny, sad, informative and always honest. This book is truly a "journey into Bhutan" for both writer and reader. Zeppa's recounts her early experiences in Bhutan and the proccess of adapting to a vastly different foreign culture in a way that is both humourous and rings true. Her love story with Bhutan's landscape and its people is obvious, and her language carries the reader every step of the way. Zeppa's subsequent realization of her idealized perspective and understanding of the country's true complexity is a theme to which any overseas adventurer can relate. The book ends a bit abruptly, but overall a moving and wonderful read.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Magical Escape
Perhaps I am influenced by a period of childhood spent in the Himalayas, but this book took me out of a life that is filled with stress and the feeling of never having done enough. Jamie Zeppa showed such love and appreciation for a culture so different to her own, and had the courage to go alone into this new world, where she had the sensitivity to understand rather than to criticize. she brought this world to me, and having been an immigrant myself I know how hard a new culture is. More people in this country should read it and understand about a different culture and the delight it can inspire.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Joy to Read
I've never been to Bhutan and have no plans to go. A friend handed me the book as I left on a vacation. I could not put it down. It's beautifully written. Read it even if you're not about to leave for the Peace Corps.

5-0 out of 5 stars What a Fabulous Journey!
This book is a terrific journey that is not only rich in detail, but in reality. Being a young girl from a Northern town, I found I could see myself being shocked by the differences in this simplistic, uncomplicated country. The way that Zeppa wrote this book it is both a love story with the country and a coming of age. Readers watch her grow into a more solid self sure woman as she finds her place in this wonderfully magic land. It was such a joy to read, it's easy to see that Zeppa enjoyed writing it. ... Read more


26. Give Me the World
by Leila Hadley
list price: $24.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312198884
Catlog: Book (1999-04-01)
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Sales Rank: 691962
Average Customer Review: 4.83 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

This travelogue about the mystery-shrouded Far East is a must-read book. However, there are hazards in doing so. Originally published in 1958, Give Me the World clutters up the tidy notion that women in the '50s were all Donna Reed clones. Leila Hadley, a 25-year-old divorcée with a plum PR position in Manhattan tossed aside conventionality and shipped out to Hong Kong--her 6-year-old son in tow. Hooking up with characters from scholars and mystics to a quartet of American sailors, she traveled to locales such as Ceylon, Bombay, Bangkok, and Delhi, sailing much of the way on a schooner on which she was a bona fide shipmate.

Her danger-filled, 18-month trek is remarkable, but it's her skill at observing details and capturing them on paper, creating a dreamy world that plays to all senses, that makes her memoir extraordinary. Of a Bombay street, she writes: "The women floated through the traffic like butterflies. The men ... leaped and darted, tentatively jumping forward and back in the path of onrushing motorcars, cyclists and oxcarts. Rickety gharries hurtled past driven by whip-cracking turbaned charioteers." Whether writing of food, rituals, or topography--"the mazing side streets were soft and muddied by the monsoon rains"--Hadley unleashes images so rich you can't help thinking that if everyone wrote like this, we wouldn't need TV. Like TV, Give Me the World is habit-forming: you ignore pressing work simply to curl up with this intoxicating memoir. When asked what's new, you may answer: "Well, today Leila Hadley stumbled into an opium den with a camera, and someone chased her out with a knife!" or, "Leila nearly died from a dust storm that gave her a fever of 107, but she survived and met Indira Gandhi." You may sniff at the books of other travel writers, as though they're phonies who aren't even trying.

In short, this is a wonderful book filled with such luxurious prose and so many cultural insights and wild experiences that you finish it feeling enriched and realizing that Hadley has set a standard for travel writing--and traveling--that few, including her ancestor Boswell, can match. --Melissa Rossi ... Read more

Reviews (6)

5-0 out of 5 stars The best travel book ever, period!
Travel books have never, ever interested me--when I hear that one is particularly good, I tend to think, "Yeah, that was THEIR experience, but there's no way it can translate . . . " My thinking has always been that you yourself have to be somewhere, live somewhere, to really know what it's like or else what's the point?

My views on this changed when my sister gave me a copy of Leila Hadley's extraordinary "Give Me the World." A travel book in name only, this work by a great-great-great-great-granddaughter of author James Boswell is more a journey of self-discovery than it is about the places she visits--but the writing is so fierce, so fine, so rich and complex, that as a travelogue it is still head and shoulders above 90% of what else is out there cluttering the travel book bookshelves. Case in point:

Of trying to learn Siamese: "Learning to recognize such simple signs as DANGER, WOMEN and EXIT was as difficult as memorizing the patterns in filigreed silver."

Of the Siamese attitude towards life: "Although Siamese, as good Buddhists, do not believe in taking life, they see nothing wrong in rescuing a fish from drowning. If the creatures die on the bank or in a net, it is probably from exhaustion due to their long immersion, they say, and surely there can be no harm in eating them."

Of Bangkok's reputation as a den of iniquity: "To make sure that one missed nothing of Bangkok's [physical] wonderland, the Siamese had thoughtfully provided a 'Baedeker' . . . in the preface [it noted], 'This pocket book is somewhat inevitable to be kept ready at the hands.' "

Of her opium den experience: "I thought ahead to the times when, back in New York, I would say, 'By the way, I once had an interesting experience in an opium den' or even, 'Opium? Why, of course, I smoked it in Bangkok.' "

Of the difference between western and Malayan clothing: " . . . the people not in western costume looked out of place and a little garish, like partygoers in evening clothes coming home at breakfast time."

Of cooking on board a small boat: " . . . breakfast was a tempestuous affair. Vic darted about the lounge scaling coffee mugs at us, swearing at the stove, in a pother that the biscuits were burned on the bottom and raw on top, rattling and banging pans, and all the while keeping up a running flow of conversation about an article one of the men's adventure pulps had ordered him to rewrite, about the things he wanted to do--all the wildly impractical things like walking from Cairo to Morocco, chartering a dhow to explore the Baluchistan coast, leading an archaeological expedition to Alaska, and then his talk coursed off onto the subject of women and their extraordinary behavior."

On jellyfish: "We were almost abreast of the muddy current when a myriad of filmy jellyfish streamed past the hull. They were beautiful things, delicately colored--some like fragile bladders of Venetian blown glass, some like the pinky-fawn undersides of toadstools with pearly streamers."

On steering the boat at dawn: "The dawn watch. It was one of those chance rewards of travel, a magic moment, untranslatable from its time and place, a moment which lives on perpetually, with all its colors made fast. Just then there was no sign of dawn. The masts were still black against the luminous darkness of the sky, the sails grey in the starlight. There was a thrilling flush of wind against my skin."

On the Taj Mahal: "It shimmered. It glowed. It had the magical property of not looking man-made. Its marble walls had the tender radiance of seashells, petals and moonlit snow."

I could go on and on (and already have!), but really, you have to read the book to get more of this gorgeous prose and see a sheltered girl--yes, a girl, despite her twenty-five years and her six-year old son--blossom into a woman of the world as she makes her way around it. Highly recommended!

5-0 out of 5 stars Travel the world with Leila
'Give me the world' is one of my favourite books. The way the author takes us with her around the world is just magical. It is not a description of what she sees, but really makes us feel the different parts of the world. She adds all those little anecdotes that make the reading a pleasure ...
Do you know why they break a coconut before any religious ceremony in India ??? or how do you know that a girl is single in Haiti ?? well , read this book and you ll know the answer, and lots of other things .. enjoy the reading

4-0 out of 5 stars A Gutsy Transglobal Trek
Leila Hadley defies the 1950's female stereotype when she takes off for Asia with her young son in tow. Leaving a prosperous career behind, Hadley is in search of more enlightening and meaningful experiences than her lush New York life affords her. She does very little in the way of planning, throws caution to the wind and hopes for the best. While the first part of her Asian adventure is quite comfortable and even luxurious at times, she dives headfirst into the adventure she covets when she hitches a ride aboard a sailboat with a small, all-male American crew. Her stories of her experiences sailing to remote destinations throughout Southeast and Southwest Asia and the Mediterranean are exhilarating and fascinating. Hadley's writing style is a bit haughty, however her stories are so interesting that this small flaw is hardly noticeable. Not the best travel memoir I have ever read, but an interesting tale by a gutsy traveler who was before her time.

5-0 out of 5 stars Word pictures
This book is so packed with visual images and sensuality that I could open the book to any page, any paragraph and find poetry and description so graphic it makes my expensive camera obsolete. Her vocabulary is intense and her respect for her readers intelligence challenges me to read nothing but quality. A remarkable book. I wonder how her son, Kippy, now regards that journey. It certainly changes my notions about the fifties woman. Whew! Barbara Levinson

5-0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down...
This is one of those books that left me searching for more. Hadley's wonderful descriptions of each of the people she met while travelling made me wish I could read more about their lives.

Hadley brought each of the places she visited to life with deep, involved descriptions.

Great book and an ending that was a big surprize! ... Read more


27. Diarios de Motocicleta
by Ernesto Che Guevara
list price: $16.20
our price: $16.20
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 9504912028
Catlog: Book (2004-06)
Publisher: Planeta
Sales Rank: 40785
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28. Prisoners of Hope : The Story of Our Captivity and Freedom in Afghanistan
by DAYNA CURRY, HEATHER MERCER, STACY MATTINGLY
list price: $19.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385507836
Catlog: Book (2002-06-11)
Publisher: Doubleday
Sales Rank: 54335
Average Customer Review: 3.25 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The gripping and inspiring story of two extraordinary women--from their imprisonment by the Taliban to their rescue by U.S. Special Forces.

When Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer arrived in Afghanistan, they had come to help bring a better life and a little hope to some of the poorest and most oppressed people in the world. Within a few months, their lives were thrown into chaos as they became pawns in historic international events.They were arrested by the ruling Taliban government for teaching about Christianity to the people with whom they worked.In the middle of their trial, the events of September 11, 2001, led to the international war on terrorism, with the Taliban a primary target.While many feared Curry and Mercer could not survive in the midst of war, Americans nonetheless prayed for their safe return, and in November their prayers were answered.

In Prisoners of Hope, Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer tell the story of their work in Afghanistan, their love for the people they served, their arrest, trial, and imprisonment by the Taliban, and their rescue by U.S. Special Forces. The heart of the book will discuss how two middle-class American women decided to leave the comforts of home in exchange for the opportunity to serve the disadvantaged, and how their faith motivated them and sustained them through the events that followed.Their story is a magnificent narrative of ordinary women caught in extraordinary circumstances as a result of their commitment to serve the poorest and most oppressed women and children in the world. This book will be inspiring to those who seek a purpose greater than themselves.
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Reviews (51)

4-0 out of 5 stars Mixed feelings
I see the reviews of this book are quite varied, from the obvious non-Christians to the staunch Christian supporters. On one hand, from a Christian perspective, here are two women who gave up their worldly lives to move to Afghanistan. How can most of us comprehand that? I can't, and I have traveled on mission trips all over E. Europe. On top of that, they were imprisoned by a known terrorist group, and became a nationwide story. They most definitely have an amazing story to tell, although I doubt they could ever truly convey their true thoughts and feelings. Given the subject, I think this is a very good read and inspirational. However, there is a down side. This is by no means a literary work of art. It is poorly edited, rushed, and in many places includes just plain uninteresting (relatively speaking) "day in the life" tales of what they ate, etc. It was written in diary form and definitely had a lot of fluff. As much as I hate to say it, and without going into detail, I am also not quite sure that the book accurately reflected the personalities of these two people who sacraficed so much. The bottom line is that what they were doing was Biblical, a great sacrafice, and made the world a better place. This is a great book to read simply because of what they experienced, hence the 4 stars. However, don't expect great writing, or editing.

5-0 out of 5 stars A True Accounting
First, let me mention that these two young women never claimed to be writers. They have tried, in the best way possible, to relate their experiences in Afghanistan. I was pleased to be at a Women of Faith conference recently where they were the guest speakers. The humor that they were able to see in the different trials that they suffered was amazing. Second, there is always the possibility that the editors removed a majority of Christian references so as not to offend the non-Christians. This book is a well written documentary of their time. I was in awe of their initiative, and the faith that led them to service in Afghanistan. Well done, and if only there were more people like this (and I don't mean preaching the Gospel), but just those to go out and help then the world would be a much better place. This is an example to all that nobody is perfect, but you try and do the best that you can in whatever situation occurs.

4-0 out of 5 stars I like it
this book is the best book i had ever read in my life time. this book is about two girls that did not have a strong faith about Jesus christ. when i started reading this book every thing in my life had change about me and jesus. my mother help me know how much Jesus means to me and how he make me happy and tells me that every thing is going to be ok. i allways read the bible more because i under stand what is going on in my life. i know that God is going to be with me no matter what.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great Book
This is a book that would inspire other Christians to meditate upon that divinely instituted responsibility of evangelization and the showing off of love, which are hallmarks of a godly driven life. Totally recommended and one that should be included in a growing library of books dealing with missionary work and faith.

5-0 out of 5 stars Thank you Dayna and Heather!
I could not put this book down - what an experience these girls had!! I also can not believe all the negative feedback these girls have received here. ??? Spys for President Bush? Dumb & Dumber? Twits? Give me a break! Either these commenters are jealous, intimidated, or non-christian - some say they are christian but I've learned that all who claim to be are not necessarily walking in the spirit. I know many who claim to be Christian and have never read the bible! Dayna & Heather the bible says that you will be persecuted..... 2 Timothy 3:12, Matt 24:9, John 15:20, Matt 5:10-12... "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven... "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake... "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
You did a lot of good for many women and families - do not let anyone tell you different. You know different. You are not stupid, or naive. I commend you for all you went through to help these people - for doing good and for sharing your faith in Jesus. You picked up your cross and followed the great commission... Matt 28:12-20 Bless you! This book was great and I thank you for taking the time to write it - it is an inspiration to all and encouragement for many. I pray that my own children would follow in your example of faith. Your parents have been truly blessed. The proceeds from this book and your CD will help so many in Afghanistan - so much good has come from your imprisonment and trials. ... Read more


29. Queenan Country : A Reluctant Anglophile's Pilgrimage to the Mother Country
by Joe Queenan
list price: $22.00
our price: $13.20
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0805069801
Catlog: Book (2004-11-04)
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Sales Rank: 2401
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Book Description

In this hilarious romp through England, one of America's preeminent humorists seeks the answer to an eternal question: What makes the Brits tick?

One semitropical Fourth of July, Joe Queenan's English wife suggested that the family might like a chicken vindaloo in lieu of the customary barbecue. It was this pitiless act of gastronomic cultural oppression, coupled with dread of the fearsome Christmas pudding that awaited him for dessert, that inspired the author to make a solitary pilgrimage to Great Britain. Freed from the obligation to visit an unending procession of Aunty Margarets and Cousin Robins, as he had done for the first twenty-six years of their marriage, Queenan decided that he would not come back from Albion until he had finally penetrated the limey heart of darkness.

His trip was not in vain. Crisscrossing Old Blighty like Cromwell hunting Papists, Queenan finally came to terms with the choochiness, squiffiness, ponciness, and sticky wicketness that lie at the heart of the British character. Here he is trying to find out whose idea it was to impale King Edward II on a red-hot poker-and what this says about English sexual politics. Here he is in an Edinburgh pub foolishly trying to defend Paul McCartney's "Ebony and Ivory." And here he is, trapped in a concert hall with a Coventry-based all-Brit Eagles tribute band named Talon who resent that they are nowhere near as famous as their evil nemeses, the Illegal Eagles. At the end of his epic adventure, the author returns chastened, none the wiser, but encouraged that his wife is actually as sane as she is, in light of her fellow countrymen.
... Read more

30. Blue Clay People : Seasons on Africa's Fragile Edge
by William Powers
list price: $24.95
our price: $16.97
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1582345325
Catlog: Book (2005-01-10)
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Sales Rank: 341701
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Book Description

An elegantly written memoir of a young man's life-changing sojourn in a world of immeasurable poverty and instability: Charles Taylor's Liberia.

William Powers went to Liberia as a fresh-faced aid worker in 1999 and was given the mandate to "fight poverty and save the rainforest." It's not long before Powers is confronting the myriad obstacles to these goals. He discovers how Liberia has become a Fourth World country, or a "black hole in the international system"-poor, environmentally looted, scarred by violence, and barely governed. He comes face-to-face with unspeakable horrors and the insidious corruption behind every daily transaction. Yet, against the odds (and the attitude of most aid workers), he finds a place in the jungle that feels like home and a woman he might risk everything for, until violence descends once more, threatening his friends and his future.

With the pacing and prose of the best novels, Blue Clay People is an absorbing blend of humor, compassion, and rigorous moral questioning that will convince readers why the fate of endangered places such as Liberia must matter to all of us.
... Read more

31. Behind the Burqa: Our Life in Afghanistan and How We Escaped to Freedom
by Sulima and Hala, Batya Swift Yasgur
list price: $24.95
our price: $16.47
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0471263893
Catlog: Book (2002-09-30)
Publisher: Wiley
Sales Rank: 193379
Average Customer Review: 4.88 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Advance Praise for Behind the Burqa

"Whenever and wherever adults make war, children die and women are subjected to fear and humiliation. This is true of Afghanistan too. Read this harrowing book. The tragic yet heroic tale of two women is told with great simplicity. They will haunt you."
–Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

"The stories of Sulima and Hala achingly articulate the twin and enduring legacies of misogyny and violence. A critical historical document, Behind the Burqa ultimately reveals the unbreakable strength of Afghan women."
–Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues
Founder and Artistic Director, V-Day

"Behind the Burqa provides important information about conditions in Afghanistan, as well as the plight of asylum-seekers in the United States.I highly recommend this book to all people who are concerned about human rights, both at home and abroad."
–Senator Sam Brownback, (R. Kansas)
ranking member, Immigration Subcommittee, Committee on the Judiciary

"This book is a gripping reading experience, and it also offers important suggestions for those who would like to participate in making our asylum politics more humane."
–Eleanor Acer, Director, Asylum Program, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights

"This book shows the injustices suffered by innocent women seeking asylum in the U. S. and the power of religious faith to provide hope and courage even in prison."
–Fauziya Kassindja, author of Do They Hear You When You Cry

"Sulima and Hala epitomize the worldwide struggle of women for equality and justice. Their story is gripping and illuminating."
–Jessica Neuwirth, President of Equality Now ... Read more

Reviews (8)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Timely Topic, A Powerful and Exciting Book
I saw the Court-TV production of CHASING FREEDOM this past Monday (Jan 19). Appropriately, it aired on Martin Luther King Day. It was the story of an Afghan women who fled to the US after escaping horrible treatment by the Taliban. When she came to the US, she was put into detention. It was a great movie and it really brought to life events in Afghanistan and also in US detention centers. The story told in BEHIND THE BURQA is very similar. I can't believe our country is still imprisoning people fleeing persecution. This book (BEHIND THE BURQA) was an amazing experience to read. The suspense was incredible, and I learned about detention in a very vivid way. I recommend the book to anyone who wants to find out more about this very important issue, and to everyone who wants to read a great book!!

5-0 out of 5 stars Suspenseful, Informative and very Current
This book is a powerful account of two brave sisters and their fight for human rights in a fundamentalist society, both for themselves and for other Afghan women. The two sisters hold divergent views of Islam and between them, create a balanced perspective that helped me sort out the true religion from the corruption of the religion by fanatics. As a feminist with a strong interest in world religions, I felt I got a fair insight into the many ways one can regard Islam. It's rare for a book to combine chair-gripping suspense and important new insights and I highly recommend BEHIND THE BURQA to people of both genders and all religious backgrounds and affiliations.

5-0 out of 5 stars Surprise!!!
I picked up this book because I have great respect for Batya Swift Yasgur not because I was interested in the subject. I planned to skim it. I started reading at 9 pm and finished it in the wee hours of the next day. To my surprise it was a page turner. It was also well written which is often not the case with "as told to books" and the subject became fascinating to me.
I learned a great deal and only wish that she had another book on the shelves!

5-0 out of 5 stars Reading this book was both a pleasure and a responsibility.
On behalf of these sisters from Afghanistan, Batya Swift Yasgur writes with a brilliant pen, a compassionate heart, and the desire to facilitate desperately needed social change. Each in turn, the sisters speak of what life was like in Afghanistan, both before and after the institution of the Taliban regime: before, their worries were few and their joys plentiful; after, they were subjugated, oppressed, bullied, beaten. They speak of their friends and family members killed at the hands of a cruel government, of women who took their lives to escape, of not being able to walk outdoors for fear of punishment or even death, of being attacked in their own home. I cried as I read, and my heart broke for them. Reading this book was both a pleasure and a responsibility. After what these women have survived, after what Afghan women are still experiencing, we owe it to them to listen.

5-0 out of 5 stars Sensitive, Shocking and Should be Required Reading
These two sisters lend their voice as a voice of a people, a voice of a nation of women who still struggle to be heard. Not only is this a book of truths, it is a book of horrors at last unveiled. For women living in oppression in any nation, from the United States to Afghanistan to Nigeria, one can only hope that Ms. Yasgur's ability to listen will open the eyes and ears of all humanity. If we did, the reperession and brutality endured by the women in this work--and of women everywhere-- could possibly become a thing of the past. ... Read more


32. Red Sky in Mourning: A True Story of Love, Loss, and Survival at Sea
by Tami Oldham Ashcraft, Susea McGearhart
list price: $23.95
our price: $16.29
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0786867914
Catlog: Book (2002-06)
Publisher: Hyperion
Sales Rank: 46083
Average Customer Review: 4.36 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

A true-life adventure story with everything: page-turning suspense, remarkable acts of courage, wrenching despair -- and a triumphant, life-affirming ending.

Picture yourself in a tropical climate, sailing out to sea with your fiancé. Life is perfect; you’re young and in love. Then picture everything going horribly wrong. You inadvertently sail into a hurricane, you’re injured, and you wake up to find that your loved one is gone. Your boat’s motor is shot and your masts have disappeared. Utterly alone, you’re weeks from dry land. Red Sky in Mourning is the story of Tami Oldham Ashcraft’s 41-day journey to safety, which she survived through fortitude and sheer strength of character. Interspersed with flashbacks to her romance with her doomed fiancé Richard, this survival story offers an inspiring reminder that even in our darkest moments we are never truly alone. ... Read more

Reviews (11)

5-0 out of 5 stars Riveting
I have read more harrowing shipwrecks-at-sea story than this one perhaps, where odds of surviving were even less favorable. It also stands to reason that if you go sailing during a storm-racked area of the ocean, you may very well not make it back to land. But the story of Tami Oldham and what happened to her and Richard Sharp when they encountered Hurricane Raymond while sailing Hazana from Tahiti to California is absolutely compelling. This book has a richly detailed narrative; the story is woven skillfully using flashbacks to inform the reader of the history of these two people before they became caught up in a horrific experience.
The story also contains lot more. When I first started this book, I was not sure if I liked Tami. Her character seemed rather headstrong. But character she had. You learn to like her a lot. From the admission of her fears and mistakes to the sadness and guilt she shares over Richard's death and to the responsibilites she resumes after rescue, you see a new person emerge. This is a person who experiences a very dramatic epiphany.
Tami and Susea also brought Richard's character to the fore, right up to the last desperate moments of his life where he protects his fiance's, an act of what we call chivalry but that in his case, was truly part of who he must have been.
Another element introduced in the story was The Voice that helped Tami throughout her 41 days alone at sea. We guess that it is really the common-sense side to Tami that is trying to keep her in balance during this time but guess is all you can do - we will never know for sure but as a reader, I found it a satisfying mystery. Perhaps,as Tami had wondered, I hoped it might be Richard himself.
I cried towards the end of this book at Tami's symbolic letting go of this man. And again, when she mentions, years later, how her second daughter was born with the birth sac still intact - and what the midwife informs Tami is its significance.
Despite the letting go, however, I can't help but believe that Tami has resurrected Richard in the eyes of her readers, a last kind act on her part to thank him for helping her make it to safety.

4-0 out of 5 stars The Weaker Sex?
Let's never hear about the weaker sex again. The riviting story of Tami Oldham's tragedy at sea will convince anyone that there is no such thing. A storm at sea swept her fiance, Richard, away to his death and knocked her cold for 27 hours. She awoke to find a demasted yacht, little food and devasting loneliness. But she pulled herself together with the help of a "Voice" and navigated across the open sea in a crippled, jury-rigged vessel to safety.

Even though the reader knows that she made the journey successfully one can not help but be anxious for her safety and welfare throughout 41 day voyage. When she happened to find an unexpected container of drinking water on board I could taste the sweet water and rejoiced with her.

A splendid read. I just caution anyone to be prepared to stay up very late reading this sad, but uplifting adventure, and to keep a glass of water nearby, because you won't want to stop.

5-0 out of 5 stars Important Life (and Sailing) Lessons Revealed
What a wonderful book, by a courageous woman. As I read the book, I felt that I was there with her during her struggles and triumphs. And the ending is very positive and doesn't leave the reader hanging. She's overcome a great deal in life at a young age, and has gone on to become a very solid and interesting wife and mother, I suspect. Yes, the book describes a real tragedy, the kind of thing that a sailor prays to avoid. However, there are real lessons to be found, such as equipment and design flaws aboard her boat, as well as the 'human factors' which she discusses openly. I've made purchases and upgrades to my boat (I liveaboard and cruise fulltime) based on her book and her lecture at the Annapolis sailboat show. Just buy the book, and you won't be sorry!

5-0 out of 5 stars An intense story
This is an intense and riveting story of talent, guts and luck. I would have left out some of the slightly gooey romanticism, but it's her story, not mine.
She does a great job narrating on the audio cassette.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
I can't say much more than the previous reviews except to say I was captivated by the story. You won't be wasting you time if you decide it will be your next read. ... Read more


33. Kingbird Highway: The Story of a Natural Obsession That Got a Little Out of Hand
by Kenn Kaufman
list price: $14.00
our price: $10.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0618062351
Catlog: Book (2000-08-12)
Publisher: Mariner Books
Sales Rank: 18477
Average Customer Review: 4.59 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

At sixteen, Kenn Kaufman dropped out of the high school where he was student council president and hit the road, hitching back and forth across America, from Alaska to Florida, Maine to Mexico. Maybe not all that unusual a thing to do in the seventies, but what Kenn was searching for was a little different: not sex, drugs, God, or even self, but birds. A report of a rare bird would send him hitching nonstop from Pacific to Atlantic and back again. When he was broke he would pick fruit or do odd jobs to earn the fifty dollars or so that would last him for weeks. His goal was to set a record - most North American species seen in a year - but along the way he began to realize that at this breakneck pace he was only looking, not seeing. What had been a game became a quest for a deeper understanding of the natural world. KINGBIRD HIGHWAY is a unique coming-of-age story, combining a lyrical celebration of nature with wild, and sometimes dangerous, adventures, starring a colorful cast of characters. ... Read more

Reviews (17)

5-0 out of 5 stars This review appeared in LIVING BIRD magazine, Winter 1999
THE KINGBIRD HIGHWAY

I first read Kenn Kaufman's KINGBIRD HIGHWAY, a year and a half ago, on a trip to Churchill, Manitoba. It was such a compelling story, I knew immediately that I had to review it. Although I run the risk now of being the last reviewer in America to cover this book, KINGBIRD HIGHWAY is too good to pass up. It's a cut above anything written so far by an American birder and will surely be regarded as a classic in future years.

KINGBIRD HIGHWAY tells the tale of how, at age 16, Kenn Kaufman dropped everything and hit the road in search of birds. It's a remarkable story. There he was: honor student; president of the student council-obviously a gifted kid with a bright future in college. But his overwhelming yearning to learn everything he could about birds could not be suppressed or even postponed. He dropped out of school and began hitchhiking back and forth across the continent, searching for birds and adventure.

"I knew that, back at home, kids my age were going back to school," wrote Kaufman. "They had the clang of locker doors in the halls of South High in Wichita, Kansas. I had a nameless mountainside in Arizona, with sunlight streaming down among the pines, and Mexican songbirds moving through the high branches. My former classmates were moving toward their education, no doubt, just as I was moving toward mine, but now I was traveling a road that no one had charted for me . . . and my adventure was beginning."

Kaufman learned to survive on pennies a day (he budgeted himself only one dollar a day for food). He sold blood plasma twice a week, for five dollars a pint. He went to temporary employment agencies and would work by the day, until he had $50, then hit the road again. Sleeping outside in all kinds of weather, finding shelter under bridges and overpasses, he followed his unstoppable desire to find birds and learn more about them. He even started eating cat food: "a box of Little Friskies, stuffed in my backpack, could keep me going for days," he wrote. Besides being a great coming of age book and a road adventure yarn, KINGBIRD HIGHWAY provides a remarkable insight into a transitional era in American birding-the early 1970s. At the beginning of that decade, no one had yet reached the 700-species mark in their North American life lists-in fact, only the best birders had passed the 600-species mark. And the record for the most birds seen by a birder in a single year had stood at 598 since 1958, when ace British birder Stuart Keith completed his record-smashing North American big year.

In terms of the up-to-date information available for birders, many things had changed by 1971. Informal hotlines had begun springing up across the country. New bird-finding books, such as Jim Lane's guides, were providing intricate instructions on how to find birds in various regions. And, at some birding hotspots, taped telephone messages were providing weekly updated information on rare birds seen locally to anyone who called. With this budding network of bird-information sources, a new big-year record was there for the taking. And Kaufman wanted desperately to be the one to achieve it. He made his first try in 1972, but barely a month into his big year, he found that the record had already been topped by another boy wonder, Ted Parker, who had seen an incredible 626 species in 1971.

Kaufman's great adventure began in earnest on New Year's Day, 1973, when he tried once more to begin a big year, setting his sights firmly on Ted Parker's record. But it turned out that he was not the only one with that thought in mind. For the entire year, he had to compete toe-to-toe with Floyd Murdoch, a graduate student who got to travel to wildlife refuges all over the country to get information for his doctoral dissertation (and amass bird sightings). I won't tell you who won-in some ways, it doesn't matter. As Kaufman discovered in his lengthy travels, the journey is more important than the destination.

KINGBIRD HIGHWAY was a great surprise to me. Though I've always considered Kenn to be a good writer, and everything I've read of his has been excellent, journeyman work, KINGBIRD HIGHWAY is something more. In this book he not only captures the soul of birding but also the spirit of youth. The writing is lyrical, bordering on poetry at times. I hope that Kenn authors many more books of this kind in the years ahead.

5-0 out of 5 stars A road book with a passion
I read this book a couple of years ago ,haven't been writing reviews for long;but thought I would go back to this fine effort.I've read a lot of " road" books by some of the best; such as Heat-Moon,Kerouac,Mc Murtry,Peterson/Fisher,Steinbeck,Teale,Caldwell ;but as good as these were, none were written with the passion and self involvement that Kaufman brings to this book.He didn't set out to roam the country to escape,find himself,to discover the people or country.He set with the purpose of finding as many bird species as he could in one year ; wrote a book about it,and even though the goal was not just to write a book; he produced one that is as good as the "best".As a Birder ,we have all experienced many of the things he did ;but without the endurance,passion and commitment that he did.I thought I experienced cold along the Niagara River looking for Gulls in the Winter;but this was mild compared to sleeping in a car on the East coast when it was "cold as an Eskimo's tomb",eating from a can of cold soup at the ABA onvention,or having "his" scope blown away during a storm while doing the Christmas Bird count.If you like road books;but even more so if you enjoy nature/birding you just gotta read this gem !In my opinion he is right up there with the best of them.

5-0 out of 5 stars Kaufman Becomes a Birding Fanatic
Great read. Any serious birder will like it as will a general audience that likes books along the lines of William Least-Moon.

5-0 out of 5 stars A perfect book!
If you're stuck in a boring 9-5 job after having paid your dues with years of higher education, you'll be jealous of Kenn Kaufman's freedom at a young age to do what he wanted, learn what he wanted and lay the groundwork for one of the most successful careers in birding in the U.S.
If you're a birder, or at least trying to be a birder, you'll be jealous of the amount of ground Kenn Kaufman covered in the span of a few short years to see and marvel at 100's of birds.
If you're a writer, whether published or not, you'll be jealous of Kenn Kaufman's ability to write a such vividly-rendered account of his souped-up travails engaging in one of the most sympathetic pastimes to develop among modern humans, that of birding, contextualized with his growing awareness of the impact of human encroachment on the wilderness as an increasingly serious environmental problem. Whether the story surveys Kaufman's encounters with the awfully unlucky Myrtle Warblers stuck on North Carolina's Outer Banks in the winter of '73, the transplanted Skylarks of the San Juan Islands in the Pacific Northwest, or the migrating warblers stopping for a respite at Fort Jefferson in the Tortugas; or whether Kaufman is birding with his group of friends self-dubbed the "Tucson Five," or enduring the numbing experience of "thumbing" on the road for months on end; he makes you see what he's seeing and feel what he's feeling.
Finally, if you're someone who treasures the comforts of a soft pillow at night and a warm, dry roof over your head, you have to admire Kaufman's tenacity in dealing with -- and his almost joyful tolerance of-- bad weather, having to hike for miles before finding that much-needed ride or the 669th bird for his Big Year List, and, especially, the hunger born of a budget that probably didn't quite reach shoe-string level.

5-0 out of 5 stars A great adventure
Skillfully written and edited to perfection, this book is a joy to read. The story is a thrilling adventure that's hard to put down; plan on pulling an all-nighter when you read it. In one year, Kenn Kaufman traveled 80,000 miles, saw over 600 species of birds, and spent less than $1000 in doing so. I'm more of an armchair birder myself, content to see the world's birds in books, and I loved being taken along on this amazing journey without having to leave the comfort of my own home. ... Read more


34. Traveling with Che Guevara: The Making of a Revolutionary
by Alberto Granado, Lucia Alvarez de Toledo
list price: $14.95
our price: $10.17
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1557046395
Catlog: Book (2004-09-30)
Publisher: Newmarket Press
Sales Rank: 15519
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Book Description

Published for the first time in the U.S.—one of the two diaries on which the movie The Motorcycle Diaries is based—the moving and at times hilarious account of Che Guevara and Alberto Granado's eight-month tour of South America in 1952.

In 1952 Alberto Granado, a young doctor, and his friend Ernesto Guevara, a 23-year-old medical student from a distinguished Buenos Aires family, decided to explore their continent. They set off from Cordoba in Argentina on a Norton 500cc motorbike and traveled through Chile, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela. The duo's adventures vary from the suspenseful (stowing away on a cargo ship, exploring Incan ruins) to the comedic (falling in love, drinking, fighting...) to the serious (volunteering as firemen and at a leper colony). They worked as day laborers along the way—as soccer coaches, medical assistants, and furniture movers. The poverty and exploitation of the native population started the process that was to turn Ernesto—the debonair, fun-loving student—into Che, the revolutionary who had a profound impact on the history of several nations.

Originally published in Spanish in Cuba in 1978, the first English translation was published by Random House UK in 2003. The movie, based on Granado's and Che's diaries, directed by Walter Salles (Central Station, Behind the Sun), was produced by Robert Redford and others. Shown at the Sundance Film Festival, it generated great reviews and a frenzied auction for distribution rights, which was won by Focus Features. Granado, now 82, was a consultant to Salles during the production. 10 b/w photos. ... Read more


35. Land of a Thousand Hills: My Life in Rwanda
by Rosamond Halsey Carr, Ann Howard Halsey
list price: $15.00
our price: $15.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0452282020
Catlog: Book (2000-09-01)
Publisher: Plume Books
Sales Rank: 39068
Average Customer Review: 4.73 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

"A remarkable life story, reminiscent of Out of Africa."--Vogue

In 1949, Rosamond Halsey Carr, a young fashion illustrator living in New York City, accompanied her dashing hunter-explorer husband to what was then the Belgian Congo. When the marriage fell apart, she decided to stay on in neighboring Rwanda, as the manager of a flower plantation.

Land of a Thousand Hills is Carr's thrilling memoir of her life in Rwanda-a love affair with a country and a people that has spanned half a century. During those years, she has experienced everything from stalking leopards to rampaging elephants, drought, the mysterious murder of her friend Dian Fossey, and near-bankruptcy. She has chugged up the Congo River on a paddle-wheel steamboat, been serenaded by pygmies, and witnessed firsthand the collapse of colonialism. Following 1994's Hutu-Tutsi genocide, Carr turned her plantation into a shelter for the lost and orphaned children-work she continues to this day, at the age of eighty-seven.

"Carr's book is a testament to the courage, perseverance, and resilience of the land to which she has given her heart."--San Francisco Examiner ... Read more

Reviews (15)

5-0 out of 5 stars What to read after you've finished Poisonwood Bible
I work in an independent book store. For a year I have been communicating with a Rwandan woman, a Tutsi who survived the genocide and now would like to come to America with her 6 year old daughter to study Social Work. I have been reading as much as I can about Africa, Rwanda in particular. I read Philip Gourevitch's "We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families: stories from Rwanda," and Julian Pierce's novel "Speak Rwanda." Of course I devoured Barbara Kingsolver's "Poisonwood Bible." Then I noticed this biography "Land of a Thousand Hills, My Life in Rwanda," by Roz Carr. I was totally captivated by this incredible woman and completely taken in by her story of her life in Africa over the past 50 years. Rosamond Halsey Carr went with her husband to live in the Belgian Congo in 1949, 5 years before Barbara Kingsolver's fictitious family. As time went on, even though her marriage did not last, she chose to stay in this part of the world making it her home. She moved to Rwanda when the white settlers were forced out of Zaire in the early 1960's. Not only did she survive, she is still there, at age 88 running an orphanage for children who lost their families during the genocide. This book describes as nothing else has the reality of 20th century life in the Congo and Rwanda from the perspective of an "ordinary" white settler. I cannot recommend it strongly enough.

5-0 out of 5 stars A good piece of work and some insights about Africa
I first heard of this book in a Reader's Digest section, where excerpts of this book were published. Rosamund Carr was also mentioned in the book and later in the movie "Gorillas in the Mist" written by Dian Fossey PhD, as one of the most warm and hospitable person in the world. I have always planned to visit Rwanda and therefore bought this book to get some background information about this country and its people. This book is an account of living for more than half a century in a country, which is still undeveloped, where the majority of the people doesn't have access to medical facilities, sometimes not even to basics like clean water or food to eat. Rosamund Carr is one of Africa's heroines in this century. She mainly describes her life in Rwanda, her struggles and daily problems in running a pyrethrum farm near Lake Kivu, one of Africa's pearls. Her description of Rwanda's genocide provides a better understanding for this event than newspapers ever did.
After the genocide she returned to Africa to run an orphanage for both Hutu and Tutsi children. If there were more Roz Carrs in Africa, probably this continent would not face its current problems.

5-0 out of 5 stars A great book about life inside Rwanda
A friend of main became an Episcopal missionary in Uganda several years ago. While the book is not about Uganda, nevertheless it gives me a view of what life is like inside the African nation of Rwanda by Ms. Carr. I thought the book was excellent, and is very hard to put down. From several environments, depending on which government, and also genocides, makes living in Africa a challenge.

Thank you, Rosamond, for telling me about life inside Africa. A true heroine, and worthy of Sainthood.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Stunning Portrait of Life & Love in Rwanda
Ms. Carr's experience in Rwanda, Africa are nothing shy of amazing, miraculous, and exciting! This woman lived through all the terrors and the triumphs of this tiny African nation. She got to know and love the people who dwelt there. She tells her story with the love of someone speaking of a favorite child. No pretensions or abstract notions here, just life in the raw! A fascinating, can't-wait-to-turn-the-page thriller!

5-0 out of 5 stars wonderful!!!
I just finished reading this book last evening, and cannot remember when I enjoyed a book more. I am partial to books about life in Africa. I was able to visit East Africa, Tanzania and Kenya, when I was a teenager, and I still cherish those memories after nearly 20 years. The beauty and mystery of Africa are intoxicating, and reading about other people's adventures takes me right back. Ms. Carr's book is absolutely wonderful, and I'm so glad that she decided to share her story. She is an amazing, courageous woman with a huge heart, who will undoubtedly touch many many people with her memoir. ... Read more


36. Cuba Diaries : An American Housewife in Havana
by ISADORA TATTLIN
list price: $12.95
our price: $9.71
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0767914848
Catlog: Book (2003-05-13)
Publisher: Broadway
Sales Rank: 59678
Average Customer Review: 3.72 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Isadora Tattlin was accustomed to relocating often for her husband’s work. But when he accepted a post in Cuba in the early 1990s, she resolved to keep a detailed diary of her time there, recording her daily experiences as a wife, mother, and foreigner in a land of contraband. The result is a striking, rare glimpse into a tiny country of enormous splendor and squalor. Though the Tattlins are provided with a well-staffed Havana mansion, the store shelves are bare. On the streets, beggars plead for soap, not coins. A vet with few real medical supplies operates on a carved mahogany coffee table in a Louis XIV–style drawing room. The people adore festivity, but Christmas trees are banned. And when Isadora hosts a dinner party whose guest list includes Fidel Castro himself, she observes the ultimate contradiction at the very heart of Cuba. Vividly capturing Cuba’s simultaneously appalling and enchanting essence, Cuba Diaries casts an irresistible spell and lifts the enigma of an island that is trapped in time, but not in spirit.

... Read more

Reviews (18)

3-0 out of 5 stars over-protective and somewhat one-dimensional
I know that "Tattlin" felt descriptions of her life and friends in Cuba had to be obscured in Cuba Diaries so as not to rile the government or jeopardize anyone's position. But that doesn't explain why she fails to describe the beautiful countryside, why she and her children "will never forget the Cuban nights," the enchanting music on every corner, the crumbling but unique and exceptional Havana architecture, or the stunningly gorgeous citizens. More than just a combination of "cafe con una gota de leche" or various other permutations of their African/European roots, they are unlike people anywhere else.

"Isadora" is so over-protective of herself, her marriage, her position, and her feelings that what we are left with is little more than datebook entries. I read the book because I'm in love with Cuba, but I didn't recognize its spirit in this smug musing on a privileged life in what could be any third world country.

I've been to Cuba, and spent most of my time in Havana. Every morning while walking even to get a cup of coffee (which Tattlin describes as nearly impossible -- if you believe her version the only place to get food is at her house or in a paladar), I met with beautiful music, beautiful voices, and cheerful conversations among Cubans on the sidewalks and streetcorners.

Not that Habaneros are elated 24/7, but there is a wonderful outlook and wonderful talent among the people that I feel is completely overlooked by those who only go to the society-filled cultural events. Isadora should have skipped some of the Castro affairs and tried walking down the street and listening to the various impromptu performances going on.

Yes, some of Cuba is depressing. Doctors, engineers, scientists are impoverished and many drive taxicabs or cater to tourists to make ends meet. There are too many government restrictions. The paladares Tattlin frequents were prohibitively expensive when I was there (early 2001) due to a crackdown and exorbitant taxation by the government.

Tattlin's descriptions of the government, the difficulties Cubans face in getting provisions, and the vast disparity between the haves and have-nots were very good. I just expected, because this was supposedly a diary, a little more depth, feeling, and gut reaction.

To see a city free of Starbucks, Orange Crush, Burger King, and new model Fords is a travel experience nearly impossible for any American, and well-worth the trip. Please don't believe Tattlin's description that it is squalor.

Tattlin does border on more meaningful sentiments, as when she says she will remember her staff always as she's driving away for the last time. But it's too little too late. I wanted to know her personal reactions to her staff. Why she did forgive the few thefts that happened in her home on her watch? Why did she feel conflicted (and I think she was) by the way she lived there?

You can be privileged, you can call your faithful staff "the help," you can travel back and forth to the U.S. and bring 400 lbs of provisions back to the food- and essentials-starved Cuba, but you cannot ignore the emotions, talent, beauty, and gifts this country has to offer.

5-0 out of 5 stars You'll feel like you are in Havana!!!
I believe this may be the second best book I have ever read and possibly one of the most insightful travel logs ever written.

Composed of almost-daily entries and organized by school year, Cuba Diaries is the journal of an American housewife living in Havana during the mid-90s. Solely concerned with feeding, entertaining and educating her children while sustaining her marriage, Isadora Tattlin details what sounds like a mundane life. Yet, because it is all happening in beautiful, wacky Cuba, the author's every day chores take on a rip-rollicking feel that will easily have you laughing out-loud.

Because Cuba is the "forbidden island" just 90 miles south of Florida, there is a natural curiosity about it for any American who has ever thought about Fidel Castro and the country he has ruled since 1959.

While Cuba Diaries feeds that curiosity, the author does something smart with it, too. Rather than editorialize her position on Castro or Cuba, Tattlin avoids politics altogether and instead recites bizarre facts, one right after another:

"In the Diplo a seventeen-dollar cabbage" was all she wrote on entry 68 of the second school year.

While other reviewers may detect a snooty, privileged attitude on the author's part or a disrespect for Cuban people in general, I never found any of Tattlin's witty observations to be remotely critical of the resourceful people who have learned to live on this island with so little for so long.

On the contrary, the reader is lead to feel enormous empathy, undying respect and sheer admiration for Cubans. And though the author never pushes the reader toward any conclusions about Castro, but simply typing up the events of her four years in Cuba, Tattlin leaves you with two burning wishes: 1. that somehow Castro will somehow disappear and; 2. that you can hop on the next plane to Havana and join the fun.

4-0 out of 5 stars Interesting Story but ...
This story has substance but lacks passion and details. I am Cuban and read anything and everything Cuban,thus why I read this book. To compare to a vibrant,passionate book, check out a little Spanish/English all-Cuban book (Cuban characters,Cuban author, Cuban illustrator, Cuban story, set in Little Havana's Cuban Calle Ocho Festival) titled,DRUM,CHAVI, DRUM!/TOCA,CHAVI,TOCA! If you have children or if you're a book collector,like myself, you will note a significant difference in passion even when comparing a picturebook to DIARIES...

I do recommend this book for its contents and I thank the author for bringing it to our attention.

3-0 out of 5 stars for Cuba lovers only
I enjoyed this book because I enjoy all books on Cuba. But it seems to have been written by a Martha Stewart-type who constantly calls the employees in her home "the help". She doesn't seem to have a happy marriage, seems like she married for money, and didn't have much to say about her children. My overall impression was of a very rich person who found "the help" and most everything else in Cuba not up to her standards. I wouldn't read anything else by her, but since the book was about Cuba I read it to the end. I also would have preferred not to know how many boxes of tampons and panty-liners she needed.

2-0 out of 5 stars Experiences of a spoiled American housewife
Cuba is changing very fast, therefore many books on Cuba are out of date short after they are pulished. The same applies to this book. The situation Isadora describes isn't realistic anymore. Futhermore are her experiences not representative, because she does not empathize with the Cuban society. And that is the biggest shortcoming of this book. In my opinion she creates an unjust and negative image of the Cuban people.
I advise to read Enduring Cuba by Zoe Bran or Mi Moto Fidel bij Christopher Baker. ... Read more


37. Breaking the Limit: One Woman's Motorcycle Journey Through North America
by Karen Larsen
list price: $23.95
our price: $16.29
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0786868708
Catlog: Book (2004-07-07)
Publisher: Hyperion
Sales Rank: 30193
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Book Description

A vivid chronicle of discovery based on a solitary motorcycle trip across America.

Breaking the Limit is one woman's account of riding her motorcycle from New Jersey to Alaska and back. Realizing that years of work and travel in other people's countries made her a stranger in her own, and with an invitation to meet her biological father for the first time, Karen Larsen set out on a fifteen-thousand-mile trip with nothing but her motorcycle and the barest of essentials.

Larsen's journey tests the limits of her own endurance, challenges her long-held beliefs and values, and asks what it means to belong to a family. Through the fields of Iowa and the deserts of the Southwest, over the Rockies and across Alaska's Kenai Peninsula, Larsen confronts questions of femininity, family, independence, and personal identity. Her journey speaks to the immense space and overwhelming beauty of North America, as well as to the diversity and vitality of the people she meets along the way. Breaking the Limit invites you to join her as she braces against the wind, trades security for freedom, sacrifices stability for motion, and opens herself up to the vast canopy of a continent. ... Read more


38. Goodbye to a River : A Narrative
by JOHN GRAVES
list price: $14.00
our price: $11.20
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375727787
Catlog: Book (2002-07-09)
Publisher: Vintage
Sales Rank: 142337
Average Customer Review: 4.56 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

In the 1950s, a series of dams was proposed along the Brazos Riverin north-central Texas. For John Graves, this project meant that if the stream’s regimen was thus changed, the beautiful and sometimes brutal surrounding countryside would also change, as would the lives of the people whose rugged ancestors had eked out an existence there. Graves therefore decided to visit that stretch of the river, which he had known intimately as a youth.

Goodbye to a River is his account of that farewell canoe voyage. As he braves rapids and fatigue and the fickle autumn weather, he muses upon old blood feuds of the region and violent skirmishes with native tribes, and retells wild stories of courage and cowardice and deceit that shaped both the river’s people and the land during frontier times and later. Nearly half a century after its initial publication, Goodbye to a River is a true American classic, a vivid narrative about an exciting journey and a powerful tribute to a vanishing way of life and its ever-changing natural environment.
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Reviews (16)

5-0 out of 5 stars Graves tells us about ourselves while telling us about Texas
A great story that incorporates history, the outdoors, and philosophy. With the rugged country of the upper Brazos river as his backdrop, Graves takes you on an enjoyable journey that you hope will never end. You hear tales of the "Old West" and modern Texas as well. Graves' thoughts as he travels alone on the Brazos are classic for their insight and humor. I highly reccomend this book to all Texans, or anyone who wants to feel like a Texan for a while. I'm buying another Graves book soon.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Texas classic from Texas's finest prose stylist
This fine book is a compelling mixture of armchair history and philosophy, anecdote, and personal reflection. Contrary to what Mark@zombie.com wrote in a review I otherwise second, the book does not take Graves all the way to the Gulf but stops well short of there, at Lake Whitney. (It begins at the foot of the Possum Kingdom Lake dam in Palo Pinto county.) Along his canoe trip, accompanied by his nameless "companion," a dog, Graves relates anecdotes he heard as a Fort Worth boy who grew up along the river, including much Indian and pioneer lore; he also imparts much knowledge of native flora and fauna and geology. His philosophical musings are compelling if sometimes longwinded. Some may find the prose stilted at times, but the overall feel of the book's prose is elegiac, nostaligiac, and autumnal

5-0 out of 5 stars A piece of Texas to carry with you
I carried a copy of this book with me while away from Texas, while in the US Army back in '71. Every time I would get terribly lonely for home and Texas, I would read this book. I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves history, Texas, nature, or rivers. I own several copies (five last count, as have given away half a dozen to good friends), and continue to re-read the book, as I always enjoy Mr. Graves' words, his history lessons, and his use of the English language. His imparting of the north Texas dialect is wonderful, as that dialect is the one in which I also was and am immersed. I have many other of Mr. Graves books, but GTAR is the first you should read!

5-0 out of 5 stars Much bigger than Texas
I first read this book 15 years ago. And although I've never been to that part of Texas, I feel as if I know Mr. Graves' stretch of the Brazos as well as the back of my hand. I have always felt guilty for never writing him a fan letter. He deserves as much credit as Wallace Stegner, Edward Abbey, John McPhee and all the rest or our naturalist philosophers for his beautiful prose and endlessly ruminative mind. I know that at least one reviewer found the book dull, and I have no capacity for empathy. In fact, I recently purchased, through Amazon, an autographed copy of the book with Mr. Graves' own photographs, for [$$]. If my son loves this book someday as much as I have, I'll consider my life a success. It is that good.

4-0 out of 5 stars John Graves "ruminations" on Texas living
As a Texan, I found this book to be a wonderful heartfelt tribute to Mr. Graves love of the Brazos River which included a lot of local history. I formerly lived in that area and have also canoed on the river and so I enjoyed his thoughts very much. I now live in the Hill Country and he wrote a book called "From A Limestone Ledge" that deals with his ruminations on life in our area! It is a pretty good one too! I agree that sometimes he gets a little "wordy" but I think it is still worth reading! ... Read more


39. Strip City : A Stripper's Farewell Journey Across America
by Lily Burana
list price: $13.00
our price: $9.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0786886757
Catlog: Book (2003-02-19)
Publisher: Miramax Books
Sales Rank: 41143
Average Customer Review: 3.97 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The ultimate road trip; a daring and disarmingly honest odyssey across America with an ex-stripper who dusts off her dancing shoes for a farewell tour.

Lily Burana had been working as a journalist for five years when, on a cross-country assignment, she meets a cowboy in Cheyenne, Wyoming. They fall in love quickly, and in short order he proposes to her. Her cowboy doesn't flinch when she tells him about her past, but as the reality of the engagement sets in, Burana realizes that she can't settle down until she comes to terms with the business of stripping--the controversial but exhilarating crucible in which she came of age. She packs up a hairpiece, hairspray, Lucite platforms, garters, neon thongs, and body glitter, and enrolls in a stripping academy to perfect her routine. Zigzagging across America from the topflight gentlemen's clubs of Dallas to the blue-collar go-go bars of New Jersey, from Anchorage to Tijuana, Las Vegas to Los Angeles, she even competes in the Miss Topless Wyoming competition. Along the way, she seeks out a host of colorful women who share with her the unwritten history of striptease: an over-looked and under-recorded American art form. And what she discovers--about the business, about the culture of strip clubs, and about herself--is truly remarkable.

While on the road, she recalls her start in the peep shows of Times Square and her groundbreaking legal battle for strippers' rights, waged against one of the most notorious strip club owners in the country. With the benefit of her independence and experience, she's shocked to learn how much, yet how little, the world of striptease has changed. Insightful and reflective, Burana describes the clubs and bars, the patrons and other dancers in striking detail, and takes us into the nitty-gritty of a dancer's life, bringing to light the variety of techniques and tricks of the trade.

Burana writes with immediacy and candor; hard-won wisdom and hard-bitten humor; a novelist's voice and a journalist's eye. Strip City is a shrewd take, free of illusion, on the darker, seamier side of America. She effortlessly conveys the atmosphere of a seedy strip joint; the exhilaration of a dancer on stage when she gets into her zone; and ultimately the complex emotional repercussions that arise when a woman takes off her clothes for money. ... Read more

Reviews (64)

5-0 out of 5 stars Stripper Bares All
Lily Burana had a problem. She was approaching marriage, and she knew that for guys, the accepted ritual was to have an anticipatory bachelor party, quite possibly including entertainment by a dancer or a stripper. "It's a time-honored way of saying, 'Goodbye to all that.'" That's all fine for the soon-to-be-former bachelor. Burana's quandary: "But what does a former stripper do when _she's_ about to get married?" There may be no set answer for this one, but for Burana, the answer was, start stripping again, do it everywhere you can, and write your heart out about it. A wonderful book has resulted, _Strip City: A Stripper's Farewell Journey Across America_ (Talk Miramax Books), a close examination of her life in spandex, thigh-highs, and feathers, and a thoughtful look at what strippers do and what it means in current America.

Burana gives us the stripping history of her life, taking off her clothes for pay first as a rebellious adolescent who simply needed money. She was a punk-Goth kid from a nice New Jersey family. She started up in Times Square, long before the clean-up, in a sleazy club called Peepland. She moved up in stripping clubs, but also became a respected writer, and she here gives close access to her interior life. She also became engaged to a great guy who didn't mind her past or her current quest. She takes us to a strippers' school, on a shopping spree for costumes, and to The Exotic World Burlesque Museum. She tells us how her family reacts to her work. She gives us personal insights about what the attraction is for her. Grabbing an on-stage pole, just like she learned at stripper school, at Cheetah's in Los Angeles, she gets into an ecstatic state. "When it feels just right. Righteous. At times like this, I can believe that I have all the hearts in the room gathered into the palm of my hand. I will never get old. I will never know harm. As long as I stay on this stage under the benevolent auspices of darkness, everything will be okay."

Combining sex, money, and power is dangerous. "Hunger isn't humane, sex will never be totally safe, and commerce isn't always kind," she writes, and by the end of the book, she has given an ambivalent but permanent farewell to a big chunk of her life, and she has given her costumes away to an aspiring ecdysiast. This is a riveting book about what is an essential and unchangeable aspect of American life, and it is filled with details about a world few people know intimately. For instance, in what other memoir are you going to learn how to perform the stunt of lighting your nipples on fire?

5-0 out of 5 stars It's a memoir... not a how-to!
First things first, Lily Burana is an exceptionally talented writer. Her memoir of her past (and occasional present) life as a topless dancer is witty, poignant and fascinating throughout. Detailing a personal odyssey that moves from a Times Square peep show to the yuppified "gentlemen's clubs" of today, along with intermittent stops in Wyoming, Lily bares more of her soul than her body. She understands why women perform in clubs. She understands why men spend their money in clubs. And she sees that economic interraction for what it's worth; the good, the bad and the tacky.

It's a wonderful read! But if your goal is cheap arousal, or getting the "inside story" on strip clubs, don't bother. You're not going to learn any secret signs or code words that can lead to a date with your favorite stripper. If you're a woman that wonders about a life on this particular stage (or lap), you probably stand an equal chance of being encouraged or dissuaded by Lily's experiences. But if you want to be entertained by a writer with the ability to phrase her observations and experience into an enjoyable format, this one of the better choices you can make.

4-0 out of 5 stars recovering stripper death therapy!
Strip City is a highly recommended book for anyone whose been on the analytical side of strip club stripping or would like to be. It's great for those of us who have danced around wearing a slingshot and even for those who haven't. I commend her on making such a comprehensive presentation on a complex issue, she covers everything from feminism to illegal stage fees to the history of burlesque! I have been everywhere Lily has been and it was great to read about it! I was reading it on the plane coming home from Miami where I had an "unsuccessful" attempt to take up this romantic notion of farewell stripclub touring. It was great therapy for me. Words to let me know that you are not alone, and that this job is anything but easy. This book is clearly written from a heterosexual white woman's perspective but it is broad based enough so everyone who has stripped reads it and laughs and cries. The first scene begins in a tanning booth and I almost threw it in the garbage at that point, but gave it a benefit of the doubt and was grateful that I did!

5-0 out of 5 stars Stripping From The Inside
Lily has written an insightful book; she's "been there and done that". A must-read for anyone interested in the answers to "How can they do that?" and "Why do they do that?". If you've been a lady on-stage (or thought about it) or a gentleman in the audience, run and buy this book. It's not a glorification, but she tells it like it is.

5-0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, Honest, and Eye Opening
Burana loves to write and dance. She is fascinating woman who might have benefitted from a bit of therapy. Instead, she wrote this book. She tells a tale of dancers, but more a tale of her search for herself. She falls in love with a missing tooth cowboy and decides to strip across america. She is disarmingly honest and sensitive. She knows she works in an industry that is not perfect, honest, or warm. She tells it as she sees it. Her book is part memoir, part oral history,part expose, and a journey home. My only complaint is that she spent too much using her thesaurus in an attempt to prove she is smart. We know she is. Her writing is terrific, fresh, and her honesty is illuminating. ... Read more


40. The Camino
by Shirley MacLaine
list price: $24.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0743400720
Catlog: Book (2000-05-01)
Publisher: Atria
Sales Rank: 410350
Average Customer Review: 3.86 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

Known as the Camino, the Santiago de Compostela Camino is a famouspilgrimage that has been undertaken by people for centuries across northern Spain. It is saidthat this 500-mile path lies directly under the Milky Way and that it reflectsthe energy of the star systems above it. Facing her sixth decade of life onearth, writer and actor Shirley MacLaine decided to go on this trek. She wasn'tsure why, she only knew that the Camino had been traveled for thousands of yearsby "saints, sinners, generals, misfits, kings and queens. It is done by theintent to find one's deepest spiritual meaning and resolutions regardingconflicts in Self."

Typical of MacLaine, this is a personal story with enormous adventure, asmattering of flashbacks, and a hefty serving of cosmic revelations. Like a truepilgrim, MacLaine travels solo, willing to strip herself down to the backpackingessentials and find deeper meaning in all the bizarre, frightening, andcoincidental events she encounters along the way. It is no small feat that thissixtysomething woman walked the grueling path in 30 days. Readers can expectvivid stories of stalking paparazzi, icy showers, bouts of hunger, lost paths, aworshipping young man, a deranged woman screaming in a roadside shelter, saintlytruck drivers, a fellow pilgrim in a wheelchair, bouts of constipation anddiarrhea, and a cosmic crescendo that will knock the socks of MacLaine's fans.--Gail Hudson ... Read more

Reviews (86)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Quest!
"There are many ways to experience one's spiritual education." This quote from Shirley MacLaine sums up this incredible book perfectly. This is Shirley's journey of one finding themselves, or re-discovering themselves on the centuries old Camino - a 500 mile spiritual trek across Spain.

I found this book to be wonderfully enlightening, illuminating, and I applaud Shirley for the courage to complete this journey of the Spirit. Shirley says, "The Camino itself helps facilitate the resolution of emotional issues."

The reader is treated to flashbacks of Shirley's past lives as she once lived along the Camino, including an amazing past life in Lemuria and Atlantis. I found Shirley's honesty and candor refreshing, and many of her insights hit directly home with me. I do believe that the reader will also gain as many insights as I did and stop and let it all sink in. We are treated to her lessons and fears that she has to conquer as well.

I really resonated with her thoughts on fear: "Never ask yourself what it is you fear - instead ask yourself what it is that concerns you. A fear thought, put out, will return, because all energy returns to the sender. Any energy always makes a loop until it regains the source. A concern thought will return also. A that moment discern why you're concerned."

I began my spiritual questing with Shirley's first book and have devoured everything she has written. She is not afraid to speak her truth and she is not afraid to seek to deepen her spirituality and then share the rest of that with humanity. I am sure that I am not the only one who she has deeply and positively affected. We are spiritual beings having a human experience and once again we are reminded of our mission - to reconnect to the Divine source - to love - to God.

Another wonderful quote, "I had walked the Camino in order to understand what we were capable of as human beings - such spiritual magnificence and such destructive fragmentation of our own souls. Were we all repeating such dramas even today because we hadn't remembered what we came from?"

I urge everyone to read this fascinating book. You too, will want to trek the Camino after finishing the book.

5-0 out of 5 stars More Steps on the Road To Enlightenment
"The Camino", Shirley Maclaine's new book, covers a 500 mile walking trip she completed along the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. Blisters and body pain, loneliness followed by relentless press who heard she was making the pilgrimage, vivid dream/recollections and synchronicity are shared in this journal. 40 pages into this book, I announced to my family that I will be making this same trek. Ms. MacLaine is an excellent writer; clean, intelligent, free of the need to prove anything to anyone. She's just saying what she experienced. We come away with a glimpse at the history of the trail from the days of Charlemange. We see her experience of the possible origin of three dimensional human life, Atlantis, Lemuria, ancestral connections to ET's and genetic engineerring that very possibly got us where we are right now. Skeptics will scoff. Students of Spirit will nod. (Remember, in spring 2000, scientists JUST found out that dinosaurs had four chamber hearts that show they were WARM blooded, not cold blooded like the "fact" they have "known" for years.) Whatever your level of listening, believing or remembering, "The Camino" is a wonderful journey that leaves us feeling renewed. Ultreya, Ms. MacLaine!

5-0 out of 5 stars Shirleys Books
I have to say, I felt very lucky to find that Amazon.com carried Shirley Maclaines books, I had looked all over my area and could not find them. So Far I have read all but 2 of them and I loved every one of them. She has always been one of my favorite female stars. After reading what I have so far, I like her even more. Seems like some of her favorite Movie stars (Dean Martin, and Barbra) are mine too. I had to smile when she said she had a crush on Dean, I always loved his style and voice, the same for Barbra, they are to me the best singers ever. I feel that Shirley Maclaine is not only very talented, but her writing flows so easily that I can get lost for hours and really enjoy it. She is a remarkable and brave lady who has had a very facinating life. Sure can't say shes boring. She is honest and open and caring, someone whos company I would really enjoy, and her books are a good way to do that. God bless her, I wish her all the joy in the world and luck in her search.

5-0 out of 5 stars For Serious Spiritual Seekers
I have read and enjoyed each of Shirley Maclaine's books; those that have explored the journey's of life, and those that have explored her show business career. I have not always agreed with everything the author presented, but I have always found the materials to be interesting, thought provoking, and presenting the challenge that always comes with new ideas. I first picked up the Camino when it originally came out about two years ago and simply was not able to read it. I now understand that it was because I was not ready to read this book, even though I have been and continue to be a serious seeker of spiritualism and the meaning of life. Having just read this book, I found it to be interesting and mind broadening. This book is not for everyone. Some people will eagerly and openly embrace its message; others will be questioning and skeptical, which is also good. Others will deride the book and its author, which is unfortunate. Those of us who have read and/or experienced spiritual phenomena owe Ms. Maclaine a great debt, because as a celebrity, and as a gifted writer, she has been able to take subject matter that was once hidden and has presented it to a wide audience, who are free to enjoy it. Most of us do not have the financial resources to take a spritiual journey or pilgrimage. I admire the way she has taken a very personal spiritual journey, and has presented it to her readers in a frank and meaningful way, to allow us explore and examine our own souls.

1-0 out of 5 stars Shirley's Cosmic Camino
The Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route attracts some 60,000 walkers and cyclists annually, retracing the path taken by medieval Christians across Northern Spain as they travelled to venerate the bones of the apostle St. James in Santiago de Compostella. The journey ranked in importance with going to Rome or Jerusalem and it attracted not only the Great Unwashed, but also many famous people including St. Francis of Assisi and Dante. And Shirley MacLaine. Her book, "the Camino," describes her pilgrimage on the Way of St. James. Sort of.

Walking over the Pyrenees, traversing the altiplano-the high plateau of Northern Spain-, and crossing the green hills of Galicia is not a trip to be undertaken lightly. It is to Ms. MacLaine's credit that she, in her mid-60s, accomplished this in 30 days. But anyone reading this book to learn about the Camino-its beauty, its peoples, its history, its meaning-will learn nothing here. Ms. MacLaine could have saved some effort and just wandered around her home in New Mexico for a month to come up with this silly book.

The book is really concerned with the author's "dream walk" in which she fantasizes about an obscure cleric in the court of Charlemagne who reveals all kinds of secrets about Atlantis and Lemuria and sexuality. Shirley's parents and even poor Olaf Palme pop into the dream. And the "highlight" of the book is when the author finds a gold cross in Leon that seems to have come from another dimension.

When in the real world, Ms. MacLaine describes the wretched hostels, her blisters and her even more painful fellow-pilgrims. She recounts all the autograph requests and never misses an opportunity to remind readers of her sexual attractiveness. And how I wished that total strangers would have volunteered to do my laundry when I cycled the Camino as seems to happen to the famous.

Europe's first example of organized tourism, the Camino de Santiago was a product of the medieval cult of relics, the need for believers to have tangible, physical evidence to buttress their faith. The origins of the pilgrimage seem based on fraud and political expediency but the Road, with its marvellous churches and cathedrals and monasteries, all ignored by Ms. MacLaine, is a monument itself to faith and perserverance. For many of the medieval pilgrims, it was the one great trip of their lives, and many did not return. And here we have a book that purports to be about the Camino but barely mentions St. James or Christianity. Rather, the Camino has been repaved with New Age rubble.

Shirley MacLaine is a charming and much-lauded entertainer. She is bothered by the press in the book but celebrity clearly has its advantages too. If "the Camino," with its obsessive self-interest, had been written by anyone else, it is unlikely to have ever seen print. For those with a genuine interest in the Camino de Santiago, they would be better-served with a basic guidebook before experiencing this wonderful road, on foot or by bicycle, on their own. It is worth it. ... Read more


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