A world of extraordinary people

By Lorraine Liscio
Published by the Little Bookroom, $19.95

One of the great joys of traveling the world is discovering the people in it. Two new books put the traveler’s focus on extraordinary individuals.

Lorraine Liscio’s experience trying to find vestiges of the convent of 12th-century scholar and abbess Héloïse provided the impetus for Paris and Her Remarkable Women. Liscio’s difficulties, and ultimate small success, taught her that “often the traces of women said to have disappeared have not; one must only look harder and piece together the clues like a detective,” she writes.

In 16 lively profiles, Liscio shines a light on the lives of noteworthy women who made their mark in Paris’ history. There are household names like groundbreaking fashion designer Coco Chanel, but also lesser knowns, such as Christine de Pizan, a bookmaker and writer who argued for the worth of women in the early 15th century. Each profile is accompanied by information about sites where a visitor to Paris can find connections to and traces of these women’s lives.

By Clare Mulvany
Published by the Collins Press, $35.95

The lives illuminated in One Wild Life are contemporary rather than historical. Author Clare Mulvany set off around the globe to find innovative people working to make the world a better place. They tell their stories in this book, interpersed with Mulvany’s reflections on her journey — the sights she saw, both beautiful and grim, and the qualities of the social entrepreneurs who refuse to be daunted by the odds.

A standout is the moving story of India’s Kailash Satyarthi, who recalls when he was 5 years old and wondered about the boy on the street shining shoes, while he, Kailash, got to go to school. From those beginnings he has led a lifelong crusade to rescue children from bonded labor, often in the face of death threats.

Not all the interviewees’ stories are as dramatic as this, and some verge on a dry recitation of the subject’s resumé. But when the focus is on the meaning and purpose of the work he or she has chosen, it makes for inspiring reading. The book serves as a snapshot of the social entrepreneur movement, with interviewees offering advice on how to make an impact. And Mulvany even offers her own advice, should you wish to follow in her footsteps and meet a world of visionaries.

[Teresa Malcolm is an NCR staff writer. Her e-mail address is tmalcolm@ncronline.org.]

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