What CU is reading
We’ve been asking CU neighbors to recommend a favorite book. Click on each title to find it in the library catalog.
Cracked Truck owners—Daniel Krause, Sean Baird, and Jeremy Mandell—share their book selections:
This was the very first book I read when I came to college. It was recommended on day one by my professor as she told the class, “This book will let you know if you can handle this industry.” It helped guide me through college as well as opening up a food truck on campus. I immediately connected with the author as he fought through the fast-paced and cutthroat restaurant industry at a young age. Kitchen Confidential goes beyond cooking; it goes past the kitchen and tells the story from within the restaurant industry that has been sugarcoated for so many years. It starts off with a young aspiring cook, Anthony Bourdain, who has no real culinary background. He got a job in a restaurant and found himself being passed around the kitchen like a piece of meat.
Whether the consideration of entering this field is on your mind or not, this is a worthwhile book to pick up. It does a fantastic job of describing what really happens behind the scenes. With its witty humor and brutal honesty, no foodie, restaurateur, chef, or hospitality student should be spared from reading this book. It gives great insight into the industry and will undoubtedly prepare a young food enthusiast for the scary world ahead.
Co-Owner, President, The Cracked Truck
I read Scar Tissue, an autobiography of Anthony Kiedis, lead singer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, when I was a senior in high school, and it is by far one of the most interesting books you can find. Being a musician myself and very interested in the Chili Peppers at the time, this book was inspiring to say the least. The internal battle that Kiedis endured—as well as the strain of being a famous musician—turned him in to something he was not. But through the help of his best friends and band mates, he was able to rise above the negative aspects of his life. I would recommend this book to any high schooler looking for a good music biography.
Co-Owner, VP Operations, The Cracked Truck
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie was written in 1937 to serve as a manual for human interaction. At its time, and still to this day, it has proved to be a timeless bestseller promoted in many of the most influential businesses. Its focus ranges from explaining basic human behavior to describing how one can best conduct oneself to become a good and likeable person. The first chapter deals with understanding where people come from, the most common intrinsic motivation of all individuals, and how changing another individual is not nearly as beneficial an investment as changing yourself. This book offers many practical benefits in life, but can also be transferred to the business world, sales, and communication skills. For those reasons, I would highly recommend this book to anyone pursuing a professional career. Everyone should read How to Win Friends and Influence People to better themselves and create a better society.
Co-Owner, CEO The Cracked Truck
Anthony Cobb recommends:
Leadership and Self-Deception
I recommend the book Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box produced by the Arbinger Institute. I had a deputy chief recommend the book to me. Once I read it, I wanted to immediately implement the simple concepts in my life and the life of my organization. This book truly focuses on what we, as individuals, can do to affect change while encouraging others to do the same.
Police Chief, City of Champaign
Hans Blaschek recommends:
I found this to be a fascinating book and would recommend it to anyone who would like insight into why some people are successful and others are not. According to Malcolm Gladwell's compelling evidence, success turns out to have more to do with hard work, persistence, and social background than intelligence or IQ.
Professor and Director, Center for Advanced BioEnergy Research
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
David Howie recommends:
I heartily recommend Choosing Civility by P.M. Forni. The book's practical reminders that we all live in this world together and that the way we treat one another is really important were valuable to me. Being asked to write a song on the topic made me realize that there are always opportunities to extend kindness and thoughtfulness. I also enjoyed how Forni encourages one to stick up for oneself. It was a very quick read and reminded me that my wife exhibits almost all the qualities this book describes on a day-to-day basis. (Sigh.)
Ty Newell recommends:
A Short History of Nearly Everything
Bill Bryson's book is a monumental work that balances humor with insightful narrative of complex subjects related to the universe and our understanding of it. It is an entertaining book from cover to cover and contains some of the best conceptual explanations I have ever read on relativity, biology, geology, and many other fields.
Vice President, Newell Instruments, Inc.
Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering, University of Illinois
Sheila Dodd recommends:
The Rules of Management
A book that I have really enjoyed professionally is The Rules of Management: A Definitive Code for Managerial Success (expanded edition) by Richard Templar. It gives great common sense advice and is a quick and easy read. The book covers a variety of topics from Managing Your Team to Managing Yourself. I would recommend it for new managers as well as those with years of experience. There is something for all in this easy-to-read book. I learned many management tips—from encouraging people and hiring tips to understanding the roles of others.
Executive Director, Habitat for Humanity of Champaign County & ReStore
Daniel J. Simons recommends:
Stories of Your Life and Others
When I think about books that had the greatest influence on my academic research, the first that comes to mind is Ulric Neisser’s classic 1976 book, Cognition and Reality. It provides a unique and original perspective on how the mind works, emphasizing the interplay between our internal thought processes and our experiences in the world. I like it because it inspires deep thinking about the questions cognitive psychologists like me should try to answer. More than other academic book, his has influenced my own thinking about the mind and my own research program.
I rarely find such inspiration from academic books, but I have found a source of deep thinking about science in an entirely different genre: science fiction. I would like to highlight a book that is well-known to science fiction aficionados, by an author who is largely unknown outside of that community. Ted Chiang is among the most celebrated and decorated science fiction writers active today. He has only written short stories and novellas to date, and relatively few of those, but many of them have received the top prizes in science fiction writing (he has won three Hugo awards and four Nebula awards, among others). His wonderful collection, Stories of Your Life and Others, includes more big scientific ideas than most academic tracts. I read the book years ago, and the stories are unforgettable. Each is unique and adopts the classic science fiction “what if” approach to explore some facet of the mind and human experience. What if we could enhance our perception and memory so much that we eventually became qualitatively different from “normal” humans? To what extent does language determine how we see the world? What would life be like if we couldn’t perceive beauty? Not all of the stories address the nature of the mind, but they all make you think deeply about our humanity.
Daniel J. Simons
Co-Author, The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us
Professor of Psychology, Visual Cognition Laboratory, University of Illinois
Lindsey Gates-Markel recommends:
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
If you (a) aspire to write fiction and (b) are full of feelings, you need Anne Lamott’s guide to “writing and life" close at hand. The book is an essential collection of hard-won craft advice interspersed with Lamott’s singular blend of touching anecdotes, whip-smart humor and warm encouragement.
Gene Robinson recommends:
Generosity: An Enhancement
This book, by one of our community's most famous authors, Richard Powers, explores the impact of the new science of genomics on our understanding of human behavior. I recommend this book for two reasons. First, it provides an accurate but highly readable portrayal of the science—readers will learn a lot of genomics as they enjoy the exciting twists and turns of the plot. Second, this book eloquently shows both the promises and perils of the genomic revolution, and in particular warns against unfettered commercialization of genomic information.
Gene E. Robinson
Department of Entomology
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Anne Kopera recommends:
The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon
Percy Fawcett, a British explorer, disappeared into the Amazon jungle in 1925 looking for a lost civilization and more than a 100 explorers and adventurers went missing searching for him. In The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, David Grann, a New York writer, tells Fawcett’s story, setting it in the context of British and Brazilian history of the late 19th and early 20th century. He writes of obsessive explorers, scientific rivalries, and unbelievable hardships experienced by the explorers. He also recounts the exploitation and genocide of native peoples indentured into slavery with the rise of the Brazilian rubber industry. The book is filled with many different stories, each one an amazing tale.
Munir Nayfeh recommends:
George’s Secret Key to the Universe
Science storytelling, an area which I have interest in, is a form of art as well as an important, exciting educational methodology for simplification of science for children. It is possible through storytelling to present complex science material in an exciting, simplified fashion, touching the present as well as the future. World-renowned British physicist and mathematician Stephen Hawking teams up with his daughter Lucy, a journalist and novelist, to present us with their 2007 book George’s Secret Key to the Universe. They use science fiction and adventure fantasy wrapped and interwoven with science concepts and facts to make the topic of science interesting and accessible to middle school children. The book tells the story of a middle school child called George and an easygoing astrophysicist called Eric who embodies the person of Professor Hawking himself, whereby the professor uses his personal speaker, a powerful tabletop supercomputer called “Cosmos,” which is able to open a window and propel them into the universe, as well as capable of manipulating space, time and matter. The voyage takes them to the far reaches of space and back. Along the way, the adventure teaches little George and the reader a lot about science and how the universe works. The adventure even teaches Stephen Hawking's latest theories about black holes and quantum mechanics. The end result of the work is an entertaining yet informative book, explaining planets, stars, comets, black holes and more including middle school drama to readers of all ages. It is through reading this book that I was inspired to write a short story “the cosmos and the nanos” which utilizes Stephen Hawking’s “Cosmos” supercomputer concept to present nanotechnology through the character Dr. Nano to children and adults alike. Drafts of some of my short stories on nanotechnology were tried at Dr. Howard Elementary here in Champaign.
I also say “Who says you can't explain theoretical physics to kids”?
President, Nanosi Advanced Technologies
Professor of Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Sheryl Bautch recommends:
Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope
My favorite books are those that teach me something I didn’t know before and inspire me, and this book did both. It is the story of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Navy captain and NASA astronaut Mark Kelly. Gabby suffered traumatic brain injury when she was shot in the head by a mentally ill would-be assassin while meeting with her constituents on January 8, 2011. We learn about Gabby and Mark’s very different backgrounds that brought both of them to a life of public service and eventually to each other. But the main focus of the book is Gabby’s injury, recovery and rehabilitation and Mark’s role as her advocate and caregiver. We see the pain and frustration experienced by Gabby, common among brain injury victims, of being unable to communicate. Her brain literally had to re-wire itself in order for her to learn to speak again. In spite of amazing medical advancements, there is still so much we don’t know about how the brain works and how it recovers from traumatic injury. After learning of the struggles and the ups and downs of Gabby’s rehabilitation, her inspirational return to Congress last August to cast her vote on raising the debt ceiling, just seven months after the shooting, seems all the more incredible.
This book also shows us what it means to be a family caregiver. While Mark certainly had both resources and challenges that many caregivers do not (he interrupted his caregiving in May, 2011, to command space shuttle Endeavor’s final mission to the International Space Station), his story illustrates what many caregivers experience: a crash-course to learn everything you can about the care-receiver’s medical condition; the need to pull together and coordinate teams of medical experts as well as family and friends to share the caregiving; the conflicting demands of work and family; and a single-minded focus on being there for the care-receiver that often leads to caregiver burnout.
This book reminded me that even those who are powerful and used to being in charge only succeed when they admit that they cannot do it all by themselves and accept help from others. It also shows that whatever obstacles and challenges we face in our own life, hard work, perseverance, a positive attitude, patience and love make the seemingly-impossible possible.
Sheryl Bautch, M.S.W., J.D.
Family Service of Champaign County
I first read this book by Michael Bérubé about six years ago in a philosophy of education course at the U of I. What struck me then and continues to strike me now about the book is how well it captures the social, political, and in some ways philosophical pressures that affect how the family approaches raising and educating their son, Jamie, who was born with Down Syndrome. It's just an incredibly sharp, engrossing and occasionally hilarious text. If you're interested at all in education, either as public policy or individual practice, I strongly recommend it.
Gregory T. Johnson
Principal, Centennial High School
Phyllis M. Wise recommends:
The Cello Suites: JS Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece
Author Eric Siblin wrote that when Pablo Casals “discovered” the Bach Suites his world literally opened up. I loved this book so much because I had a similar experience. You see, my daughter is a concert cellist in Barcelona, where Pablo Casals studied cello and where, in 1890, he found an old and apparently lost copy of Grützmacher's edition of Bach’s Cello Suites on a dusty shelf in a second-hand music store. That discovery changed Casals’ life and really the course of classical music forever.
I will never forget the day, the moment, when I heard my nine-year-old daughter play the first movement of the Bach Cello Suite No.1. It was that moment when I realized that she really had talent that exceeded that of the casual music student. My world, and hers, opened up that day. It changed the course of her life and, as her mother, it changed the course of my life forever. That made Siblin’s book even more compelling.
Phyllis M. Wise, Vice President
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!, by Richard P. Feynman and Ralph Leighton, is a collection of humor and adventure, an autobiography, and a guide to what it is to be a scientist. Feynman (Nobel Laureate in physics) was the best storyteller that I've ever heard, and when I was an undergrad at Caltech, I heard him tell many of these tales. More importantly, Feynman's book shows how very human science is and how scientists really think and behave. As an example, Feynman's dad would ask him at dinner, "What did you ask at school today?"
Noisy Nora, by Rosemary Wells, was the first book I memorized while learning to read because of its great rhyme and repetition. It also gave me my first lesson in humility: I was an only child for five years until my little sister came along, and Nora's unsuccessful efforts to draw attention away from her siblings taught me that sometimes, you just have to be quiet, step out of the spotlight, and let others shine. What a great lesson for the workplace — and, generally, for life! Plus, it added one of the coolest words in the English language to my lexicon: "monumental!"
Cheryl Precious, Director of Marketing & Development
Eastern Illinois Foodbank
Cormac McCarthy's The Road (2006) is a poignant and heart-rending story of a father who sacrifices all for his growing son, teaching him everything he knows in a post-apocalyptic world that has been blasted to splinters. The ambiance of The Road consists of deserted houses, burned-out forests, polluted streams, and unending gray skies—a world with almost no living creatures except for the few bandits who attack the hapless travellers as they make their way south along the nameless road. The road gives form and meaning to their journey as they search for salvation and discover it in the special closeness of father and son. The tale evokes everything that is beautiful, sad, and true in the human spirit. Although the cinematic version of The Road is quite impressive, here is an instance where the book is indubitably better than the movie. There isn't a bad page in the whole novel.
Professor Emeritus of English, Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois
I enjoy reading that helps me understand more about the world in which we live and that challenges me to think and question my assumptions. These books by Charles C. Mann present information in a lively way and help put globalization in historical context. They show that globalization is not new and provide memorable examples of how the costs and benefits of interacting and exchanging with other parts of the world can have incredible unexpected implications for all living things including plants, animals and people. Author Charles Mann provides wonderful examples and stories that help us understand more about the world we live in today as well as what the future may be like. Happy reading!
Barbara J. Ford
Director and Distinguished Professor, Mortenson Center for International Library Programs University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library
Most of my reading is nonfiction, and I must admit I was hesitant at first about this book. However, it turned out to be a riveting narrative of most of author Marcus Luttrell’s adult life, from training through a gripping and brutal scene of a fateful night in late June 2005 when three U.S. Navy SEALs lost their lives in the northern Afghanistan mountains (the largest loss of life in Navy SEAL history). I found it to be quite a personable story (aside from some political commentary jabs at times) that demonstrates the rigorous training of the SEALs, while your empathy builds for the young men. While I’m not a seeker of modern warfare novels, this account plunked me alongside the Team for a fascinating experience of survival, courage, and duty.
Mark C. Palmer
Evans, Froehlich, Beth & Chamley
I identified with Wilbur and recognized the importance of Charlotte's effort to support him and give him the support he needed to get through life. It taught me that if we reach out and ask for help that someone will help us.
Professor of Educational Psychology
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Janice N. Harrington recommends:
Growing environmental toxicity affects everyone: our health, our families, and our future. This overview of what is happening and how it has been allowed to happen is must reading.
Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths
I read this book by Lois Lowry (the first time) in 5th grade and I remember sitting on a bean bag chair in the public library for hours, turning pages as fast as I could. It’s a compelling historical fiction that will stay with you for years to come. Number the Stars has the intensity of a thriller, heavy emotional weight that always comes with the great WWII stories, and best of all, a small glimmer of hope through the eyes of a young hero. I wanted to be Annemarie and at the same time I was so glad that I wasn’t her, it made me appreciate the simplicity of my life.
Janet Rayfield recommends:
This book by Michael Useem takes leadership from the theoretical ideas you talk about in leadership seminars and examines them in application to real life examples. The examples are not all successful ones and I think these stories drive home the value of a good leader in any situation. Also, leadership is truly defined in specific moments where the trust, confidence, and knowledge built over time provides a leader with the ability to impact those moments in a positive fashion. This book relates real life examples where leaders have succeeded and failed in those critical moments. Most of us will never face moments with the life and death repercussions of some of these stories but the lessons learned can be utilized in the daily leadership moments we all encounter in our lives.
Kevin Hambly recommends:
I think this book, by Don Miguel Ruiz, helps give a great perspective on how to handle relations both in your personal life but especially in business. I have asked my staff to read it and it is something we reference often in meetings.
Head Volleyball Coach, University of Illinois
I’m just finishing Tom Grimes’ new memoir about his days in the famous Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. He recounts his relationship with Frank Conroy, himself a famous novelist and memoirist, who directed the Writers’ Workshop until his death in 2005. The book captures the travails and tortured insecurity of a young writer, who is given emotional stability and confidence by a more mature mentor, on the road to the publication of his first novel. The book was especially meaningful to me as an alum and former Provost of the University Iowa, who knew Frank Conroy in the last few years of his life.
Michael J. Hogan
Professor of History, University of Illinois–Springfield
Investing The Templeton Way by Lauren C. Templeton and Scott Phillips, is a book about Sir John Templeton, who died in 2009 at the age of 95/96. It’s an easy read about the common sense approach taken by Sir John Templeton, who was born in Tennessee. He was one of the first “super investors” that invested internationally. This book is inspirational and is geared toward the less experienced investor but also would be appreciated by the experienced investor.
Benjamin Graham’s The Intelligent Investor is considered the classic on “Value Investing.” It was originally published in 1949. I own the 1974 edition which includes an introduction and appendix by Warren Buffet that was added in 1984. Benjamin Graham was Warren Buffet’s teacher. This book is more for the advanced or serious minded investor.
Walt Ruesch, A.A.M.S.
Financial Advisor, Edward Jones
Small businesses provide over 50 percent of all jobs in the American economy and are the real economic innovators that make our country great. What can we do to make sure they succeed? How can we invest in them? And for those of us running small locally owned businesses, what can we do to communicate the power of local to our customers? Author Michael H. Shueman answers these questions and more in a way that is engaging and clear.
The Small-Mart Revolution reaches beyond business owners, appealing to anyone who wants their local downtown to be vibrant and healthy. Shueman lays out some amazing facts about the profound impact small local businesses can have on keeping the overall economy of towns thriving. The book even touches on how getting involved in local sports, clubs, and charities can enrich the whole community.
General Manager, Common Ground Food Co-Operative
Central Illinois Business Magazine, “Forty Under 40”
I really loved The Shadow of the Wind: A Novel (translated from Spanish) by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It is about a book lover set in 1930–1950 Spain who follows his quest to find out more about a mysterious writer who only published one book, and only a few copies. The book lover thinks it a masterpiece. Someone is mysteriously destroying the few copies that exist. Why, who? That is the main purpose of the wonderfully written book. The reader is immediately drawn into the world of books and book lovers.
Lisa J. Lucero
Associate Professor of Anthropology and Latin American and Caribbean Studies
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The New York Times Scientist at Work: An Ancient Watery Underworld
The majority of Brother Herman Zaccarelli’s book focuses on why your answers to three “key self-examination questions are so important and how to use the questions to make ethical decisions” whether at work, within the community, or with your family. These questions are: “Would I tell others what I did?” “Would I care if it happened to me?” “What if everyone did it?”
Carl R. Meyer
Executive Director, Parkland College Foundation
Robert W. Rumbelow recommends:
I’ve read all of Malcolm Gladwell’s books including the most recent ones and they are all fascinating. However, I’ve found The Tipping Point to be the one that is most centered and compelling without any sort of social agenda aside from reporting about this phenomena that has become one of the essential realities in group psychology. The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads at an amazing and unforeseen rate. Whether you are an armchair student of group psychology (like I am) or just love amazing but true stories, you will love this book. I have my graduate student conductors read this book and we discuss application together. We do, after all, work with groups, and the stories are so masterfully sewn together it becomes the sort of book you can’t put down. The Tipping Point is compelling reading and makes interesting discussion with friends and family. I’ve found its contents very useful in both teaching large groups and for discussion among fellow educators. Gladwell’s premise that certain ideas can spread so quickly challenges us to look at problems and opportunities in a new light. The book has been around for a while now with solid sales success, but I’m happy to come back to it on a regular basis as it never fails to fire creative thoughts.
Robert W. Rumbelow, DMA
Director of Bands, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Brownfield Professor of Music
Amanda and Trisha Bates recommend:
The Persistence of Yellow by Monique Duval is pure sunshine in print. Duval has woven together a magical, mythological collection of tales that inspire possibility, love, and whimsy in the context of being a woman. Each time we read The Persistence of Yellow, we are reminded of everyday miracles and the importance of not taking anything for granted. We hope this book will lift your spirit as much as it does ours.
Amanda and Trisha Bates
Owners, Cakes on Walnut
Kris Fuqua recommends:
I liked this book by Diana Hagee because it speaks and emphasizes our value in God’s eyes. “Our God sees the desires of our hearts long before He hears our voices. He knows that we long to please Him, and that brings Him pleasure. He will give us strength when we are weak. He will give us direction when we become confused. Jesus will smile when He mentions our names before the Father. No matter how hard it is for you to believe, God made no mistakes when He formed you. You are beautiful to Him, and the more you believe this truth, the more beautiful you become.” These are wonderful confirmations and it does wonders for my self-esteem!
Champaign County Salvation Army
Maya Bruck recommends:
The Journey Is the Destination is a collection of pages from the journals of Dan Eldon, one of the youngest Reuters photographers to ever work in Africa. Through photographs, scraps of magazines, random ephemera, daubs of paint and ink, Eldon channeled his entire soul into these books. The resulting work is raw, fearless, and hauntingly beautiful. Leafing through it the other day, I got the same rush of awe and inspiration that I did when I first found it on a friend’s coffee table in high school. Eldon never intended to show his journals to anyone, and you can tell. He was killed at age 22 by a rioting mob in Somalia, and after his death his mother carefully assembled pages from his seventeen journals and had them published. When I first picked up the book, I’d never seen anyone express themselves so honestly and so free of inhibition. My perception of art was of something that people create to put in museums or display on their walls, and all of a sudden here it was, in full force and completely candid. To me, Eldon’s journals were a revelation.
Cameron Moore recommends:
I have always found inspiration from reading about real people and the obstacles that they have had to overcome in order to accomplish great things. Stephen E. Ambrose’s book Undaunted Courage is the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Most of us are aware of the historical importance of this expedition. But reading this book helped reinforce for me that a strong will and a quick mind can overcome incredible challenges.
Chief Executive Officer
Champaign County Regional Planning Commission
Wayne Pitard recommends:
Almost 4,000 years old, this powerful epic poem is the earliest true masterpiece of literature preserved from antiquity. While it begins as an action adventure tale, it moves into the very serious theme of facing our mortality. As Gilgamesh begins his desperate search for immortality, we feel his fear of death and his longing for life. A stunningly mature work from the dawn of civilization, you will be amazed at how relevant it is to modern life.
Note: The translation I particularly like is The Epic of Gilgamesh translated and with an introduction by Andrew George. London/New York: Penguin Classics, 2003).
Wayne T. Pitard
Director, Spurlock Museum
Professor, Department of Religion
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Mike Small recommends:
I was drawn to this book by Daniel Coyle because of its claim to understand the secret of talent, and how greatness and potential in people is grown and developed. Coyle travels the world and studies “hotbeds” of talent and discovers that similar and unique styles of practice, motivation, and coaching are all present in producing a newly discovered brain mechanism that is vital for skill improvement.
Head Coach, Men's Golf
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Christine des Garennes recommends:
I love a good road trip book (William Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways, Bill Bryson’s The Lost Continent ), and on one level, Ted Conover’s The Routes of Man: How Roads are Changing the World and the Way We Live is a road trip book. He hooks up with various local residents and travels with them along the nail-biting roads of the Andes Mountains to the congested highways in Lagos, Nigeria. As Conover, the author of several other books in which he chronicles his first-hand experiences (next on my reading list is his earlier book, Newjack, about his yearlong stint as a prison guard at Sing Sing) tells his readers in the introduction, each of his six adventures is “a story and a meditation.” And so readers follow along with him as he joins teenagers on their trek along and atop a frozen river in a remote part of India because the river is the route they must follow to the nearest city, as he waits in line with Palestinians at a West Bank checkpoint, travels with Israeli soldiers, as he accompanies a Chinese auto club on their tour to the countryside, and more. We not only are introduced to the geography and Conover’s travel companions (he provides some photos), but wonder along with Conover about, for example, the economic and environmental ramifications of extending an east-west highway in South America through the Andes and to the Amazon basin, or of connecting the Kashmiri town of Ladakh with the rest of India. Of roads, Conover asks and we readers ponder, “Where are they taking us?”
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