The Critics: ‘The Routes of Man’ by Ted Conover

Travel Blog  •  Eva Holland  •  02.16.10 | 12:10 PM ET

Hard-traveling journalist Ted Conover’s latest, The Routes of Man: How Roads are Changing the World and the Way We Live Today, hit stores last week. The book sees Conover traveling six different roads, some official and some unofficial, from Peru’s mahogany export routes to China’s new superhighways, in an effort to understand the way they are “reshaping the world.”

The Washington Post’s Jonathan Yardley is skeptical of the concept. He writes that “what we have here essentially are a half-dozen magazine pieces, stitched together in such a way as to resemble a real book but missing the thematic core that Conover strains to locate.” However, Yardley adds, “Conover’s six reports are variously interesting in and of themselves, and one shouldn’t expect any more from them.”

Over at NPR, Maureen Corrigan notes that the “vivid armchair travel aspect of Conover’s book is undeniably a great part of its appeal,” but wonders where the women are—the book, she writes, takes place in “a road warrior universe that is pretty much all male.” The Los Angeles Times’ Taylor Antrim is less conflicted, describing “The Routes of Man” as “refreshingly nonromantic road writing.” He goes on:

What Conover has brought back is a clear-eyed understanding that roads confine as much as they liberate, that they make the world more accessible but also infinitely more dangerous and exploitable. Perhaps the only certainty he offers is that these “paths of human endeavor” are inevitable: “They are the infrastructure upon which almost all other infrastructure depends.”

Eva Holland is co-editor of World Hum. She is a former associate editor at Up Here and Up Here Business magazines, and a contributor to Vela. She's based in Canada's Yukon territory.

1 Comment for The Critics: ‘The Routes of Man’ by Ted Conover

Tim Patterson 02.19.10 | 3:30 AM ET

I’m a bit starry eyed where Ted Conover is concerned, but the Wash Post criticism does ring a bit true for me.

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