October 15, 1984 12:00 PM

edited by Alexander Frater

What began as a series of articles in London’s Observer Magazine has become this attractive package of popular geography, with text by some of the world’s best writers and photographs by free-lancer Colin Jones. Paul Theroux went up the Yangtze in China in an elegantly outfitted boat with some American millionaires. One of them says, “These gorges come up to expectations. Very few things do. The Taj Mahal did. The pyramids didn’t. But these gorges!” Bruce Chatwin, author of the novel On the Black Hill, sails down the Volga in the Soviet Union. He is full of literary tales about Chekhov (who cruised the Volga in 1901 on his honeymoon), Gorky, Lenin and even the American critic Edmund Wilson. When his boat docks in Leningrad, the ship’s band plays Shortenin’ Bread. Geoffrey (Calcutta) Moorhouse writes the chapter on the Ganges. Other rivers navigated include the Mississippi (travel writer Libby Purves rides down on a tow barge and sees several would-be Huck Finns rafting along), the Loire, the Zaire (once the Congo), the Danube, the Amazon, the Nile and the Zambezi. These pieces are good enough to be read aloud. (Little, Brown, $24.95)

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