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Stanford prize goes to Silvia Vasquez-Lavado

The Edward Stanford Travel Book of the Year award went last night to Silvia Vasquez-Lavado for In the Shadow of the Mountain, a memoir in which she weaves together her ascent of Everest, her traumatic childhood in Peru, and the journey she made as an immigrant to the United States.

  Three other prizes were handed over in the slimmed-down Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards. Tony Wheeler, co-founder of the guidebook publisher Lonely Planet, was honoured for making “an outstanding contribution to travel writing” by “inspiring travellers on a shoestring”; Emma Willsteed was named Bradt New Travel Writer of the Year for a piece about Connemara, in the west of Ireland; and Hannah Gold picked up the Children’s Travel Book of the Year award for The Lost Whale.

Stanford travel prize winner to be named this week

The winner will be announced on Thursday (March 16) of the Edward Stanford Travel Book of the Year award. There are eight books short-listed:

The Last Overland by Alex Bescoby (Michael O’Mara)
High by Erika Fatland (Quercus)
The Po: An Elegy for Italy’s Longest River by Tobias Jones (Head of Zeus)
The Slow Road to Tehran by Rebecca Lowe (September Publishing)
Crossed Off the Map: Travels in Bolivia by Shafik Meghji (Latin America Bureau)
Walking with Nomads by Alice Morrison (Simon & Schuster)
My Family and Other Enemies by Mary Novakovich (Bradt)
In The Shadow of the Mountain by Silvia Vasquez-Lavado (Octopus).

New explorations of the natural world

A quick note on two new books combining not only nature and travel writing but also illustrations; one’s out this week, the other’s coming later.

  James Roberts is an artist, a writer and a keen walker. In Two Lights: Walking Through Landscapes of Loss and Life, which will be published on Thursday (September Publishing, £16.99), he walks the landscapes close to his home in Wales at dawn and dusk and, farther afield, explores some of the few unspoilt wildernesses that still remain, in places from the Sahara to the Canadian Rockies. Two Lights, which has his own illustrations throughout, is “an account of a life in search of wilderness and connection to other species — and of how, in a period of intense, soul-stripping loss and depression, he found in the resilience of wild creatures a way back to life again”.

  Hannah Stowe is a seafaring storyteller and artist. Having been raised on the Pembrokeshire coast, falling asleep to the sweep of the lighthouse beam, she went to sea straight from school and has been working on water and studying it ever since, everywhere from the North Sea to the Caribbean. Drawing on her experience as a marine biologist and sailor, Move Like Water (Granta, £16.99, June), which comes with her own illustrations, is “simultaneously a vivid exploration of the human relationship with the sea, and a damning account of the terrible damage we have inflicted upon it. In shimmering, fluid prose, Stowe introduces us to six marine creatures — the fire crow, the sperm whale, the albatross, the humpback whale, the shearwater and the barnacle — whose majesty serves only to augment their vulnerability and the importance of their habitat.”

Pico Iyer on ‘the most powerful spot in Japan’

In his latest book, The Half Known Life, Pico Iyer asks what kind of paradise can be found in a world of unceasing conflict. In the “Notes from an author” slot in the March issue of National  Geographic Traveller (UK), he recalls the time he has spent at Koyasan, centre of the esoteric Buddhist order known as Shingon and “the single most powerful spot I’ve discovered in 35 years living in Japan”.

Zamora wins Isherwood Prize for ‘Solito’

Congratulations to Javier Zamora, whose memoir Solito — my favourite work of non-fiction in 2022 — this week won him the Christopher Isherwood Prize. The award — which honours “exceptional autobiographical work that might encompass fiction, travel writing, memoir or diary” — is part of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, which will be handed over at a ceremony in April.

  In the book, Zamora recreates the journey he made as a nine-year-old migrant from El Salvador to the United States. The judges commented both on the power of his story and the manner in which it was told. “Somehow,” they said, “Zamora, an award-winning poet, stays true to the child’s perspective at no sacrifice to language or craft. We’re delighted to give him this prize.”

Lopez’s last book due out in Britain in May

The last book by Barry Lopez, a writer renowned for his work on landscape and our relations with it, will be published in Britain on May 2. Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World, a collection of essays with an introduction by Rebecca Solnit, will appear in paperback under the imprint of Notting Hill Editions, which says it is “at once a cri de coeur and a memoir of both pain and wonder”. Lopez died after a long illness on Christmas Day, 2020. The previous summer, a wildfire had consumed his home in Oregon and the community around it, a reminder of the climate crisis of which he had long been giving warning. 

  Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World was published in the United States in May last year. Reviewing it in The New York Times, Ben Ehrenreich said the essays were “about the redemptive importance of paying attention to the planet and to the other beings with which we share it. Attentiveness works as an antidote not only to distractedness but to the fatal unseriousness of modern life.”

‘Soundings’ competition winners

Happy reading to my five competition winners, who will each be receiving soon a copy of Doreen Cunningham’s Soundings: Journeys in the Company of Whales. The five are: Jean Barclay, Jayson Carcione, Jasmine Donahaye, Steve Hill and Amelia Hodsdon. 

  Thanks again to the publisher, Virago, for putting up the prize, and to all those who retweeted my posts about it. And thanks, of course, to Doreen Cunningham for a wonderful book; you can still read an extract here on Deskbound Traveller.

On a Roman road through the climate crisis

In his latest book, Sarn Helen, published yesterday, the novelist Tom Bullough walks south to north through Wales on the route of a Roman road, delving into both Welsh history and the climate crisis. He tells Patrick Barkham of The Guardian that the book is “an attempt to depict what is actually here, who these people are, but also the situation we exist in environmentally”.

Pico Iyer with Katherine May on 5×15

In a session for the spoken-word forum 5×15 last week, Pico Iyer talked to Katherine May (author of Wintering) about his new book, The Half-Known Life: Finding Paradise in a Divided World. The video of that session, I see, is now online (see below).  Iyer was also interviewed recently by Jeremy Bassetti for his Travel Writing World podcast.

Win a copy of ‘Soundings’ by Doreen Cunningham

Soundings, a prize-winning memoir in which Doreen Cunningham tells how she and her young son followed the migration of grey whales from the lagoons of Mexico to the glaciers of the Arctic, was one of my favourite books of 2022. It’s now out in paperback, and I’m delighted to say you can read an extract here on Deskbound Traveller. Thanks to the publisher, Virago, I have five copies to give away; to be in with a chance of winning one, just retweet when I mention the competition on Twitter on either @kerraway or @deskboundtravel.

  Doreen Cunningham will be talking about Soundings with the writer and editor Eric Wagner at the Review bookshop, in Peckham, London, on February 6.

Terms and conditions
Entrants must retweet a mention of the prize on Twitter from @kerraway or @deskboundtravel by midnight on February 6. Each winner, who must be resident in the United Kingdom or Ireland, will receive one copy of the book. Winners will be selected at random and notified by February 10. Unsuccessful entrants will not be contacted.

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