Chances are most of us will never be crowned king...especially if we're women! But that's just what happened to Ghana-born Peggielene Bartels, who'd been working in the U.S. for three decades. After receiving a 4 a.m. phone call telling her that her uncle, the former king of a 7,000-person African village, was dead and that she had been elected the new king, Peggy faced the biggest challenge of her life. "How can a secretary be king?," she wondered, but she proves to be the perfect person for the job, from getting clean water for her villagers to watching out for trouble-making witches. Descriptions of people and places provide an authentic look at village life that's sure to please armchair travelers who wish they were Africa-bound, crown or not.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity - by Katherine Boo
Reading about exotic destinations is great, especially if you can't travel...and it's also handy if you want to learn more about a place, but don't really want to vacation there. For instance, who wants to hang out in the slums of India? Not many of us, but Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Katherine Boo spent three years learning all about life in the Annawadi slum, located right next to Mumbai's International Airport. Critics love this "exquisitely accomplished first book" (The New York Times) which reads like a novel and is full of amazing people living in stunning circumstances, such as a possibly college-bound teen. On the hold list for Behind the Beautiful Forevers and like fiction? Try Gregory David Roberts' popular novel Shantaram, part of which is set in a Mumbai slum.
In this "unsentimental memoir" (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), recently divorced 26-year-old Cheryl Strayed sets out on the 1,100-mile Pacific Coast Trail (PCT), walking solo from California, through Oregon, and on to Washington State. Strayed, a completely inexperienced hiker, has plenty of baggage with her, and we're not just talking about her too-heavy backpack. Though the book is centered around Strayed's time on the trail and her dealings with snakes, bears, and blisters, sensitive readers should be aware that sections of Wilddiscuss the troubles that sent her (back)packing, including her heroin use and promiscuity. For a couple's look at hiking the PCT, try A Blistered Kind of Love by Angela and Duffy Ballard. Interested in the Appalachian Trail? Try Bill Bryson's gut-busting A Walk in the Woods.
Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now -- As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Have Left It, and Long for It - by Craig Taylor
The eyes of the world will turn to London this summer as it hosts the 2012 Olympics, but some people keep an eye on London all of the time...like the people who call it home. Canadian author Craig Taylor, who's lived in London for over a decade, conducted hundreds of interviews over the course of five years to get an idea of what more than 80 regular people -- an airline pilot, a manicurist, a cabbie, and many others -- think of the city. The New York Timescalls the result "a rich and exuberant kaleidoscopic portrait of a great, messy, noisy, daunting, inspiring, maddening, enthralling, constantly shifting Rorschach test of a place." Many travelers love talking to locals and getting their views -- if that describes you and you want to know more about London, you'll definitely want to queue up for this book.