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The best travel book I’ve read recently

Travel writing is one of the genres that I dip in and out of. On Saturday, I visited Black Sheep Books on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia and picked up a copy of Iron and Silk by Mark Salzman from the store’s rather good travel section.

Salzman’s book is recommended by Paul Theroux in his compendium of travel writing called The Tao of Travel. Iron and Silk is about China in the early 1980s. Salzman spends two years in China, teaching English at a medical school in Changsha – a city in the Hunan Province where westerners are rarely seen.  For instance, he becomes friends with fishermen who have never seen a white man before. He actually writes very little about the teaching and more about his learnings through the people he meets, especially all the martial arts teachers that he encounters during his two-year stint in communist China. The book is very, very readable and I had finished it by Monday, which is rare for me as I’m a slow reader.

Salzman never judges even though he is placed in difficult situations time again by crazy red tape or a city that seemingly runs on a shoe-string.

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