I checked out Steve Hely’s The Wonder Trail: True Stories from Los Angeles to the End of the World for a couple of reasons.
He’s a former staff writer for 30 Rock, which I think is one of the funniest North American sitcoms of all time;
Los Angeles is featured quite prominently in the beginning and that is a city I’m visiting this coming fall; I love traveling.
The book boasts (both on the back cover and inside) that it is one for those who love traveling and those who don’t, and I think that’s actually a very fair statement.
It’s a book that reminded me of everything that is both wonderful and terrible when exploring the world — uncomfortable linguistic mishaps, loneliness, shiny new people with interesting stories and overrated and underrated sights.
It also features plenty of history, which Hely presents alongside his anecdotes in short chapters.
You don’t like history?
Skip those brief chapters and they won’t detract from the rest of the book.
Hely is sharply observant, and while some of his yarns ring slightly self-indulgent, I appreciated the colloquial, relatable way he presents them.
This is a very personal book. Hely knows you can read more technically detailed books elsewhere, so his aim seems to be more about giving an idea of a place alongside a story that demonstrates what he did for fun while visiting.
His suggestions for what to do at Machu Picchu, for example, include: “Take stuff in and out of your backpack. Saw a lot of people doing this one. I did it plenty myself…Explore…Feed an apple to a Ilama.”
If you like your educational information with a side of funny personal essay, this book is for you.
If you like your funny personal essay with a side of educational information, this is also going to be a happy read.
If you want an impartial travel guide with lists of five-star accommodations and local culinary delights, perhaps choose a different book from our travel guide section.
Rachel Rosenberg, a library technician at RPL’s Ironwood branch, is originally from Montreal. Her favourite novels include Ali Smith’s Hotel Worldand David Sedaris’s Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim.