Into the Unknown.
I am starting with the one at the bottom: The Silk Road by Frances Wood. I have read other books by this author so I know I'm going to have a good time. Just reading a few pages and I am struck by the strangeness of these places, and trying to imagine how it must be to live in a place like Kashkar with long winters and short hot summers and virtually no rain. It is an oasis, and already I'm thinking of it as a cauldron full of different races of people. Frances Wood vividly evokes the market place with the help of carefully chosen extracts from the accounts of nineteenth and twentieth century explorers.
It is great to be an armchair traveller, but reading books like this makes me want so much to go there. I nearly did, when I travelled to China a couple of years ago, but unfortunately the area was experiencing unrest and the Foreign Office was advising people to keep clear. No doubt these explorers would have regarded this sort of advice as an interesting challenge, and ignored it. I, however, am more of a coward.