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‘Greenery’ competition winners

Happy reading to my five competition winners, who will each be receiving shortly a copy of the paperback of Tim Dee’s Greenery. The five  are: Steve Birt, Ros Croe, Nathan Munday, Lesley Rawlinson and EE Rhodes. Thanks again to the publisher, Vintage, for putting up the prize. And thanks, of course, to Tim Dee, for the book, a genre-hopping, border-crossing hymn to spring.

Kabul book wins Stanford Dolman prize for Taran Khan

The Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year is Shadow City: A Woman Walks Kabul by Taran N Khan (Chatto & Windus), a journalist and author based in Mumbai. The news, as with so many awards over the past year, came online.
  On video from Stanfords’ London shop last night, the company’s chairman and chief executive, Vivien Godfrey, also announced that an award for an outstanding contribution to travel writing had been made to that tireless trailblazer Dervla Murphy, and that the Bradt Guides new travel writer of the year was Anita King, for an article about Damascus.
  Shadow City, Khan’s debut, was originally published by Penguin in India, where it won the 2020 Tata Literature Live! first book award in the non-fiction category. There’s a brief extract from it on the Penguin website, and more of the author’s work on the porterfolio site. I’ve also linked below to an interview in which Khan talked to Alice Albinia, winner herself in 2009 of what was then the Dolman prize, for Empires of the Indus.

Win a copy of Tim Dee’s ‘Greenery’

There wasn’t a new book last year, in any genre, that gave me more pleasure (and hope) than Tim Dee’s Greenery. The publisher classified it as “Nature Writing”. It is, partly. But leaving it there is like saying that Wordsworth was a gardener and Springsteen is a harmonica player. Tim Dee can write brilliantly, beautifully, about anything, and Greenery — which is travel and memoir and poetry and music and human as well as natural history — is perhaps his best book yet.

Having noted that spring moves north at about the speed of swallow flight, he tracks the season and its migratory birds all the way from South Africa to Scandinavia. His book is about how spring works on people as well as birds, animals and plants; about the possibility of life growing from death. Publication, in the midst of a pandemic, couldn’t have been more timely.

Greenery is now out in paperback and, thanks to the publisher, Vintage, I have five copies to give away. To be in with a chance of winning one, just retweet my mention of the book from either @kerraway or @deskboundtravel, or like and share my post about the book on  You can read an extract from the book on the excellent Caught by the River website.

Terms and conditions
Entrants must retweet a mention of the prize on Twitter from @kerraway or @deskboundtravel, or like and share the post about the prize on the Deskbound Traveller Facebook page, by midnight on Friday, April 2. 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 April 9. Unsuccessful entrants will not be contacted.

Stanford Dolman winner to be announced this evening

The Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year is due to be announced at 6pm. Keep an eye on the Stanfords Twitter account for the news. 

The eight books on the short list are:

Without Ever Reaching the Summit: a Himalayan Journey by Paolo Cognetti (Harvill Secker)
The Border — A Journey Around Russia… by Erika Fatland (MacLehose Press)
Shadow City: A Woman Walks Kabul by Taran N Khan (Chatto & Windus)
Travelling While Black: Essays Inspired by a Life on the Move by Nanjala Nyabola (Hurst)
Wanderland: A Search for Magic in the Landscape by Jini Reddy (Bloomsbury)
The Lost Pianos of Siberia by Sophy Roberts (Doubleday)
Along the Amber Route by CJ 
Schuler (Sandstone Press)
Owls of the Eastern Ice by
Jonathan C Slaght (Allen Lane).

‘Greenery’ out this week in paperback

Tim Dee’s Greenerywhich was my book of 2020, is out this week in paperback from Vintage, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

New books on travel, place and nature

Working on a lockdown project of my own has left me less time to update this site, but here are some notes on new and forthcoming books that I’ve been intending to mention:

The Wild Isles: An Anthology of the Best of British & Irish Nature Writing
edited by Patrick Barkham (Head of Zeus, £25)

For Patrick Barkham, nature writing is “any writing that considers other species or non-human places and our relationship with them”. In this 600-page introductory tour, he arranges his choices under themes — from birds, woods and coastlines to childhood, the seasons and urban nature — and juxtaposes extracts from classics with passages by contemporary writers. In a genre that historically has been “overwhelmingly white, male and middle-class”, he has been at pains to offer a rough balance between men and women (35:31) and to include the perspectives of writers from under-represented backgrounds. All the pieces, he says, from Gilbert White’s observations on swifts to Shamshad Khan’s account of exploring the Yorkshire Dales with her family, “help us see the world in a different way. We emerge from their pages bequeathed with altered vision.”

Undreamed Shores: The Hidden Heroines of British Anthropology
by  Frances Larson (Granta, £20)

Frances Larson describes herself as an anthropologist “who travels to places long ago rather than to places far away”. Her last book was Severed: A History of Heads Lost and Heads Found. In Undreamed Shores, she tells of the lives and deaths of Britain’s first female anthropologists, who did go to places far away. All of them trained at Oxford, in the opening decades of the 20th century, and led ground-breaking research in their fields. There’s an extract on the Granta site about one of them, Maria Czaplicka; she trekked more than 3,000 miles through Siberia in winter in search of nomadic reindeer-herders who had never before seen a European woman.

Dickens on Railways: A Great Novelist’s Travels by Train
edited by Tony Williams (Safe Haven, £14.99)

By the time Charles Dickens turned 18, in 1830, the first stretch of track had been laid between Manchester and Liverpool, and the railway age had begun. By 1870 the network was well established, and had made a greater and more immediate impact than any other mechanical or industrial innovation before it. Dickens spent his adult life living through those times and recording them. He also made the most of the railways to reach his audience, with reading tours in the 1850s and 1860s in both Britain and the United States.
The compilation, including fiction and non-fiction, is edited by Tony Williams, associate editor of The Dickensian and former president of the International Dickens Fellowship. “Through Dickens’s words,” he says, “you can share in the at times dislocating experience of a new kind of travel, and like him marvel at its potential, lament its destructive capacity, but always be fascinated by it.”

Sauntering: Writers Walk Europe
edited and introduced by Duncan Minshull (Notting Hill Editions, £14.99, March 9)

Duncan Minshull refers in his introduction to “pedestrian writers”, so can I safely call his book a pedestrian anthology? It’s his fourth such compilation, following Beneath My Feet — which was a bestseller — While Wandering and The Burning Leg. Among the 60 contributors are Grand Tourers and itinerant ex-soldiers, lost explorers and expat authors. We join Henriette D’Angeville, the second woman to climb Mont Blanc, Werner Herzog on a personal pilgrimage through Germany, Rebecca Solnit reimagining change on the streets of Prague and Robert Macfarlane dropping deep beneath the streets of Paris. In Sauntering, Minshull says, he offers us “a theatre of walking types… with Europe acting as the mis-en-scène”.

by Michelle Jana Chan (Unbound, £9.99, March 18)

I was lucky enough to commission Michelle Jana Chan when I was a travel editor, and I’m listed as one of the supporters who helped back her debut in fiction with the publisher Unbound, so it’s not a book I could review. I can say here, though, that Song, the story of a boy who journeys from the rice fields of China to the rainforest of Guiana in the hope of finding his fortune, is powerfully evocative of both time (the 1850s) and place (a place where the author’s father was born in the 1940s and which she revisited with him for a travel piece in 2004). The paperback, due out next week, has endorsements from Bernardine Evaristo and Elif Shafak, who says that “Song will touch you with its remarkable odyssey and make you believe in dreams again”.

The Passenger: India (Europa Editions, £18.99, March 18)

I mentioned The Passenger last year, when the first two volumes, on Japan and Greece, came out. It’s a place-based magazine the size of a large-format paperback (nine inches by six). Writers featured in volume five, on India, include Arundhati Roy, on the caste system, Prem Shankar Jha, on Hindu nationalism, and Tishani Doshi, on women’s rights. Pictures are from Gaia Squarci, who divides her time between Milan and New York, where she teaches at the International Centre of Photography. The next volumes will be city-focused, on Berlin and Paris.

Gone: A Search for What Remains of the World’s Extinct Creatures
by Michael Blencowe (Leaping Hare Press, £18.99, April 6)

When other little boys were sticking the faces of footballers into albums, Michael Blencowe was reading books about extinction. The stories of each animal’s life and death, of epic voyages of discovery, led him far, far away from his “suburban cul-de-sac”. After a visit to a cabinet of extinct species in the Booth Museum of Natural History, in Brighton, he finds his childhood passion reignited. He travels to the forests of New Zealand and on the ferries of Finland, from San Francisco to the Widewater lagoon in West Sussex, intent on telling the stories of animals as disparate as the great auk and Ivell’s sea anemone. Artworks from Jade They resurrecting these creatures accompany his narrative. It’s a book, his publishers say, that “inspires the hope and respect for the natural world that is needed for it to survive”.

A life-affirming book about ‘dead zones’

A review I wrote of Islands of Abandonment: Life in the Post-Human Landscape by Cal Flyn (William Collins) appeared in print in The Daily Telegraph yesterday and is also online. It’s a life-affirming book about “dead zones”, and I thoroughly recommend it.

‘Armchair trip’ to Madagascar

In a roundup at the end of last year of forthcoming books, I mentioned John Gimlette’s The Gardens of Mars: Madagascar, An Island Story.  The author, prevented by lockdown from heading out on the publicity circuit, has filmed a talk for Daunt Books, “an armchair trip” in which he explains why he was drawn to the island, what he found there and what the place means to him.

Place writing from Pitlochry

A reminder that this Sunday at 5pm the Pitlochry Winter Words Festival will have a special session focused on writing about place, featuring David Gange, Kapka Kassabova and Malachy Tallack. For details on how to join their live session, and for the full programme of events, see the festival website.

At the Paisley Book Festival on February 27, Tallack will be in conversation with Cal Flynn, whose excellent new book, Islands of Abandonment (William Collins), is a life-affirming exploration of so-called “dead zones”, and Lisa Wollett, author of Rag and Bone (John Murray), addressing the subject of “What we leave behind”.

Short list for Stanford Dolman prize

The short list for Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year, which the bookseller Stanfords runs in association with the Authors’ Club, was announced this afternoon. The eight books on it are:

Without Ever Reaching the Summit: a Himalayan Journey by Paolo Cognetti (Harvill Secker)
The Border — A Journey Around Russia… by Erika Fatland (MacLehose Press)
Shadow City: A Woman Walks Kabul by Taran N Khan (Chatto & Windus)
Travelling While Black: Essays Inspired by a Life on the Move by Nanjala Nyabola (Hurst)
Wanderland: A Search for Magic in the Landscape by Jini Reddy (Bloomsbury)
The Lost Pianos of Siberia by Sophy Roberts (Doubleday)
Along the Amber Route by CJ 
Schuler (Sandstone Press)
Owls of the Eastern Ice by
Jonathan C Slaght (Allen Lane).

Writers short-listed for the Bradt New Travel Writer of the Year award, for which entrants were asked to submit an article on the theme “I’d love to go back…”, are: Mark Jones; Anisa King; Tom Swithenbank; and Jennifer Thomson. Their pieces can all be read on the Bradt Guides website.

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