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Wainwright Prize short list announced

Both of John Lewis-Stempel’s books have made it through to the short list, announced this morning, for the Wainwright Prize (see previous post): The Running Hare (Doubleday) and Where Poppies Blow (Weidenfeld & Nicolson). The other five titles on the list are:

Love of Country by Madeleine Bunting (Granta)
The Otters’ Tale by Simon Cooper (William Collins)
Wild Kingdom by Stephen Moss (Vintage)
The January Man by Christopher Somerville (Doubleday)
The Wild Other by Clover Stroud (Hodder & Stoughton).

The winner will be announced on August 3 at an event in the National Trust Arena at the BBC’s Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace.


Flights of the imagination

While preparing to update for the Telegraph travel desk a “what to read where” guide for the summer, I came across a useful series I’d forgotten about that my colleagues on the literary desk commissioned a few years ago: “Flights of the imagination”, in which writers offer literary tours of the places they know best. Among the contributors are Colm Tóibín on Spain, Elif Shafak on Turkey, Nicholas Shakespeare on Australia,  Joanna Kavenna on the Far North and — one I’ve already mentioned elsewhere —  Michael Jacobs on Latin America.

Wainwright Prize short list due next week

The short list is due to be announced on Tuesday for the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize, for works of nature/travel writing focused on the United Kingdom. John Lewis-Stempel, a winner in 2015 — the second year of the prize — with Meadowland,  has two titles on the long list, which was published at the start of this month: The Running Hare: The Secret Life of Farmland (Transworld), and Where Poppies Blow (Orion)which tells how soldiers in the First World War found hope through their connection with Nature.

The other books long-listed are:

Love of Country by Madeleine Bunting (Granta)
The Otters’ Tale by Simon Cooper (HarperCollins)
The Nature of Autumn by Jim Crumley (Saraband)
Foxes Unearthed: A Story of Love and Loathing in Modern Britain by Lucy Jones (Elliott & Thompson)
A Sky Full of Birds by Matt Merritt (Ebury)
Wild Kingdom by Stephen Moss (Vintage)
Fingers in the Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham (Ebury)
Love, Madness, Fishing by Dexter Petley (Little Toller Books)
The January Man by Christopher Somerville (Transworld)
The Wild Other by Clover Stroud (Hodder & Stoughton).

Last year, the £5,000 prize went to Amy Liptrot for The Outrun (Canongate).

Music made in Belfast

I’m looking forward to the second series of Notes from a Musical Island, in which Laura Barton explores the influence of place and geography on musicians and their music. It starts today, at 11.30 on Radio 4, with a programme from Belfast entitled “Blackbirds and Drums”. If it’s anything like the first series, I’ll be listening to it more than once.


Deskbound Traveller is taking a break while its editor escapes from the desk.

A hearty walk with Horatio Clare

If I’m not out walking myself, I’ll be listening to Sound Walk on Radio 3 from 2pm today. If I am, I’ll catch up later. Over four hours, Horatio Clare (whose books include the Stanford Dolman Prize winner Down to the Sea in Ships) will be making what the BBC calls “an immersive, slow-radio experience of a 10-mile walk along Offa’s Dyke”. Along the way, there’ll be Welsh music, the ambient sounds of the landscape, and contributions from the poet Christopher Meredith, the artist Susan Milne, the folk singer Sam Lee and the novelist Tom Bullough.

Heard the one about the Swedes and America’s national parks?

One of my favourite books last year came from the butterfly mind of the Swedish entomologist Fredrik Sjöberg, author of that unlikely bestseller The Fly Trap. In The Art of Flight, published as the United States marked the centenary of the founding of its National Parks Service, Sjöberg told how two of his fellow Swedes had had a hand in that great project designed to ensure that “virgin reserves should be placed here and there throughout the country, like Sundays in a landscape of weekdays”.

This week, The Art of Flight comes out in paperback from Penguin (£9.99). Courtesy of the author and his publisher, you can read an extract on Deskbound Traveller.

London as seen from the saddle

Cyclogeography, Jon Day’s view of London as he saw it from the bike courier’s saddle, is now out in paperback from that excellent essay publisher Notting Hill Editions. I’d recommend it — but I’d just be repeating what I said about the hardback..

Freely’s Istanbul

Istanbul isn’t the city it was — except in the pages of John Freely, who died last month. In the 1960s he explored every street and alley for Strolling Through Istanbul, a scholarly guidebook he wrote with Hilary Sumner-Boyd. Freely himself had learnt much from the work of Evliya Çelebi, the Pepys of the 17th-century city, and in tribute to him later fashioned his own chronicle of chance encounters, Stamboul Sketches (first published in the 1970s and reissued in 2014 by Eland).

I was away at the time of Freely’s death and have only just seen a lovely tribute to him written by David Tonge for Prospect magazine:

“You are the memory of the city,” the painter Ömer Uluc once told him. And for those of us who came to İstanbul in the same period as he did, his descriptions bring back the style and life of those far-gone days, cladding them in the sunlight which we so often give to our memories.

‘Golden Hill’ is Book at Bedtime this week

Francis Spufford’s Golden Hill (see previous post), which last week won the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize for a book “evoking the spirit of a place” — in this case 18th-century Manhattan — is the Book at Bedtime this week on Radio 4, starting at 10.45pm tonight.