Paul Theroux: Back on the Tracks

Elise Amendola / AP

ROUND TRIP: Theroux, at his home in Massachusetts

You have to hand it to travel writers who take on huge subjects. And traversing Europe, Russia, central Asia, India, southeast Asia and Japan by various modes of transport (mostly rail), then writing a 500-page book about the journey — with detail piled upon observational detail — is pretty huge. It takes guts, and some might say a bit of hubris, even to try.

That's true even if you're Paul Theroux, arguably the dean of all living travel writers and certainly one of the most accomplished. In his latest, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Theroux retraces the...

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