Travel books Archive

RSL Ondaatje Prize short list due tomorrow

The short list is due to be announced at the British Library in London tomorrow evening for the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize, an award of £10,000 for a work that evokes “the spirit of a place”.

Outposts of adventure

Outpost by Dan Richards (Canongate), which considers “the romantic, exploratory appeal of cabins and isolated stations” everywhere from the Cairngorms to Mount Mitoku in Japan, by way of the Utah desert, is reviewed today in The Guardian.  

  The author has also written a piece for Telegraph Travel, focusing on his stay at the fire lookout tower in Washington state where Jack Kerouac once wrestled with solitude. You can read an extract from the book on the Caught by the River website.

Stagg’s ‘The Crossway’ short-listed for Rathbones Folio Prize

Guy Stagg’s The Crossway (Picador), an account of how he walked from Canterbury to Jerusalem in an attempt to “mend” himself after mental illness, was among eight books short-listed this week for the £30,000 Rathbones Folio Prize (for “works of literature in which the subjects being explored achieve their most perfect and thrilling expression”). Also short-listed was Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile by Alice Jolly (Unbound), which, in common with The Crossway, has been long-listed for the RSL Ondaatje Prize, for a working “evoking the spirit of a place”.

Travel and place at the festivals

Forthcoming festivals with events featuring writing on travel and place include the following:

Cuirt International Festival of Literature, Galway (April 8-14) 
In a session titled “Traversing Parallels: Literature of Place”, Malachy Tallack, author of Sixty Degrees North and, most recently, the novel The Valley at the Centre of the World, which has been long-listed for the 2019 RSL Ondaatje Prize, will be in conversation with Manchán Magan, who has written books on his travels in Africa, India and South America and two novels.

Colonsay Book Festival (April 27-28), Southern Hebrides
The poet Jen Hadfield will read from new work and old (including Byssus and the TS Eliot Prize-winning Nigh-No-Place) that explores the natural world and ideas of home. Ann Cleeves will be in conversation about her series of Shetland novels (inspiration for the TV drama starring Douglas Henshall as DI Jimmy Perez), the eighth and last of which, Wild Fire, was published in 2018. 
  Robin A Crawford will be discussing and reading from Into the Peatlands: A Journey Through the Moorland Year; Sarah Maine will be in conversation about character and the power of place, with readings from The House Between Tides and Women of the Dunes; and James and Tom Morton will entertain with stories, readings and a few songs/poems about Shetland, “along with some father/son quarrelling/banter (and possibly a bit of cooking… )”.
  (Colonsay itself, incidentally, is the subject of The Crofter and the Laird by John McPhee, recently republished in Britain by Daunt Books.)

Guernsey Literary Festival (May 1-6) 
Horatio Clare will be talking about his latest book, The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal and about Down to the Sea in Ships, which won him the 2015 Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year Award. Huw Lewis Jones, editor of The Writer’s Map, will be talking to Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Piers Torday about the maps that have inspired them.

Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye (May 23-June 2)
Isabella Tree talks about her latest book, Wilding (long-listed for the RSL Ondaatje Prize), the story of a pioneering rewilding project in West Sussex using free-roaming grazing animals to create new habitats for wildlife. 
  Kapka Kassabova, author of Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe, which was  Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year for 2017, talks to Misha Glenny, former Central Europe correspondent for the BBC (whose own books include The Balkans, The Fall of Yugoslavia and, more recently, McMafia).
  In a session billed as “Che Guevara to Juan Guaidó: Understanding Latin America”, Jon Lee Anderson of The New Yorker talks to Sophie Hughes to introduce the graphic version of his biography Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life and explain what’s happening today in Venezuela.  
  Robert Macfarlane, whose latest book, Underland: A Deep Time Journey, will be published on May 2, will be interviewed by Horatio Clare (who will himself be speaking  later on — see below).  
  In a session titled “Woodlands Past and Future Forests”, the arborists George Peterkin and Archie Miles discuss the state of woodland with Natalie Buttress, director of Woodland Trust Wales, and Sandi Toksvig, ambassador for the Woodland Trust.
  Monisha Rajesh, author of Around the World in 80 Trains, talks about her 45,000-mile adventure on the rails.
  John Simpson, BBC world affairs editor, talks about his new thriller “and the way in which, in fact as in fiction, so many of the most improbable or extraordinary stories and trails all lead back to Moscow”. He will be interviewed by Oliver Bullough, whose own books include The Last Man in Russia and Moneyland.
  Drawing on the Literary Atlas project, academics from Cardiff University and the University of Wales — Jon Anderson, Mary-Ann Constantine and Damian Walford Davies — explore the relations between literature and landscape.
  Alice Morrison (presenter of the BBC Two series Morocco to Timbuktu), who went to Morocco to run the Marathon des Sables and stayed on, talks about her latest book, My 1001 Nights: Tales and Adventures from Morocco (due to be published by Simon and Schuster on April 18).
  Erling Kagge, the philosophical Norwegian adventurer and bestselling author of Silence in the Age of Noise, discusses his new book, Walking: One Step at a Time, with Dylan Moore.  In a separate session on the same theme, Kate Humble will be talking about her latest book, Thinking On My Feet.
  The travel writer Nicholas Jubber talks about his Epic Continent (which John Murray is due to publish on May 16), in which he explores the impact of poems, from The Odyssey to the Serbian Kosovo Cycle, on identity in Europe.
  Raynor Winn talks to Claire Armitstead about The Salt Path, the story of how Winn and her terminally ill husband, having lost their home and their livelihood, set off to walk the South West Coast Path.
  Peter Frankopan talks about The New Silk Roads, “a timely reminder that we live in a world that is profoundly interconnected”. 
  Horatio Clare, whose books include Something of His Art: Walking to Lübeck with JS Bach, The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal and Running for the Hills, will look at writers inspired by the Welsh border landscape, including Coleridge, the Wordsworths, Bruce Chatwin and David Jones, and explore what it means to walk in the footsteps of writers and walkers.

‘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.