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Elephant Complex

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No one sees the world quite like John Gimlette. As The New York Times once noted, “he writes with enormous wit, indignation, and a heightened sense of the absurd.” Writing for both the adventurer and the armchair traveler, he has an eye for unusually telling detail, a sense of wonder, and compelling curiosity for the inside story. This time, he travels to Sri Lanka, a country only now emerging from twenty-six years of civil war. Delving deep into the nation’s story, Gimlette provides us with an astonishing, multifaceted portrait of the island today. His travels reveal the country as never before. Beginning in the exuberant capital, Colombo (“a hint of anarchy everywhere”), he ventures out in all directions: to the dry zones where the island’s 5,800 wild elephants congregate around ancient reservoirs; through cinnamon country with its Portuguese forts; to the “Bible Belt” of Buddhism—the tsunami-ravaged southeast coast; then up into the great green highlands (“the garden in the sky”) and Kandy, the country’s eccentric, aristocratic Shangri-la. Along the way, a wild and often desperate history takes shape, a tale of great colonies (Arab, Portuguese, British, and Dutch) and of the cultural divisions that still divide this society. Before long, we’re in Jaffna and the Vanni, crucibles of the recent conflict. These areas—the hottest, driest, and least hospitable—have been utterly devastated by war and are only now struggling to their feet. But this is also a story of friendship and remarkable encounters. In the course of his journey, Gimlette meets farmers, war heroes, ancient tribesmen, world-class cricketers, terrorists, a former president, old planters, survivors of great massacres—and perhaps some of their perpetrators. That’s to say nothing of the island’s beguiling fauna: elephants, crocodiles, snakes, storks, and the greatest concentration of leopards on Earth. Here is a land of extravagant beauty and profound devastation, of ingenuity and catastrophe, possessed of both a volatile past and an uncertain future—a place capable of being at once heavenly and hellish—all brought to vibrant, fascinating life here on the page. From the Hardcover edition.
Published by Vintage on 02/16/2016
Book details: 432 pages.

At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig

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A wildly humorous account of the author's travels across Paraguay–South America's darkly fabled, little-known “island surrounded by land.” Rarely visited by tourists and barely touched by global village sprawl, Paraguay remains a mystery to outsiders. Think of this small nation and your mind is likely to jump to Nazis, dictators, and soccer. Now, John Gimlette’s eye-opening book–equal parts travelogue, history, and unorthodox travel guide–breaches the boundaries of this isolated land,” and illuminates a little-understood place and its people. It is a wonderfully animated telling of Paraguay's story: of cannibals, Jesuits, and sixteenth-century Anabaptists; of Victorian Australian socialists and talented smugglers; of dictators and their mad mistresses; bloody wars and Utopian settlements; and of lives transplanted from Japan, Britain, Poland, Russia, Germany, Ireland, Korea, and the United States. The author travels from the insular cities and towns of the east, along ghostly trails through the countryside, to reach the Gran Chaco of the west: the “green hell” covering almost two-thirds of the country, where 4 percent of the population coexists–more or very-much-less peacefully–with a vast array of exotic wildlife that includes jaguars, prehistoric lungfish, and their more recently evolved distant cousins, the great fighting river fish. Gimlette visits with Mennonites and the indigenas, arms dealers and real-estate tycoons, shopkeepers, government bureaucrats and, of course, Nazis. Filled with bizarre incident, fascinating anecdote, and richly evocative detail, At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig is a brilliant description of a country of eccentricity and contradiction, of beguilingly individualistic men and women, and of unexpected and extraordinary beauty. It is a vivid, often riotous, always fascinating, journey. From the Hardcover edition.
Published by Vintage on 09/21/2011
Book details: 400 pages.

Wild Coast

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Dolman Travel Book of the Year 2012 Between the Orinoco and the Amazon lies a fabulous forested land, barely explored. Much of Guiana seldom sees sunlight, and new species are often tumbling out of the dark trees. Shunned by the conquistadors, it was left to others to carve into colonies. Guyana, Suriname and Guyane Franaise are what remain of their contest, and the 400 years of struggle that followed. Now, award-winning author John Gimlette sets off along this coast, gathering up its astonishing story. His journey takes him deep into the jungle, from the hideouts of runaway slaves to penal colonies, outlandish forts, remote Amerindian villages, a 'Little Paris' and a space port. He meets rebels, outlaws and sorcerers; follows the trail of a vicious Georgian revolt, and ponders a love-affair that changed the face of slavery. Here too is Jonestown, where, in 1978, over 900 Americans, members of Reverend Jones's cult, committed suicide. The last traces are almost gone now, as the forest closes in. Beautiful, bizarre and occasionally brutal, this is one of the great forgotten corners of the Earth: the Wild Coast.
Published by Profile Books on 02/03/2011
Book details: 355 pages.

Panther Soup

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Beautifully blending contemporary travel writing and military history, John Gimlette travels across Europe in the footsteps of one of the greatest armies ever assembled: the United States forces of 1944-45. In 2004, John Gimlette set off across Europe with his guide Putnam Flint, an eighty-six-year-old Bostonian who had landed in Marseille in the midst of World War II with his tank destroyer battalion, nicknamed The Panthers. With Flint's help, Gimlette traveled from Marseille north to Dijon and Alsace, Paris and Lorraine, across the Rhine into Germany, and eventually south through the Alps into Austria. Gimlette provides a vivid portrait of the route as it is today, from spectacular landscapes to cities that have risen from cinders and as it was during one of the most tumultuous moments in world history. From the Trade Paperback edition.
Published by Vintage on 09/28/2011
Book details: 416 pages.

Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?

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Hired in 2004 to contribute to Lonely Planet's Brazil guidebook, Thomas Kohnstamm fled his Wall Street job to pursue his dream of being a travel writer. Do Travel Writers Go to Hell? is the story of the adventure that followed.
Published by Allen & Unwin on 08/20/2019
Book details: 238 pages.

A History of Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka is an ancient civilization, shaped and thrust into the modern globalizing world by its colonial experience. With its own unique problems, many of them historical legacies, it is a nation trying to maintain a democratic, pluralistic state structure while struggling to come to terms with separatist aspirations. This is a complex story, and there is perhaps no better person to present it in reasoned, scholarly terms than K.M. de Silva, Sri Lanka’s most distinguished and prolific historian. A History of Sri Lanka, first published in 1981, has established itself as the standard work on the subject. This fully revised edition, in light of the most recent research, brings the story right up to the early years of the twenty-first century. The book provides comprehensive coverage of all aspects of Sri Lanka’s development—from a classical Buddhist society and irrigation economy, to its emergence as a tropical colony producing some of the world’s most important cash crops, such as cinnamon, tea, rubber and coconut, and finally as an Asian democracy. It is a study of the political vicissitudes of Sri Lanka’s ancient civilization and the successive phases of Portuguese, Dutch and British colonial rule. The unfortunate consequences of becoming a centre of ethnic tension and Sri Lanka’s long-standing relationship with India are also discussed. Exhaustively researched and analytical, this book is an invaluable reference source for students of ancient, colonial and post-colonial societies, ethnic conflict and democratic transitions, as well as for all those who simply want to get a feel of the rich and varied texture of Sri Lanka’s long history.
Author: K M de Silva
Published by Penguin UK on 08/25/2005
Book details: 800 pages.

Willoughbyland

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At the beginning of the 1650s, wrecked by plague and civil war, England was in ruins. Yet shimmering on the horizon was a vision of paradise called Willoughbyland. When Sir Walter Raleigh set out to South America to find the legendary city of El Dorado, he paved the way for an endless series of adventurers who would struggle against the harsh reality of South America’s wild jungles. Six decades later, when a group of English gentlemen expelled from England chose to establish a new colony there, they named the settlement in honor of its founder—Sir Francis Willoughby. Located in the lush landscape between the Amazon and Orinoco rivers, in what is now Suriname, Willougbyland experienced one of colonialism’s most spectacular rises. But as planters and traders followed explorers, and mercenaries and soldiers followed political dissidents, the one-time paradise became a place of terror and cruelty, of sugar and slavery. A microcosm of the history of empire, this is the hitherto untold story of that fateful colony.
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on 04/11/2017
Book details: 304 pages.

This Divided Island

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Samanth Subramanian has written about politics, culture, and history for the New York Times and the New Yorker. Now, Subramanian takes on a complex topic that touched millions of lives in This Divided Island. In the summer of 2009, the leader of the dreaded Tamil Tiger guerrillas was killed, bringing to an end the civil war in Sri Lanka. For nearly thirty years, the war's fingers had reached everywhere, leaving few places, and fewer people, untouched. What happens to the texture of life in a country that endures such bitter conflict? What happens to the country's soul? Subramanian gives us an extraordinary account of the Sri Lankan war and the lives it changed. Taking us to the ghosts of summers past, he tells the story of Sri Lanka today. Through travels and conversations, he examines how people reconcile themselves to violence, how the powerful become cruel, and how victory can be put to the task of reshaping memory and burying histories.
Published by Macmillan on 12/15/2015
Book details: 272 pages.

Wonder Beyond Belief

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What happens when one of Germany's most important writers, himself a Muslim, immerses himself in the world of Christian art? In this book, Navid Kermani is awestruck by a religion full of sacrifice and lamentation, love and wonder, the irrational and the unfathomable, the deeply human and the divine – a Christianity that today’s Christians rarely speak of so earnestly, boldly and enthusiastically. With the open-minded curiosity of a non-believer – or rather a believer in another faith – Kermani engages with Christian art in its great richness and diversity. The result is an enchanting reflection which reinvests in Christianity both its spectacular beauty and its terror. Kermani struggles with the cross, falls in love at the sight of Mary, experiences the Orthodox Mass and appreciates the greatness of St Francis. He teaches us to see the questions of our present-day lives in the pictures of old masters such as Botticelli, Caravaggio and Rembrandt – not with lectures on art history or theology, but with an intelligent eye for the essential details and the underlying relations to seemingly remote worlds, to literature and to mystical Islam. Kermani's poetic school of seeing draws us in as we are carried along by his unique perspective on Christianity, rekindling our interest in great art at the same time. We are captivated by his unique and brilliant Islamic reading of the West.
Published by John Wiley & Sons on 11/22/2017
Book details: 272 pages.

Tilting

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There is an almost elemental appeal in the rural fishing villages of Nova Scotia, Maine, and Newfoundland. Their intimate connection to nature, to the land, water, and (often harsh) weather; their reliance on ingenuity, on-hand materials, and craftsmanship; and their values of thrift and endurance serve as inspiration and as touchstones for those of us caught up in the hubbub of modern life. Tilting, Newfoundland is a celebration of all these virtues and an eclectic documentation of the buildings, landscape, and lifestyle of this remote community on a small island far off the Canadian coast. Through photographs, firsthand historical anecdotes, and delicate pencil drawings, author Robert Mellin presents a personal account of Tilting's houses, outbuildings, furniture, tools, fences, and docks, and, in the process, the way of life of Tilting. Mellin describes how houses are built for mobility and then "launched," or moved; how houses are detailed and constructed; how cabbage houses are built out of overturned boats; and the difference between picket, paling, and riddle fences-with diagrams in case you want to build your own. Part journal, part sketchbook, part oral history, Tilting, Newfoundland is a treasure chest of a book that offers new discoveries with each reading, and a reminder of the simpler aspects of life and building.
Published by Princeton Architectural Press on 09/17/2008
Book details: 256 pages.
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