longest roadIn The Longest Road one of America’s most respected writers takes an epic journey across America, Airstream in tow, and asks everyday Americans what unites and divides a country as endlessly diverse as it is large.

Standing on a wind-scoured island off the Alaskan coast, Philip Caputo marveled that its Inupiat Eskimo schoolchildren pledge allegiance to the same flag as the children of Cuban immigrants in Key West, six thousand miles away. A question began to take shape: How does the United States, peopled by every race on earth, remain united? Caputo resolved that one day he’d drive from the nation’s southernmost point to the northernmost point reachable by road, talking to everyday Americans about their lives and asking how they would answer his question. So it was that in 2011 Caputo, his wife and their two English setters made their way in a truck and classic trailer (hereafter known as “Fred” and “Ethel”) from Key West, Florida, to Deadhorse, Alaska, covering 16,000 miles. He spoke to everyone from a West Virginia couple saving souls to a Native American shaman and taco entrepreneur. What he found is a story that will entertain and inspire readers as much as it informs them about the state of today’s United States, the glue that holds us all together, and the conflicts that could cause us to pull apart. (description from publisher)

Did you travel somewhere exciting this summer?  Did you take photographs that you want to share, but your family has watched your slideshow enough?  Then maybe you should submit your photos to the German American Heritage Center’s Travel Photography Contest!  You have until September 22nd to submit your potentially winning photograph, and selected photographs will be on exhibit from October 6th until January 5th.

In the meantime, you should check out some of the library’s photography resources for inspiration or instruction.

shutterfly     70yearslife     digitalthroughyear     night&lowlight

The shutterfly guide to great digital photos by Jeffery Housenbold

The complete guide to night & lowlight digital photography by Michael Freeman

Platinum anniversary collection : 70 years of extraordinary photography 

Capture the light : a guide for beginning digital photographers by Steve Meltzer

lonelyplanet      ansel adams      capture the light     ultimate field guide

Lonely Planet’s Guide to travel photography by Richard l’Anson

Digital photography through the year by Tom Ang

Ultimate field guide to travel photography by Scott Stuckey

Ansel Adams in the national parks : photographs from America’s wild places by Ansel Adams

grant woods iowaIconic Regionalist American Artist Grant Wood certainly left his mark on the international art world – and on Iowa, his home state. Wood’s American Gothic is one of the most recognizable paintings in the world, and his work graces museums far and wide. Now you can tour Iowa with a thoughtful, detailed exploration of Wood’s life and the historical context of his work.

Grant Wood’s Iowa explores Wood’s role in the art world with self-guided museum tours and detailed discussions of his work, but it also allows you to get out into the Iowa he loved – a place that hasn’t changed all that much since Wood’s era. You’ll find nature hikes and parks where you’ll enjoy the landscapes that inspired Wood; county fairs and arts festivals that celebrate Wood and the rural character of his beloved home; modern eco-attractions, theaters, and wineries; and the studios and galleries of the Iowa artists who are Wood’s heirs.

In order to understand Wood’s work, one must first understand the Iowa he lived in. This unique guide allows you to fully appreciate Iowa’s role in nurturing Wood’s wit, humor, and enormous talent. It also explains his leading role in the Midwestern Regionalism art movement and introduces us to other major Iowa artists who were contemporaries influenced by Wood. The only book of its kind, Grant Wood’s Iowa assists vacationing and resident art aficionados in understanding and appreciating Wood’s important body of work in the cultural and environmental context of his home state. Wood’s life is lovingly detailed, from his childhood on a farm to his adulthood teaching and working in Iowa’s small-town communities. Grant Wood’s Iowa transports art lovers into the creative world of this iconic and quintessentially American artist. (description from publisher)

cooks clown and cowboysYou know the question’s coming: what did you do on your holiday? Master the experiences in Cooks, Clowns and Cowboys : 101 Skills and Experiences to Discover on Your Travels and you can reply:

I created a perfume in France.

I danced the flamenco in Seville.

I mixed the perfect martini in New York.

I earned my cosmonaut stripes in Russia.

I rode with cowboys in Argentina.

Saddle up for a new you, and come back from your travels with more than just a suntan. (description from publisher)

off the beaten pageOff the Beaten Page by Terri Smith encourages avid readers, particularly those in book clubs and other groups, to leave the security of their living rooms and seek to experience in person the places they’ve read about.This book is ideal for anyone eager to mix their love of travel and quality time with friends or family with their desire for meaningful cultural experiences.

Inspired by years of excursions with her own book club, award-winning journalist Terri Smith offers lively, expert guidance through fifteen US destinations including Boston, Chicago, Austin, and Santa Fe. She describes each destination’s literary heritage and attractions and suggests three-day itineraries that include plenty of lit-inspired excursions – a tour of Santa Monica through the eyes of Raymond Chandler, a Devil in the White City view of Chicago in the Gilded Age, an exploration of Edith Wharton’s elite Newport, Rhode Island – while blending in “beyond the book” experiences such as Broadway shows, Segway tours and kayaking.

Practical, entertaining and inspirational, Off the Beaten Page is the ideal companion for adventurous readers or anyone looking to enrich a weekend getaway. (description from publisher)

eighty daysOn November 14, 1889, Nellie Bly, the crusading young female reporter for Joseph Pulitzer’s World newspaper, left New York City by steamship on a quest to break the record for the fastest trip around the world. Also departing from New York that day—and heading in the opposite direction by train—was a young journalist from The Cosmopolitan magazine, Elizabeth Bisland. Each woman was determined to outdo Jules Verne’s fictional hero Phileas Fogg and circle the globe in less than eighty days. The dramatic race that ensued would span twenty-eight thousand miles, captivate the nation, and change both competitors’ lives forever.

The two women were a study in contrasts. Nellie Bly was a scrappy, hard-driving, ambitious reporter from Pennsylvania coal country who sought out the most sensational news stories, often going undercover to expose social injustice. Genteel and elegant, Elizabeth Bisland had been born into an aristocratic Southern family, preferred novels and poetry to newspapers, and was widely referred to as the most beautiful woman in metropolitan journalism. Both women, though, were talented writers who had carved out successful careers in the hypercompetitive, male-dominated world of big-city newspapers. Eighty Days brings these trailblazing women to life as they race against time and each other, unaided and alone, ever aware that the slightest delay could mean the difference between victory and defeat.

A vivid real-life re-creation of the race and its aftermath, from its frenzied start to the nail-biting dash at its finish, Eighty Days is history with the heart of a great adventure novel. Here’s the journey that takes us behind the walls of Jules Verne’s Amiens estate, into the back alleys of Hong Kong, onto the grounds of a Ceylon tea plantation, through storm-tossed ocean crossings and mountains blocked by snowdrifts twenty feet deep, and to many more unexpected and exotic locales from London to Yokohama. Along the way, we are treated to fascinating glimpses of everyday life in the late nineteenth century—an era of unprecedented technological advances, newly remade in the image of the steamship, the railroad, and the telegraph. For Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland—two women ahead of their time in every sense of the word—were not only racing around the world. They were also racing through the very heart of the Victorian age. (description from publisher)

appalachian trailCompleted in 1937 by a small cadre of volunteers, the Appalachian Trail spans fourteen states from Maine to Georgia and is more than 2,000 miles long. Now, 75 years after its completion, the A.T. remains America’s premier hiking trail and is known as “the People’s Path.” Visitors from all over the world are drawn to the trail for a variety of reasons: to reconnect with nature, to escape the stress of city life, to meet new people, or to experience a simpler life. Out of three million annual visitors, almost 2,000 attempt to earn the distinction of “thru-hiker” by walking all five million footsteps in one continuous journey.

The only illustrated book officially published with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, The Appalachian Trail explores highlights of this legendary footpath with more than 250 spectacular contemporary images, historical photos and documents from the ATC archives, and detailed maps pinpointing each location along the trail. Readers can experience the trail as if their boots were on the path–passing by the iconic white trail blazes, taking in the surrounding wilderness at scenic overlooks, meeting other hikers at lean-tos or shelters, freezing at the sight of a black bear, moose, or other majestic wildlife.

With fascinating essays on topics ranging from the history of the trail to the hiking experience, this book is perfect for anyone interested in conservation, outdoor recreation, or American history, or for those who dream of one day becoming thru-hikers themselves. (description from publisher)

After hearing a glowing review on NPR praising this witty and charming book, I quickly placed a hold on a copy of Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple.  Told primarily through emails, faxes, letters, and transcripts of taped conversations, the novel explores the events leading up to agoraphobic housewife Bernadette Fox’s disappearance.  She and her Microsoft bigwig husband promise their gifted daughter Bee that if she gets straight A’s at her prestigious middle school, she can have anything she wants as a graduation gift.  Bernadette’s worst nightmare comes true when Bee succeeds and chooses a family trip to Antarctica.  She attempts to cope with this sudden obligation to be around (gasp) people; she even hires a virtual assistant in India to make all the vacation preparations!  That’s why it is such a shock when Bernadette disappears just before they are due to embark on the trip.  Bee compiles these documents looking for clues, hoping against all evidence that she can bring her mom home again.

Semple was a writer for Arrested Development and it shows in this book, in which witty dialogue and over-the-top scenarios abound.  Bernadette’s feud with the PTA moms at Bee’s school, most notably with the one who lives next door, is ridiculous and hysterical.  Neighbor tresspasses to insist that Bernadette remove some unsightly blackberry vines?  Better erect a 5 ft. x 8 ft. billboard telling her to stay off the property, of course!  But despite all of the wacky humor, at the heart of this novel is a very touching mother-daughter relationship.  Bee will stop at nothing to find out what happened to her mother, and it is her unconditional love and determination that will render you unable to stop reading until you find out how their story ends.

In 1930, Agatha Christie married her second husband, Max Mallowan, an archeologist, and spent many happy seasons accompanying him on his archeological digs in the Middle East. Her experiences with the people and the environment then became inspirations for many of her most famous novels including Death on the Nile, Murder in Mesopotamia, and Murder on the Orient Express. Agatha Christie wrote Come, Tell Me How You Live as response to the many people who asked her what it was like to travel around the cradle of civilization on her husband’s expeditions in Syria, Iraq and many other places.

I ADORE this book. From lamenting over her husband shoving books into her carefully packed crate at the last minute to becoming tongue-tied with feeling inferior while chatting with their architect to running out of her bedroom screaming due to being covered in mice and cockroaches (her husband recommended that she just go to sleep and then she wouldn’t notice them crawling over her…yeah right), I just found Agatha to be so lovely and Britishy and wonderful! She manages to be both neurotic yet brave, awkward yet charming, silly yet shrewd, much like a heroine in a Sophie Kinsella or Katie Fforde novel. Come, Tell Me How You Live is the perfect mixture of personal memoir and travel adventure and a fascinating snapshot of the relationship between European archeologists and the Middle Eastern peoples during the years between the wars. This little known book is a fun read for all armchair travelers and Agatha Christie fans.

Headed to London for the Olympics? First of all : jealous! Second : I hope you have tickets/hotel/transportation already arranged – the grand old city is bound to be bursting at the seams. Still looking for some tips on how to occupy your time between watching the handball semi-finals and the whitewater rafting qualifying? Here are some books that will give you lots of ideas, whether you’re in town for the Games or just dreaming of visiting someday.

DK Eyewitness Travel London – Offers maps, history, and general features, detailed guides through the various areas of the city. and suggestions for specific walks. Also provides a street finder and hints on shops and markets, entertainment, children’s interests, transportation. Colorful photographs adorn every page.

Britain and Ireland’s Best Wild Places by Christopher Somerville – Storm-battered headlands, hidden waterfalls, tumbledown cottages, the ruins of haunted chapels deep in forgotten woods, medieval Green Men, old mines and quarries being recaptured by nature, rusting sea-forts tottering on sandbanks. Britain and Ireland are full of wild places, some remote, many often astonishingly close to civilization.

Berlitz Handbook of Great Britain – What sets this guide apart is the illuminating Unique Experiences section which are packed full of practical advice on how to make the most of all the opportunities unique to Britain – from visiting royal residences to watching a soccer match, or exploring Brontë country in Yorkshire.

Frommer’s 24 Great Walks in London– Features walking tours of London including the Royal Parks, Jack the Ripper’s trail in the East End, a walk along the Thames, literary themed walks that feature the inspirational settings ranging from Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol to Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley.