Fans of travel literature will prize this shimmering account of a journey into the past.



A British writer heads for the South American rainforest in search of an elusive ancestor.

Other than Peter Ackroyd, nobody knows London better than Sinclair. Here, five decades into a distinguished writing career, he ventures farther afield, traveling to Peru on the trail of a Scottish ancestor who sought his fortune in coffee. “In some way yet to be defined,” writes Sinclair, “I believed that Arthur was out there, in the territory, a hungry ghost unconcerned with ‘closure.’ ” He adds, “Too many words, too many journeys on trains and planes, left me sick and used up.” Yet he felt an obligation to revisit his great-grandfather’s old haunts, and the journey recharged him. Traveling with his filmmaker daughter—an eminently practical young woman who actively sought out local guides and followed local customs, rather unlike Arthur, who made his way down a vast jungle river in the company of “a pair of duplicitous and drunken priests”—Sinclair found himself among Indigenous peoples and modern gold-rush looters of wild places, to say nothing of stray Sendero Luminoso terrorists and incautious tourists. At times, Sinclair approaches the philosophically charged anthropology of Claude Lévi-Strauss’s Tristes Tropiques, and William Faulkner is never far away from his mind. The author also reflects on Joseph Conrad, Henry James, B. Traven, Werner Herzog, Arthur Rimbaud, the nature of memory, the state of civilization, and, above all, mortality (“grave goods should always be returned to the designated dark”)—especially since his travels immediately preceded a pandemic that would soon devastate the places of which he writes. While his story is often tangential and idiosyncratically told, it is packed with language of gnomic brilliance: “Knowing ourselves a little better with every mile travelled, we also know the savage pull of indifference.” A worthy practitioner of the close-scrape school of British wandering, Sinclair, as this book makes clear, deserves to be much better known abroad.

Fans of travel literature will prize this shimmering account of a journey into the past.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-78607-919-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Oneworld Publications

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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A welcome reference, entertaining and information-packed, for any outdoors-inclined reader.


The bad news: On any given outdoor expedition, you are your own worst enemy. The good news: If you are prepared, which this book helps you achieve, you might just live through it.

As MeatEater host and experienced outdoorsman Rinella notes, there are countless dangers attendant in going into mountains, woods, or deserts; he quotes journalist Wes Siler: “People have always managed to find stupid ways to die.” Avoiding stupid mistakes is the overarching point of Rinella’s latest book, full of provocative and helpful advice. One stupid way to die is not to have the proper equipment. There’s a complication built into the question, given that when humping gear into the outdoors, weight is always an issue. The author’s answer? “Build your gear list by prioritizing safety.” That entails having some means of communication, water, food, and shelter foremost and then adding on “extra shit.” As to that, he notes gravely, “a National Park Service geologist recently estimated that as much as 215,000 pounds of feces has been tossed haphazardly into crevasses along the climbing route on Denali National Park’s Kahiltna Glacier, where climbers melt snow for drinking water.” Ingesting fecal matter is a quick route to sickness, and Rinella adds, there are plenty of outdoorspeople who have no idea of how to keep their bodily wastes from ruining the scenery or poisoning the water supply. Throughout, the author provides precise information about wilderness first aid, ranging from irrigating wounds to applying arterial pressure to keeping someone experiencing a heart attack (a common event outdoors, given that so many people overexert without previous conditioning) alive. Some takeaways: Keep your crotch dry, don’t pitch a tent under a dead tree limb, walk side-hill across mountains, and “do not enter a marsh or swamp in flip-flops, and think twice before entering in strap-on sandals such as Tevas or Chacos.”

A welcome reference, entertaining and information-packed, for any outdoors-inclined reader.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12969-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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