A Measure of Belonging: Twenty-One Writers of Color on the New American South by Cinelle Barnes (editor)What it is: a collection of wide-ranging essays about belonging written by people of color who have lived or are living in the Southern United States.
Writers include: Kiese Laymon; Toni Jensen; Soniah Kamal; Joy Priest; Natalia Sylvester; Regina Bradley; Aruni Kashyap; Ivelisse Rodriguez.
Reviewers say: "A sweet Southern sampling" (Kirkus Reviews); "a clear and nuanced picture of the contemporary south, delivered with humor, sass, and pride" (Booklist).
The Deepest South of All: True Stories from Natchez, Mississippi by Richard GrantWhat it is: a mix of history and travelogue that presents a fascinating portrait of Natchez, Mississippi, tracing the city's past and present and its remarkable contradictions.
Read it for: intriguing stories about locals, including a 19th-century enslaved West African prince and modern-day feuding garden club members.
Why you might like it: vibrant writing; eye-opening history; the examination of racism through the lens of one town.
Blue Sky Kingdom: An Epic Family Journey to the Heart of the Himalaya by Bruce KirkbyFeaturing: Canadian TV journalist Bruce Kirkby, his introverted wife Christine, their highly intelligent autistic seven-year-old son Bodi, and their free-spirited three-year-old son Taj.
What happened: From British Columbia, they slow traveled (no planes!) for three months, making their way to South Korea, India, China, and Nepal, and then stayed at a Buddhist monastery for three months.
For fans of: rich, uplifting family travelogues; the Travel Channel's Big Crazy Family Adventure, which covers the first part of their trip.
On All Fronts: The Education of a Journalist by Clarissa WardWhat it is: the absorbing memoir of an award-winning journalist (now CNN's chief international correspondent), covering her unconventional childhood and drawing on her nearly two decades of experience reporting from Beirut, Baghdad, Syria, Egypt, and more.
Don't miss: her Moscow encounter with Muammar Gaddafi's lecherous son; her time on the set of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill in Beijing.
Read this next: Lynsey Addario It's What I Do; Marie Colvin's On the Front Line; Janine di Giovanni's The Morning They Came For Us.
The National Road: Dispatches from a Changing America by Tom ZoellnerWhat's inside: 14 entertaining, evocative essays filled with incisive musings on change and place and covering the author's eclectic travels, usually in a car, across the U.S. over three decades.
Locations include: Spillville, Iowa (where Dvořák composed Symphony No. 9); a porn studio in Los Angeles; the streets of St. Louis; a Mormon historical site after hours; his grandmother's house in Arizona.
For fans of: William Least Heat-Moon's classic Blue Highways; Paul Theroux's Deep South; James and Deborah Fallows' Our Towns.
Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness by Edward AbbeyWhat it is: a classic account, first published in 1968, of author Edward Abbey's experiences, observations, and reflections as a seasonal park ranger in 1950s Arches National Monument in Utah, including a trip by boat down Glen Canyon.
Want a taste? "The ravens cry out in husky voices, blue-black wings flapping against the golden sky."
Read this next: for a newer contemplative look at the desert, try Ben Ehrenreich's Desert Notebooks; for another lyrical look at national parks, pick up Terry Tempest Williams' The Hour of the Land.
Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey through Every National Park by Conor KnightonThe impetus: his fiancée unexpectedly called things off (and then got engaged to her co-worker), leaving him at a crossroads.
What it is: a thematically arranged (Animals, God, Ice, Love, People, etc.), personal look at 59 U.S. national parks over the course of a year.
Did you know? As part of a video series on the National Park Service's 100th anniversary in 2016, the author, a CBS Sunday Morning correspondent, also did TV segments at several of the locations he visited.
Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World by M.R. O'ConnorWhat it's about: After getting lost in New Mexico due to a GPS fail, M.R. O'Connor became fascinated with older methods of navigation, so she met with scientists and traveled to the Arctic, Australia, and Oceania to learn about traditional wayfinding.
Read it for: the vivid descriptions; the multidisciplinary approach to the topic; the intriguing look at spatial cognition and memory.
Reviewers say: "her narrative is a marvel of storytelling on its own merits, erudite but lightly worn" (Kirkus Reviews).
Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary OliverWhat's inside: a lyrical collection of essays by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver, who died in 2019, that describes her lifelong wanderings in nature and how it inspired her creatively.
Why you might like it: Oliver contemplates artistic labor, observation, and great thinkers and writers of the past.
Want a taste? "I could not be a poet without the natural world. Someone else could. But not me. For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple."
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