Tearing up the Silk Road

Tearing up the Silk Road Book Cover Tearing up the Silk Road details a journey along the ancient trade routes from China to Istanbul, through Central Asia, Iran and the Caucasus. On the way, we visit China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Armenia, Georgia and Turkey.

The author's personal journey is interspersed with historical anecdotes, social commentary and investigations into the increasingly globalised nature of culture and identity.


Tearing up the Silk Road is a book that deftly avoids romanticising the Silk Road and instead gives a realistic, sometimes harsh, appraisal of the countries passed through. Travellers too, will appreciate the intense focus on the nuts and bolts of travelling through the region ... It's Coote's account of the ideological battle between the East and the West in the region that adds depth to the book. He notes that the real clash is between the few who have much and the masses demanding more.

- Wanderlust Magazine

The author writes with a wonderful depth and precision so as to engross you in his journey, providing adventure with a unique and revealing perspective for life along the silk road.

- Bare Essentials Magazine

If you've ever had the urge to chuck in your day job, step outside your comfort zone and strap yourself in for a rugged cultural journey, this is for you.

- Get Lost Magazine

An entertaining read that will inspire greater interest in the region.

- Central Asia Magazine

At the heart of 'Tearing up the Silk Road' is conflict: not just the 'clash of civilisations' between East and West but also the deeper, more primal conflict between the settled and nomadic that forms the foundation of so much Western thought. In between the random encounters, unexpected pleasures, and inevitable frustrations of an epic overland journey, this theme of duality is returned to again and again.

There are no easy answers offered, no novelty forms of transport or contrived conceits of an imagined quest, no attempt to follow in the footsteps of the famous, and no mindless romanticism. This is raw, irreverent and relentless travel writing, unafraid to break free of restrictive conventions.

In style and substance, the writing is far removed from the established travel writers of the day, and closer in spirit to the contemporary fiction of Douglas Coupland, Chuck Palahniuk and Dave Eggers. It is Dave Egger's 'You Shall Know Our Velocity' that, in particular, brings to mind many of the themes, concerns, and stylistic quirks of 'Tearing up the Silk Road': as well as the never ending lust for novelty and transgression, the detailed descriptions of apparently surface level mundanity, and the ever present white noise of the global information networks, throughout this overland journey there is also the ominous undertow of the author's recently developed throat tumour - a mutation that appears to grow in significance as the exploits of various 'cancerous' ideologues and dictatorships are recalled.

In an age where it is becoming increasingly unlikely that 'non celebrity' travel writers will be published at all - especially ones who refuse to conform to previously profitable but arguably outdated formats - it is reassuring to find that such uncompromising and ambitious travel writing can still, occasionally, find its way out in to the world.

- Guardian Online

I currently have book reviews for Tearing up the Silk Road (Garnet Publishing, 2012) in Australia's Get Lost Magazine (see it here), Vagablogging, Open Central Asia Magazine, and Perceptive Travel. It's also been featured in Wanderlust, National Geographic Traveller and Bare Essentials Magazine.

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Book Blurb

Tearing up the Silk Road is an irreverent travelogue that details a journey along the ancient trade routes from China to Istanbul, through Central Asia, Iran and the Caucasus. As Tom Coote struggles through the often arbitrary borders and bureaucracies of China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Armenia, Georgia and Turkey, it becomes increasingly apparent that the next generations to rise to power, will see themselves in a very different light to their predecessors: in an increasingly interconnected world, archaic conceptions of race, ethnicity and nationalism will come to be seen as increasingly irrelevant. Instead, new forms of identity are emerging, founded more upon shared cultural preferences and aspirations, than on the remnants of tribal allegiance.

While rushing through from East to West, Tom Coote meets, befriends and argues with an epic range of characters: from soldiers and monks, to pilgrims, travellers and modern day silk road traders. All are striving for something more and most dream of being somewhere else.

By bus, train and battered car - through deserts, open plains and mountain ranges - we find ourselves again and again at the front line of a desperate war for 'hearts and minds'. Through rapidly expanding megacities, to ancient ruins, and far more recently created wastelands, it is the West that is winning the souls while the East grows ever stronger. The real 'clash of civilisations', however, seems set to be not between the East and the West, but between the few who have so much, and the masses now uniting to demand so much more.



Endings and Beginnings: From East to West * Sedentary vs. Nomadic * Isolationism and Expansionism * Imitation and Identity * Love Will Tear Us Apart

Environmental Disaster * The Transposing of Popular Culture * Consumption and Identity * Psychotherapy and Dualism * Bridges between Worlds
Kunming: Copies of Copies * Babel * Generational Shift * Unity through Art
Chengdu: International Travelling Culture * Class and Nationalism * Insularity * Sacrifice
Lanzhou: Degradation and Pollution * Hopeless Propaganda * Aspirations and Dreams * Cappuccino Culture * The Sacred and Profane
Dunhuang: Cultural Fusion * The Spread of Religious Ideas * Commodity Fetishism * Lost to Translation * The Importance of Words
Urumqi: Disturbed Environment * Memory Fades * Globalisation * Fear of the Dark * Identity and Rebellion * Freedom and Censorship * Alien Invaders * The Spread of DNA

Inequality and Capitalism * The Cost of Progress * Culture and Authenticity * Out of Time * More Mongrel than Mongol * Urban Migration * Capturing Culture * Empty Consumption * The Global Media * Religion and Identity High Art and Low Art * The American Dream * The Superiority of Youth * Ethnic Diversity * Art and Development * Freedom and Slavery * The End of History * The Tourism Dream
Shymkent and Turkistan: Luxury and Authenticity * The Failure of Soviet Consumerism * Reverence and Asceticism

Life as a Millionaire * Competition and the Black Market * Lost at the Crossroads * A Police State of Boredom * Grandeur from Slavery * Lenin Usurped by Globalisation * Religious Opposition * Blind Eyes and Massacres * Lost in Culture * U-Girls and Old Bags * Soviet Kitsch * Pilgrimage and Animism * Authenticity and the Heritage Industry * Sympathy for the Cute
Bukhara: Cultural Tourism for the Old at Heart * Layers of Belief * Health and Safety * Being Exotic * Crime and Punishment * Masters of Puppets * The World through a Lens
Samarkand: Ancient Crossroads * Blood in the Sand * Heads Held High * Restoration * Propagation of the Wicked * Memento Mori * Trapped Spirits * Winning Hearts and Minds * Knowledge and Power * Murder in Samarkand * Interests as Perceived
Tashkent (Again): Breakfast Apocalypse * Gypsy Dancer * Prodigal Sons * The Threat of the Other * Merging and Melting * The Only Way * In Search of the Mighty Dollar * Marx Usurped by the Scourge of God * Restless and Wild * There can be no Alternative
Khiva: Torn Apart * Slaves to the Grind * All Turns to Dust * Black Death Renaissance * Shackled and For Sale * Standing to Attention * Love for the Other

Dashogus and Konye-Urgench:
Divide and Rule * Dancing for Dictators * The Decline and Fall of Civilisation * The Never Ending March of Time * Deformed in the Desert * Prayers of the Barren * Like Father, Like Son * Fighting for Freedom * Drunk and Disorderly
Ashgabat: Desolation Angels * Different Worlds * Ozymandias Reborn * When Babies Rule the World * Islam's Resurgence * The Adulation of Tyrants * Spiritual Guidance * Tearing Down the House * Ivory Towers *n Turkmenbashi's Land of Fairy Tales * There be Monsters * Jesus Christ Pose * Well Ordered Emptiness * Masters and Slaves * Lost and Found * Ethnic Diversity * State of Control

Veiled Intentions * Fall Among Thieves * Modern Day Pilgrims * Eat the Rich * In League with Satan * Islam/Submission * Alien Animation * Opium Dreams * Global Infection
Yazd: Thus Spake Zarathustra * Fire and Divinity * Heaven and Hell * The Next Best Thing
Esfahan: Muhajababes * The Great Escape * Evangelical Ambitions * Never Alone * Love of a Stranger * Layers of Design * A Bridge Too Far * One True God * Freak Show * Brain Drain
Tabriz: Under Cover of Darkness * Losing a Voice * Down to Earth * Darkness and Light * Dissident Exiles * Cyber Wars * Going Underground * An Illegal Alien

Yerevan and Lake Sevan:
Sowing the Seeds of Conflict * Stairway to Heaven * Attracting Evangelism * The Crossing Point * Home of the Gods * Youth in Revolt * Natural Death * Warrior Monks * Drowning the Sorrow * Cursed to Wander the Earth * Torn Between Two Worlds * Saving Souls * Twin Spires * Emerging Markets * Screamers * National Identity

Consuming Experiences * Soviet Scheming * All Hail to the New Lords * Begging for Approval * Drunk and Defiant
Batumi: Black Gold and White Slaves * A Touch of Class * Comfort in Desolation

The Great Moderniser * Resurrected Islam * The Balance of Power * Nationalism and Modernity * Mosques and McDonalds * In Search of Divine Wisdom * Cast out into the Wilderness
Safranbolu: Greener on the Other Side * Blind Faith * Alien Annihilation
Istanbul: Crossing the Bridge * The Fall of the East * Holier than Thou * Running out of Memory * End of the Road

Buy Tearing up the Silk Road Online

UK: Amazon, The Guardian Book Shop, Waterstones, Blackwells
North America: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Better World Books
Australia: Fish Pond, The Co-op Bookshop, Booko, Between Reads
New Zealand: Fish Pond, Mighty Ape
India: Infi Beam, Indian Gifts Portal


Full Length Books

Tearing up the Silk Road

Two Globes A 100,000 word travelogue detailing a journey from China to Istanbul, through Central Asia, Iran and the Caucasus.

Click here to view more details and the original book blurb for the back cover. You could also check out some of my initial ideas for book cover designs, view the final printed cover and check out the slide show.

amazon.co.uk | amazon.com

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Voodoo, Slaves and White Man's Graves

My second full-length travel book revolves around an overland journey through Benin, Togo, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Mali.

The book is now available in both print and eBook editions. Check out the West Africa Photo Gallery to view some pictures from this journey or view the full print version of the book cover.

amazon.co.uk | amazon.com

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Free eBooks

Turkmenbashi's Land of Fairy Tales

A Short Break in Libya

To Camels from Cows: Algeria Overland

All of these short eBooks are available for free in a variety of formats for use on such eReaders as Kindle, Nook and Sony Touch. After downloading the books in Kindle, Epub, RTF, PDB or PDF format, they can then be copied over to the eReader of your choice.

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Contact Me

If you would like to get in touch, then you can me email me at tom@tomcoote.net