An Arabian Journey

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 05 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

I've long been a fan of Levinson Woods and this title did not disappoint.  He offers such a unique perspective in his travels.  He brings a personal touch to his documentation of historical and current events. I enjoy my armchair travels and can't wait to see where he goes next!
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A great travel story. This is the second book I have read of this author's journeys, and love the way he mixes facts with his own personal observations and questions and it is beautifully descriptive as well. 
It was nice to see these Middle Eastern countries, as peoples homes, and see how daily life is for them, and not just the images we see on TV these days. We were able to meet through him, some very interesting characters who guided him through these countries.
The adventure has an easy flow as he goes through sometimes very hostile situations, whether it is Warring parties or stretches of deserts that need to be crossed.
He circumnavigation the Arabian Peninsula, taking in thirteen Middle Eastern Countries, starting in Northern Syria to Lebanon, following at times the footsteps of past explorers whom he revered.
He came very close to ISIS fighting, he had  tea with Hezbollah, and one of his only ways out of one place, had to cross pirate-infested waters in a wooden dhow. He meets his parents and friends in Bethlehem, for Christmas, before going to his last destination Lebanon.
I am looking forward to reading more of his books.
I would l like to thank NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for an ARC of this book.
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An Arabian Journey by Levison Wood Book Review
Tales of desert adventure combined with modern warfare and international politics. Levison Wood navigates difficult terrain and crosses numerous borders, only to find refuge and kindness by total strangers.

A COMPLEX STORY OF EXPLORATION AND HUMANITY
Stumbling upon people who share my romantic ideal of famed explorers is rare. I had to pick up a book where the author follows in the footsteps of explorers like Lawrence of Arabia. While much of the Arabian Peninsula remains an exotic mystery to many of us, Wood recognizes the political turmoil that has enrobed these countries for decades, if not centuries.

We are given a look at the luck and logistics required to make a trek across countries fighting against ISIS and other militant factions. From his start in Northern Syria, Wood spends six-month crossing countries like Iraq, Yemen, and Jordan before finally spilling out on the shores of the Mediterranean. At times, you’re carried away by the changes in the landscape. Wood describes these scenes poetically.

I am not a geography buff. Throughout the book, I found many names of cities and leaders are used with regularity. For me, it is hard to follow without referring back to a map. An Arabian Journey is less a cultural narrative, and more of one ex-military man’s pursuit of a dream to cross the desert. Wood’s comfort with tense situations and heavy artillery, makes this book unmistakably geared toward a male audience and to veterans of the numerous Middle East conflicts.

THE VERDICT
I am Kinda Into This book. Wood navigates us through the challenges citizens of the Arabian Peninsula face on a regular basis. This gives us a greater understanding of what the world must be like for these people. And, though are moments of beauty in this book, it reads unevenly. With descriptive prose sandwiched between roughly written paragraphs, at times it almost feels like a different writer.

Special thanks to Levison Wood, Atlantic Monthly Press & NetGalley for providing our copy in exchange for an honest & fair review.
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This is an excellent addition to Wood's journeys. He offers an eye-opening view of the current life in the Middle East as well as the history of exploration in this area. I enjoyed reading about the author's trials and tribulations as he attempts to travel around and through war zones and meet locals.
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Levison Wood is a masochist of first order. But the best kind, the highly entertaining kind. The guy walks places (places one wouldn’t really walk or even think of walking) and then writes his walking adventures down. I loved walking the Nile with him, well I sat here, he walked, I read about it, fun was had by all. And the man is no stranger to some seriously inhospitable and difficult to navigate environments, but he might have outdone himself with this trek. Notice this book isn’t titled Walking the Arabia but an Arabian Journey, since some cars or other quadrupedal modes of transportation were utilized. Some places you just can’t walk, though the man tries. Arabia (a destination name far dreamier than Middle East), it seems holds a special sort of appeal to the author, it isn’t his first journey there, but this one was undertaken is such a dangerous time to be in the region. Nevertheless, he perseveres and even manages to hit every target he sets out for himself and this book is a result. And it’s good, but was it worth risking his life for…I’m not sure. It’s enlightening, because it offers perspectives of regular people caught up or stuck in irregular circumstances. At times it’s practically war reporting. And Wood stays notably unbiased as a reporter trying to present as many varied perspectives as he can from many different sides. But it doesn’t really teach a reader who isn’t familiar with the region’s complex politics all that much and it doesn’t really offer enough to change or make up minds. I’m relatively knowledgeable on the subject, having read up on it, taken a class on it and regularly following the news and reading articles, so I suppose I expected or was hoping for more…more to learn. But where the book may not explain the situation to those outside of the know, it certainly does a great job of humanizing it, which is no small feat for such a foreign (to westerners) culture. The thing is though you just can’t help thinking that there is a streak of masochism or some sort of obsession behind Wood’s travels. I’ve encountered a version of this in myself in my need to finish every book, no matter how crappy that book may be. But Wood, of course, takes that to an entirely new level. Although he does seem to come to a sort of realization during this trip that maybe his extreme traveling days are over, but time will tell. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he finds another wild and crazy journey to undertake in a near future. The man is, after all, obsessed. This book is good, very good (it’s only some historical facts short of great) and I’d definitely recommend it to all the armchair travelers out there. Disappointingly, hugely so, the ARC version had no photos and his books always have photos, so that won’t be available until the print version. Just so you know. Thanks Netgalley.
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I love any true or mostly true travel story. This was a good read with interesting facts and characters. It's engaging to the end.
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