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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The Man Who Cycled the Americas by Mark Beaumont

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In 2008, Mark Beaumont smashed the world record for cycling around the world, by an astonishing 81 days. His race against the clock took him through the toughest terrain and the most demanding of conditions. In 2009, Mark set out on his second ultra-endurance challenge. And this one would involve some very big mountains.
The Man Who Cycled the Americas tells the story of a 15,000 mile expedition that once again broke the barriers of human achievement. To pedal the longest mountain range on the planet, solo and unsupported, presented its own unique difficulties. But no man had ever previously summited the continents’ two highest peaks, Mt McKinley in Alaska and Aconcagua in Argentina, in the same climbing season, let alone cycling between them. Oh, and Mark had never even been up Ben Nevis before.
Full of his trademark charm, warmth and fascination with seeing the world at the pace of a bicycle, Mark Beaumont’s second book is a testament to his love of adventure, his joy of taking on tough mental and physical feats, and offers a thrilling trip through the diverse cultures of the Americas.

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Stephen Fry in America by Stephen Fry

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Stephen Fry has always loved America, in fact he came very close to being born there. Here, his fascination for the country and its people sees him embarking on an epic journey across America, visiting each of its 50 states to discover how such a huge diversity of people, cultures, languages, beliefs and landscapes combine to create such a remarkable nation.
Starting on the eastern seaboard, Stephen zig-zags across the country in his London taxicab, talking to its hospitable citizens, listening to its music, visiting its landmarks, viewing small-town life and America’s breath-taking landscapes – following wherever his curiosity leads him.
Stephen meets a collection of remarkable individuals – American icons and unsung local heroes alike. Stephen starts his epic journey on the east coast and zig-zags across America, stopping in every state from Maine to Hawaii. En route he discovers the South Side of Chicago with blues legend Buddy Guy, catches up with Morgan Freeman in Mississippi, strides around with Ted Turner on his Montana ranch, marches with Zulus in New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, and drums with the Sioux Nation in South Dakota; joins a Georgia family for thanksgiving, ‘picks’ with Bluegrass hillbillies, and finds himself in a Tennessee garden full of dead bodies.
Whether in a club for failed gangsters (yes, those are real bullet holes) or celebrating Halloween in Salem (is there anywhere better?), Stephen is welcomed by the people of America – mayors, sheriffs, newspaper editors, park rangers, teachers and hobos, bringing to life the oddities and splendours of each locale.
A celebration of the magnificent and the eccentric, the beautiful and the strange, Stephen Fry in America is our author’s homage to this extraordinary country.

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The Good Life: Up the Yukon without a Paddle by Dorian Amos

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Have you ever felt that in order to fulfil the dream of the good life, you need to escape the business and day to day rat race of the bustling metropolis.
Dorian Amos – a painter from Cornwall and his wife decided that they were in need of adventure. Having searched their world atlas they decided to sell up and move to Canada in search of a new and better life.
Having bought Pricey the car, Boris Lock their faithful dog, a canoe and their fishing equipment they set off into the Yukon Wilderness to find a place they could call home.
After months of camping alone in the great outdoors where they encountered bears and madmen, they eventually arrived at Dawson City, home to one of the great gold rushes of the 20th century. It was here that they found a run down log cabin in the mountains nearby and began a new and fascinating life. A life they had always known they wanted.

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The Lost Continent: Travels In Small Town America by Bill Bryson

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‘I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to’
And, as soon as Bill Bryson was old enough, he left. Des Moines couldn’t hold him, but it did lure him back. After ten years in England, he returned to the land of his youth, and drove almost 14,000 miles in search of a mythical small town called Amalgam, the kind of trim and sunny place where the films of his youth were set. Instead, his search led him to Anywhere, USA; a lookalike strip of gas stations, motels and hamburger outlets populated by lookalike people with a penchant for synthetic fibres. Travelling around thirty-eight of the lower states – united only in their mind-numbingly dreary uniformity – he discovered a continent that was doubly lost; lost to itself because blighted by greed, pollution, mobile homes and television; lost to him because he had become a stranger in his own land.
The Lost Continent is a classic of travel literature – hilariously, stomach-achingly funny, yet tinged with heartache – and the book that first staked Bill Bryson’s claim as the most beloved writer of his generation.
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Hell’s Gorge: The Battle To Build The Panama Canal by Matthew Parker

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Hell’s Gorge traces a heroic dream that spanned four centuries: to build a canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.The human cost was immense: in appalling working conditions and amid epidemics of fever, tens of thousands perished fighting the jungle, swamps and mountains of Panama, a scale of attrition comparable to many great battles.
Matthew Parker explores the fierce geo-political struggle behind the heroic vision of the canal, and the immense engineering and medical battles that were fought. But he also weaves in the stories of the ordinary men and women who worked on the canal, to evoke everyday life on the construction and depict the battle on the ground deep in ‘Hell’s Gorge’. Using diaries, memoirs, contemporary newspapers and previously unseen private letters, he draws a vivid picture of the heart-breaking struggle on the Isthmus, in particular that of the British West Indians who made up the majority of the canal workforce.
Hell’s Gorge is a tale of politics, finance, press manipulation, scandal and intrigue, populated by a dazzling cast of idealists and bullies, heroes and conmen. But it is also a moving tribute to the ‘Forgotten Silvermen’, so many of whom died to fulfil the centuries-old canal dream.
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Tequila Oil: Getting Lost In Mexico by Hugh Thomson

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It’s 1979, Hugh Thomson is eighteen, far from home, with time to kill – and on his way to Mexico. When a stranger tells him there’s money to be made by driving a car over the US border to sell on the black market in Central America, Hugh decides to give it a go. Throwing himself on the mercy of Mexicans he meets or crashes into, Hugh and his Oldsmobile 98 journey through the region, meeting their fate in the slums of Belize City. Thirty years on, Hugh returns – older but not necessarily wiser – to complete his journey.
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