Antonson, Rick. To Timbuktu for a Haircut: A Journey Through West Africa. Skyhorse, dist. by Norton. 2013. 276p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9781620875674. pap. $16.95. TRAV
The idea came in Antonson’s youth, triggered by a response from his father, who was being pestered by the author and his older brother to disclose where he was going: “I’m going to Timbuktu to get my hair cut!” And so began Antonson’s quest: one day he, too, would go to Timbuktu to get a haircut! Flash forward years later, and Antonson—world traveler, president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver, and vice chair of the Pacific Asia Travel Association—finds himself on a voyage by train, car, boat, and camel, accompanied by memorable individuals, among them a guide named Zak and, occasionally, a cook named Nema, through Senegal and Mali. Originally published in 2008, this revised and updated edition is supplemented by a discussion of the new realities facing Timbuktu and Mali in general, as a result of the activities of Islamic extremists; the author also provides updates on the people he met on his trip. Maps, illustrations, and photos are included. VERDICT A delightful book filled with humor and adventure. Readers will enjoy this engaging and lively story of one man’s travels, but they will also learn about the history of the area, past explorers, and the famed manuscripts of Timbuktu.
Sovich, Nina. To the Moon and Timbuktu: A Trek Through the Heart of Africa. New Harvest: Houghton Harcourt. 2013. 272p. ISBN 9780544025950. $25. TRAV
After years of traveling the globe as a reporter, Sovich settles down to marriage and domesticity in Paris but soon realizes that her desire for travel and exploration has never really gone away. So after trying miserably to be happy in Paris, Sovich decides to travel to Timbuktu, inspired by female explorers of the past such as Mary Kingsley and Karen Blixen, aka Isak Dinesen, as well as her own mother, who loved to travel to Africa. The trip is not what Sovich expects, but after a bad start in Morocco and Western Sahara and a retreat back to Paris, she starts again and eventually reaches her destination, the legendary city of Timbuktu in Mali, via Mauritania. The story does not end with the goal of Timbuktu attained, for after Timbuktu and the Malian city of Gao, Sovich returns to Paris, becomes pregnant, and then goes to Niger. VERDICT A feisty American trying to adjust to her domestic life breaks free and goes on an adventure to Timbuktu to save her soul and search for a better life. Lovers of travel literature will adore this book.