Armchair Explorations

Across the world there are people whose cultures are still a mystery to outsiders. The "walking dead," cannibalism, and other customs usually found in lurid fiction often have a basis in the reality of some other place. Come, explore with anthropologists and other wanderers whose sense of adventure goes hand in hand with their scientific desire to discover the truth behind the legends.

The Stars, the Snow, the Fire: Twenty-five Years in the Northern Wilderness

By John Haines

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For 25 years the poet John Haines lived, trapped, and hunted on the windswept hills above the Tanana River east of Fairbanks, Alaska. In this remarkable collection of essays he turns a poet's eye on his existence there and captures a life lived for the sake of survival.
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The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition

By Caroline Alexander

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In August 1914, days before the outbreak of the First World War, the renowned explorer Ernest Shackleton and a crew of twenty-seven set sail for the South Atlantic in pursuit of the last unclaimed prize in the history of exploration: the first crossing on foot of the Antarctic continent. Weaving a treacherous path through the freezing Weddell Sea, they had come within eighty-five miles of their destination when their ship, Endurance, was trapped fast in the ice pack. Soon the ship was crushed like matchwood, leaving the crew stranded on the floes. Their ordeal would last for twenty months, and they would make two near-fatal attempts to escape by open boat before their final rescue. Drawing upon previously unavailable sources, Caroline Alexander gives us a riveting account of Shackleton's expedition--one of history's greatest epics of survival. And she presents the astonishing work of Frank Hurley, the Australian photographer whose visual record of the adventure has never before been published comprehensively.

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Never Cry Wolf

By Farley Mowat

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"Mowat is dropped alone onto the frozen tundra, where he begins his mission to live among the howling wolf packs and study their waves. Contact with his quarry comes quickly, and Mowat discovers not a den of marauding killers but a courageous family of skillful providers and devoted protectors of their young. As Mowat comes closer to the wolf world, he comes to fear with them on onslaught of bounty hunters and government exterminators out to erase the noble wolf community from the Arctic."

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Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster

By Jon Krakauer

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Into Thin Air is the definitive account of the deadliest season in the history of Mount Everest. Five climbers died, and another was badly injured in the rogue storm that swept Everest in May of 1996. This book is available on audio and was also adapted into a movie version.

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Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft

By Thor Heyerdahl

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Am going to cross Pacific on a wooden raft to support a theory that the South Sea islands were peopled from Peru. Will you come? Reply at once.

That is how six brave and inquisitive men came to seek a dangerous path to test a scientific theory. On a primitive raft made of forty-foot balsa logs and named Kon-Tiki in honor of a legendary sun king, Heyerdahl and five companions deliberately risked their lives to show that the ancient Peruvians could have made the 4,300-mile voyage to the Polynesian islands on a similar craft. On every page of this true chronicle from the actual building of the raft through all the dangerous and comic adventures on the sea, to the spectacular crash-landing and the native islanders hula dances each reader will find a wholesome and spellbinding escape from the twenty-first century. Actual film from the expedition is available on an Academy Award-winning documentary.

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Two Years Before the Mast

By Richard Henry Dana

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The narrative of the author's journey from Boston around the Cape Horn and landing at a port in the western coast of the United States. A classic work of non-fiction that inspired Melville.

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Marrying Anita: A Quest for Love in the New India

By Anita Jain

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Is arranged marriage any worse than Craig's List? After all this effort, there had to be something easier. After announcing in a much-discussed New York magazine article her intention to try arranged marriage, Jain moves back to India—the impoverished, backward land her parents fled—to find a husband. At age thirty-two, and well past the cultural deadline for starting a family, Jain subjects herself to a whole new onslaught of expectations.Marrying Anita is an account of romantic chance encounters, nosy relatives, and dozens of potential husbands. Will she find a suitable man? Will he please her parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins? Is the new urban Indian culture in which she’s searching really all that different from America? With disarming candor, Jain tells her own romantic story even as it unfolds before her, and in the process sheds new light on a country modernizing at breakneck speed.
(from the publisher's description)

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Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour

By Kate Fox

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A bestseller in the UK, Watching the English is a biting, affectionate, insightful and often hilarious look English Society. Putting the English national character under her anthropological microscope, Fox finds a strange and fascinating culture, governed by complex sets of unspoken rules and bizarre codes of behavior. Through a mixture of anthropological analysis and her own unorthodox experiments-even using herself as a reluctant guinea-pig-Fox discovers what these unwritten codes tell us about Englishness. (from the publisher's description)
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The Bread of Angels: A Journey to Love and Faith

By Stephanie Saldaña

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A romantic memoir of a young woman's year in Damascus. In 2004, 27-year-old Stephanie Saldaña traveled to Syria on a Fulbright fellowship to study the role of the prophet Jesus in Islam. She was also fleeing a broken heart. It was not an ideal time to be an American in the Middle East--the United States had recently invaded Iraq, refugees were flooding into Damascus, and dark rumors swirled that Syria might be next to come under American attack. Miserable and lonely, Stephanie left Damascus to visit an ancient Christian monastery carved into the desert cliffs. In that beautiful, austere setting, she confronted her wavering faith and met Frédéric, a young French novice monk. As they set out to explore the mysteries entwining Christianity and Islam, Stephanie slowly realized that she had found God again--and that she was in love with Frédéric. But would Frédéric choose God or Stephanie? (from the publisher's description)

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Unfinished Conquest: The Guatemalan Tragedy

By Victor Perera

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Spanning thirty years of civil war in Guatemala, Unfinished Conquest portrays an embattled country and traces the subjugation of the Maya population from the Conquest to the present. Victor Perera weaves personal narrative with reportage and oral testimony to reveal a society torn apart by violence, poverty, and injustice. (From the summary)

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