Tag Archives: travel

Review: In Her Footsteps from Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet has been doing some lovely themed books recently, and the latest is this lush tome – In Her Footsteps (though it appears in Goodreads as The Feminist Tour).

Over 30 writers contributed to the 200+ entries about influential women throughout history and across the globe. Some entries are particularly lively, and some lovely illustrations by Lauren Crow among the photographs.

I knew of a lot of these women, but by no means all, so it was fantastic to read through the entries under Activists, Artists, Pathbreakers and Icons and expand my knowledge.

“…let the artist have the last word on her own work”

Not every entry is for a really admirable person – people can be notable trailblazers for not-good reasons too, like Borgias and Medicis – but every entry tells about a woman who made a significant mark in her own world, and often in the wider world too. Women from all over Europe, Asia, Oceania and the Americas.

Michelle Obama and Jo Cox are listed; Murasaki Shikibu who wrote the first novel in around 1012AD and Mary Shelley; Pussy Riot and Wu Zetian, China’s only female emperor; aviatrix Bessie Coleman and Samoan longboat rower Zita Martel. Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai; Grace Darling and Moomin creator Tove Jansson.

I was delighted to find plenty of queer representation among the entries, and several trans women as well: women like Anne Lister, Lile Elbe, Christina of Sweden, a famously bisexual 17th century queen and of course Sappho.

Really, the only thing I found frustrating about the book was the lack of a map. For each entry, the writer has suggested a place where you might visit – from Egyptian ruins associated with Nefertiti and a statue of Mata Hari in Leeuwarden in the Netherlands, to the Apollo Theatre in Harlem in honour of Ella Fitzgerald and the Gabriela Mistral Museum in Vicuna, Chile.

“the girl who practically invented emo”.

As I’m off to Europe for a 6 week trip at the end of April, I would have found a world map a bit more useful to see what sites on my route I could visit to learn more about significant local women. There’s an index which mentions countries and cities at the back, but I do so like a nice map.

That quibble aside, In Her Footsteps is a gorgeous hardcover book, and even if International Women’s Day is over for now, you can celebrate incredible women every day buy picking up this book and using it as a guide to read more about the women who fill its pages.

Buy In Her Footsteps:

Review: Wild in the City – A Guide to Urban Animals Around the World by Kate Baker, Illustrated by Gianluca Foli

Most of us have heard about the foxes that frequent London suburbia – I’ve seen a few myself, and a penfriend used to write about the vixen that had kits in a den under her allotment shed. In Melbourne, too, followers avidly check online for the state of the Collins Street falcons (with their chicks so entertainingly called by locals the ‘Murder Pom-Poms’).

It’s hardly a surprise that wild animals with shrinking habitats have found niches for themselves in cities around the world, and Lonely Planet Kids has created another fascinating book for the 9-12 age range on how wild creatures are adapting to the need to live in cities – and at times how humans are adapting too.

Wild in the City‘s critter citizens are presented in nice little sections about habits, habitats, human interactions, conservation status, examples of unusual sightings as well as where/when to usually see them.

For some critters, the book also offers some lovely tips on providing safe environments for bees, birds and other animals – including building bug hotels and the hedgehog highway.

While I’m aware of suburban foxes, squirrels, monkeys, falcons and bats in different parts of the world (and am much too aware of city dwelling spiders), I never knew about the hyenas of Harar in Ethiopia, or of the sloths who literally hang around Panama City.

Gianluca Foli’s illustrations are a charming accompaniment to Kate Baker’s accessible text. Wild in the City is a lovely coffee table book for any budding city-based naturalist in the family.

Buy Wild in the City

Review: Myths and Legends of the World, Retold by Alli Brydon, Illustrated by Julia Iredale

Lonely Planet Kids is putting out some gorgeous illustrated books about the world, and Myths and Legends of the World is another beautiful example.

Julia Iredale’s sumptuously coloured artwork is a marvellous match for Alli Brydon’s smart retelling of this collection of world mythologies, using a nicely judged balanced of traditional storytelling rhythms with some fresh, modern turns of phrase that invite young readers to connect with the folklore of different parts of the world.

The creators and editor, Rhoda Belleza, have done an excellent job of curating a representative sample of global myths. Some are more familiar – the African trickster Anansi, Scottish Selkies, the origin of the elephant-headed Ganesh and Maui are all among the better known deities, demi-gods and supernatural beings.

The Anangu People’s tale of how Uluru was formed offers insight into why it is a place of spiritual significance – a lovely inclusion in this book, particularly in light of the recent ban on climbing the rock.

Myths and Legends of the World is for readers aged 9 to 12, but it isn’t just for kids – it’d be a beautiful coffee table book to dip into. It’s also available as an ebook if you want to take the pretty with you!

Buy Myths and legends of the World

Review: Lonely Planet – The Universe, A Travel Guide

This guide to all the lonely planets in our solar system, as well as our sun and further flung celestial bodies, is a treat. Written in conjuction with NASA, it’s full of up-to-date information (at least, up-to-2018, which is when the info was compiled before the 2019 release).

While confident the science is all correct, I’m also delighted that the book is easy to read, the language accessible to those of us without PhDs in astrophysics. The combination of co-authors includes travel writers, space enthusiasts and Dr Mark A. Garlick (the one with said astronomy-related PhD experience). Several NASA scientists are also thanked, including its chief scientist, Dr James Green.

One of the fun things about this book is the humour. I get a little frisson of delight whenever I see the usual LP sidebar headings of ‘Getting There and Away’, ‘Top Tips’, ‘Five Facts’ and the Highlights, even for places like Neptune and Mars.

In keeping with current scientific thought, poor old Pluto isn’t a planet but still gets a write-up as Dwarf Planet.

Bill Nye’s lively introduction, which touches on global warming and the Earth’s (so far) unique role as the only planet supporting life is followed by other essays introducing the reader to current scientific thinking about our solar system and the universe at large, including naming conventions, some tips on how best to use the book, and the history of manned spaceflight.

This guide is ambitious beyond the solar system, mind you. The Sun and all its planets only take up the first 300 or so pages of the 608 in this book. It goes on to explore other non-planetary objects in the solar system, asteroids and the Kuiper belt, dwarf planets, comets, the Oort cloud, exoplanets, other stellar objects, and galaxies, including colliding galaxies and galaxy clusters.

Yes folks, this book has the universe as we thus far know it at your fingertips. And it’s all presented in easy to understand bites, with highlights, pull-out boxes, gorgeous images and clear explanations for the lay person, along with all the stats a numbers person could wish for.

The writers haven’t neglected pop culture either, with references to Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov, HG Wells, Star Wars, Jules Verne and even Jupiter Ascending. Even Freddy Mercury scores a mention!

If anyone in your life is fascinated by our world and the stars beyond it, you can do worse than give them The Universe! Hell, give yourself the far heavens as well. Dip in and out of the book for the armchair travel among the stars, and be reminded that our planet is small and special in the vast universe and needs better care than we have given it, if we’re all to survive.

Buy Lonely Planet: The Universe