Books make good gifts 

GoMmech.indd“The Geography of Madness: Penis Thieves, Voodoo Death and the Search for the Meaning of the World’s Strangest Syndromes” by Frank Bures
This book is perfect for that sensitive, inquisitive, scholarly cousin, friend or daughter—the one who is always wondering about human behavior and humans in groups, the one who wants to know what everything in the whole world means—the social scientist in your midst.
Give them a trip to Nigeria and China with author and seasoned traveler Bures as he explores the phenomena of penis thieves and voodoo death. It’s not light reading, but it’s not a textbook, either, by any means.
As Bures criss-crosses the globe talking with health-shop proprietors, doctors and researchers, meeting hip, young interpreters, and riding along on assorted modes of transportation, he examines how beliefs and ideas come into being. He studies hundreds of texts illuminating how different cultures understand the causes of maladies.  He learns the stories of different groups of people and explains how humans’ ideas of what-causes-what are shaped by those stories. His fascinating foray into the relationship between belief systems and health in various cultures pushes the limits of our Western science, our Western biomedical model. By writing in first person he pulls the reader into the urgency of his quest.
Supporting his wonderfully readable scientific discussions, Bures weaves in poetic passages; searing, open-hearted autobiographical introspection (about his own culture shock, becoming a writer, a family tragedy, his brother’s conversion and his beloved wife and children);  and a vivid travelogue.
Dozens of soaring reviews attest to the vitality of his discussion.  (Elaine Klaassen)

pettersen“Backpacking with Dracula: On the Trail of Vlad ‘the Impaler’ Dracula and the Vampire He Inspired” by Leif Pettersen
In 2006, Leif Pettersen left his stable job and life in Minneapolis, packed a backpack and hit the road in pursuit of his dream to become a travel writer. He landed in Romania, where he began writing for the Lonely Planet guidebook series. But he also began exploring the world of Vlad the Impaler, folk hero and savior of the Romanian people, as well as one of the bloodthirstiest rulers of his time. In “Backpacking with Dracula,” Pettersen further delves into these stories (which it turns out were not so different from other rulers at the time) as well as the one created by Bram Stroker in his classic book, “Dracula,” which maddens Romanians to no end, having turned their hero into a monster. These histories are recounted alongside Pettersen’s own journey as a travel writer, and make for a delightful, if at times macabre, read. For anyone interested in European history, or various ways to punish and/or impale your enemies, this is  great reading, and Pettersen makes a hilarious, informative traveling companion. (Frank Bures)

mack“Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day: One Man, Eight Countries, One Vintage Travel Guide” by Doug Mack
In the 1960s, thousands of young travelers fanned out through the Old World clutching copies of Arthur Frommer’s “Europe on $5 a Day.”  They were loosely following a route known as the Grand Tour. They reshaped the continent and changed the place it occupied in our minds.  In fact, they may have changed the place itself.  When travel writer Doug Mack stumbled across an early copy of Frommer’s book and showed it to his mother, she was ecstatic with the memory of her own trip, and even dug up her old letters to his (then not-yet) father.  Reading these made Mack nostalgic for a time of innocence in travel long past.  So he decided to try to recapture a bit of it, by traveling to Europe the old-fashioned way:  guided only by a copy of the 1963 edition of “Europe on $5 a Day,” his mother’s letters and the Fates. Along the way, Mack is affable, funny and self-deprecating. But what keeps this from being just another voyage of self-discovery is his deep-research into the history of tourism, as well as his thoughtful meditations along the way:  Mack questions what exactly it means to be a “tourist,” versus a “traveler.” He meditates on what the notion “authenticity” can possibly mean today.  He wrestles with how connected he should be to the world back home, ultimately concluding that, “the most important travel app is the off button.” And by the end, he reminds us why we fell in love with travel, and Europe, in the first place. (Frank Bures)

All books are available at Amazon.com as well as your local book shops.

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