Reviews of the books that made Longitude’s Best Travel Books of 2013:
Cuban Revelations – Behind the Scenes in Havana – Marc Frank, 2013
U.S.-born Marc Frank spent nearly 25 years living in Cuba and working as a foreign news correspondent. From the fall of the Soviet Union (and its subsequent influence in Cuba), through the proceeding decades of governmental transition between Fidel and his brother Raul, Frank recounts the political and economic developments that have reshaped this island nation. He gives special attention to U.S.-Cuban relations, candidly recording a quarter century of trial and error.
The book is a blend of travel narrative and journalistic commentary, with sources cited, credits quoted and personal experiences described in just enough detail. This style infuses the pages with confidence and authority. Even when the reading gets stuck in technical references, Frank’s honest version encourages you to see things through ’til the end – much the same feeling he subtly encourages you to keep toward Cuba.
Why this title made the list: Frank’s Revelations will not only bring the reader up to speed on the most recent political and economic developments, but establish a better (and nonpartisan) comprehension of Cuba’s history. Plus, for those of North American descent, this book does what few other Cuban tales have done before: challenge the preconceived stereotypes of Fidel as a demonic, ruthless ruler.
Headhunters On My Doorstep – J. Maarten Troost, 2013
After penning the classics Treasure Island and Kidnapped, a deteriorating health condition sent author Robert Louis Stevenson sailing through the South Pacific in search of warmer climes. Troost, though never a huge fan of the Scot’s writing, decides to follow Stevenson’s route on his own journey of self-improvement. Only Troost isn’t struggling with weak lungs, he’s battling alcoholism.
From the Marquesas to Kiribati, Troost faces devious gold smugglers, starving sharks and the ghosts of old islanders. A bit more candid than in his previous South Pacific narratives, the author returns to familiar settings in order to compare how they – and he – have changed over the decades.
Why this title made the list: While Headhunters seeks to compare environmental and emotional instability in some of the Pacific’s most unique locations, it does so with a quick but lighthearted perspective guaranteed to educate the reader without becoming overtly academic. Plus, though Troost’s movements and style may seem rambling at times, they subtly reaffirm Stevenson’s own motto for travel: “Sometimes the journey is more important than the destination.”