Here is the most comprehensive account you are ever likely to find of the building of the western section of America’s transcontinental railway. Gordon Chang has certainly set himself a difficult task, as he seeks to document the daily life of the roughly 20,000 Chinese who contributed to building the Central Pacific section of American’s first transcontinental line in the late 1860s.
A tiger hunt! In No Beast so Fierce, Dane Huckelbridge tells the exciting true story of the extirpation of a man-eating tiger in colonial India in 1907. This was no safari with a fleet of elephants and an army of bearers. It was one Irishman with a rifle and three cartridges on foot against a tiger that had killed and eaten about 440 persons over a span of about a decade. The numbers are inexact because deaths of rural women collecting firewood weren’t carefully recorded in those years.
Academic integrity sometimes requires revising theoretical perspectives as a situation changes and new evidence comes to light. Mobo Gao, a professor of Asian Studies at the University of Adelaide, finds himself in that position. In 1998 he wrote Gao Village, an anthropological study of life in a very poor Chinese village during the latter half of the 20th century. He was thoroughly qualified to do so, because he was born and raised there in abject poverty. He frankly recounts how qualifying for a university education from such a background, in addition to intellectual gifts, required a combination of luck, guanxi and a bit of cheating.
When a work of non-fiction opens with “On the last day of his old life, the dinosaur hunter went to the beach,” it’s a strong hint that tragedy is in store.
The term “historical novel” usually arouses images of 18th-century swashbuckling. Sweden, however, is a historical novel set much closer to our own time. According to the official record, more than half a million American servicemen attempted to desert during the Vietnam War.
William Atkins has done extensive and presumably rather expensive research for The Immeasurable World. He writes from first hand experience of visiting eight deserts as diverse as the empty quarter of Oman and the famous Burning Man Festival in the United States. Each gets an extended essay with similar components. So, no rides for days on end with just a camel for a friend, but Atkins, to his credit, does manage at each of the deserts he visits to get some sand in his shoes and some camel hair in his oatmeal porridge.
So you’re planning a trip on the Silk Road. You’re looking for tips on what to take, routes, currencies, visas.