Travel books Archive

Travel at Oxford Literary Festival

Contributors to the FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival (March 17-25) include Simon Courtauld, author of Footprints in Spain: British Lives in a Foreign Land, which chronicles the long history of relations between Britain and Spain and has a chapter on Gibraltar, currently at the centre of Brexit-related wrangling. Also on the bill are Phoebe Smith, editor-at-large of Wanderlust magazine and author most recently of Britain’s Best Small Hills; Michael Collins, author of Journey: An Illustrated History of Travel; and Adrian Mourby, author of Rooms of One’s Own: 50 Places That Made Literary History.

Between Scotland and England — but a place unto itself

My review of The Debatable Land by Graham Robb (Picador), a fascinating book about a territory that once lay between Scotland and England but was part of neither, appeared in print in The Daily Telegraph last weekend but isn’t online. The Telegraph, for some reason, no longer puts much of its literary material into cyberspace, but you can read the review here on Deskbound Traveller.

Swapping Mars for the Silk Road

I’m finding it hard to get away from borders. A debut travel book about a cycle journey along the Silk Road, which was published at the end of January in Canada with blurbs from Pico Iyer, Barry Lopez and Colin Thubron, is already among the bestsellers. Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris (Knopf) is based on a trip she took with her friend Melissa Yule in 2011 (see video below), in which they travelled 10,000 kilometres through 10 countries over 10 months. In the words of Barry Lopez, “Kate Harris arrives among us like a meteor—a hurtling intelligence, inquiring into the nature of political borders and the meaning of crossing over.  The honesty behind her self-doubt, her championing of simple human friendship, and her sheer determination to explore what she does not know compel you to travel happily alongside her in Lands of Lost Borders.” Harris, who is 35 and a Rhodes scholar, told The Globe and Mail in Toronto that she had trained as a scientist to become an astronaut and head for Mars, but her first taste of the Silk Road had prompted a radical change of direction. Before publishing the book, she had won awards for her writing in magazines including The Georgia Review.

Get carried away with Words by the Water

If I didn’t already have plans for the start of March, I’d be heading to the Words by the Water Festival in the Lake District (March 9-18). There’s a tremendous line-up of writers on travel, place and nature. 

  On Sunday, March 11, a session on the theme of “Exploration” will have contributions from Patrick Barkham on islands (see previous post); the historian Graham Robb, talking about The Debatable Land, a territory that used to exist between Scotland and England; the poet Lavinia Greenlaw on Iceland as it was seen by William Morris; Lois Pryce on her motorbike trip across Iran for Revolutionary Ride; and Nick Hunt, author of Where the Wild Winds Are, on chasing winds from the Pennines to Provence.

  On other days, Horatio Clare will be reporting on his adventures on a Finnish ice-breaker; two experienced foreign correspondents, Angus Roxburgh and Peter Conradi, will be taking the measure of Russia; the conservationist Sir John Lister-Kaye will be recalling his awakening as a boy to the wonders of the natural world; Richard Hamblyn, environmental writer and historian, will be offering a teach-in on reading clouds; Christopher Nicholson will be sharing his passion for summer snow in the Cairngorms; and Mark McCrum, whose books include Happy Sad Land, on southern Africa, and  The Craic: A journey through Ireland, will be holding forth on “the joys and pitfalls of travel writing”.

Bunting and Barkham talk islands at Daunt Books festival

The bill for the spring festival at Daunt Books in London (March 15-16) includes a session on “Island life” featuring two writers who have recently gone offshore to good effect (and who both happen to be published by Granta). Madeleine Bunting, author of Love of Country: A Hebridean Journey, which was short-listed for the 2017 Wainwright Prize for nature/travel writing focused on Britain, will be interviewed by Patrick Barkham, whose Islander: A Journey Around Our Archipelago, was short-listed for Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year.

  Daunt’s, whose Marylebone branch is one of my favourite bookshops in London,  is also a publisher, whose recent titles have included a reissue of John McPhee’s The Crofter and the Laird, which is also about an island: Colonsay. I see, too, that Daunt Books Publishing is to publish in Britain Hernán Diaz’s debut novel In the Distance, which I mentioned on its US publication last year. There’s a link from the company’s site to a short Paris Review interview with Diaz.

China as it was

In The New York Times, Hannah Beech reviews two memoirs of home in a China that has already disappeared, “covered by layers of concrete, glass and fibre-optic cables that have tethered even the most isolated farmer to the modern age. Still, it is the journey through heady, whiplash times that helps us understand where the nation is going. If the 21st century is to be China’s era, it’s important to know how it will get there.”

And the winner is… ‘Border’ by Kapka Kassabova

The news is out; we judges no longer have to keep mum. I’m delighted that Kapka Kassabova’s Border (Granta) is Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year. It’s a wonderful read, which I thoroughly recommended on Deskbound Traveller and elsewhere on its hardback publication last year. But don’t forget the other six titles on a fine short list — you can read extracts from them all on Telegraph Travel.

One winner — and another to come

Congratulations to Sue Crossman, of Heriot, Scottish Borders, winner of the Deskbound Traveller competition to win all seven books on the short list for Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year. She should be receiving her books within the next week. Thanks again to Stanfords for putting up the prize.

  The judges of the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year have made their decision and the winner will be announced on Thursday evening as part of the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards at the Destinations show at Olympia in London.

Dervla Murphy on travel and tourism

An interview with Dervla Murphy, who, as I mentioned earlier, will be speaking at the London-based Irish Literary Society in March, is published today on the website of The Guardian. She tells Philip Watson: “I wonder nowadays if travelling, and therefore travel writing, is able to extricate itself from tourism and the tourist industry.”

Win all seven books short-listed for the Stanford Dolman prize

“Writing that takes you away” is what Deskbound Traveller aims to provide, and there’s a richness of it among the seven books short-listed for the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year. Among them are two titles on the topical subject of borders and one on small islands off Britain, a portrait of Pakistan and one of Calcutta, a book driven by the wind and one brimming with stories of the sea. The judges meet next week to decide on the winner.

  The books are:
Islander: A Journey Around Our Archipelago by Patrick Barkham (Granta, £20)
The Rule of the Land: Walking Ireland’s Border by Garrett Carr (Faber, £13.99)
The Epic City: The World on the Streets of Calcutta by Kushanava Choudhury (Bloomsbury, £16.99)
RisingTideFallingStar by Philip Hoare (Fourth Estate, £16.99)
Where the Wild Winds Are: Walking Europe’s Winds from the Pennines to Provence by Nick Hunt (Nicholas Brealey, £16.99) 
Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe by Kapka Kassabova (Granta, £14.99)
Travels in a Dervish Cloak by Isambard Wilkinson (Eland, £19.95).

  Now, courtesy of the bookseller Stanfords, I am offering you the chance to win all seven.

  The £5,000 Stanford Dolman prize, formerly the Dolman prize — after the Rev William Dolman, a member of the Authors’ Club, who had been sponsoring it through the club since 2006 — was rebranded in 2015 and is now the centre-piece of a scheme run in association with the club by Stanfords and named after its founder: the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards. That scheme — with sponsorship from the tour operator Hayes & Jarvis — includes an award for an outstanding contribution to travel writing, one for young travel writers and one for bloggers, one for fiction with a sense of place and others for books in various byways of travel (food, adventure, illustrated books and children’s travel books). The winners of all the awards will be announced on February 1 at the Stanford Travel Writers’ Festival, part of the Destinations show in London.

  To be in with a chance of winning the seven books on the Stanford Dolman short list, just retweet my tweet about the prize (“Win all 7 books…”) on Twitter from both @deskboundtravel and @kerraway.

Terms and conditions
Entrants must retweet the mention of the Stanford Dolman prize on Twitter from both @deskboundtravel and @kerraway by midnight on Friday, January 26, 1918. The winner, who must be resident in the United Kingdom, will receive one copy of each of the seven books short-listed for the prize. He or she will be selected at random and notified by Thursday, February 1. Unsuccessful entrants will not be contacted. For more information about the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year, please see the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards site.