Forgotten Continent: The Battle for Latin America’s Soul by Michael Reid

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Latin America has often been condemned to failure. Neither poor enough to evoke Africa’s moral crusade, nor as explosively booming as India and China, it has largely been overlooked by the West. Yet this vast continent, home to half a billion people, the world’s largest reserves of arable land, and 8.5 percent of global oil, is busily transforming its political and economic landscape. This book argues that rather than failing the test, Latin America’s efforts to build fairer and more prosperous societies make it one of the world’s most vigorous laboratories for capitalist democracy. In many countries, including Brazil, Chile and Mexico, democratic leaders are laying the foundations for faster economic growth and more inclusive politics, as well as tackling deep-rooted problems of poverty, inequality, and social injustice. They face a new challenge from Hugo Chavez’s oil-fueled populism, and much is at stake. Failure will increase the flow of drugs and illegal immigrants to the United States and Europe, jeopardize stability in a region rich in oil and other strategic commodities, and threaten some of the world’s most majestic natural environments. Drawing on Michael Reid’s many years of reporting from inside Latin America’s cities, presidential palaces, and shantytowns, the book provides a vivid, immediate, and informed account of a dynamic continent and its struggle to compete in a globalized world.

Forgotten Continent: The Battle for Latin America’s Soul

Two Wheels on my Wagon: A Bicycle Adventure in the Wild West by Paul Howard

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As bicycle races go, the attractions of the Tour Divide are not immediately apparent. For a start, it is the longest mountain-bike race in the world, running nearly 3,000 miles down the Rockies from Canada to Mexico. But the distance is not the only challenge – the total ascent of 200,000 ft is the equivalent of scaling Mount Everest nearly seven times.
Then there are the dangerous animals likely to be encountered on the route: grizzly bears, mountain lions and wolves, not to mention rattlesnakes and tarantulas. Worse, the rewards for all this effort are strictly limited. Unlike in the Tour de France, there is no fabled yellow jersey and no prize money.
Yet, undaunted, and in spite of never having owned a mountain bike, Paul Howard signed up. Battling the worst weather for generations, drinking whiskey with a cowboy and singing karaoke with the locals, Howard’s journey turned into more than just a race – it became the adventure of a lifetime.

Two Wheels on my Wagon: A Bicycle Adventure in the Wild West

Ripped And Torn: Levi’s, Latin America and the Blue Jean Dream by Amaranta Wright

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Amaranta Wright was a young writer living in Miami when Levi’s hired her to travel through Latin America. Her brief was to befriend teenagers and report back with every aspect of their lives: their hopes, fears, dreams and aspirations. At first, she saw the job as a means to travel around a continent she loved. But as time passed, the more sinister and divisive aspects of what she was being asked to do became apparent, her attempts to understand the dispossessed of these countries constantly frustrated by the mechanics of corporate globalisation – its unspoken aim to reduce individuals to bullet points.
This is a compellingly humane portrait of a continent in crisis – riddled with paradox, complexity, beauty and brutality. It is a book about the arrogance with which we in the West refer to ‘developing’ continents, the developed world’s overarching desire to turn people into consumers, and the often insidious methods employed to this end. It is about what happens when indigenous voices are silenced by corporate vision.

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Caribbean Dispatches: Beyond the Tourist Dream by Jane Bryce

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Caribbean Dispatches takes a highly original approach to one of the world’s most diverse cultures, covering a wide cross-section from Guyana to Trinidad & Tobago in the south to the Bahamas in the north. It offers an entertaining and idiosyncratic collection of personal perspectives on the Caribbean, by 28 writers of different backgrounds, for readers who want to get beneath the exotic surface of the tourist experience. It’s not a guide book, but for the curious it’s full of inside information, with the emphasis on variety, the unexpected and the intimate. It is the ideal companion for anyone fascinated by the Caribbean who wants to find out more, while for those who know the area already, it illuminates hidden corners and takes you further than you’ve ever gone before.

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Bandit Roads: Into the Lawless Heart of Mexico by Richard Grant

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There are many ways to die in the Sierra Madre, a notorious nine-hundred-mile mountain range in northern Mexico where AK-47s are fetish objects, the law is almost non-existent and power lies in the hands of brutal drug mafias. Thousands of tons of opium and marijuana are produced there every year. Richard Grant thought it would be a good idea to travel the length of the Sierra Madre and write a book about it. He was warned before he left that he would be killed. But driven by what he calls ‘an unfortunate fascination’ for this mysterious region, Grant sets off anyway. In a remarkable piece of investigative writing, he evokes a sinister, surreal landscape of lonely mesas, canyons sometimes deeper than the Grand Canyon, hostile villages and an outlaw culture where homicide is the most common cause of death and grandmothers sell cocaine. Finally his luck runs out and he finds himself fleeing for his life, pursued by men who would murder a stranger in their territory ‘to please the trigger finger’.

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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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Ghost Riders: Travels with American Nomads by Richard Grant

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Richard Grant has never spent more than twenty-two consecutive nights under the same roof. Motivated partly by his own wanderlust and partly by his realisation that America is a land populated by wanderers, he set out to test his theory. AMERICAN NOMADS is the extraordinary result. ‘Freedom is impossible and meaningless within the confines of sedentary society, the only true freedom is the freedom to cross the land, beholden to no one’. Grant follows the trails of the first European to wander across the American West (a failed conquistador); joins a group of rodeo-competing cowboys (and gets thrown by a mechanical bull); tells the story of the vanishing nomadic Indians and links up with 300,000 ‘gerito gypsies’ – old people who live and travel in their RVs (Recreational Vehicles). ‘When all is said and done, there are two types of men: those who stay at home and those who do not’ Kipling. This is the story of those that ‘did not’ who are populated – and are still travelling – in America.

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