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December 9, 2020

Explore the World with Nonfiction

by Susan Roberts

My goal for 2020 was to read 10 non-fiction books.  So far this year, I've read 11 and exceeded that goal.  Here are reviews of the last three nonfiction books that I read  - two are travel books and one is about the ecological issues in the Great Lakes.
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Basilicata: Authentic Italy by Karen Haid 

Basilicata Authentic Italy
August 2020; Hiller Press; 978-1734832204
ebook, print (238 pages); travel guide
"My travels through Basilicata tell of the past and recent present.  What will I find when I return in the future  And what will be waiting for you, the reader, when you wander off the beaten path?"
  (p 215)
Due to current travel restrictions, travelers can only dream about places that they want to visit while they start their planning for the day that we can travel anywhere in the world.  Not sure when that will be but until then, I'll continue reading about and planning my next trip.
The author takes us to the south of Italy to look at the history, the people, and the food.  This is much more than a travel book about where to go - it's a daily diary of her trip that mentions all of the wonderful people and places she encountered as well as a few places to skip.  It's a combination of history that contributed to the land today, the wonderful food and the fantastic people that she encountered - along with local customs and celebrations.  
"Basilicata: Authentic Italy reflects on the region past and present, as well as considers the future of a land and its people with so much to offer and an even greater potential yet to be realized. Basilicata is a corner of Italy where that elusive authentic experience sought out by today's traveler can be found. The author does so and shares the joys and challenges of the experience."
So whether you are dreaming about a trip to Italy or making plans to go, you need to check out this travel guide so that you can get the ultimate enjoyment out of your travels.

For the Love of Europe: Musings on 45 Years of Travel by Rick Steves

For the Love of Europe
July 2020; Rick Steves; 978-1641711319
ebook, print (416 pages)
"I stopped collecting physical souvenirs decades ago.  This book is the treasure chest of souvenirs gathered since - memories of a lifetime spent enjoying my favorite continent.  I share them in hopes that the experiences that carbonated my travels will inspire a few extra bubbles in yours, too.  And I share them...for the love of Europe."
  (p 3)

I have been on eight Rick Steves tours in the last 15 years.  We were planning a trip for this summer but due to travel restrictions, we had to cancel it.  Since I can't travel now and am not sure when it will be possible to travel again, reading about travel helped to lift my spirits.  

Rick has divided his book up by countries, and in each country, he gives a three to five-page essay on several memories of trips that he has been on.  For example, the chapter on France has three essays on Paris, one on Alsace, two on food in France, and one on restaurants in France.  His essays are short but if you find mention of things that you'd like to know about, he has travel guides for each of these countries that will go into more details.  Rick's love of travel in Europe comes through on every page.

This book brought back a lot of memories for me.  I've visited many of the places that he talks about and even met some of the people that he writes about.  Since I can't physically travel, the books helped me take a mental vacation plus started me on plans for my next vacation in Europe with a Rick Steves tour.

The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan

The Death and Life of the Great Lakes
April 2018; W. W. Norton & Company
978-0393355550; audio, ebook, print (384 pages)
"There are few views that can draw noses to airplane windows like those of the Great Lakes.  From on high, the five lakes that straddle the US and Canadian border can appear impossible blue, tantalizing as the Caribbean.  Standing of their shores and staring out at the ocean-like horizons, it hits you that the Great Lakes are, in one significant way, superior to even the Seven Seas.  The Great Lakes, after all, are so named not just for their size but for the fact that  their shorelines cradle a global trove of the most coveted liquid of all - freshwater."
(page xi)

I grew up in Michigan and have wonderful childhood memories of time spent at the Great Lakes.  We mostly visited Lake Michigan and Lake Huron but the other three lakes - Superior, Erie, and Ontario are just as impressive.  When I saw this book, I knew that I had to buy a copy and read about the changes in the Lakes during my lifetime.  The author gives his readers the history of the lakes but much of the book takes place in the 1960s to present day.

The St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959 so that large ocean-going vessels had a clear route into the industrial cities around the Great Lakes.  Unfortunately, the large ships also brought invasive organisms to the lakes -lamprey eel, alewife, Asian carp, and zebra and quagga mussel have killed off native fish and left the lakes in poor ecological shape.  There have been some rebounds with the introduction of salmon and whitefish but the future of the lakes is still not decided.  Who will make the decisions that will bring life back in the lakes?  It appears that our children and the people who love to swim and fish in the lakes will have to work with the politicians to make the lakes viable again.

Parts of this book left me very distressed because I was not aware of how bad things were.  I realize now that we need to work to get the lakes cleaned up so that they become not only a viable source of drinking water but also for the fun and recreation that they provide to great numbers of people.  We need to spend some money and realize how global warming is contributing to the downfall of the Great Lakes.  I have great memories of my time on the shores of Lake Michigan and hope that future generations have the same opportunity.

New York Times Bestseller
Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
Winner of the J. Anthony Lukas Award

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina with her husband of over 50 years.  She grew up in Michigan but now calls North Carolina home. Since her travel plans had to be canceled for this year, she is starting to make plans for travel in 2021. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and historical fiction. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter.

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