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Where the West Ends: Stories from the Middle East, the Balkans, the Black Sea, and the Caucasus Paperback – July 23, 2012


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Where the West Ends: Stories from the Middle East, the Balkans, the Black Sea, and the Caucasus + The Road to Fatima Gate: The Beirut Spring, the Rise of Hezbollah, and the Iranian War Against Israel
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 282 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (July 23, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 147518364X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1475183641
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #847,886 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Michael J. Totten is an award-winning journalist and prize-winning author whose very first book, The Road to Fatima Gate, won the Washington Institute Book Prize.

He has taken road trips to war zones, sneaked into police states under false pretenses, dodged incoming rocket and mortar fire, stayed in some of the worst hotels ever built anywhere, slipped past the hostile side of a front line, been accused of being a spy, received death threats from terrorists, and been mugged by the cops. When he's not doing or writing about these things, he writes novels.

His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic among numerous other publications, and he's a contributing editor at World Affairs and City Journal. He has reported widely from the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, Latin America, and the Balkans. A former resident of Beirut, he lives in Oregon with his wife and two cats.

More About the Author

Michael J. Totten is an award-winning journalist and prize-winning author whose very first book, The Road to Fatima Gate, won the Washington Institute Book Prize. His novel, Resurrection, has been optioned for film.

He has taken road trips to war zones, sneaked into police states under false pretenses, dodged incoming rocket and mortar fire, stayed in some of the worst hotels ever built anywhere, slipped past the hostile side of a front line, been accused of being a spy, received death threats from terrorists, and been mugged by the police in Egypt. When he's not doing or writing about these things, he writes novels.

His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic among numerous other publications, and he's a contributing editor at World Affairs and City Journal. He has reported widely from the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, Latin America, and the Balkans. A former resident of Beirut, he lives in Oregon with his wife and two cats.

Customer Reviews

Fan book, very well written, and very interesting.
Dan in Ottawa
Best thing about this book is the highly personal style and the centrist tone - so much writing about this topic is pitched with a political bias.
Grahame Lynch
I'll keep it simple: Buy the book, or the kindle version.
Paul MacPhail

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Asher Abrams on August 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
'Where the West Ends' is, at least superficially, a travelogue about the region straddling eastern Europe and western Asia, during the period from 2006 to 2012. The book is divided into four sections covering the Middle East, the Balkans, the Caucasus, and the Black Sea. It's roughly the same region covered by Robert D. Kaplan about ten years earlier in Kaplan's book 'Eastward to Tartary'. But "Where the West Ends" is more personal, and it is astonishing. At times it surreally reminded me of China Mieville's novel 'The City & the City'.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Probably most of us are guilty of throwing around terms like "the West" and "the Middle East" without really thinking too hard about what they mean, or where those places begin or end. If you want to understand what "the West" is, read this book to learn where it is, and where it is not.

There is a persistent feeling of loneliness in this book. It is the loneliness of communities cut off from one another and from themselves; but it's also the loneliness of certain individuals who refuse to be confined within the communal walls that are assigned to them.

There are harrowing stories of violence and cruelty, such as Berisha's tale of the expulsion of the Albanians from Prishtina and the ravaging of Krusha e Vogel. There is Ukraine's memory of the Stalinist "hunger plague" of 1932-1933. But there are also stories of courage and kindness, and of hope.

Three themes emerged for me as I read "Where the West Ends". There is the image of the lonely liberal, surrounded by a sea of increasingly hostile and violent factions. There is the conflict between old traditionalism and new fundamentalism. And there is the improbable eruption of pro-Americanism in the strangest places.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By M. Weingrad on August 6, 2012
Format: Paperback
It may seem odd to say that Where The West Ends is Michael Totten's "must-read" book, after his deservedly award-winning The Road To Fatima Gate (as well as his significant book of Iraq reportage In the Wake of the Surge). But the newest book by this talented freelance writer and foreign correspondent is simultaneously the most personally revealing and most durably universal of his three books published to date. It meditates profoundly on the ultimate stakes of all the conflicts and conflicted lands from which he has reported, from Lebanon to Iraq, from the Mediterranean to the Caspian Sea.

It does so while pulling back the curtain on his own life and background more revealingly than in his other books, though it is never self-indulgent. These essays at times become madcap travelogues, in which Totten (and his comrade-in-arms Sean) are like a Hunter S. Thompson and Dr. Gonzo, high not on illicit drugs but rather on a supremely American decency and curiosity regarding the world beyond Totten's native Oregon. We are treated to accounts, alternately harrowing and funny, surprising and heartbreaking, of Totten's travels through cities and places as diverse as Dubrovnik, Iraqi Kurdistan, the Ukraine, and Azerbaijan, yet which all, through conversations with intellectuals and activists, random street encounters, and Totten's detail-hungry eye, reveal volumes about the fault lines between east and west.

These lines run in often unexpected directions--anyone who is confident that he can establish fixed borders in the clash of civilizations should read this book and think again. Totten's politics are refreshingly eclectic, not doctrinaire.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Liebo on July 27, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I generally steer away from travel writing about more mainstream locations because I find that the genre can be rather formulaic (I ate here, I stayed here, the people were like this and then I went somewhere else) and I feel that popular destinations like London or Paris are best experienced in person rather than through the page. I can state with reasonable confidence, however, that I do not have any of the areas visited by Michael Totten in Where the West Ends on any upcoming travel itineraries. In fact, it is pretty safe to assume that I probably wont ever make it to the likes of Kosovo, Iraq, or Montenegro or anyplace else visited by Totten while he traverses the nebulous border between east and west. Totten's book reads like a travelogue with a strong geopolitical focus and is ultimately an informative and enjoyable examination of such countries.

Totten and an occasional travel partner ultimately visit thirteen countries in all with each country roughly receiving one chapter. Each chapter can stand alone as a vignette but chapters are further organized by region which helps provide greater context to understanding life there. Where the West Ends adheres to some of the basic structures of travel writing, and Totten offers up some vivid descriptions of the sheer beauty and abject desolation that he finds within these countries. He is a gifted writer and he is also very familiar with his subject matter. Totten is a journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal and he has reported from Iraq, the Balkans, and the former Soviet Union.

I came into the book with very limited knowledge about the region.
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