Book Review: Meet Me in Atlantis – Mark Adams

meet-me-in-atlantisTitle: Meet Me in Atlantis: My Obsessive Quest to Find the Sunken City
Author: Mark Adams
ISBN: 9780525953708
Pages: 320
Release Date: March 10, 2015
Publisher: Dutton
Genre: Nonfiction, Travel, History
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

Fascinated by the Atlantis legend, and the current work being done to locate the famous lost city, Mark Adams traveled around the world to meet the people advocating different theories on the locations of Atlantis, to learn about the sites that are purported to be Atlantis, and above all, to understand what Atlantis means on a personal level to both himself and the world around him.

Review:

Atlantis. Just the name evokes thoughts and feelings, a mythical lost city, perhaps the most famous city of all time. But did it ever exist? And if so, where was it? That’s what Mark Adams sets out to discover once and for all in Meet Me in Atlantis.

Adams visits many different sites and speaks with countless people in Meet Me in Atlantis, and indeed the personalities flavor the book just as much as the stories do. He does a wonderful job conveying each of these people’s enthusiasm (or in some cases, distinct lack of enthusiasm) for the lost city. Adams really gets under each of their skin, telling us what Atlantis means to them: a source of hope, a hobby, a lifelong career. Each of these people is invested in the legend for one reason or another, and it’s really interesting to see Adams fall in love with the legend, to become invested in the outcome of his search, as the book progresses.

There’s also a huge travel and archaeology component to Meet Me in Atlantis, which is fascinating. Visiting each of these sites, hearing the stories behind them, seeing it through Adams’ eyes; it’s simply incredible. He lays out the evidence for each claim before going on to offer any refutations. I’m apparently a bit gullible, because with every site Adams visited, I became convinced that THIS was Atlantis, that he had actually found the lost city.

Adams is on a quest, plain and simple, but for what? Atlantis, yes, but the reader can be fairly sure he’s not going to find the lost city, in all its glory, at the end of this book. Atlantis is so rooted in myth as to have become something intangible; it’s the search itself that matters. It says something about us, about our need to hope and to dig and to give meaning to the things around us. All that is encapsulated in this wonderful, warm book; if you enjoy history, myth, travel, archaeology, or any combination of the former,  I can’t tell you how much you need to pick up this book.

Other books by Mark Adams:

Turn Right at Machu Picchu

Affiliate Links:

Buy this book from Powell’s Books
Buy this book from Amazon.com
Buy this book from your local Indiebound bookstore

Book Review: How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less – Sarah Glidden

how to understand israel coverTitle: How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less
Author: Sarah Glidden
ISBN: 9781401222345
Pages: 208
Release Date: August 30, 2011
Publisher: Vertigo
Genre: Nonfiction, Comics, Graphic Memoir, Trave;
Source: Library
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

Sarah Glidden, a nonreligious Jewish young woman, decided to take a Birthright Israel trip, braced for the Zionist propaganda that would be thrown at her. She was ready to dismiss everything she learned, but once she arrived, she realized the situation was much more complicated than she believed and that it’s easy to judge when you don’t fully understand what’s happening.

Snapshot Review:

This graphic memoir mixes a coming of age story with a great travelogue. Glidden expresses her anxiety and uncertainty through her art, giving the reader insight into her conflicted emotions during her trip.

Full Review:

Sarah Glidden’s graphic memoir is a fascinating story about one woman’s emotional coming of age. Sarah Glidden went into her Birthright Israel trip with many preconceived notions. She believed that those who ran the trip and the people she met would be trying to “brainwash” her into being pro-Israel, into forgetting the plight of the Palestinians. Sarah’s own boyfriend was Muslim (Pakistani Muslim, not Arab), and she was determine to come out of the trip still supporting the original inhabitants of the land, rather than the usurpers, as she saw them.

It’s so interesting to watch Sarah change over the course of How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less. It’s not that she becomes an full-throated Zionist or anything close; and indeed, she’s correct that parts of the Birthright trip did have the feel of propaganda. But what surprises Sarah (and the reader) is that the people she’s meeting aren’t fervent, blind supporters of Israel. They recognize there are problems with the way Israel acts. Sarah’s biggest realization on her trip is that the problems facing both the Israelis and Palestinians are huge and massive; the issues are historic and endemic. By believing she could come up with a solution for, or at least a full understanding of, the entire conflict on one trip, was was naive at best. Glidden realizes she didn’t even have a basic grasp of how deep and broad the issues really go, and there are no easy answers facing them.

Glidden writes and illustrates How to Lose Israel in 60 Days or Less, and she does an amazing job. Her emotions come through in every panel; readers can see the conflict within her. The art in the book isn’t detailed or intricate; it feels like a journal, something she wrote every day of the trip, and it’s very effective. The drawings are loose and vague, allowing the reader to look deeper into each panel, to feel Glidden’s uncertainty through the roundness of her lines. It’s so interesting to consider the emotions that comics can convey, and this is a really good choice to really analyze that.

Graphic memoirs are a great place to start with comics, and How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less is no exception. The mixture of coming of age themes with a travelogue filled with fascinating details makes for a great read, and should definitely be on the list of memoir fans generally.

Affiliate Links:

Buy this book from Powell’s Books
Buy this book from Amazon.com
Buy this book from your local Indiebound bookstore

Book Review: The Lost Book of Mormon – Avi Steinberg

lost book of mormon coverTitle: The Lost Book of Mormon: A Journey through the Mythic Lands of Nephi, Zarahemla, and Kansas City, Missouri
Author: Avi Steinberg
ISBN: 9780385535694
Pages: 288
Release Date: October 21, 2014
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
Genre: Nonfiction, Travel, History
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

In this memoir/travelogue, Avi Steinberg goes on a journey to trace the Book of Mormon, visiting the places where events in this religious book happened, providing his own unique commentary on various aspects of the religion, and reflecting on how the book is relevant to his own life.

Snapshot Review:

A hilarious, irreverent travelogue about Mormonism, Steinberg’s sense of humor is what really makes this memoir worth reading. Combined with the fascinating details he delivers about Mormonism, it’s really an unbeatable read for those interested in the religion (if you aren’t easily offended by snark).

Full Review:

The Lost Book of Mormon: A Journey Through the Mythic Lands of Nephi, Zarahemla, and Kansas City, Missouri is a unique book that isn’t for every reader; it’s a book that you’ll likely love or hate, not much in between. Why? Well, author Avi Steinberg does not hold anything sacred when it comes to this book. It’s not that he makes fun of Mormonism by itself, but that he pokes fun at all religions. He has a hilarious snarky tone, and while I thoroughly enjoyed it and found myself laughing out loud, if you don’t laugh easily when it comes to religion, then this is probably not the book for you.

Steinberg comes from a background of Orthodox Judaism, so while he isn’t Mormon, he understands and respects religion in general. He’s always been fascinated by Mormonism (as I have—I can’t resist the idea of a religion that was born in modern times in the United States), so feeling a little lost in his personal life, he decides to embark on a journey. And what a hilarious and wondrous journey it is.

It’s interesting to be along for the ride as Steinberg travels from Jerusalem to Central America to upstate New York, as this is as much a personal spiritual journey for him as it is a rite of curiosity. Readers can sense him becoming more and more disillusioned as the memoir progresses, even if he doesn’t state it flat out. As he’s searching for the true sites of the Book of Mormon, he seems to be losing himself in the process. It’s an interesting dichotomy, and one that Steinberg writes well.

This is not really a religious book, despite how I many have described it in the preceding paragraph. The Lost Book of Mormon is certainly about a religion, but it’s not religious. As I mentioned, Steinberg pokes fun at any and every religion during his travels, and it’s absolutely hilarious to witness. I loved his snark and his sense of humor, especially as it was coupled with fascinating tidbits of information about Mormonism. I felt like I learned a lot while reading this book, while simultaneously being thoroughly and completely entertained.

If you are sensitive about religion generally, this might not be the best choice for you. However, if, like me and Avi, you’re an outsider fascinated by Mormonism (and you’re not easily offended), then absolutely pick up this book. It’s so well written and hilarious that I found myself quoting passages out loud to anyone who would listen. (I also live tweeted my reading of the first few chapters: this is how much I enjoyed this book.)

Affiliate Links:

Buy this book from Powell’s Books
Buy this book from Amazon.com
Buy this book from your local Indiebound bookstore

Book Review: Mastering the Art of French Eating – Ann Mah

Mastering the Art of French Eating coverTitle: Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris
Author: Ann Mah
ISBN: 9780670025992
Pages: 288
Release Date: September 26, 2013
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Genre: Memoir, Foodie, Nonfiction, Travel
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

Ann Mah’s dream was to live in Paris, so when her diplomat husband was assigned to the city for a three-year posting, she was ecstatic. That is, until her husband was transferred to Iraq for a year. Alone in a foreign city, Mah turned to food to understand and appreciate this culture that she’d admired from the outside for so long.

Snapshot Review:

Ann Mah’s Mastering the Art of French Eating is a must-read for any travel memoir fan or foodie. Her descriptions are delectable and her explorations of French culture and history are not to be missed.

Full Review:

Food and travel go together like…well, wine and cheese, I suppose. It’s understandable why so many travel memoirs have elements of food and vice versa; it’s a great way to come to know and understand a different culture, especially if you have the time to explore the history of native dishes. But these memoirs are becoming more and more common, and not all of them are worth reading. What sets Ann Mah’s Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris apart from these more mediocre efforts is simple: it’s the memoir portion of the book.

Too often, authors forget that while, yes, we want to read about the travel and food, we’re also interested in your story. The personal aspect has to be there to draw the reader in; the reader needs to connect emotionally with the author. Mah does an exceptional job with this; readers will feel her emotions on every page of the book. Her descriptions are vivid and delicious, but it’s her honesty that elevates Mastering the Art of French Eating and absolutely makes it worth reading.

Pick up Mastering the Art of French Eating for the great narrative, then, but you’ll want to stay to read about Mah’s interesting experiences. She really delves into the history of the dishes she explores, from crepes to beef Bourguignon, and gives the reader insight into both French culture and cuisine. The recipes at the end of each chapter are not only delectable, but Mah concedes that readers likely will not be able to find the same ingredients in the United States as where the recipe originated from in France. Therefore, while she tells you how the dish is supposed to be prepared, she also includes substitutions to make things easier.

Mastering the Art of French Eating is a fast read, but one that’s easy to appreciate. Be warned, though: have some snacks handy while reading, because this is a book that will have you running to the fridge between every chapter.

Other books by Ann Mah:

Kitchen Chinese

Affiliate Links:

Buy this book from Powell’s Books
Buy this book from Amazon.com
Buy this book from your local Indiebound bookstore

Book Review: On the Noodle Road – Jen Lin-Liu

On the Noodle Road cover

Title: On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome with Love and Pasta Author: Jen Lin-Liu ISBN: 9781594487262 Pages: 400 Release Date: July 25, 2013 Publisher: Riverhead Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Travel, Food Source: Publisher Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Summary: Jen Lin-Liu is a food writer and cooking instructor who loves, above all, trying and […]

Continue reading →

Book Review: The End of Night – Paul Bogard

The End of Night cover

Title: The End of Night: Searching for Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light Author: Paul Bogard ISBN: 9780316182904 Pages: 336 Release Date: July 9, 2013 Publisher: Little, Brown Genre: Non-Fiction, Science, Travel Source: Publisher Rating: 4 out of 5 Summary: With the increasing urbanization of the globe and the expansion of major cities, the […]

Continue reading →

Book Review: Heat – Bill Streever [TSS]

Title: Heat: Adventures in the World’s Fiery Places Author: Bill Streever ISBN: 9780316105330 Pages: 368 Release Date: January 15, 2013 Publisher: Little, Brown and Company Genre: Non-Fiction, Science, Travel Source: Publisher Rating: 4 out of 5 Summary: In Heat: Adventures in the World’s Fiery Places, author Bill Streever takes the reader on a journey around […]

Continue reading →

Book Review: The Forgetting River – Doreen Carvajal

Title: The Forgetting River Author: Doreen Carvajal ISBN: 9781594487392 Pages: 320 Release Date: August 16, 2012 Publisher: Riverhead Genre: Memoir, Non-fiction, Travel Source: Publisher Rating: 4 out of 5 Summary: Doreen Carvajal is a journalist who was born and raised Catholic, so she’s surprised to discover her family may be connected to conversos, Jews who […]

Continue reading →
Before the tag in the Genesis footer: !-- Quantcast Tag -->