No-Man’s Lands

Scott Huler

Scott Huler followed the path of the Odyssey (as much as anyone can follow the path of a mythical hero in an ancient story). He treats the Odyssey seriously and he travelled while he was confronting early mid-life and while his wife was pregnant with their first child. The result is an engaging travelogue and a reflective personal memoir.

One thing I really enjoyed about the book was the way he captures the joys of independent travel. I saved this in my quotes file, and right now, in the middle of a very harsh Minnesota winter, it makes me long to be traveling somewhere around the Mediterranean:

..I walked at night in a city where they speak a foreign language along a busy street to a vast plaza with a fountain, thence to the train station where I loaded up on local junk food, and then back to a cheap hotel room where I read books about where I might go next. I had no complaints

A Country in the Moon: Travels in Search of the Heart of Poland

Michael Moran

This is a wonderful, fact- and story-packed discursive, book about post-Soviet Poland. The author — an Englishman — was there immediately after the evaporation of the USSR, and even though Poland has changed since then, this is an enjoyable read for the armchair or actual traveller.

I’ve been to Poland, and I’d love to return. If I do, I’ll revisit this book before revisiting the country.

(The book’s footnotes are particularly useful for anyone seeking to dig deeper.)

Leonardo and the Last Supper

Ross King

I saw the “Last Supper” in Milan in 2012. Frankly, I wasn’t expecting it to make a big impression. How can a painting that’s so familiar from everything from cartoons to jigsaw puzzles, one that’s so damaged, have an impact? Well, I loved it. I do wish I could have read this book beforehand. If I would have, I would have had more appreciation for Leonardo’s technical and artistic achievements as represented on the wall at Santa Maria delle Grazie.

The book is also a short biography of Leonardo da Vinci. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in the artist or his work, especially a reader who doesn’t want to devote a lot of time to more weighty volumes.

The Blast That Tears the Skies

J. D. Davies

Matthew Quinton spends much more time at sea in this book than he did in it’s predecessor, “The Mountain of Gold“. The climax of the action is the Battle of Lowestoft, a naval encounter that I’d never encountered in my reading. I have to admire Davies for setting his fighting sail series outside of the usual Napoleonic setting.