To travel the Silk Road, the greatest land route on earth, is to trace the passage not only of trade and armies but also of ideas, religions, and inventions. Making his way by local bus, truck, car, donkey cart, and camel, Colin Thubron covered some seven thousand miles in eight months—out of the heart of China into the mountains of Central Asia, across northern Afghanistan and the plains of Iran into Kurdish Turkey—and explored an ancient world in modern ferment.
With its elegiac tone, Shadow of the Silk Road is moving in a way that s rare in travel literature, sidestepping nostalgia even as it notes its pull. Thubron goes to places most other sojourners can t—because they re not so much geographic locations as states of mind, formed from the lifelong accretion of intriguing facts, mistaken hopes, mysteries. Here, on civilization s oldest and longest road, which isn t quite a road, he has found his way into that kingdom and brought it into focus for us.