Michael Benanav's Off-Topic Reads

February 18th, 2018

Michael Benanav is the author of three books, including Men Of Salt: Crossing the Sahara on the Caravan of White Gold, for which he traveled 1000 miles with one of the last working camel caravans on earth. His work, including articles and images from five continents, appears in The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, Geographical Magazine, Sierra Magazine, Lonely Planet, and more. He is also the founder of Traditional Cultures Project, an educational non-profit that documents traditional and indigenous cultures around the world. For more, visit his website at www.michaelbenanav.com. Michael will discuss Himalaya Bound on Thursday, 2/22, 6pm at the Co-op.


A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth - This book should be required reading for anyone who visits India; an engaging, fast-paced narrative that illuminates important cultural themes.

In the Empire of Genghis Khan, by Stanley Stewart - One of the funniest travel books I've ever read, about the author's journey by horse across Mongolia.

The Log from the Sea of Cortez, by John Steinbeck - Describing an expedition with a scientist-friend to collect samples of species from the Sea of Cortez, Steinbeck's final pages turn a well-observed marine journey into a powerful reflection that touches on some of the simple yet profound truths at which he has arrived.

City Room, by Arthur Gelb - A memoir of the life and career of a boy from the Bronx who ultimately became Managing Editor of The New York Times. The stories covered by the author paint a vibrant picture of life in New York City during the second half of the 20th century and offer gems of journalistic wisdom. As the main research assistant during the writing of this book, my own education as a writer and journalist is inseparable from its pages.

Arabian Nights and Days, by Naguib Mahfouz - One of my favorite books ever, a creative take on tales of the Arabian Nights, by the Nobel Prize laureate best known for his Cairo Trilogy.


About Himalaya Bound: Following his vivid account of traveling with one of the last camel caravans on earth in Men of Salt, Michael Benanav now brings us along on a journey with a tribe of forest-dwelling nomads in India. Welcomed into a family of nomadic water buffalo herders, he joins them on their annual spring migration into the Himalayas. More than a glimpse into an endangered culture, this superb adventure explores the relationship between humankind and wild lands, and the dubious effect of environmental conservation on peoples whose lives are inseparably intertwined with the natural world. The migration Benanav embarked upon was plagued with problems, as government officials threatened to ban this nomadic family—and others in the Van Gujjar tribe—from the high alpine meadows where they had summered for centuries. Faced with the possibility that their beloved buffaloes would starve to death, and that their age-old way of life was doomed, the family charted a risky new course, which would culminating in an astonishing mountain rescue. And Benanav was arrested for documenting the story of their plight. Intimate and enthralling, Himalaya Bound paints a sublime picture of a rarely-seen world, revealing the hopes and fears, hardships and joys, of a people who wonder if there is still a place for them on this planet. Laced with stories of tribal cultures from India to Yellowstone, from Jordan to Kenya, Benanav deftly wends through the controversial terrain where Western ways of protecting the environment clash with indigenous understandings of nature. Himalaya Bound celebrates and mourns an ancient way of life, while revealing an unlikely battleground in the fight to save the earth. 

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