Summer is winding down, and now is the perfect time to mark off another square on your Bookish Bingo card! Whether you’re looking for a title to carry to the beach or a page-turner to carry you away while on a staycation, these books are sure to take you on an adventure. From the Midwest to Mongolia, from caves deep beneath the sea to flights 30,000 feet in the air, these authors have seen it all—and lived to write the tale.
Starting close to home, Melanie Radzicki McManus’s Thousand-Miler: Adventures of Hiking the Ice Age Trail details her experience walking 1,100 miles of ancient trails throughout the state of Wisconsin. McManus is not on a leisurely stroll; she is endeavoring to set the record for a female thru-hiker on this trail. With humor and compassion, she shares stories of her fellow thru-hikers, describes communities near the trail, and digs into the history of the trail. You’ll see our state through a different lens and might be inspired to walk a mile or two on the Ice Age Trail.
Our community was settled largely by immigrants from Germany, so it seems fitting that our next stop is that country. Schadenfreude, a love story: me, the Germans, and 20 years of attempted transformations, unfortunate miscommunications, and humiliating situations that only they have words for is perhaps the longest book title in our catalogue. Rebecca Shuman is a typical Jewish American teen when she encounters her first love—a teenaged boy with a volume of Franz Kafka in his backpack—which leads to the discovery of her real love: all things German. For the next twenty years, Schuman visits and lives in Germany, trying in both a literal and metaphorical way to make herself understood and to understand. It’s a bildungsroman told with great wit and humor, a snapshot of a young woman discovering herself in a country that’s piecing itself back together after the end of the Cold War.
There’s a trite but rather true impression that most little girls go through a horse-mania phase. Mine was mostly expressed by repeated readings of Black Beauty. Author Lara Prior-Palmer, however, decided to sign up for a 1,000-kilometer (621 mile) horse race. In Mongolia. On a whim. As detailed in Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Loneliest Horse Race, Prior-Palmer is nineteen and all at loose ends when she sees an ad for the Mongolian Derby—a race that recreates Genghis Khan’s horse messenger system. She impulsively decides that riding a series of 25 wild ponies across the steppe is the next logical step in her life-long love of horses and riding. The teenager is woefully underprepared for this race, bringing along scant equipment and unable to work the GPS. Her win is a testament to her grit, determination, and competitive spirit. And yet, because of Prior-Palmer’s frank avowal of her foolhardiness (and her spite towards another competitor), manages to save this memoir from the all-too-familiar narrative of the gritty underdog making good.
If you want to mark two squares with one book for the Bookish Bingo Challenge, Imagine Wanting Only This is the one for you. Kristen Radtke spins her tale in the form of a graphic memoir, relating scenes and circumstances with a combination of lyrical prose and black-and-white art. Loss of a beloved uncle combined with the unwitting desecration of a photographer’s memorial lead the author into a fascination with ruins. Traveling from Cambodia to Colorado, Radtke’s pursuit of these places reveals an existential restlessness, a fear that settling down and settling in means eventual decay into a ruin herself. If you have never thought of a comic book as an art form capable of moving and challenging its readers, Imagine Wanting Only This will shift your perspective.
Perhaps no other author on my list exemplifies the female adventurer as well as Jill Heinerth. She led teams that discovered long-submerged ruins of Mayan civilization, and she is the first person in history to dive deep into an Antarctic iceberg. Her memoir Into The Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver detail her transformation from office drone to renowned cave diver. Her prose is crisp yet conversational, alternately thrilling with its description of danger and charming with its depictions of underwater marvels. From the opening sentence to the final paragraph, Heinerth sets the adrenaline rushing and the imagination free.
What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding: A Memoir
TV comedy writer Kristin Newman spent her 20s and 30s watching her friends get married and start families. Unwilling to either settle down or become the sad single girl, Newman instead spent months each year travelling around the globe. She details her adventures with an easy, infectious humor and delves with equal aplomb into self-reflection. Why is it, exactly, that every obstacle sends her on a transatlantic flight?
Author Kate Harris dreamed of being an explorer when she was a young girl. Unfortunately, the world had already been discovered and mapped long before she grew up in a small Ontario town. In between studying at Oxford and MIT, Harris and her childhood friend decided to travel the Silk Road by bicycle. Cycling through miles of remote countryside, Harris begins to wonder about the definition of “explorer.” It is someone who discovers something, or is it someone who lives life outside of boundaries, discovering themselves?
It is 2011, and all universities in North Korea have been shut down for an entire year, the students sent to construction fields– except for the 270 students at the all-male Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), a walled compound where portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il look on impassively from the walls of every room. Suki Kim offers a moving and incalculably rare glimpse of life in the world’s most unknowable country, and at the privileged young men she calls “soldiers and slaves.”
In 1993, the New York Times debuted a new feature, the Frugal Traveler, in its pages. Susan Spano was the first columnist, and she took her readers on fascinating trips around the globe. French Ghosts, Russian Nights, and American Outlaws is a collection of some her most beloved pieces. Join Spano as she journeys from the Artic Circle to Java, from China to the Andes Mountains. Through her tales, Spano lives her philosophy of life and travel: Go forth and find meaning. And return home with a tan, whenever possible.
All The Way To The Tigers: A Memoir
Mary Morris was supposed to be going on sabbatical. Instead, an accident left her in a wheelchair for three months while she endured two surgeries, extensive rehabilitation, and doubts about her ability to ever walk again. While reading Death In Venice, she was captivated by the lines, “He would go on a journey. Not far. Not all the way to the tigers.” Morris decided then and there that she would travel all the way to the tigers. She spent weeks over a three-year period in India, searching for the world’s most elusive predator, learning about and finding a deep connection to the wild cat. Told in over a hundred short chapters, Morris weaves a multi-layered tale of determination, family, travel, and growth.
Book descriptions are courtesy of Monarch Catalog, except Schadenfreude, a love story: me, the Germans, and 20 years of attempted transformations, unfortunate miscommunications, and humiliating situations that only they have words for—provided by Amazon.