Currently reading

Paul Hanley
A Month in the Country
Michael Holroyd, J.L. Carr
A Tale of the Dispossessed: A Novel
Laura Restrepo, Dolores M. Koch
Mesabi Pioneers
Jeffrey Smith, Russell Hill
The Crusades Through Arab Eyes
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Island of a Thousand Mirrors
Nayomi Munaweera

Black Dragon River: A Journey Down the Amur River at the Borderlands of Empires

Black Dragon River: A Journey Down the Amur River at the Borderlands of Empires - Dominic Ziegler I found myself in desperate need of a map while reading this account of Ziegler's travels down the Amur. The geography is the organizing theme to his storytelling, which is perhaps appropriate, but the histories aren't in order. My lack of familiarity with the region ended up getting in the way with understanding what all was going on. [I read a prepublication ebook, so maybe the published version has a map? I hope? In any case, pull one up to study as you read if it doesn't.]

There's a whole lot of history here. Some of it is sweeping and broad-stroked. Some of it strangely detailed (the Decemberists -- clearly the author became fascinated with these guys). The most entertaining stories are of his present-day travels, actually, and those were in the minority but I really enjoyed them. This is not exactly a tourist mecaca, and getting around wasn't easy. The travel itself was difficulty and he met some interesting characters along the way. And got arrested. It's not a real trip in Russia unless you get arrested.

In the end, I enjoyed it, but it didn't really hang together for me as a convincing piece of history or travel writing. But try a map as you read. He has lat/longitude readings for you. I was just reading on planes, etc, in places where it wasn't easy to pull one up.

I got a free copy of this from First to Read.