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October TDA Book Review

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The Silk Road: Two Thousand Years in the Heart of Asia – Frances Wood

Imagine trying to squeeze thousands of years of history into one book. The chances are good that it would make for a very informative but rather scholarly and quite possibly, dull, read for most people. It would certainly be more fun cycling for 18 weeks along the colorful route of the Silk Road. However, this fairly light book by Frances Wood takes us on an exiting and evocative journey through the art, culture and history of the Silk Road without being too encyclopedic about it. If you are looking for an academic, very detailed depiction of its history, you are in the wrong place.

SpicesIf you think of this ancient trade route stretching from Central Asia to Europe you may well thing of camel trains groaning with bales of glorious Chinese silk, decadent spices, and perfume. You may imagine shimmering desserts surrounded by snow-capped mountains and bustling markets alive with people trading in fruit, spices and amber. Along this road deals were made and shattered as honest men and bandits alike sought to elk out a living.

Apart from its vivid description of the trade route, what makes Wood’s book interesting is the description of the cultural movement along the Silk Road. For example how Indian Buddhism, Manichaeism, Nestorian Christianity and Islam were carried into China, initiating a long history of pilgrimages along the lonely desert routes. A cultural journey unfolds through the pages as she describes the lives of the men, women and children who populated the Silk Road throughout the ages.

On the Golden Road 2The nineteenth century brought its own renewed interest in the Road. And along came the spies, archeologists, and cartographers and even more stories woven into the journey by Wood.  Perhaps Wood’s book is best enjoyed as a very readable introduction to the Silk Road and the various countries that it traverses. If you are enamored by the mystery and romance of the Silk Road, this should be a satisfyingly read. If you are preparing for, or thinking of, the 2014 Silk Route Bicycle Expedition from Shanghai to Istanbul, this book should whet you appetite for this exotic journey.

The Silk Route is 18 weeks worth of cycling through some of the hottest and coldest climates on the planet. The 12,000km journey will take you through 7 countries and is set to start on May 17, 2014. Registration is now open.

Another really good read on the Silk Road that we have previously reviewed can be found here.

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