Travel books Archive

Pascale Petit and the RSL Ondaatje Prize

I was travelling last week when the awards dinner was held for the RSL Ondaatje Prize, for “a book evoking the spirit of a place”. In case you missed the news, the winner, for the first time, was a poet: Pascale Petit for Mama Amazonica (Bloodaxe Books). On the author’s Twitter feed this morning I learnt that the book sold out on Amazon shortly after the announcement but is now in stock again.

Following the fish

Every summer, king salmon swim 2,000 miles up the Yukon river in Alaska to spawn. For thousands of years, their journey has helped to sustain the native people. But with the effects of climate change and globalisation, the health and numbers of the salmon are  in question, and so is the fate of those who depend on them. Adam Weymouth followed the fish for Kings of the Yukon (Particular Books), which is published this week; he summarised his findings in an essay yesterday for The Observer.

Now out in paperback: ‘Where the Wild Winds Are’

Nick Hunt’s Where the Wild Winds Are (Nicholas Brealey) was one of my favourite travel books of 2017 and one my fellow judges and I short-listed for Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year. It’s now out in paperback and, courtesy of the author and his publishers, you can read an extract here on Deskbound Traveller.

The author, having spent four months in the Lake District, is now on the road promoting the paperback. He will be at the Bath Festival on May 24; at Convivium, in the Brecon Beacons, on June 23, and at Ways with Words, in Dartington, Devon, on July 12. (At the start of June he will also be at the Trieste Festival of the Bora — named for one of the winds he followed — to launch the Italian translation of the book, which has the beautiful title Dove Soffiano i Venti Selvaggi.)

Lawrence Wright talks Texas

Contributors to the Book Review podcast of The New York Times include Julian Barnes, on his latest novel, and Lawrence Wright, talking about his portrait of the Lone Star State, God Save Texas.

Back to Shetland with Tallack

Malachy Tallack’s first book, Sixty Degrees North, a journey west from Shetland along the 60th parallel, was Book of the Week on Radio 4 on its publication in 2015. His first novel, The Valley at the Centre of the World, out this week, has been chosen as Book at Bedtime, starting tonight at 10.45. According to the blurb, it’s “set against the rugged west coast of Shetland, in a community faced with extinction”. You can read an extract on the website of his publisher, Canongate.

A liberal’s love letter to Texas

My review of God Save Texas (Allen Lane), Lawrence Wright’s fond but clear-eyed portrait of his home state, appeared today in print in the Review section of The Daily Telegraph. You can now read it here on Deskbound Traveller.

A space cadet exploring planet Earth

I’m surprised a British publisher hasn’t yet snapped up Kate Harris’s debut, Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road. It drew a lot of praise on its publication (by Knopf) in her native Canada and is due to appear in the United States in August (Dey St/HarperCollins). Translations have also been agreed for France, Germany, the Netherlands and Taiwan.

  The author kindly sent me a copy after I mentioned the book in February. I’ve been busy with reviewing and doing background reading for a forthcoming trip, so I’ve had time to read only the first 60-or-so pages, but those have been enough to convince me that she’s more than worthy of the endorsements she’s had from Colin Thubron, Barry Lopez and Pico Iyer. She’s not only a restless spirit but a well-read and reflective one. So far, it’s one of the most impressive travel debuts I’ve read in a long time. As I said earlier, she had initially planned to be an astronaut; I’m glad she decided instead that there was enough to explore on planet Earth.

Back with Matthiessen in the mountains

It’s 40 years since Peter Matthiessen published The Snow Leopard, his celebrated account of a “journey of the heart” to a Buddhist monastery in the Himalayas. In a piece yesterday for The Observer, Tim Adams reported on what the book has meant both to readers and to Matthiessen’s son, Alex, who has a walk-on part in its pages.

The hitchhiker’s guide to the globe

Juan Villarino is a man in thrall to the siren song of the road. Since running away from a conventional life and career in Argentina in 2001, when he was 23, he reckons he has hitchhiked about 100,000 miles through 90 countries, or enough to circumnavigate the globe four times. For a stretch of his latest trip, through Africa, with his partner, Laura Lazzarino, he was joined by the writer Wes Enzinna. In an article that’s by turns admiring and inquiring, Enzinna reports for The New York Times Magazine on what he learned. His piece (with photographs by Brent Stirton) is one of four accounts of journeys published in a special “Voyages” issue of the magazine.

Woods, reservoirs and radio

Publishers had to submit entries by the end of last week for the £5,000 Wainwright Prize, which is named after the great fell walker and is for the best book of travel, nature or outdoors writing focused on the United Kingdom. I’m assuming Doubleday has entered the latest from the writer and farmer John Lewis-Stempel, The Wood, which came out earlier this month and in which he records the natural daily life and historical times of a wood in Herefordshire. Or perhaps it has entered Lewis-Stempel’s The Secret Life of the Owl, which came out last October. Or maybe it has entered both. That wouldn’t be a first. Lewis-Stempel is prolific as well as talented. Having won the Wainwright Prize in 2015 for Meadowland, he not only took it again in 2017 with Where Poppies Blow (a study of the relationship between soldiers and nature in the First World War) but also had a second book on the short list: The Running Hare. The Wood is currently Book of the Week on Radio 4.

  Also starting on Radio 4 tonight, in the Book at Bedtime slot, is Jon McGregor’s Reservoir 13.