You may not know it yet, but Tom Zoellner's new book is one you need to read. Like its subject, Train, is by turns lyrical, powerful, romantic, transporting, and rich. The author of A Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us About the Grand Canyon State and Life in America, Zoellner illustrates how the modern era was ushered in and strapped in place by railroads, and how trains -- the reality and the idea -- continue to shape the world as we understand it.
|Tom Zoellner's new book is about the history of trains.|
Train is, in effect, a trip, and Zoellner is the ideal guide and traveling companion, through Russia, China, India, South America. First, he's fascinated by trains, and his evident enthusiasm is contagious. He writes, "I sometimes think that if I had nothing better to do with my life that I would buy a stack of Amtrak tickets and sit in the club car and listen to people's stories" -- and we believe him. Second he's a keen observer (and describer) of people, and he can bring the landscape scrolling by his window to life in just a few sentences. He also manages to provide the history and context the reader needs to grasp the bigger picture he's riding through, whether it's the British Rail System and the chaotic, bucolic beginnings of train travel, or China's Ministry of Railways and its runaway "golden path to prosperity," without veering into the kind of mind-numbing recitation of facts and figures that prompts either skipping pages or a nap.More »