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John 21:17

The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."

Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."

Nov. 15, 2011

Badlands: A Tourist on the Axis of Evil

by Tony Wheeler

Confession: this is one of those books I initially picked up because the title is also the tile of a Springsteen song. It's an intriguing concept: visiting "axis of evil" and other notorious or troubled countries to discover how bad they really are. The resulting book is a series of 20 to 30-page chapters, each describing a visit to Afghanistan, Albania, Burma, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea or Saudi Arabia.

Wheeler is intrepid, entertaining and opinionated, and one quickly learns where his biases lie. As a seasoned traveller (Wheeler is the founder of Lonely Planet), he is resourceful and rarely panicked, so one gets a good sense of what someone who's seen it all thinks of the countries visited.

There are surprises along the way. Wheeler, who is British, was surprisingly tepid and critical regarding Cuba, which is often treated with kid gloves by Europeans. While not warming up to the regime, he has many good things to say about the people of Iran. Burma? Not as bad as he thought it would be. But North Korea deserves its basket-case reputation. And interestingly, Wheeler reserves some of his harshest words for Saudi Arabia, a country that on paper is a U.S. ally and not much criticized here.

These are all brief vignettes; those looking for exhaustive travel writing profiles of each country should look elsewhere. But as a quick tour of some of the world's worst places, Wheeler scores with an entertaining and informative read.

ISBN 1741791863

©2011 Rebecca Copeland


Poor man wanna be rich, rich man wanna be king. And a king ain't satisfied 'till he rules everything.