Books for Summer

| May 23, 2011 | 0 Comments

Summertime tomes with travel appeal

By Tara Kusumoto


Sideways on a Scooter: Life and Love in India

Five years in India is more than enough time to indulge a love of travel. But that’s not what NPR reporter Miranda Kennedy was after when she moved to New Delhi from New York. Instead, what started as a move to establish herself as an international reporter and world traveler evolved into Kennedy’s newly released Sideways on a Scooter, a thoughtful study of the tug-of-war between cultural tradition and modern freedoms that’s raging on the Indian subcontinent.

The obvious contrast of Kennedy’s femininity and independence creates personal trials for her in India. But through the Indian women she meets—who balance womanhood with their culture’s changing ideals—she gains a full understanding of the country’s contradictions. There’s progressive Geeta, who aches for Bollywood-style love, yet remains drawn to an arranged marriage. And then there’s Parvati, a brash reporter who breaks cultural rules, both shunning and kowtowing to “this pure virginal Mother India bollocks.”

Kennedy’s keen observations capture liberating glimpses into a new India, and she relays images such as “several black burkas [hanging] on the wall like so many molted snake skins” at the American-style gym, while offering historical context and data that lend credibility to her memoir-style writing. Indian families, for example, spend $7,000 more than average American families on weddings, even though the per capita income in India is 90 percent lower than that of the U.S.

Indian cultural immersion, new friendships, and freelance reporting assignments that expose Kennedy to other south Asian perspectives—those of the expat community in Afghanistan and Indian Ocean tsunami victims—force her to reassess her own goals. At once a bold travelogue and serious reporting effort, Sideways on a Scooter captures the everyday moments that define not only a culture in flux, but an individual at a personal crossroads. (Random House, $26)

Pink Boots

Pink Boots and a Machete:  My Journey from NFL Cheerleader to National Geographic Explorer

What’s wrong with wearing lip gloss in the jungle? According to Mireya Mayor, absolutely nothing. In fact, she sees it as her alpha-female right. This former NFL cheerleader with good looks, a fiery Cuban personality, and sassy sense of humor is a legit scientist, but she has struggled to be accepted as a serious explorer.

Pink Boots charts Mayor’s journey into unmapped territory: tracking gorillas in the Congo, protecting leopard cubs in Namibia, and extreme climbing in search of new species atop a remote tepui (a sheer, flat-topped mountain) in the South American country of Guyana. She retells gripping accounts of adventure and danger while sharing a passion for conservation that played a hand in tripling Madagascar’s protected areas and protecting the world’s smallest primate—the mouse lemurs she studies.

A Fulbright scholar with a Ph.D., as well as wife, mother, and host of the television series “Nat Geo Wild,” Mayor proves in this book that she’s got the chops of a true scientist and explorer. She just looks great doing it. (National Geographic, $26)

Cooking with campfire style: New encyclopedias of outdoor dining

Campfire Cookery: Adventuresome Recipes and Other Curiosities for the Great Outdoors

By Sarah Huck and Jaimee Young

Finally, a cookbook with personality! Cheeky and charming, this camp kitchen must-have is overflowing with practical tips, and humorous commentary that’ll inspire your next open-flame cooking adventure. (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $30)  Read Tara’s Q&A with Sarah and Jaimee.

The authors of Campfire Cookery share their fave ingredients, recipes for fun, and lessons learned at

The Camping Cookbook: 95 Inspirational Recipes—From Hearty Brunches to Campfire Suppers

By Annie Bell

Recipes that focus on simple ingredients and easy prep. Feta with pistachios in honey, chocolate toasties, and no-chop spaghetti puttanesca are sure to become family favorites. (The jury’s still out on the sour patch kid skewers.) (Kyle Books, $17)

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