By Stephan Lee
Updated July 26, 2013 at 04:00 AM EDT

Where did the noodle originate? It’s a question shrouded in enough mystery to inspire the next Dan Brown novel, but Beijing-based journalist Jen Lin-Liu takes a more personal, yet no less thrilling, approach to tracking down the answer in On the Noodle Road. Both the Chinese and the Italians lay claim to the noodle, so she sets out along the Silk Road, the historic trade route linking Asia and Europe. While carbo-loading in Tibet, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, and Iran, among many other stops, Lin-Liu serves up insights on these societies — with a focus on women’s roles — along with generous helpings of detail and humor. A-