On 1 February 1936, Begum Hasrat Mohani, famed Indian writer and independence activist, sends the first of several letters to her daughter. She’s traveling on the Hajj, passing through Iran and Iraq on her way to Mecca. Along the way, she writes to her daughter, noting the sights and sounds she experiences on her pilgrimage—and give us a glimpse into a different kind of travel writing, from a different kind of travel writer.

Of the three empires that dominated late antiquity, Rome, China and Iran, it is the last whose legacy we understand least. “Proportionally to its historical significance, Iranian Inner Asia in this period is probably the least known and most grossly understudied time and place in world history,” writes Minoru Inaba in the introductory essay to The History and Culture of Iran and Central Asia

After the Myanmar coup last year, the country saw increasing rates of both censorship and persecution of dissidents. The relative access to and freedom of the Internet went into reverse. Born out of a desire to preserve the online voices of outrage, grief and dissent, editors Ko Ko Thett and Brian Haman assembled Picking Off New Shoots Will Not Stop the Spring, an anthology of poems and essays— both in English and translated from the original Burmese—that bear witness to the seismic changes in Burma/Myanmar’s politics.

Europeans have been writing about China for centuries–ever since The Travels of Marco Polo described it as a faraway and mystical kingdom. European thinkers like Voltaire and Montesquieu used China to support their own theories of political philosophy, then writers in early modernity tried to explain why China was falling behind—and then, with the rise of Maoist China, how it represented true revolutionary potential.

China Through European Eyes is a very helpful and well-presented annotated anthology of extracts from European writers on China. The authors presented range from Marco Polo to Roland Barthes, which gives readers wide and various perspectives on the subject; some see China as a threat, others romanticize it, and still others find inspiration in its world-outlook.

I was reading Worlds of Knowledge in Women’s Travel Writing on an airplane when the pilot suddenly announced that we would be returning to our airport of origin due to a possible issue with the plane’s de-icing system. It was only my third flight since the onset of the pandemic and things were not going smoothly. As my plane banked sharply, my mind turned to the words of the volume’s editor, James Uden, who references the hurdles of COVID-era travel in the introduction.