Roads bind our world—metaphorically and literally—transforming landscapes and the lives of the people who inhabit them. Roads have unparalleled power to impact communities, unite worlds and sunder them, and reveal the hopes and fears of those who travel them.
With his marvelous eye for detail and his contagious enthusiasm, Ted Conover explores six of these key byways worldwide. In Peru, he traces the journey of a load of rare mahogany over the Andes to its origin, an untracked part of the Amazon basin soon to be traversed by a new east-west route across South America. In East Africa, he visits truckers whose travels have been linked to the worldwide spread of AIDS. In the West Bank, he monitors highway checkpoints with Israeli soldiers and then passes through them with Palestinians, witnessing the injustices and danger borne by both sides. He shuffles down a frozen riverbed with teenagers escaping their Himalayan valley to see how a new road will affect the now-isolated Indian region of Ladakh. From the passenger seat of a new Hyundai piling up the miles, he describes the exuberant upsurge in car culture as highways proliferate across China. And from inside an ambulance, he offers an apocalyptic but precise vision of Lagos, Nigeria, where congestion and chaos on freeways signal the rise of the global megacity.
A spirited, urgent book that reveals the costs and benefits of being connected—how, from ancient Rome to the present, roads have played a crucial role in human life, advancing civilization even as they set it back.
This book really didn't focus on "how roads are changing the world and the way we live today" as the title suggested. Rather it is a travel log describing all manner of things that roads intersect. The book didn't cover the material in the ways I envisioned, but is was NOT a disappointment.
Conover has "been there and done that" along every road he describes. He follows ancient roads and reveals the related history. He travels the roads along the West Bank and describes the day-to-day problems faced by Pelestinians seeking to go about their daily activities. His chapter including roads of Lagos, Nigeria were wonderful. I have been in that sprawling city at least a dozen times and agree with his insights related to that area of the world.
Well written, well read by Dick Hill, and informative. It will reward the listeners time.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
"The origin of existence is movement. Immobility can have no part in it, for if existence were immobile, it would return to its source, which is the Void. That is why the voyaging never stops, in this world or the hereafter."
- Ibn al-'Arabi
Ted Conover is a stable mix of William T. Vollmann and Paul Theroux. If I were to Venn diagram Vollmann, Theroux, and Ted Conover, there would be a ∪ between Vollmann and Theroux for fiction and there would be a ∪ for all three for narrative nonfiction, travel, poverty, and trains (Conover: Rolling Nowhere: Riding the Rails with America's Hoboes; Vollmann: Riding Toward Everywhere; Theroux: The Great Railway BazaarGhost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great Railway BazaarRiding the Iron Rooster, The Old Patagonian Express: By Train Through the Americas).
In this book, Conover gives us six roads/trails, each exploring different themes he is trying to develop: development vs the environment (The transportation route of mahogany through Peru from Assis in Acre state, through Puerto Maldonado and Cuzco to Lima/Callao; technically he did this the other direction, but the movement of mahogany is from the Brazil border down to Lima); isolation vs progress (Ladakh-Zanskar down the ice road/root route of the frozen Indus river called the chaddar); military occupation (all the security check points of the West Bank are belong to us); transmission of disease (Kenya/Uganda); social transformation (the car and highway in modern China); and the future of the city (Lagos, Nigeria).
It was a fascinating, if not often depressing, look at the trade-offs that come with development, exploration, trade, and travel. Other Conover books on audible to check out Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing and Rolling Nowhere.
13 of 18 people found this review helpful
Mr Conover has the ability to insert himself in places where I would never go in a million years (either due to the fear of physical danger, disease or even just the assured discomfort associated with these locations) and finding interesting people and their relationship with various roads. This was an informative and easy book to read/ listen to (I did both).
I would also recommend his book,"New Jack" about his experiences in working as a NY State Correction Officer. I worked 25 years in a large jail in N. Y. and was very impressed with his ability to present the incarceration system from the viewpoint of the jail workers in a fair and honest way.