Travel books Archive

‘The world is the size it always was, much of it unvisited,’ says Thubron

Following the receipt of a lifetime achievement award, Colin Thubron was asked by Telegraph Travel to look back on his 60 years of travelling and writing. In his article, published in print yesterday, he reported on his latest project, a book about the Amur river, and reflected on the current state of his trade:

Old travel writers like me (but I am only 79) may be assigned to a double irrelevance. The travel book is dead, it is said, along with the printed word itself. One theory has it that the Internet allows such access to the universe that travelling has become irrelevant for anything but holiday pleasure. Another affirms that the globe has shrunk, that all is familiar now, that tourists have blanketed the world and that nothing is left to astonish us. All this is illusion. The world is the size it always was, much of it unvisited, and a little human enterprise (with a dash of obtuseness) can take you into pure wilderness.

What lies beneath

My review of Underground, an impressive debut on the subterranean world by Will Hunt (Simon and Schuster), appeared in The Daily Telegraph yesterday. It’s not up on the Telegraph site, but you can read it here on Deskbound Traveller.

Competition winners

Happy reading to Angela Rogers and Grace Lajoie, winners of the Deskbound Traveller competition for a copy of Graham Coster’s The Flying Boat That Fell to Earth

Harris wins RBC Taylor Prize for ‘Lands of Lost Borders’

I’m delighted to hear that Kate Harris, whose debut Lands of Lost Borders was one of my books of the year, has just collected C$30,000 as the winner of the RBC Taylor Prize for Canadian literary non-fiction. You can read a brief extract from the book here on Deskbound Traveller.

A lost world between Scotland and England

I noticed yesterday in my nearest branch of Waterstone’s that the paperback is now out of Graham Robb’s The Debatable Land (Picador). This history of a territory that once straddled borders, that was neither Scottish nor English, is both a scholarly work of revisionism and an entertaining read. Robb and his wife are keen cyclists, and his book was researched as much on the road as in the library. One of the pleasures of reading it is to watch the author, like a frontier-dodging reiver (or robber), slip so easily between past and present, between manuscript and moor, between battlefield site and the 127 bus (“a transnational village hall on wheels”).

Atkins wins Stanford Dolman prize for ‘The Immeasurable World’

The Immeasurable World by William Atkins (Faber & Faber), an exploration of deserts and how they have been seen at different times and in different cultures, was tonight named Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year. It’s a book in which the author journeys not only on the ground — to places including the US-Mexico border country, where he spends time with a border patrol officer and a group helping migrants — but also deep into desert literature and lore, metaphor and myth.

  Atkins (right), 42, who wins £2,500, works as a freelance editor as well as a writer. After studying art history, he went into publishing, and edited prize-winning fiction. His debut, The Moor, which took him along the wet backbone of England, was short-listed for the 2015 Thwaites Wainwright Prize for nature/travel writing focused on Britain.

  The Stanford Dolman, 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. It is now the centre-piece of a scheme run by the bookseller Stanfords and named after its founder: the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards. That embraces travel-related books in categories from food and drink to children’s travel via fiction, but the Stanford Dolman is the only award that brings a cash prize (cut this year from £5,000).

  An award for an outstanding contribution to travel writing was made to Colin Thubron, who has alternated between fiction and non-fiction and whose travel books, including Among the Russians, Shadow of the Silk Road and To a Mountain in Tibet, are acknowledged as classics of the genre. Thubron, who will be 80 in June, has said in the past that he feels ambivalent about travel writing: “My carbon footprint doesn’t bear thinking of, but I feel that the physical interchange of peoples must be a softening factor in today’s mounting xenophobia, and travel still a kind of understanding.”

  Winners in other categories included Adam Weymouth for Kings of the Yukon: An Alaskan River Journey (adventure travel), Guy Stagg for The Crossway, on his pilgrimage from Canterbury to Jerusalem (travel memoir) and Caroline Eden for Black Sea (travel food and drink).

  For a full list of the awards and books that were short-listed, see the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards site.

Stanford Dolman winner to be named on Thursday

Winners of the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards, including the Stanford Dolman Prize, will be announced on Thursday. For the short lists in all categories and extracts from some books, see

‘The biggest adventure is the writing, not the journey’

Kate Harris, whose Lands of Lost Borders was one of my books of 2018 (you can read an extract here on Deskbound Traveller) was interviewed this week by Sam Riches for the Los Angeles Review of Books. She says, among other things:

One of my fears about the book is I’ll get pegged as an adventurer and I don’t feel that way. I’ve been called that — explorer, adventurer. These are not self-appointed labels. A question I get a lot at the end of book events is, what’s next? And they don’t mean it in a literary sense. They mean what’s the next adventure. I understand why they ask, even as I recoil a bit because I first and foremost see myself as a writer. The biggest adventure and the deepest exploration for me is the writing, not the journey itself. It’s the coming home and trying to bring an experience or insight alive on the page, in language that sings.

Lost and free

Will Hunt, whose debut Underground I have mentioned a few times, has a piece in The Atlantic magazine on how getting lost in subterranean darkness can free the mind.

Win a copy of ‘The Flying Boat That Fell to Earth’

Graham Coster’s The Flying Boat That Fell to Earth is a love-letter to a mode of transport that is simultaneously improbable and fabulous: “an aeroplane walking on water; a boat defying gravity — as magical as a flying pig”. The author, who is lucky enough to have travelled on a few flying boats (there are no longer any in service), will be speaking at the new Stanfords shop in Covent Garden, London, next Tuesday, February 19. Tickets, available in the shop or online, cost £4, redeemable against the price of his book.

I have two copies of the book to give away. To be in with a chance of winning one, just retweet my pinned tweet from either @kerraway or @deskboundtravel, or like and share my post about the book on

Terms and conditions
Entrants must retweet the mention of the prize on Twitter from @deskboundtravel or @kerraway, or like and share the post about the prize on the Deskbound Traveller Facebook page, by midnight on Thursday, February 21, 2019. Each winner, who must be resident in the United Kingdom, will receive one copy of the book. Winners will be selected at random and notified by Monday, February 25. Unsuccessful entrants will not be contacted. For more about the book, see the website of Safe Haven Books.

Company overview of Franklin Haney Company