Some of fall's best books follow travelers venturing off the tourist circuit to find both danger and enlightenment. The Americans in PAUL THEROUX's The Elephanta Suite, a collection of three haunting novellas, all pass through the same luxury hotel room in Mumbai. Yet each goes on to discover an India far more complex than the world of yoga retreats and eager-to-please businessmen they'd originally expected.
Peace Corps volunteer JOSH SWILLER chronicles his two-year stint in Zambia in The Unheard: A Memoir of Deafness and Africa (Henry Holt, $14). Deaf since age four, Swiller hoped to help the Zambian villagers and gain perspective on his hearing loss; he succeeds on a personal level, but finds his host country a frustrating blend of backward logic, violence, and beauty: "One day, you are offering chickens and every shred of your pride in the name of petty revenge, then there are moments when it seems you can make diamond necklaces out of the stars."
Outside contributing editor PETER HELLER endures his own ups and downs in The Whale Warriors: The Battle at the Bottom of the World to Save the Planet's Largest Mammals (Free Press, $25), his chronicle of two months in the Southern Ocean chasing illegal Japanese whaling boats with eco-provocateur Paul Watson.
And our longtime Hard Way columnist, MARK JENKINS, is back with a new collection of essays, A Man's Life: Dispatches from Dangerous Places (Modern Times, $26), some of which were originally published in Outside. As always, Jenkins milks his adventures for all the adrenalineand insightsthey're worth, whether he's sea-kayaking in Turkey or canyoneering in Australia.
Celebrating 50 years of On the Road
NO OTHER WORK of 20th-century fiction created a cultural shock wave as dynamic and enduring as the one that sprang from Jack Kerouac's autobiographical novel On the Road, which chronicles years of rambling adventures all over North America with wildman Neal Cassady. First published 50 years ago this September, it's still inspiring multitudes to, among other things, zigzag across the globe in pursuit of "IT"the freedom, experience, enlightenment, and life-in-the-moment attained through travel (with or without the serial auto theft). To mark the book's golden anniversary, Viking Press is releasing a special edition ($25), as well as On the Road: The Original Scroll ($26), presenting for the first timein all its virtuosic, hypersexual glorythe unedited draft, which Kerouac famously banged out on 120 feet of tracing paper in Manhattan over three weeks in 1951.