Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Kingdoms in the Air

by Bob Shacochis

Collected for the first time ever: thirteen of National Book Award winner and trailblazing war journalist Bob Shacochis’s travel and adventure essays that span the globe and world politics from Kathmandu to Christmas Island.

  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 400
  • Publication Date June 07, 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2476-0
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $26.00

About The Book

Best known for his sweeping international and political fiction narratives, including The Woman Who Lost Her Soul, which won the Dayton Peace Prize and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Bob Shacochis began his writing career as a pioneering journalist and contributing editor for Outside magazine and Harper’s. Kingdoms in the Air brings together the very best of Shacochis’s culture and travel essays in one live-wire collection that spans his global adventures and his life passions; from surfing, to his obsession with the South American dorado, to the time he went bushwhacking in Mozambique. In the titular essay “Kingdoms,” the longest work in the collection, Shacochis ventures to Nepal with his friend, the photographer Thomas Laird, who was the first foreigner to live in Nepal’s kingdom of Mustang as the forbidden Shangri-la prepared to open its borders to trekkers and trade. When the two men return a decade after Laird first lived there, Shacochis observes in brilliantly evocative prose both the current cultural and political landscape of the country and the changes with which his friend has to reconcile.

Replete with Shacochis’s signature swagger, humor, and crystalline wisdom, Kingdoms in the Air is a majestic and essential collection from one of our most important writers.


“Shacochis has extended his knowledge and imagination into places most of us have never ventured.” —Washington Post

“What other American writer has put as much heart into his creations, as much drive, as much history?” —Los Angeles Review of Books

“The pieces collected in Kingdoms in the Air are vivid portraits of iconoclasts and rugged individualists who have surrendered their Western comforts for adventure and higher purpose in the developing world . . . Shacochis evokes the pains and pleasures of [his] trek with lyrical prose.” —New York Times Book Review

“Shacochis’ fiery, wrought prose is on full display . . . This is travel writing at its finest.” —Men’s Journal, a Best Book of the Month

“[A] career-defining collection of magazine writing . . . [it] inspires us not to argue with destiny.” —Los Angeles Times

“Shacochis is intent on nailing down what it means to be an American on the global stage of the late-20th and early-21st centuries . . . [he] uses every weapon in his writer’s arsenal. Comic hyperbole and copious high dudgeon lead the way. Capsule national histories and sharp contemporary observations fill out the picture. Whether he’s in Cuba, Mozambique, or attempting to climb Mount Ararat, he vividly places you in both the past and present of his destinations . . . [his] restlessness and recklessness, all couched in a headlong maximalist prose, are impossible to resist.” —Boston Globe

“[This book] gives readers a vicarious sidecar seat for a life for which ‘adventure travel’ is far too mild, and simple, a term . . . Shacochis is interested in the places that are not easy, and in how it changes us to visit them—and how we change them in return . . . He melds his personal experiences of some of the globe’s wildest places with incisive analyses of history, culture, politics and more . . . [with] wry self-awareness, a tender heart and a brilliant, analytical intellect. His writing is simply splendid.” —Tampa Bay Times

“[An] exuberant travel and cultural anthology . . . Shacochis brings each setting to life with a perceptive eye, an edgy devotion to fresh language, and mastery at capturing group interaction . . . his diverse, vibrant essays, brimming with initiative, may inspire some to seek the unique rewards of unstructured travel.” —Booklist (starred review)

“Witty, irreverent . . . [an] enlightening travel collection for a voyage of self-discovery.” —Kirkus Reviews


I raise my foot to the stirrup and test my weight against the saddle, trying to determine if it is too loose and will rotate when I mount, and Tomay wisely exerts his own weight against the opposite stirrup. The moment I’m in the air, Jamling sidesteps nervously, my pack shifts, knocking me off balance, the horse lurches, but I flip my leg over its rump and hold tight, grabbing the reins and pulling the bit back through its skull until the horse’s nose is on my knee and it cha-chas backward into the other mounts, who begin biting one another. This acting up, I know, can go on for a while before a high-spirited horse resigns itself to a rider, but before I can subdue Jamling, Mahendra grabs the lead rope and halter and escorts the horse to the front of the pack, where it settles down.

“This horse likes to go,” says Mahendra.

“He’s all right,” I say. I like to go too.
And just like that, we are moving out, down the bankside and out of town and onto the rocky floodplain of the Kali Gandaki. Cowgirl muscles through the scrum until she walks head to tail with Jamling; the blues jostle side by side behind her, trading places every ten seconds, unrestrained by their riders.