Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu By Laurence Bergreen (2007)

No. 3

    Photo: Photograph by Shana Novak

How's this for adventure? Seventeen-year-old Italian kid accompanies dad to China on camel, hires on as consigliere to Kublai Khan, stays for 17 years, returns home, gets captured in war and thrown in jail, and writes a memoir that stays in print, more or less, for 700 years. That's Marco Polo's story, and biographer Laurence Bergreen tells it masterfully in this Tom Jonesian romp through 13th-century China. Young Marco encounters both pleasures of the flesh ("Take my daughter—please," says the village headman) and homicidal hosts, marking his as one of the luckiest lives ever lived.

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