Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Routes of Man

How Roads Change the World and How We Live Today
Ted Conover

One might expect a dull, academic, sociological treatise based on the subtitle but fear not, The Routes of Man is a collection of road trips made by the author over the years, magazine article assignment reworked into a fun, informative and easy to read book.

Conover begins the book with a ride over the Andes mountains in Peru in the cab of a truck hauling mahogany logs. They also carry passengers on top of the load. The highest part of the mountain road is unpaved, filled with switchbacks and unguarded dropoffs and single lane encounters with vehicles coming the other way. Peru is building a modern highway to connect the Amazon basin and Brazil with the Pacific coast, which will make this trip much faster and easier and help to denude the rain forest even faster.

Conover takes a walk on a frozen river in Kashmir with a group of Kashmiri outh who are headed to boarding school. Walking out on the ice is an annual ritual for people from these remote villages, near the Tibetan border.  India is slowly building a road, which will eventually allow the villagers to walk down from the mountains without fear of falling through thin ice. That's a good thing, except that it will also bring the Indian and Pakistani armies closer together, right in their home.

He then takes a ride from Mombasa, Kenya into Uganda, also on a truck. This is the route famous for spreading aids across east Africa. The driver and his "turnboy" are willing participants in this process.

He then visits the West Bank, where he goes through several Israeli army checkpoints. It's easier for an American journalist than for a Palestinian college professor to go through them.

Conover takes a ride on new Chinese superhighways with a "self driving" club.

The road trips are interrupted by a chapter on the evolutionary growth of Broadway, starting with a Wickquasgeck Indian foot path.

Finally, Conover rides with an ambulance crew in Lagos Nigeria. A Lagos ambulance is sort of a mobile first aid station, as people have no other access to medical care and the roads are so congested that they can't get anyone to a hospital anyway.

In each chapter there is a bit  of discussion about how change is inevitably coming down the road.  This is news?
This post is in the 47th

Book Review Blog Carnival

keywords: memoir, journalism, travel


  1. Not sure why this review has me with the giggles (I could just be overly tired), but your succinctness definitely got your point across. I love it (the review, that is)!

  2. Thank you, Michele,I'm glad you enjoyed it. I aim to please.

  3. I am half way through this one now and thoroughly enjoying it.


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