When Mr Baker set out on his travels in May 2005 he sent out a regularly email diary. Polished, and stripped of any factual inaccuracy these emails now form the backbone of his work. I found them a refreshing window on humanity. Other readers will likewise look forward to finding out how the Jolly Pilgrim's (occasionally harebrained) exploits unfold. Swimming the Bosporus springs to mind.
The emails were necessary concise and outward facing. The book interspaces these with `Musings' - the authors commentary on the unfolding events where he shares much of the private thoughts he did not share at the time in his emails.
This counterpoint works well, for instance Chapter 5 consists of five diary entries relating a brief interlude from traversing the east coast of Australia to attend the wedding of a friend in India. The Jolly Pilgrim's description of the wedding and associated events are most uplifting, yet the Musings reveals the heartache when he fails to win the girl of his dreams.
By the middle of chapter 6 it becomes clear this is more than just a travel story. `Straight to Camera' sets out the beginnings of a thesis that forms the meat of the remaining work.
At nearly 100 pages Chapter 9 (Global deconstruction) covers more than a fifth of the work. By this time the travelogue has taken a back seat and Mr Baker's essay's take centre stage. These `Global Musings' cover the topics that were at the forefront of the minds of more than a thousand people he met as he travelled the world. Amongst these are: human welfare, the environment, the distribution of resources and our relationship with the infinite "nobody could have thought up a cosmic explosion of hydrogen and helium atoms stewing into galaxies".
These essays are meticulously crafted, stimulating, intellectually robust and form a coherent lens through which to view civilization at the dawn of the 21st century, though not entirely without flaw - some themes run through more than one essay but the reader is left to make the connection themselves. Although I found the incessant sign posting in the Lexus and the Olive tree irritating, a bit of sign posting when the author revisits a topic would have made it easier to the reader to see how the new thesis links to the previous one.
Having said that this is a minor point and if you read the Jolly Pilgrim cover to cover you should be able to join the dots. And this is a book that rewards tackling it in this way rather than dipping in and out. A thorough reading will reward you with a modern interpretation of humanity, our place in the cosmos and, was for me, a profoundly uplifting experience.