memoir, Nonfiction

Travel Memoirs

Five hundred year old legends, culinary tours, and the pit stops of American political murder. Go on these journeys and more through this selection of travel memoirs. Curated by Jessica Schiefelbein.

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Underland by Robert Macfarlane
Hoopla eAudiobook
In Underland, Robert Macfarlane delivers an epic exploration of the Earth’s underworlds as they exist in myth, literature, memory, and the land itself. Traveling through the dizzying expanse of geologic time—from prehistoric art in Norwegian sea caves, to the blue depths of the Greenland ice cap, to a deep-sunk “hiding place” where nuclear waste will be stored for 100,000 years to come—Underland takes us on an extraordinary journey into our relationship with darkness, burial, and what lies beneath the surface of both place and mind. Global in its geography and written with great lyricism, Underland speaks powerfully to our present moment. At once ancient and urgent, this is a book that will change the way you see the world. 


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Dogtripping by David Rosenfelt
book
OverDrive eAudiobook
Hoopla eAudiobook
When mystery writer David Rosenfelt and his family moved from California to Maine, he thought he had prepared for everything. They had mapped the route, brought three GPSs for backup, refrigerators full of food, and volunteers for help. But traveling in three RVs with twenty-five dogs turned out to be a bigger ordeal than he anticipated. Rosenfelt recounts the adventure with humor and warmth and tells how he and his wife became passionate foster parents for rescue dogs, culminating in the creation of the Tara Foundation. 


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In Praise of Retreat by Kirsteen MacLeod
Hoopla eBook
Hoopla eAudiobook
For readers of Walden, Wild, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, A Book of Silence, A Gift from the Sea and other celebrations of the inner adventure. An utterly engaging dive into our modern ways of retreat — where we go, why we’re drawn, and how it’s urgent. From pilgrim paths to forest cabins, and from rented hermitages to arts temples and quiet havens for yoga and meditation, In Praise of Retreat explores the pleasures and powers of this ancient practice for modern people. Kirsteen MacLeod draws on the history of retreat and personal experiences to reveal the many ways readers can step back from society to reconnect with their deepest selves — and to their loftiest aspirations in life. In the 21st century, disengaging, even briefly, is seen by many as self-indulgent, unproductive, and antisocial. Yet to retreat is as basic a human need as being social, and everyone can benefit, whether it’s for a weekend, a month, or a lifetime. Retreat is an uncertain adventure with as many peaks and valleys as any mountain expedition, except we head inward, to recharge and find fresh energy and brave new ideas to bring back into our everyday lives. 


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Spying on the South by Tony Horwitz
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Beloved best-selling author Tony Horwitz retraces Frederick Law Olmsted’s epic journey across the American South in the 1850s, as he too searches for common ground in a dangerously riven nation. On the eve of the Civil War, an up-and-coming newspaper, the New York Times, sent a young travel writer to explore the South, which was alien territory to the Connecticut Yankee correspondent and to his Northern readers. Identified in the paper as “Yeoman,” to protect his identity, the writer roamed eleven states and six thousand miles, jolting the nation with his dispatches about slavery and the extremism of its defenders. This extraordinary journey would also re-shape the nation’s landscape, driving “Yeoman”–real name Frederick Law Olmsted–to embark on his career as America’s first and foremost architect of urban parks and other public spaces.

Over a century and half later, there are echoes of the pre-Civil War in the angry ferment and fracturing of our own time. Is America still one country? Tony Horwitz, like Olmsted a Yankee and roving scribe, sets forth to find out by retracing Yeoman’s journey through the South. Following his route and whenever possible his mode of transport–rail, riverboats, in the saddle–Horwitz travels Appalachia, down the Ohio and Mississippi, through Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, and across Texas to the Rio Grande. Venturing, as Olmsted did, far off the beaten paths, Horwitz discovers colorful traces of an old weird America, shocking vestiges of the Cotton Kingdom, and strange new mutations that have sprung from its roots. The result is a masterpiece in the tradition of Great Plains, Bad Land, and the author’s own classic, Confederates in the Attic. Spying on the South is an intrepid, wise, and frequently hilarious expedition through an outsized landscape and its equally outsized state of mind. It is also a probing and poignant study of the young Olmsted, whose own life, and thinking about landscape and society, would be forever altered by his Southern odyssey. 


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My Invented Country by Isabel Allende
book
book in Spanish
OverDrive eBook
Hoopla eAudiobook
Freading eBook
Isabel Allende’s first memory of Chile is of a house she never knew. The “large old house” on the Calle Cueto, where her mother was born and which her grandfather evoked so frequently that Isabel felt as if she had lived there, became the protagonist of her first novel, The House of the Spirits. It appears again at the beginning of Allende’s playful, seductively compelling memoir My Invented Country, and leads us into this gifted writer’s world. Here are the almost mythic figures of a Chilean family — grandparents and great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends — with whom readers of Allende’s fiction will feel immediately at home. And here, too, is an unforgettable portrait of a charming, idiosyncratic Chilean people with a violent history and an indomitable spirit. Although she claims to have been an outsider in her native land — “I never fit in anywhere, not into my family, my social class, or the religion fate bestowed on me” — Isabel Allende carries with her even today the mark of the politics, myth, and magic of her homeland. In My Invented County, she explores the role of memory and nostalgia in shaping her life, her books, and that most intimate connection to her place of origin. Two life-altering events inflect the peripatetic narration of this book: The military coup and violent death of her uncle, Salvador Allende Gossens, on September 11, 1973, sent her into exile and transformed her into a writer. The terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, on her newly adopted homeland, the United States, brought forth from Allende an overdue acknowledgment that she had indeed left home. My Invented Country, whose structure mimics the workings of memory itself, ranges back and forth across that distance accrued between the author’s past and present lives. It speaks compellingly to immigrants, and to all of us, who try to retain a coherent inner life in a world full of contradictions. 


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Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell
book
OverDrive eAudiobook
Hoopla eAudiobook
Sarah Vowell exposes the glorious conundrums of American history and culture with wit, probity, and an irreverent sense of humor. With Assassination Vacation, she takes us on a road trip like no other—a journey to the pit stops of American political murder and through the myriad ways they have been used for fun and profit, for political and cultural advantage. From Buffalo to Alaska, Washington to the Dry Tortugas, Vowell visits locations immortalized and influenced by the spilling of politically important blood, reporting as she goes with her trademark blend of wisecracking humor, remarkable honesty, and thought-provoking criticism. We learn about the jinx that was Robert Todd Lincoln (present at the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley) and witness the politicking that went into the making of the Lincoln Memorial. The resulting narrative is much more than an entertaining and informative travelogue—it is the disturbing and fascinating story of how American death has been manipulated by popular culture, including literature, architecture, sculpture, and—the author’s favorite— historical tourism. Though the themes of loss and violence are explored and we make detours to see how the Republican Party became the Republican Party, there are all kinds of lighter diversions along the way into the lives of the three presidents and their assassins, including mummies, show tunes, mean-spirited totem poles, and a nineteenth-century biblical sex cult. 


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A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain
book
From the star of No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain’s New York Times-bestselling chronicle of traveling the world in search the globe’s greatest culinary adventures. The only thing “gonzo gastronome” and internationally bestselling author Anthony Bourdain loves as much as cooking is traveling. Inspired by the question, “What would be the perfect meal?,” Tony sets out on a quest for his culinary holy grail, and in the process turns the notion of “perfection” inside out. From California to Cambodia, A Cooks’ Tour chronicles the unpredictable adventures of America’s boldest and bravest chef. Fans of Bourdain will find much to love in revisiting this classic culinary and travel memoir. 


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Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman
OverDrive eAudiobook
Hoopla eAudiobook
Tales of a Female Nomad is the story of Rita Golden Gelman, an ordinary woman who is living an extraordinary existence. At the age of forty-eight, on the verge of a divorce, Rita left an elegant life in L.A. to follow her dream of connecting with people in cultures all over the world. In 1986 she sold her possessions and became a nomad, living in a Zapotec village in Mexico, sleeping with sea lions on the Galapagos Islands, and residing everywhere from thatched huts to regal palaces. She has observed orangutans in the rain forest of Borneo, visited trance healers and dens of black magic, and cooked with women on fires all over the world. Rita’s example encourages us all to dust off our dreams and rediscover the joy, the exuberance, and the hidden spirit that so many of us bury when we become adults. 


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The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston
book / book
book on CD
OverDrive eBook
OverDrive eAudiobook
Hoopla eAudiobook
A five-hundred-year-old legend. An ancient curse. A stunning medical mystery. And a pioneering journey into the unknown heart of the world’s densest jungle. Since the days of conquistador Hernán Cortés, rumors have circulated about a lost city of immense wealth hidden somewhere in the Honduran interior, called the White City or the Lost City of the Monkey God. Indigenous tribes speak of ancestors who fled there to escape the Spanish invaders, and they warn that anyone who enters this sacred city will fall ill and die. In 1940, swashbuckling journalist Theodore Morde returned from the rainforest with hundreds of artifacts and an electrifying story of having found the Lost City of the Monkey God — but then committed suicide without revealing its location.

Three quarters of a century later, author Doug Preston joined a team of scientists on a groundbreaking new quest. In 2012 he climbed aboard a rickety, single-engine plane carrying the machine that would change everything: lidar, a highly advanced, classified technology that could map the terrain under the densest rainforest canopy. In an unexplored valley ringed by steep mountains, that flight revealed the unmistakable image of a sprawling metropolis, tantalizing evidence of not just an undiscovered city but an enigmatic, lost civilization. Venturing into this raw, treacherous, but breathtakingly beautiful wilderness to confirm the discovery, Preston and the team battled torrential rains, quickmud, disease-carrying insects, jaguars, and deadly snakes. But it wasn’t until they returned that tragedy struck: Preston and others found they had contracted in the ruins a horrifying, sometimes lethal — and incurable — disease. 

*All summaries courtesy of the publisher unless otherwise noted.

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