Many authors seem to believe they won't be taken seriously unless their work is laden with ponderous history. When well written, like in some of my suggestions below, that's worthwhile. When it's not, it's the reason tons of books are returned to the shelf half-finished.
In Where the West Ends, Mr. Totten mostly allows a cursory sketch of the past to suffice. I suspect that satisfies armchair travelers. Then he gets on with the travel writing I like best, what it feels like to get up from that chair and actually go to a place, and what it's like, personally, to be there.
Should Mr. Totten's book pique your interest, here are some suggestions for deeper reading:
– Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War by Thomas de Waal
– Azerbaijan Diary by Thomas Goltz
– Georgia Diary by Thomas Goltz
– Towers of Stone: The Battle of Wills in Chechnya by Wojciech Jagielski
– Bread and Ashes: A Walk Through the Mountains of Georgia by Tony Anderson
– Rebel Land: Unravelling the Riddle of History in a Turkish Town by Christopher de Bellaigue
– In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs: A Memoir of Iran by Christopher de Bellaigue
– Patriot of Persia: Muhammad Mossadegh and a Tragic Anglo-American Coup by Christopher de Bellaigue
– Black Sea by Neil Ascherson
– The Black Sea: A History by Charles King
And here, in five installments, are excerpts from Common Sense and Whiskey, the book, about our trip through the southern Caucasus: