Ted Conover

A first-rate journalist who likes to immerse himself in his reporting, Ted Conover collects several past assignments in The Routes of Man (Knopf, $26.95). He gets behind the wheel, or rides shotgun, to peer through the windshield in China, the West Bank, Peru, Nigeria, and other locales. Along the way, he ponders how highways promote the spread of AIDS (especially via truckers in '90s East Africa), follows the mahogany trade from the rain forest to Manhattan, and considers how snowbound villagers in Ladakh would benefit from an all-season road that Western tourists decry. One man's Shangri-La is another's rural ghetto; and the difference between the two is written in asphalt. (In China, this theme closely relates to Peter Hessler's recent Country Driving.) All roads are conduits of information, and Conover their recorder. To connect these previously published accounts (in The New Yorker and elsewhere), he writes short interstitial sections you can easily skip. Like truck stops on a road trip, they aren't worth remembering. All that matters, for Conover and the reader, is the next trip. BRIAN MILLER

Tue., March 16, 7 p.m., 2010

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