Reviews

“As I read this book, I grew increasingly impressed not only with Conover’s bravery and hardihood, which he underplays, but, more important, with that quality one associates with Steinbeck: heart. Here is a man who cares about people everywhere, not merely that convenient abstraction, humanity, but people in particular . . . The six road situations he describes are undeniable quandaries, and we owe it to the people caught up in them, not to mention to our planet, to consider what policies, if any, should engineer the roads through everyone’s lives.” William T. Vollmann, front page, The New York Times Book Review

“Ted Conover is one of the great writers of my generation, and this may be his finest book. Fearless and compassionate, with echoes of Conrad and Kerouac, it explores how the road, once a symbol of limitless possibility, has become a path to annihilation. I have enormous admiration for what Conover has achieved.” – Eric Schlosser, author, Fast Food Nation

“One of Mr Conover’s previous books, about being a corrections officer in Sing Sing prison, was a finalist for the Pulitzer prize, and it is easy to see why. He has a wonderful eye for detail and the easy, unshowy style that marks the best travel writing. … Like the hoboes he met on the railways and the Mexican migrants of his earlier book, Mr Conover here has taken an unpromising subject and turned it into a book that is about far more than just the strips of tarmac that criss-cross the world.” The Economist

“Ted Conover’s exploration of six far-flung ‘roads,’ from a truck route over the Andes to an ambulance crew’s rounds in Lagos, Nigeria, will prove a delight, while at the same time serving to remind that in many places of the world the act of getting around is an art marked by pride, lust, corruption and bloodshed.” – Erik Larson, author, The Devil in the White City

“Conover’s voice is that of a sobered Kerouac, tamed by a bigger conscience, and on an open road increasingly controlled by corporate, government, and military interests. His acclaimed narrative gifts are on full display in a wonderfully evenhanded treatment of the roadway in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. … Conover maintains a commitment to accurate portrayal and embraces the whole world, not only its dramatic aspects.

… This many-textured journey is not to be missed. Conover deftly navigates the romance and harsh reality of a world intent on a real and not just a virtual connectedness.” Jeb Brugmann, Publisher’s Weekly [Signature review]

Newjack combined harrowing storytelling with a damning message about the failings of our corrections system. The Routes of Man … is no less gripping and provocative. … What Conover has brought back is a clear-eyed understanding that roads confine as much as they liberate, that they make the world more accessible but also infinitely more dangerous and exploitable. … Jeopardy in one form or another punctuates every chapter of the book … Despite his apparent fearlessness, Conover, thankfully, is no cowboy journalist. His modesty and compassion make The Routes of Man less a series of travel adventures than an empathetic look at the contradictory effects of modernity.” Taylor Antrim, Los Angeles Times

“Like a lot of people, I’ve spent a good deal of my life on roads, thinking about roads, and believing I knew a little bit about roads. Ted Conover’s The Routes of Man pretty much demolished this belief. With its surfeit of fascinating information and beautifully and empathetically drawn characters, this book does what all great books do: It forces you to look at what is notionally familiar with new and better eyes.” Tom Bissell, author, The Father of All Things

“A work of tremendous research and imagination, The Routes of Man is a brilliant and poetic approach to human history and a meditation on civilization’s future.” Melissa Fay Greene, author, Praying for Sheetrock

“These first-person travelogues … exhibit [Conover's] remarkable gift for companionship and impious eye for absurdity… Loaded with searching questions about the double edge of connectivity and the future of the planet, this is a book with few answers. The main comfort it provides is the chance to spend time with such a thoughtful and daring writer.” – Richard B. Woodward, The New York Times

“Run-ins with police, thieves, and border guards attest to Conover’s down-and-dirty dedication. … Conover is a master of first-person, immersion journalism; his road trips are both entertaining and poignant.” – Ethan Gilsdorf, The Boston Globe

“Mr. Conover is good company wherever he goes. … his roaming is fueled by inquisitiveness and refreshingly short on preconceptions. He is not a writer who would travel to the ends of the earth to find out what he already knows. … his resistance to one-note thinking keeps his book short on speechifying, long on humanity. Janet Maslin, New York Times

“While Conover examines troubling issues that road-building can entail – pitting development against environmental concerns, or isolation against connectivity and possible erasure of local cultures, for example – it is his strong sense of life’s clock ticking all around him that lifts his reporting above the ranks of travel-as-usual literature. … [his] polyglot sections are individual gems of journalistic work.” – Art Winslow, The Chicago Tribune

“In striking detail, Conover thoughtfully explores how roads, especially in rapidly changing countries, are contested boundary lines where the demands of the environment, traditional cultures, educational opportunity, and industrial progress collide. … in The Routes of Man he proves to be a discerning map reader of its global meanings and meanderings.” Maureen Corrigan, “Fresh Air from WHYY”

The Routes of Man is an old-fashioned piece of thoughtful journalism and travel literature, the kind of book that is increasingly rare, perhaps even on its way to extinction: meditative yet fact-filled, and with the breadth of ambition to cover a fair amount of the globe in its reporting.” Rick Bass, Philadelphia Inquirer

“Vivid, smart and evenhanded.”Thomas Rogers, salon.com

“Ted Conover puts himself in harm’s way and tells us about it. That’s his way as a writer. He leads us into zones adjacent to American-normal — awkward, exciting places for us, but places that are routine for those he encounters. His chronicles are reliably fascinating and elegant. … His ultimate interests are not in macadam, steep grades or hairpin turns, although he covers those. Reversing the usual, Conover has made roads his vehicle. He rides them along routes that reflect public longing and corporate need. … [His] uncompromising curiosity and relish of the revealing, gritty adventures of daily life are instructions in joie de vivre. We join the world in transit, along the routes that carry comforts our way and spread the mixed blessing of modernity … ” – Mark Kramer, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“It provides an intriguing ground-level glimpse of some of the world’s weightiest issues: pillaging the rain forest, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, AIDS in Africa, how capitalism is changing China. … As someone whose eyes often glaze over at words like ‘rain forest’ or ‘West Bank,’ I found myself re-engaged by Conover as he put readers alongside Israeli soldiers and Palestinian commuters, and trekked with illegal mahogany traders in Peru.” Clint O’Connor, The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Let’s face it: it’s hard to write a book about infrastructure. The ties that bind us together are enormously complex but difficult to make interesting. The sewer system of New York is collapsing as we speak, but who cares? Garbage dumps? Highways? What a snooze. That’s why Ted Conover’s book about roads — by turns philosophical, witty, and hang-onto-your-seats adventurous — is such a tour de force. … Conover doesn’t so much solve the problems he finds as pose them wisely, leaving us open to their dangers and possibilities. We leave our journey renewed, feeling how the most familiar parts of our world can also be its most puzzling.” Tess Taylor, Barnes & Noble Review

“Conover has thought deeply about the multiple meanings of roads built thousands of years ago, as well as those built more recently. He has placed himself in peril to travel dangerous roads of today, searching for anecdotes and the meaning of those anecdotes. As a result, this always compelling book serves as both a philosophical narrative and an adventure tale.” – Steve Weinberg, Dallas Morning News

“Ted Conover’s courageous reporting and vivid prose lend The Routes of
Man
an un-put-down-able momentum.” Anne Fadiman, author, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

“The roads traveled in The Routes of Man have this common destination — a story we wouldn’t have imagined ourselves but have been waiting to hear, told with extraordinary intelligence and empathy.Mark Singer, author, Somewhere in America

“Humans evolved on the road and we go on seeking territory, survival, wealth, and even knowledge. The Odyssey, Don Quixote, On the Road, The Road, Arabian Sands, Marco Polo on the Silk Road, wagon trains heading for California, and Latinos at the fence between Mexico and the U.S.A.–so many of us streaming toward vivid dreams. Buy this book and enjoy some armchair roaming (the second best way to travel). That’s my advice.” William Kittredge, author, Hole in the Sky

“With Conover’s keen observations and thoughtful meditations, I’d follow him just about anywhere — and this journey is as fun and as discerning as it gets.” Alex Kotlowitz, author, There Are No Children Here

“A readable, fact-filled, well-written exploration of how roads works, for good and ill, and what their future likely holds.” Kirkus Reviews