Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tony Horwitz

Tony Horwitz writes humorous, thoughtful travel/history books that feature his interaction with everyday people. His books focus on an unifying theme that allows him a wide-ranging (geographically and topically) narrative.

In Baghdad Without a Map, he travelled the Arab world just before the first Gulf War. In Confederates in the Attic, one of my favorite books, he traveled the US seeking to understand the continuing fascination and fixation on the US Civil War. Blue Latitudes finds Horwitz following the wake of Captain Cook and assessing the impact on Polynesia.

His newest book, of which I have a review copy, is A Voyage Long and Strange. In this one Horwitz takes a look at the early explorers of America. Noting that Americans, including himself, know (a very little) about the Pilgrims and Columbus and still less about the many other explorers, Horwitz sets out to explore the areas that explorers went and to see what they impact they have today.

While I haven't finished the book, I can say that it is as funny and informative as the prior books. I love his visit to L'Anse Aux Meadows, which is a kind of Viking Colonial Williamsburg, featuring pretend Vikings who talk the talk and walk the walk. It's a barren place, as revealed in this video. Before I read the book, I had a vague sense that historians believed the Vikings had in fact colonized Newfoundland, but I was unaware archaeology had proved it. More on this as I read further.

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