The New Great Game: Blood and Oil in Central Asia by Lutz Kleveman

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The Caspian Region, lying south of Russia, west of China and north of Afghanistan, contains the world’s largest untapped oil and gas resources. In the years between the death of the Soviet Union and September 11, 2001, oil companies and politicians have struggled to possess and develop these resources. Using a concept immortalised by Kipling in his novel Kim, Lutz Kleveman argues that there is now a new ‘Great Game’ in the region, in which the US, Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Iran – most of which are nuclear powers – are competing.. Kleveman has produced an insightful and exacting portrait of a new theatre of war, a region in which there are few rules and in which the rewards for victory are nothing less than power and prosperity in the new century.

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A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain

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Anthony Bourdain, life-long line cook and bestselling author of “Kitchen Confidential”, sets off to eat his way around the world. But being Anthony Bourdain, this was never going to be a conventional culinary tour. Bourdain heads out to Saigon where he eats the still-beating heart of a live cobra, and travels deep into landmined Khmer Rouge territory to find the rumoured Wild West of Cambodia (Pailin). Other stops include dining with gangsters in Russia, a medieval pig slaughter and feast in northern Portugal, the Basque All Male Gastronomique Society in Saint Sebastian, rural Mexico with his Mexican sous-chef, a pilgrimage to the French Laundry in the Napa Valley and a return to his roots in the tiny fishing village of La Teste, where he first ate an oyster as a child. Written with the inimitable machismo and humour that has made Tony Bourdain such a sensation, “A Cook’s Tour” is an adventure story sure to give you indigestion.

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23 Sweet FAs: Round the World with a Football Table by Andy Sloan

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23 Sweet FAs records Andy’s adventure through Europe, Russia, Iran, India, the Himalayas and the Far East. He encountered a warm welcome from the president of FIFA, witnessed the titanic clash of Iran v Iraq, took tea in the home of the Dalai Lama, survived tragedy on Mount Everest and celebrated triumph in Japan. Bursting with enthusiasm, football histories and fascinating trivia, 23 Sweet FAs proves that cultural difference is no barrier when it comes to the beautiful game.

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I Was a Potato Oligarch: Travels and Travails in the New Russia by John Mole

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From the bestselling author of It s All Greek to Me! and from a traveller who likes to get his hands as well as his boots dirty, this is an eye-wateringly funny true story of his travels and travails in the New Russia Sometimes sinister, often hilarious and always entertaining, I Was A Potato Oligarch is a Russian feast from caviar to samovar The Soviet Union has disappeared along with people s nationality, currency, jobs, salaries, pensions, politics. Oligarchs pillage the nation’s wealth. It looks as if Russia might become a liberal democracy. It also looks as if it might plunge into chaos. These are fascinating times and John Mole wants to be part of this New Russia. But what can he do? An MBA, 15 years in international banking and a few novels, have left him with few useful skills. Inspiration strikes – British fast food! Nobody is doing baked potatoes and the secret is in the packaging. He gets to work with technical advice from Jackets of Brixton, money from the British taxpayer, and a partnership with the Russian Farmers’ Union. And then, just as it takes off – the summons. Breakfast with the mafia… The potato business becomes a journey under the skin of the New Russia. Hired as a rabotnik, a worker, entitled to a week in a sanatorium every year, he tries to corner the market in business names and pizza cheese. He is taken for a corpse’s son, a Red Square demonstrator and a vampire’s victim. He tries to merge into his surroundings, too literally sometimes, but nothing that a hose-down and a change of clothes doesn’t put right. While he is trying to sell British fast food to Russians, Russians try to sell things to him. Fireworks, seashells, tungsten, the scrapings of baby reindeer horn. And advanced biotechnology, using bacteria to purify the air in submarines. Spuds end in fiasco. Bugs come to the rescue.

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Mission Mongolia: Two Men, One Van, No Turning Back by David Treanor

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It was an empty landscape now with huge horizons in every direction, a compressed, steam-rollered desert where man had no place. We lacked the skills to carry out even basic fixes. If the van stopped working we were really stuck. No one knew where we were and our last mobile phone signal had been 150 miles ago. Fifty-something and tired of arguing with John Humphrys over the day’s headlines, BBC journalists Geoff and David found themselves eagerly volunteering for redundancy. But rather than easing into retirement with the odd round of golf, they decided to buy a van and drive off to Mongolia. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time… In an epic journey through Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Siberia and across the Gobi Desert, they discover more about each other in a few weeks than they did sharing an office for years. Lying in wait are crooked cops, bent border guards and terrible roads, but also welcoming and curious locals, eager to help the pair on their mission.

In Siberia by Colin Thubron

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In the early 80s Colin Thubron wrote a bestselling book about his travels around the Soviet Union in an old Morris Minor. In the late 90s, post Soviet Union, he decided to explore Siberia – this time by truck, by bus, by boat. The result is a wonderfully readable and evocative account of an extraordinary region. He travels through exotic cities and deserted villages, meets nostalgic old Stalinists and aggressive Orthodox churchmen, and generally interweaves Siberia’s fascinating history with a vivid description of the place today.
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