For 10 years, Louis Theroux has been making programmes about off-beat characters on the fringes of US society. Now he revisits America and the people who have most fascinated him to try to discover what motivates them, why they believe the things they believe, and to find out what has happened to them since he last saw them.
"One of my favourite downloads so far"
Twenty years ago Bill Bryson went on a trip around Britain to celebrate the green and kindly island that had become his adopted country. The hilarious book that resulted, Notes from a Small Island, was taken to the nation's heart and became the best-selling travel book ever and was voted in a BBC poll the book that best represents Britain. Now, to mark the 20th anniversary of that modern classic, Bryson makes a brand-new journey around Britain to see what has changed.
"I think Bill would rather have stayed at home."
After nearly two decades in Britain, Bill Bryson, the acclaimed author of such best sellers as The Mother Tongue and Made in America, decided it was time to move back to the United States for a while. This was partly to let his wife and kids experience life in Bryson's homeland, and partly because he had read that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another. It was thus clear to him that his people needed him.
"A Note From A Small Islander"
Australia has more things that can kill you than anywhere else. Nevertheless, Bill Bryson journeyed to the country and promptly fell in love with it. The people are cheerful, their cities are clean, the beer is cold, and the sun nearly always shines.
Believing that a good, interesting life is marked by quality, not quantity, John Steinbeck took note of his itchy feet and prepared to travel. He was accompanied by his French poodle, Charley, diplomat and watchdog, across the states of America from Maine to California. Moving through woods and forests, dirt tracks and highways to large cities and wildernesses, Steinbeck observed America and the Americans with a humorous and sometimes sceptical eye.
Vagabonding is about taking time off from your normal life - from six weeks to four months to two years - to discover and experience the world on your own terms. Veteran shoestring traveler Rolf Potts shows how anyone armed with an independent spirit can achieve the dream of extended overseas travel.
Hardly anyone ever leaves Des Moines, Iowa. But Bill Bryson did, and after 10 years in England he decided to go home, to a foreign country. In an ageing Chevrolet Chevette, he drove nearly 14,000 miles through 38 states to compile this hilarious and perceptive state-of-the-nation report on small-town America.
"The road trip you're dying to take"
In Made in America, Bryson de-mythologizes his native land, explaining how a dusty hamlet with neither woods nor holly became Hollywood, how the Wild West wasn't won, why Americans say 'lootenant' and 'Toosday', how Americans were eating junk food long before the word itself was cooked up, as well as exposing the true origins of the G-string, the original $64,000 question, and Dr Kellogg of cornflakes fame.
The Appalachian Trail covers 14 states and over 2,000 miles, snaking through some of the most spectacular landscapes in America. Reluctant adventurer Bryson recounts his gruelling hike along the longest continuous footpath in the world.
"A walk in the woods"
In Neither Here nor There Bill Bryson brings his unique brand of humour to bear on Europe as he shoulders his backpack, keeps a tight hold on his wallet, and journeys from Hammerfest, the northernmost town on the continent, to Istanbul on the cusp of Asia.
Remember when you were a kid, and you used to go round to a friend's house to see if they were playing? Well, as adults we're not supposed to do that. Which is a shame... because Dave Gorman likes playing. He REALLY likes games. So he knocked on the biggest door you could ever imagine - the internet - and asked 76,000 people if they fancied a game. This is the story of what happened next.
"funny words but flat narration"
In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself.
"Inspiring and cautionary."
In Skyfaring, airline pilot and flight romantic Mark Vanhoenacker shares his irrepressible love of flying on a journey from day to night, from new ways of mapmaking and the poetry of physics to the names of winds and the nature of clouds. Here, anew, is the simple wonder and transcendent joy of motion and the remarkable new perspectives that height and distance bestow on everything we love.
The third and most ambitious of Michael Palin's adventures is a voyage of epic proportions - the circumnavigation of the Pacific Rim. He travels for almost a year through the 18 countries that border the world's largest ocean, and is forced to negotiate mountains, plunging gorges, cross glaciers and dodge icebergs. Volcanoes also mark Palin's journey. He climbs one which has freshly erupted and follows great rivers like the Yangtze and the Amazon to some of the most remote places on earth.
Travelling to Work is the third volume of Michael Palin's widely acclaimed diaries. After the Python years and a decade of filming, writing and acting, Palin's career takes an unexpected direction into travel, which will shape his working life for the next 25 years. Yet, as the diaries reveal, he remained ferociously busy on a host of other projects throughout this whirlwind period.
"Unremittingly nice and lots of lovies"
Ever since he can remember, Dom Joly has been fascinated by travel to odd places. In part this stems from a childhood spent in war-torn Lebanon, where instead of swapping marbles in the schoolyard, he had a shrapnel collection -- the schoolboy currency of Beirut. These early experiences left Dom with a profound loathing for the sanitized experiences of the modern-day travel industry and a taste for the darkest of places.
"Amusing, engaging and thought-provoking"
In the autumn of 1988, Michael Palin set out from the Reform Club with an ambitious plan: to circumnavigate the world, following the route taken by Jules Verne's fictional hero Phileas Fogg 115 years earlier. The rules were simple. He had to make the journey in 80 days using only forms of transport that would have been available to Fogg.
"Classic boys own adventure"
Joe Simpson, with just his partner, Simon Yates, tackled the unclimbed West Face of the remote 21,000-foot Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes in June of 1995. But before they reached the summit, disaster struck. A few days later, Simon staggered into Base Camp, exhausted and frostbitten, to tell their non-climbing companion that Joe was dead. For three days he wrestled with guilt as they prepared to return home. Then a cry in the night took them out with torches, where they found Joe, badly injured.
"Don't listen whilst driving!"
Starting in November 2013 in a forest in Rwanda, where a modest spring spouts a trickle of clear, cold water, Levison Wood set forth on foot, aiming to become the first person to walk the entire length of the Nile. He followed the river for nine months, over 4,000 miles, through six nations - Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, the Republic of Sudan, and Egypt - to the Mediterranean coast.
After moving back to the States, Bryson started to write a column for The Mail on Sunday Night and Day magazine. This is a collection of these column entries. Bryson writes about everything from everyday chores, to suing people, the beach, TV, movies, air conditioners, college, Americana, injury dangers, wasting resources, and holiday seasons.
"Bitter or Sweet ? I'm not sure !"
On the morning of 2 June 1953, the day of Queen Elizabeth's coronation, the first news ebbed through to the British public of a magnificent achievement: Everest had finally been conquered. Drawing on first-hand interviews and unprecedented access to archives, this is a groundbreaking new account of that extraordinary first ascent. In a thrilling tale of adventure and courage, Mick Conefrey reveals that what has gone down in history as a supremely well-planned attempt was actually beset by crisis and controversy, both on and off the mountain.
"Man! That story is epic!"
Dom Joly sets off round the world again, but this time he's not looking to holiday in a danger zone - he's monster hunting. In Scary Monsters and Super Creeps he heads to six completely different destinations to investigate local monster sightings.
"A great book that is a superb listen"
In 1925 Colonel P. H. Fawcett embarked on a journey into a dangerous and largely unexplored region of Brazil in search of a fabled lost city and was never seen again. Journalist Peter Fleming's interest in Fawcett's disappearance led him to answer an advertisement to join an expedition to explore the rivers of Brazil with the aim of ascertaining the explorer's fate. Though Colonel Fawcett's disappearance remains a mystery to this day, Peter Fleming's wild adventure in the jungles of Brazil is recognized as one of the 20th century's best-loved travel classics.
The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT )is the perfect place for an average person to do something extraordinary. Bill Walker ("Skywalker"), who stands 6'11", might seem like anything but average. Yet in a brutally honest tone, he lays to bare all his considerable weaknesses and fears. Among these are crushing weight loss and fatigue, along with a fear of getting lost or a bear stealing his food. Nonetheless, he is bound and determined to hike the PCT which - at 2,663 miles - runs all the way from Mexico to Canada.
"Makes you want to put on your boots and walk!"
Catching all the fascination and humour of travel in out-of-the-way places, One's Company is Peter Fleming's account of his journey through Russia and Manchuria to China when he was Special Correspondent to The Times in the 1930s. Fleming spent seven months with the "object of investigating the Communist situation in South China" at a time when, as far as he knew, "no previous journey had been made to the anti-communist front by a foreigner", and on its publication in 1934, One's Company won widespread critical acclaim.
In the fall of 1978, Ray Ordorica packed everything he thought he would need into his Toyota LandCruiser and drove north to Alaska. He came to a land he had never seen, to find something he wasn't even sure existed: a wilderness cabin he could use for a year or more to live, think, relax, read, and write. Ordorica found his cabin, fixed it up, and, although it was just an un-insulated 12- by 16-foot one-room log structure, he spent three winters in it in relative comfort.
"if you like Alaska the Final frontier try this"
Canoeing the Congo narrates the journey of Phil Harwood, who undertook an epic five-month solo attempt to canoe the Congo River in war-torn Central Africa. It was a historic 'first descent' from the true source in the highlands of Zambia. Just short of 3,000 miles long, the Congo River is the eighth longest in the world and the deepest river in the world, with a flow rate second only to the Amazon. Along the way, Phil encountered numerous waterfalls, huge rapids, man-eating crocodiles, hippos, aggressive snakes...
"interesting up to a point"
Maugham spent the winter months of 1919 travelling 1500 miles up the Yangtze river. Always more interested in people than places, he noted down acute and finely crafted sketches of those he met on countless scraps of paper. In the resulting collection we encounter Western missionaries, army officers and company managers who are culturally out of their depth in the immensity of the Chinese civilisation.
Enduring sweltering heat, fending off poisonous snakes and lecherous men, chasing her camels when they get skittish and nursing them when they are injured, Davidson emerges as an extraordinarily courageous heroine driven by a love of Australia's landscape, an empathy for its indigenous people, and a willingness to cast away the trappings of her former identity. Tracks is the compelling, candid story of her odyssey of discovery and transformation.
"1970s adventure across Australia - different times"
In early 2003, a young Wall Street investment banker named Bo Parfet set out to accomplish something very few had done before - climbing the highest mountain on every continent. He was not a professional climber, but what began as a casual interest would soon become a lifelong passion and in just over four years, Bo would overcome the odds and conquer all of the mountains - Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua, Denali, Vinson Massif, Elbrus, Carstenz Pyramid, Kosciusko, and Everest - with courage, unbridled passion, and determination.
"More humorous than other mountain books"
In 2001, martial arts-trained biker Glen Heggstad began a journey from California to the tip of South America on his motorcycle and made it as far as Colombia, where he was kidnapped by local rebels and held captive. Undeterred by more than a month of traumatic incarceration, the 'Striking Viking' finished his trip after being released. Three years later he set out into the world on his bike again, this time searching for truth on his own terms in a world that had become strangled by a climate of fear.
"If only other Americans would follow this path."
James Brabazon is narrating this story of war, violence, and political intrigue. He wanted a war. And, for his sins, he got one. James Brabazon was an ambitious young war reporter when he entered the chaos of the Liberian Civil War in 2002. Running with the infamous LURD rebels, he survived numerous deadly ambushes, the privations of dysentery and a dramatic two hundred-mile escape from Government troops through dense equatorial jungle. He even had a bounty put on his head.
This is Michael Krupa's story of how in 1939 he escaped the German invasion of Poland only to be captured by the Red Army, accused of espionage and interrogated in the notorious Lubianka prison. He was then sent to the infamous Pechora Gulag, where most inmates died of overwork and starvation within a year. Amazingly, Kupra then escaped and made the gruelling journey from Siberia to Afghanistan. This is a remarkable true story of survival and also gives a chilling insight into the brutality of Stalinist Russia.
"Astounding true story - pity about the narration"
As Ellie's 50th birthday approaches and her ambitions of a steady income, a successful career and an ascent of Everest seem as far away as ever, she begins to doubt she's capable of achieving anything at all. So when her best friend Mick suggests a gruelling cycle ride from Land's End to John o'Groats, she takes up the challenge. They opt for the scenic route which takes them along cycle paths, towpaths and the back roads and byways of Britain, unable to resist sampling beers in the pubs they pass along the way.
"What a shame."
Guided by a Kazakh aphorism - "To understand the wolf, you must put the skin of a wolf on and look through its eyes" - adventurer Tim Cope undertook a journey not successfully completed since the days of Genghis Khan: He traveled by horseback across the entire length of the Eurasian steppe, from the ancient capital of Mongolia to the Danube River in Hungary.
John's trip to India starts badly when he finds himself looking at the sharp end of a knife in a train station cubicle. His life is saved by the enigmatic Rick, who persuades John to abandon his mundane plans for the future for much, much more. Fast forward to the Thai island of Koh Pha-Ngan where they pose as millionaire aristocrats in a hedonistic Eden of beautiful girls, free drugs and wild beach parties. Soon pursued by Thai Mafia, they escape to Indonesia, Australia, and Hong Kong, facing danger at every turn.
"Didn't live up to my expectations or other reviews"
Ian Moore is a stand-up comedian in the UK and a husband, father of three boys, farmhand and chutney-maker in France. He is a mod in both walks of life and most of his time is spent travelling grumpily between the two. Comedian, mod and professional grump Ian Moore has had enough. Tired of being unable to park anywhere near his cramped house in a noisy town he doesn't like, he hatches a plan to move his wife and young son to a remote corner of the Loire Valley in search of serenity and space.
"tale of ex pat Brit in France with a Parka & pets"
In May 2006, armed only with a small rucksack and a staff, Tony Kevin, an overweight, sedentary, 63-year-old former diplomat, set off on an eight-week trek across Spain. But this was not just a very long walk - it was a pilgrimage. From Granada, in the southeast, to Santiago de Compostela, in the far northwest, Tony followed the Via Mozarabe and the Via de la Plata, two of the many pilgrim trails that crisscross Spain and Portugal and that all lead to a single destination.
For the first time ever Roland Huntford presents each man's account of the race to the South Pole in their own words. In 1910, Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen set sail for Antarctica, each from his own starting point, and the epic race for the South Pole was on. 2010 marks the centenary of the last great race of terrestrial discovery. For the first time Scott's unedited diary entries run alongside those of Amundsen and Bjaaland, never before translated into English.