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Travel books of 2018

The following are my favourite books on travel and place published this year, plus coffee-table books that would make good Christmas presents for travellers. A shorter version appears in print in today’s Sunday Telegraph and online.
  I compiled my roundup for Telegraph Travel towards the end of November, since when there have been some late but notable arrivals, including a couple I mentioned last week, from Horatio Clare and David Grann.
  I’ve reviewed most of the travel books for The Daily Telegraph (and you’ll find more about them here on Deskbound Traveller), but not the first two mentioned below. Coincidentally, they are from the same publisher, and from writers based in North America. While I was checking when Lands of Lost Borders would appear in Britain (it came out in October), I found a note on Chesapeake Requiem (not as yet published on this side of the pond but available, of course, online). 



Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road by Kate Harris (Dey St/HarperCollins, £20)
Kate Harris, an academic high-flyer from Canada, had ambitions to be an astronaut, then decided there was exploring enough to be done on planet Earth. Her account of cycling the Silk Road has given me more pleasure than most travel books — no: make that most books — I’ve read this year. Lands of Lost Borders is about frontiers and breaking through them. On the road, Harris, who is in her mid-thirties, pedals with a childhood friend to places where authorities don’t want her to go, including Tibet. On the page, she flits easily across supposed boundaries between travelogue and memoir, science and poetry. The result is a marvellous debut by a wanderer and wonderer, an author with boundless curiosity and a zest for life that enthuses every page.

Chesapeake Requiem by Earl Swift (Dey St — US publication, various prices online)
This is a story of a small and singular place seeing changes that will soon affect the whole world. At the broadest point of the Chesapeake Bay, “at the mercy of nature’s wildest whims”, sits Tangier Island, whose inhabitants for generations have harvested crabs and oysters. The very water that sustains their community — one of 470 conservative and deeply religious people — is also slowly erasing it. Scientists say that the island, which has lost two thirds of its land since 1850, could become the first American town to fall victim to rising sea levels caused by climate change; the locals say the problem is erosion. Swift lived among the islanders, and his account, at once affectionate and inquiring, is a superb piece of reporting.

Skybound: A Journey in Flight by Rebecca Loncraine (Picador, £16.99)
Two years after being diagnosed (at 35) with breast cancer, Rebecca Loncraine passed a gliding club and found herself booking a lesson for the next day. “I needed something new, something big and intense,” she said. “I wanted to live boldly as it might not be for very long.” Gliding provided that something, and her “private love letters to the wind” were the origin of Skybound, which she had all but finished when — cancer having returned in her abdomen — she died in September 2016. It’s an extraordinary book, one in which the writer, for whom the world had closed down, feels it reopen, and carries the reader up on the thermals with her.

Kings of the Yukon: An Alaskan River Journey by Adam Weymouth (Particular Books, £16.99)
Adam Weymouth paddled an 18ft glass-fibre canoe down the Yukon, almost 2,000 miles through Canada and Alaska, to the Bering Sea. His account of that journey is so assured, so accomplished, that I found it hard to believe it was his first book. He hoped he could explain the decline in numbers of king salmon and show how the lives of those who depend on the fish are changing. If he is frustrated in his first objective, he succeeds fully in his second, in his tracing of the relationship between fish and people, and “of the imprint that one leaves on the other”. It’s a story about a sparsely populated place but one that’s rich in characters, and it’s beautifully written.

Ground Work: Writings on Places and People edited by Tim Dee (Jonathan Cape, £16.99)
The places celebrated here range from a railed-in London park, by way of Clifton Suspension Bridge, to the deep woods of eastern Finland. Dee’s contributors remind us of the harm we have done to everything from whales to house sparrows, but also of the good we could yet do through organisations such as Common Ground, which seeks “imaginative ways to engage people with their local environment” and which will benefit from the proceeds of this absorbing anthology. It’s a book that’s as much about the marks places leave on us as we leave on them. It offers succour rather than — in the editor’s own phrase — “sunset songs”.

God Save Texas by Lawrence Wright (Allen Lane, £20)
How could a prize-winning liberal writer possibly feel at home in the heart of Trumpland? In God Save Texas, Lawrence Wright tries to provide an answer to a question he is often asked by friends and colleagues. In the process, he offers a fascinating, multi-layered portrait of the Lone Star State. If it’s unlikely to persuade those friends and colleagues to follow his lead and relocate, it will certainly surprise them. Houston, for example, accepts more refugees than any city in the United States; and at the last count (2010) Texas had the largest number of Muslim adherents in the country.

The Crossway by Guy Stagg (Picador, £16.99)
Guy Stagg, who is an atheist and “not much of a walker”, quit his job in his mid-twenties (on The Daily Telegraph) and set out in 2013 to make a pilgrimage of more than 3,440 miles (5,500 km) from Canterbury to Jerusalem. His hope was that he could mend himself after mental illness. The Crossway was blistering to write, in more ways than one, but is beautiful to read. It’s proof that you can still cross a continent in the manner of a medieval pilgrim — even an unbelieving one — and throw yourself confidently on the charity of others. I finished it certain that the author, though he tortures himself about his own worth, is hugely talented, and hoping, too, that he has retained a measure of the peace he found on the road.

The Immeasurable World by William Atkins (Faber & Faber, £20)
In his follow-up to The Moor, Atkins turns his attention to the desert, which has, at various times and in various cultures, been seen as a realm of demonic temptation and a monkish retreat, a proving ground for explorers and pioneers, a prison for criminals and dissidents, a “wasteland” for the testing of nuclear weapons, and an ideal venue for what Atkins calls “the most excessive party on earth”: the annual Burning Man festival, where last year 70,000 people made a spectacle of themselves on a dry lakebed in Nevada. The desert, as this subtle and quietly powerful book demonstrates, can be whatever the mind makes of it.

The Debatable Land by Graham Robb (Picador, £20)
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”).



Steve McCurry: A Life in Pictures by Bonnie McCurry (Laurence King, £50)
Steve McCurry was a traveller before he was a photographer. Even as a child, his sister says, he was “hopping trains to forbidden places”, exhibiting the independent streak that would one day send him trekking with mujahideen fighters into the Panjshir Valley of Afghanistan. His career is hardly undocumented (Untold, recounting the stories behind images such as “The Afghan Girl”, appeared as recently as 2013), but this volume, compiled and written by Bonnie McCurry, a retired teacher who manages his office, is revealing of the forces that shaped him early on. It’s frank as well as fond, and its 350-or-so images include about 100 that have never previously been published.

Born to Ice by Paul Nicklen (teNeues, £80)
Born to Ice, says the actor and environmental campaigner Leonardo DiCaprio in a foreword, “showcases the life’s work of an artist whose love of the landscape, and each animal in it, is so palpable that emotion echoes through every image.” The title is as true of the photographer as it is of the subjects he captures in glorious images from the polar regions. Nicklen grew up in Baffin Island, Canada. Having studied to be a wildlife biologist, he tired of encounters with animals that produced nothing but data sheets, and quit at 26 to see if he could make a go of photography. He packed 600lb of equipment, including two tents, and had a pilot drop him in the high Arctic for three months. “The view through my lens is now your view,” he says. “Their world is now our shared world… let’s work together to protect it.”

African Twilight by Carol Beckwith & Angela Fisher (Rizzoli, £115)
No continent is urbanising faster than Africa. The rush to the towns is a theme for many photographers, but what interests Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher is what’s being lost in the process. Their African Ceremonies (1999), documenting traditional rites and rituals in 26 countries, won a UN Award for Excellence. African Twilight, another fascinating two-volume study that has been 12 years in the making, completes their journey. It includes ceremonies in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — which they couldn’t enter earlier — and the coronation of the voodoo king in Ouidah, Benin, a once-in-a-generation happening. Forty per cent of what they document here, they say, has already vanished.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Portfolio 28 (Natural History Museum, £25)
Among the 100 wonderful images in this book, chosen from some 45,000 entries from 95 countries, are many exploiting innovations in equipment. Pictures taken from drones feature for the first time (though the judges are mindful of the disturbance such devices can cause) and camera-trap shots show animals within the panorama of their environments. But professionalism, patience and a measure of luck are still more important than technology. Sue Forbes spent days scanning rough seas in the Indian Ocean before she got her reward: a single frame enclosing both a bird (a red-footed booby) and a fish in flight.

Landscape Photographer of the Year: Collection 12 (AA Publishing, £25)
When he dreamed up his competition more than 12 years ago, Charlie Waite says in his foreword, he had “the possibly high-flown notion” that the winning photography and resulting books would become a record of their times. This year’s certainly reflects the weather. Captions refer to Storms Brian and Ophelia and the “Beast from the East”; subjects include kayakers breaking ice on Loch Ba, on Rannoch Moor; snow-covered Surrey farmland, photographed with a drone and looking like a circuit board; and the Seven Sisters in East Sussex, with the sea seemingly as white as the cliffs. The annual book, incidentally, must be one of the few things that hasn’t risen in price in 12 years.  A bargain.

The Grand Canyon: Between River and Rim by Pete McBride (Rizzoli, £40)
Some 5.9 million people a year visit the Grand Canyon, but fewer than a dozen have walked it from end to end, a journey-without-trails of some 750 miles. The photographer Pete McBride did so with his friend Kevin Fedarko, a writer and former river guide in Grand Canyon National Park. With the park’s centenary approaching, they share what they found in the canyon’s remote ribs, and report on the continuing struggle between conservation and exploitation (they logged 363 helicopter flights in the space of eight hours). As McBride puts it, “If we cannot protect this space, the seventh natural wonder of the world, what can we protect?”



The Writer’s Map: An Atlas of Imaginary Lands edited by Huw Lewis-Jones (Thames & Hudson, £29.95)
Oscar Wilde declared that “A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at.” Huw Lewis-Jones’s beautifully produced compendium takes in everything from Utopia, charted for Thomas More’s satire of 1516, to Westeros, a continent in that swords-and-sorcery series Game of Thrones. It shows how writers of the past created worlds that have inspired writers of the present, from Joanne Harris to Robert Macfarlane. It’s a reminder that a map is far more than a means of plotting a route. Like a book, it can transport you. It can work magic.

My travel books of the year for 2020

To reveal the underwater aquabatics of a courting humpback in the dark of the polar winter was challenging enough, but to create an image that revealed the whale in its Arctic setting was both a technical feat and a first. Picture © Audun Rikardsen, Norway, 2016, from ‘How Wildlife Photography Became Art’

Greenery: Journeys in Springtime by Tim Dee (Jonathan Cape, £18.99)
I’m not in the habit of recommending books before I’ve finished reading them, but I’ve done it twice with the work of Tim Dee. The first time, I was reading Four Fields, in the run-up to Christmas 2013. This year, I’ve done it again. In March, at the request of Telegraph Travel, I was looking for extracts from books that might provide readers with literary release from lockdown. I had only to read a few pages of Greenery to know I wanted to take something from it. I knew, too, a few pages farther on, that it was likely to be my book of the year.

On the back, the publisher classifies Greenery 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, from the folk music of Transylvania (“songs cut by people from the big stories of the world”) to camels (“the bony origami of their sitting down and standing up”), 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. In the midst of a pandemic, it couldn’t be more timely.

Below, I’ve rounded up a few more of my favourite narrative travel books of the year, plus picture books that would make good Christmas presents. If you can’t get to an independent bookshop, and you order online, I’d recommend you do so where possible through, which supports local bookshops. Interest declared: if you buy through a link from Deskbound Traveller, I will earn a little commission.

To The Lake by Kapka Kassabova (Granta, £14.99)
Born in Bulgaria, raised in New Zealand and now living in Scotland, Kapka Kassabova is a citizen of the world, but she can’t escape the pull of the southern Balkans. With Border (2017), which won the Stanford Dolman prize, she focused on the land where Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey run into one another. In To The Lake she turns her attention to Europe’s two oldest lakes, Ohrid and Prespa, which nature united but nation states have divided. A fine book in its own right, it also serves as a follow-up or companion volume to Border; part of a sustained examination of the effects of fences on the ground and in the head and their enduring legacies.

Fifty Miles Wide by Julian Sayarer (Arcadia Books, £9.99)
Julian Sayarer has been round the world by bike and across America as a hitchhiker; his account of the latter journey, Interstate, won him the Stanford Dolman prize in 2017. In Fifty Miles Wide, he’s back on two wheels in Israel and Palestine, weaving from the ancient hills of Galilee, along the walled-in Gaza Strip and down to the Bedouin villages of the Naqab Desert. He talks to Palestinian cyclists and hip-hop artists; to Israeli soldiers training for war and a lawyer who had a leading role in peace talks. Sayarer is committed to the Palestinians’ cause, but his book conveys powerfully what life is like for people on both sides of “the world’s most entrenched impasse”. At the same time, it’s full of free spirits, and the joys of free-wheeling.

The Museum of Whales You Will Never See by A Kendra Greene (Granta, £14.99)
“If you plant a tree,” they say in Iceland, “you’ll get more trees in the same place.” This country of 330,000 people has more than 265 museums and public collections, almost all established in the past 20 years. There’s one of stones, collected by a woman on her daily walks, one of mammal penises and one of sea monsters (or, at least, of the stories told by people who claim to have seen those monsters). Greene, an American writer and artist who has herself worked in museums, looks into what the collections tell us not just about the curators but about their country. Her wonderfully quirky book is a reminder of “all the things we might hear, if only we would ask”.

Magdalena: River of Dreams by Wade Davis (Bodley Head, £25)
Wade Davis has journeyed to the ends of the earth as a writer, photographer and anthropologist. Colombia, which he first saw at 14 on a school trip from Canada, gave him “the wings to fly”. In Magdalena, he tells the story of the country though its main artery, travelling from the headwaters to the Caribbean shore; tracing Colombia’s history from early settlement, through Spanish conquest, to the modern conflict that ended with a precarious peace deal in 2016. Along the way, he collects stories on the boats and the banks: stories of singing and dancing, of quiet lives and sudden deaths; of the drug barons who made millions of dollars, and of the field botanist who, without leaving his own turf, has discovered more than a hundred new species.

Notes from an Apocalypse by Mark O’Connell (Granta, £14.99)
As a father, Mark O’Connell is worried about the world he’s brought his children into; as a writer, he’s intrigued by it. So he embarks on a series of “perverse pilgrimages” to the places where the end-times seem closest. He goes to underground boltholes in South Dakota and to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. He examines the tech billionaires’ fixation with New Zealand, mixes with the Mars Society in Los Angeles, and joins an environmentalists’ retreat in the Scottish Highlands. The result is a book that’s fretful, wise and funny, and often all three in the space of a paragraph.

Isolarion: A Different Oxford Journey by James Attlee (And Other Stories, £9.99)
This is a new edition of a book that Attlee published in 2007, one perfectly in keeping with our battened-down times. When he wrote it, he was itching to travel, but couldn’t get away. Then it dawned on him that he didn’t need to. A few minutes’ walk from his front door in Oxford was the Cowley Road, lined with businesses that seemed to represent every nation on earth: from a Jamaican restaurant, via a Ghanaian fishmonger, to a Russian supermarket. As he puts it in his introduction, “Why make a journey to the other side of the world when the world has come to you?” 


The Place de la Concorde, usually the busiest square in Paris, in March 2020. Picture © Stéphane Girard, from ‘Cities of Silence’

Cities of Silence (teNeues, £15)
The subject of this swiftly produced compilation is as much absence as presence: the people missing from city centres in broad daylight in the spring of 2020, when much of the world first went into lockdown. The stones of St Mark’s Square in Venice, the cobbles of the Charles Bridge in Prague, the sinuously patterned tiles of the Rambla in Barcelona are all free of pedestrian feet. Traffic lights govern non-existent vehicles in Vancouver, Frankfurt’s runways fill with planes going nowhere, a solitary soldier gazes on the Taj Mahal, and, in the human-free hush, a fox explores the curves of a skate park on the coast of Israel.

Travel Photographer of the Year: Journey 10 & 11 (TPOTY, £14.95); Journey 12 (£12.50)
In need of being transported? The winning images from the British-based Travel Photographer of the Year show, which haven’t been published in book form for a while, should help. Journey 10 & 11, a double volume, has the best of 2017 and 2018; Journey 12 is for 2019. It’s hard to view the images of Peru’s biggest street party, where you’re drawn in among the participants, without being reminded of our current, socially-distanced world; and it’s impossible to see the one of children playing in the rain in Akua, Bangladesh, the work of 16-year-old Fardin Oyan, without sharing in their smiles.

How Wildlife Photography Became Art (Natural History Museum, London, £35)
It’s 55 years since the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition began, and this magnificent volume, published alongside the annual portfolio, is both a compilation of highlights and a history of nature photography itself. Here are all creatures great and small, from a southern right whale (14 metres long) to a snow flea (all of two millimetres), and the habitats that sustain them. What began as record-keeping has developed over the decades, aided by technology, and is increasingly celebrated as fine art, but the hope expressed at the outset of the competition remains the same: “that ultimately the awards will benefit the animals themselves, by creating greater public interest in them and in that all-important topic — conservation”.

Africa State of Mind (Thames & Hudson, £39.95)
“Tipo Passe (Passport Photo),” the Angolan photographer Edson Chagas calls one of his portrait projects. Each subject is posed against a plain background, in contemporary clothes but wearing a traditional Bantu mask. Chagas is not only playing with Western notions of what the masks are for (displaying in museums); he is hiding his subject’s individuality and identity and substituting for it the stereotype of a “typically” African face. Chagas is one of more than 50 contemporary photographers from the continent whose work is gathered in this stimulating survey by the writer and broadcaster Ekow Eshun. Their images of place and people, their interpretations of memory and identity, he says, “reveal Africa to be a psychological space — a state of mind — as much as a physical territory”.

Human Nature: Planet Earth In Our Time (Chronicle Books, £35)
This book is a response to the UN’s declaration last year that the natural world was declining at an unprecedented rate. The New Zealand publishers Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday have enlisted 12 of the best photographers working “at the intersections of humanity and nature”, documenting issues from species extinction and deforestation to migration and mass consumption. The photographers show us what we have, tell us what we stand to lose, and urge us to do all we can to save it. One of them, Ami Vitale, sums it up like this: “We must not fall into the trap of thinking that this issue is too big to deal with, or that someone else will take care of it. It is up to you. It is up to me. It is up to us.”

Voyager: Photographs from Humanity’s Greatest Journey (teNeues, £45)
The robotic spacecraft Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, part of a NASA mission launched in 1977, are now the farthest human-made objects from Earth, having travelled through our solar system and on into interstellar space. This volume chronicles the whys and hows of the mission, and what we’ve learnt as a result of it. It’s fascinating not just on what Voyager has sent back — including the first detailed views of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — but on what it is taking with it: a message about life on earth for any intelligent life elsewhere. That “Golden Record” includes greetings in 55 languages, images of humans eating and drinking, and a musical selection embracing Beethoven and Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode.

Portrait of Britain Vol 3 (Hoxton Mini Press, £22.95)
Between lockdowns, I happened to be on the seafront in Worthing, West Sussex, where Barry Falk had an exhibition of photographs. They showed his friends and neighbours in the town looking out from their front doors, as if, maybe, they had been hopeful of escape and then new restrictions descended. One of Falk’s images is among the 200 portraits in this collection; portraits of a year when many of us have seen little of our fellow citizens except through the glass of homes or cars or the virtual windows of our screens. They are a reminder, as the historian David Olusoga puts in his introduction, “of the power of looking into the faces of those with whom we share our nation”.

‘Ann, Lockdown Day 74’, © Julia Fullerton-Batten, from ‘Portrait of Britain Vol 3’

A shorter version of this roundup appeared in The Sunday Telegraph on November 29 and is now online

More ways of escape: new books on travel, place and nature

I got an unusual email today; unusual because it says that a literary event hasn’t been cancelled. With the island “relatively virus-free”, the third Corfu Literary Festival is due (at the moment) to take place from September 17 until September 20. Speakers lined up include Sebastian Faulks, Peter Frankopan, Sarah Churchwell, Sabine Durrant, Evie Wyld and James Naughtie. Elsewhere, though, festivals are still being called off or going online, launches are on social media (with the virtual white wine, in London, even warmer than usual) and cash-strapped newspapers are commissioning fewer reviews. As a result, new books on travel, place and nature might not be given the space they deserve. Here are some to watch out for over the next month-or-so.

Spirit of Place: Artists, Writers and the British Landscape by Susan Owens (Thames & Hudson, £25, August 13)
British landscape painting, we’re often told, was an invention of the 18th century. But people have been writing about the land, and drawing and painting it, for as long as they have had pen and paper (or parchment). In Spirit of Place, Susan Owens, art historian and exhibition curator, aims to do justice to this long tradition. She offers a panoramic view of the landscape, as seen through the eyes of writers and artists from Bede and the Gawain-poet to Gainsborough, Austen, Turner and Constable; from Paul Nash, WG Sebald and Barbara Hepworth to Robert Macfarlane. In the view of Alexandra Harris (author of Weatherland: Writers and Artists Under English Skies), Spirit of Place is “A wonderfully deft and varied study… Owens has a gift for making the past feel so close that we might be riding over a hill with Gerald of Wales or John Leland.”

The Book of Trespass: Crossing the Lines that Divide Us by Nick Hayes (Bloomsbury Circus, £20)
Nick Hayes is an artist and writer and, for the past 10 years, has been an activist arguing for greater access to the countryside of England and Wales. In The Book of Trespass, he takes us on a journey into the thousands of square miles of rivers, woodland, lakes and meadows from which we’re usually blocked by walls and fences. In The Guardian last Saturday, the book was reviewed by William Atkins, and in The Observer on Sunday, Rachel Cooke joined the author as he went on his forbidden way in Berkshire. 

Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe by Judith Herrin (Allen Lane, £30, August 27)
“If you have never visited… Ravenna, you have missed an amazing experience, an extraordinary delight, which this book aims to recreate.” Thus the historian Judith Herrin introduces her study of the unique role and significance of a city renowned for its glorious mosaics; a city that was first the capital of the Western Roman Empire, then that of the immense kingdom of Theodoric the Goth, and finally the centre of Byzantine power in Italy. Peter Frankopan (author of The Silk Roads) says Herrin’s is “an outstanding book that shines a bright light on one of the most important, interesting and under-studied cities in European history. A masterpiece.”
The Nine Lives of Pakistan: Dispatches from a Divided Nation by Declan Walsh (Bloomsbury, £20, September 3)
Declan Walsh covered Pakistan for a decade, for The Guardian and The New York Times, until he was expelled on the eve of the 2013 election for unspecified “undesirable activities”. In The Nine Lives…, he draws on what he calls “the offstage encounters” of his job to offers a portrait of a country whose most sensitive borders, he says, lie inside. “It was riven by ethnic, tribal, and sectarian fault lines, a place of head-spinning contradictions. One day, a street would fill with rioters protesting [over] an obscure insult to the Prophet Muhammad. The following day, rich folk would gather to party in a mansion along the same street, clinking their glasses in a Gatsby-like bubble.” Walsh’s book, says William Dalrymple, “sets a new benchmark for non-fiction about the complex palace of mirrors that is Pakistan”.

Between Light and Storm: How We Live With Other Species by Esther Woolfson (Granta, £20, September 3)
Esther Woolfson is the author of Corvus: A Life With Birds and Field Notes From A Hidden City. The latter,  short-listed for both the RSL Ondaatje Prize and the Wainwright Prize, won much praise for its close study of urban wildlife, from pigeons to rats, and prompted even one or two literary critics to think better of slugs. It is also a fine portrait of Aberdeen, a place the author sums up as that “tight grey city by the sea”.
  In Between Light and Storm, Woolfson  reflects more broadly on the complex relationship between humans and animals. Her book is sweeping in scope, taking us from creation stories to climate change. It’s scholarly, too, but also anchored in her own experience. In the acknowledgements, she says her greatest debt “will always be to Chicken the rook, who was beside me during the entire writing of the book”.

English Pastoral: An Inheritance by James Rebanks (Allen Lane, £20, September 3)
Social media’s most famous shepherd, author of the bestselling The Shepherd’s Life, says on his Twitter account (@herdyshepherd1) that his new book “is about everything I care about and love”. His publisher sums it up as “a stirring history of family, loss and the land over three generations on a Lake District farm”. English Pastoral tells how, “guided by the past, one farmer [Rebanks] began to salvage a tiny corner of England that was now his, doing his best to restore the life that had vanished and to leave a legacy for the future. This is a book about what it means to have love and pride in a place, and how, against the odds, it may still be possible to build a new pastoral: not a utopia, but somewhere decent for us all.”

The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn (Michael Joseph, £14.99, September 3)
In The Salt Path, her bestselling and prizewinning debut, Raynor Winn told how she and her terminally ill husband, having lost their home and their livelihood, set off to walk 630 miles along the South-West coast. In The Wild Silence, they find a new home. Someone who read their story offers them the chance to breathe life back into a farmhouse in the Cornish hills; “rewilding the land and returning nature to its hedgerows becomes their saving grace and their new path to follow”. This new book, the publisher says, is “a luminous account of the human spirit’s instinctive connection to nature, and how vital it is for all of us”.

The Fresh and the Salt: The Story of the Solway by Ann Lingard (Birlinn, £25 September 3)
Ann Lingard and her husband manage a smallholding in north-west Cumbria, within sight of the Solway Firth, that crooked finger of water between Scotland and England. In The Fresh and the Salt, she tells the story of the firth, its origins and its ever-changing margins. “Sometimes,” she writes on her website, “I have been actively involved with the firth – wading across it, slithering along its mudflats, walking far out to mussel-beds on a low spring tide, flying over it, bouncing over its waves in boats – and at other times I have been an observer and listener (and I’m so grateful to all those who have shared their knowledge and stories with me over the years).” The naturalist and author Mark Cocker says she has created “a portrait of this nation-cleaving water that is as broad and deep as the estuary itself. A wonderful addition to the literature of place.”  

Eat the Buddha: The Story of Modern Tibet Through the People of One Town by Barbara Demick (Granta, £18.99, September 14)
Barbara Demick is a reporter who opens up places by asking the locals what it’s like to live in them. She won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea. She is also the author of Besieged: Life Under Fire on a Sarajevo Street, which won the George Polk Award and the Robert F Kennedy Award and was short-listed for a Pulitzer Prize. In Eat the Buddha, she turns her attention to Ngaba, a town on the edge of  the eastern Tibetan plateau, where dozens of Tibetans have shocked the world since 2009 by setting themselves on fire in protest at Chinese rule. What, she wanted to know, was it like to be a Tibetan in the 21st century living at the edge of modern China? And why were so many residents of Nagba “willing to destroy their bodies by one of the most horrific methods imaginable”?

  Books published recently that I’ve not mentioned here before include Quite Alone, in which Matthew Teller gathers his journalism on the Middle East from the past decade, “27 stories, long and short, from 13 countries between Egypt & Oman”, as he puts it on Twitter; and Turn Left at Lenin’s Statue, in which Fabrizio Soggetto, author of the blog Are We There Yet?, recounts his travels in Central Asia.

Books to watch for in 2020

Books on travel, place and nature to look forward to in 2020 include new works from Kapka Kassabova and Mark O’Connell, plus an anthology of writing on the landscape of Scotland edited by Kathleen Jamie.

In his bestseller The Almost Nearly Perfect People, Michael Booth set out to meet the inhabitants of the Scandinavian countries and find out what they make of one another. In his new book, Three Tigers, One Mountain (Jonathan Cape), he travels through China, South Korea and Japan, three Asian tigers that have much to gain from amicable relations and yet still seem intent on brawling.


Kapka Kassabova’s 2017 book Border, an exploration of the region where Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey run into one another, and of fences both on the ground and in the head, won her several prizes, including the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year award. In To the Lake (Granta), she turns her attention to another crossroads: the mountainous border area of North Macedonia, Albania and Greece. There sit two lakes, Ohrid and Prespa, that have played a central role in her own maternal family and helped shape the history of countless other people.

  Siberia is a land of cold and wind and permafrost; of prison and political exile. It’s one of pianos, too, which in the 19th century, the travel writer Sophy Roberts says, carried “the melodies of Europe’s musical salons a long way from the cultural context of their birth”. In her first book, The Lost Pianos of Siberia (Doubleday), she heads there in search of an instrument worthy of a brilliant pianist. What began as an eccentric idea becomes an obsession, taking her from Kamchatka to the Urals, from the Arctic to the Kuril Islands on Russia’s Pacific edge.

  C J Schüler is the author of three illustrated histories of cartography, Mapping the World, Mapping the City and Mapping the Sea and Stars, and co-author of the best-selling Traveller’s Atlas. In Along the Amber Route: St Petersburg to Venice (Sandstone Press), he charts the origins of amber, the myths and legends that have grown around it, and the dazzling artefacts crafted from it and traded along the way. He also reflects on the route’s violent history through the centuries, not least his own family’s experience of persecution and flight.

  Socrates and Kant may have been home-birds, but not all philosophers followed their example. George Berkeley fought off wolves in a French mountain pass; Isaac Barrow battled pirates while sailing for Turkey. Emily Thomas, professor in philosophy at Durham University, is equally keen on hitting the road. In The Meaning of Travel: Philosophers Abroad (OUP), she draws on her own trips while considering how we can think more deeply about travel. Can meeting unfamiliar peoples tell us anything about human minds? Is it ethical to visit the Great Barrier Reef when its corals are withering?


Tim Dee’s last book, Landfill, was about gulls, and how, throughout human history, they “have lived in our slipstream, following trawlers, ploughs, dustcarts”. In Greenery: Journeys in Springtime (Jonathan Cape), Dee himself is the follower, tracking migratory birds from South Africa to northern Scandinavia. Along the way, his publisher says, “We read of other determined spring-seekers: DH Lawrence and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. We hear from a Sámi reindeer herder, a barn-dwelling swallow-devotee, an Egyptian taxi driver, a chronobiologist in arctic Norway. There are bears and boars and bog-bodies too.”

  In The Accidental Countryside (Guardian Faber), the naturalist Stephen Moss travels from Shetland’s Iron Age stone structures to London’s skyscrapers, and from railway cuttings to stately-home gardens, seeking out the hidden corners of Britain where wildlife survives against the odds.


Mark O’Connell is a journalist and essayist. He won the 2018 Wellcome Book Prize for To be a Machine, an exploration of transhumanism, a movement that suggests we can and should exploit technology to “improve” the human body, with the ultimate aim of making ourselves immortal. He is also the father of two young children, and constantly worrying over what sort of world he’s brought them into. Notes from an Apocalypse (Granta) is the result of a series of what he calls “perverse pilgrimages” to places where the end seems closest. He meets environmentalists fighting the ravages of climate change; billionaire entrepreneurs dreaming of life on Mars; and right-wing conspiracists yearning for a lost American idyll.

  While Lamorna Ash was working as an intern for the Times Literary Supplement, she wrote a piece about the fishing trade in Newlyn, where she had done a month’s fieldwork while studying for an MA in social and cultural anthropology. It so impressed Michael Fishwick, publishing director at Bloomsbury, that he signed her up to write a book. The result is Dark, Salt, Clear: Life in a Cornish Fishing Town. Fishwick told The Bookseller: “It reminded me a little of taking on the young William Dalrymple after reading about his journey to Xanadu in The Times. I think this is going to be a very special book about a very special world, reminiscent perhaps of Dalrymple’s own City of Djinns.”

  The journalist Jini Reddy was born in Wimbledon, to South African-born parents of Indian descent, but grew up in Montreal. Themes of identity and belonging are among those she tackles in Wanderland (Bloomsbury), in which she aims to connect with “the magical in the [British] landscape”.


Gavin Francis has somehow made time to write four books while practising as a doctor, including True North and Empire Antarctica (he spent 14 months as base-camp doctor at a British research station). In Island Dreams (Canongate), he “blends stories of his own travels with great voyages from literature and philosophical exploration, and examines the place of islands and isolation in our collective consciousness”.

  The Passenger is a new series of paperbacks from Europa Editions (publisher in Britain of Berezina by Sylvain Tesson) and the Italian publisher Iperborea that “travels the world to carry the best writing back from the countries it visits”. It will feature not only essays, investigative journalism and reportage but also photography and art.

  Volumes 1 and 2, to be published in May, will focus on Japan and Greece. The Passenger: Japan will feature writers including Banana Yoshimoto, declaring her love for her district of Tokyo, and Richard Lloyd Parry, Asia editor of The Times and author of Ghosts of the Tsunami. The Passenger: Greece will include Andrew Anthony on the long-living residents of the island of Ikaria, and Rachel Howard on her (ultimately futile) attempts to negotiate Greek bureaucracy. Volumes on Brazil and Turkey are scheduled for the autumn.


Antlers of Water (Canongate), which is being edited by the poet Kathleen Jamie, is a collection of prose, poetry and photography on the Scottish landscape. Contributors will include Amy Liptrot, Malachy Tallack, Chitra Ramaswamy and Gavin Francis (see above).

   Jamie says the book will bring together “contemporary Scottish writers who attend to the living world around them. The natural world is not a backdrop to their human concern; it is their human concern. They write out of fear, anger, joy and chiefly love of their homeland and fellow creatures. Writing on nature and environment has never been so urgent or so necessary, as we work out how to face the future not only of Scotland but of the planet.”

Travel books of 2019


Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, 2014 — from ‘Magnum Streetwise’ © DAVID ALAN HARVEY/MAGNUM PHOTOS

I’m pining a wee bit for the old days. Days when I was a raw reporter in his twenties in London and the only reading recommendations I felt I needed to note — apart from those from friends and colleagues — were in the books pages of The Observer and The Sunday Times. Days when I first started travelling for work, and found the best writing on wherever I happened to be on arrival there, in a bookshop. (I’m thinking, particularly, of Watermen by Randall S Peffer, a vivid and salty account of a year spent with the fishermen of the Chesapeake Bay on their graceful sailing boats, the skipjacks. Key “Watermen” and “Maryland” into a search engine, and Peffer’s book will pop up near the top of the results. I bought my copy on the spot, on the shore, in — if I remember rightly — the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St Michael’s.)

  These days, each time I go online I find a tweet or link that suggests I should be adding to an already tottering to-be-read pile. I can’t find time to read the pieces I’ve bookmarked in the virtual world, let alone the books they might take me to in the real one. (I’m mindful, though, that it was in cyberspace that I was directed to what turned out to be two of my favourite books of last year. One was Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris. The other was Chesapeake Requiem by Earl Swift — which, as the title suggests, is concerned with the same territory as Peffer’s book, but in more dangerous times.)

  All of which is a roundabout way of saying that, while I try to keep up with the best in new writing on travel and place, I don’t always manage it. This year there was a blizzard of promising books in the autumn. I have to give priority to books I’ve been commissioned and will be paid to review, even if they’re not always the ones I would choose to cover. Others go back on the TBR pile.

  In print at the weekend (and online tooThe Daily Telegraph published my choice of the best travel writing this year, plus picture books that I think would make good Christmas presents. I filed my roundup on November 12. By that stage, there were a lot of books I still hadn’t had a chance to read (and which I’ve since had time only to dip into). Among them were On The Plain of Snakes by Paul Theroux (Hamish Hamilton) and Pravda Ha Ha by Rory MacLean (Bloomsbury).

  Among them, too, were new titles in translation by writers whose work I had hugely enjoyed in the past: Berezina: On Three Wheels from Moscow to Paris Chasing Napoleon’s Epic Fail by Sylvain Tesson, winner in 2014 of what was then the Dolman prize with Consolations of the ForestBlack Earth: A Journey Through Ukraine by Jens Mühling (Haus), whose A Journey into Russia was short-listed the following year for the rebranded Stanford Dolman prize; and So It Goes: Travels in the Aran Isles, Xian and places in between by Nicholas Bouvier (Eland).

  Then there were a few books I had to excuse myself from reviewing on the basis that I know the author. One was Sara Wheeler’s Mud and Stars: Travels in Russia with Pushkin and Other Geniuses of the Golden Age (Jonathan Cape). I’m looking forward to that, especially after reading Julian Evans’s piece in The Daily Telegraph.

  Of the books I did manage to read, these are my favourites…

Underland by Robert Macfarlane (Hamish Hamilton, £20)
Over a series of books, Macfarlane has travelled from the peaks (Mountains of the Mind) to the depths, in a sustained and sensitive mapping of the relationship “between landscape and the human heart”. Underland sees him tunnelling into the world beneath our feet and what we’ve made of it, physically, with mines and tombs, and metaphorically, with myths and legends. It takes him from Bronze Age funeral chambers in Somerset, via the catacombs of Paris, to a nuclear bunker in Finland. It’s a book that expands our notions of what constitutes landscape. It’s one full of wonders — in Kulusuk, Greenland, he celebrates “the wildest land I have ever seen” — but also of warnings of the harm we are doing in this overheated age of the Anthropocene.

The Summer Isles by Philip Marsden (Granta, £20)
When the anthropologists arrive, so the saying goes, the gods depart. There are places, though, where myth and magic held out; where phantom islands on the horizon and fairies under the earth endured for longer. Among them are the west coasts of Ireland and Scotland, which Philip Marsden (who has a degree in anthropology) explores from the sea in this marvellous book. Like one of those doorways so popular in Irish myth, it’s a portal not just to other places but to other times. It’s a reminder, as he puts it, that “the imagination is the oddest of human faculties, and also perhaps the greatest”. Incidentally, The Summer Isles happens to be the best book I’ve read on a sailing trip since Jonathan Raban’s Coasting (1986).

The Last Whalers by Doug Bock Clark (John Murray, £20)
Clark, a 30-year-old American, lived for a year among the Lamalerans, a tribe of 1,500 on a backwater Indonesian island who have survived for half a millennium by hunting sperm whales with bamboo harpoons from hand-carved boats. In this wonderfully assured debut, he shows what modernisation looks like when it arrives with the speed of a tsunami, in the shape of motorboats, drift-netting, electricity and mobile phones. It’s a rich, novelistic account based on diligent reporting, in which the story of the tribe is told through the triumphs and trials of individuals — and the author, in the manner of the great Norman Lewis, renders himself a semi-invisible man.

Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie (Sort Of Books, £12.99)
Kathleen Jamie is a writer who enjoys teasing out unlikely links. In her previous essay collection, the prize-winning Sightlines, she explored the liver as a landscape through a microscope in a hospital pathology lab. In this one, she joins archaeologists at sites in Alaska and Orkney in their “daily wrestle with the earth”, and mines her own memories — of family and of youthful travels — to see what surfaces and what connects us to our past. It’s a deep and rewarding dig. As with archaeological sites, it’s also layered. Having read it first in proof, I opened it again when a finished copy arrived. It repays re-reading.

Elsewhere by Rosita Boland (Doubleday Ireland/Penguin, £14.99)
Rosita Boland is a feature writer for The Irish Times and was journalist of the year in Ireland for 2018. Before she was a reporter, she was a wanderer, travelling the world between short-term jobs, and she still takes unpaid leave to respond to what the Germans call fernweh, an ache for distant places, which has taken her to Australia and Antarctica, Peru and Pakistan. She has an ache, too, to have a child, which has never been answered. In Elsewhere, she writes beautifully and movingly of three decades on the road, and the consolations she has found there.

Horizon by Barry Lopez (Bodley Head, £25)
“Travel/Natural History,” ventures the publisher’s classification. Well, those are part of it. Horizon encompasses both the conquistadors’ lust for gold and the mining of Big Data; its author’s searches on the ice shelf for meteorites and in the desert for hominid fossils. It’s an angry book about the “throttled Earth” and what we Earthlings have done to it (though there’s no acknowledgement of Lopez’s own carbon footprint). It’s life-affirming, too, in its depictions of the wonders that remain. It runs to 512 pages plus 60 of notes and index, which is a lot for our distractible times, but you’ll find it a lot smarter than your phone.

A Savage Dreamland: Journeys in Burma by David Eimer (Bloomsbury, £20)
In the brochures, Burma (Myanmar) is a country of “temple-strewn landscapes” and “enduring tribal traditions”. But it is also one with more than 30 ethnic armies and militias, whose battles with the Tatmadaw, the Burmese military, are, as Eimer puts it, “the longest-running civil wars in modern history”. He listens to people of as many factions as he can in a disunited nation, explaining wonderfully well why Burma today is both compelling and combustible. If George Orwell, who served as a police officer in Burma in the 1920s, could read it, he would surely be impressed by this choral-voiced account of a country where so many, for so long, have been silenced.

Around the World in 80 Trains by Monisha Rajesh (Bloomsbury, £20)
In the age of high-speed rail, with a wooomph! on the tracks and a blur through the windows, you might think there’s little to savour and less to say about long-distance train travel. You’d be wrong: as Monisha Rajesh triumphantly demonstrates, there’s life yet in both the trip and the telling. One of her best passages is on Hiroshima, a few of whose residents survived the immediate after-effects of the atomic bomb of 1945 by fleeing on trains. She finds trains life-enhancing as well as life-saving. In Thailand, on swapping food with a Dutch family, she’s told: “We have a word… gezellig, which means that there are no boundaries and that everyone is sharing and getting along… like we are a train family.” Gezellig resounds through Rajesh’s pages.



Wild asses in a wild land: a group of kiangs stride out after a snowfall in search of grass in the Kumukuli Desert on the edge of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau — from ‘Wildlife Photographer of the Year’ © SHANGZHEN FAN

Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Portfolio 29 (Natural History Museum, £25)
The Travel Photographer of the Year and Landscape Photographer of the Year competitions are both taking a break from publishing a book in 2019, but another dependable British-based showcase is open as usual. The 100 pictures between the covers, chosen from 48,130 entries from a record-breaking 100 countries, offer both the richness of the natural world and reminders (poisoned lions, logged forests) of its fragility. Rosamund Kidman Cox, chair of the judges, notes significant increases this year in entries from Tajikistan, Mongolia and China and in outstanding pictures of animal behaviour. The moment captured by the winner, Yongqing Bau, a Tibetan from the Chinese province of Qinghai, is as arresting for the viewer as it was for one of the subjects: a marmot realising that there’s no escape from a fox.

Water: A Journey Through The Element by Rudi Sebastian (te Neues, £29.95)
For the past few years the German photographer Rudi Sebastian has been travelling the world intent on capturing water in all its forms: solid, liquid and gas. It’s a journey that has taken him from Costa Rica to China; from seasonal lakes between sand dunes in Brazil — the Lençois Maranhenses — to the rapidly melting Arctic home of the polar bear; from the Bay of Cadiz, where gentle, non-intrusive cultivation has helped to increase biodiversity, to Xiapu, in China, where farming of fish and seafood is on an industrial scale. There’s a terrible beauty to his pictures of the last, and, elsewhere, images that recall the work of Monet and Turner. An artist very much in his element.

Magnum Streetwise edited by Stephen McLaren (Thames & Hudson, £28)
Street photography — “candid photography in the public realm”, as McLaren defines it in this glorious celebration — has been part of the repertoire of Magnum since its beginnings in 1947. Indeed, one of the agency’s founders, Henri Cartier-Bresson, had pioneered it from 1930, exploiting the possibilities offered by the newly available Leica and a standard lens on trips around Europe and Mexico. “Street” can embrace market and museum, beach as well as bus. Four cities have exerted a particular pull: Paris, New York, London and Tokyo. For each, McLaren looks into themes and favourite hunting grounds, and sees how the approach of photographers has changed as the city has evolved.

Portrait of Humanity (Hoxton Mini Press, £22.95)
What do two centenarians, cuddling on a plump sofa in their Los Angeles apartment, share with a a newborn refugee, 30 seconds old, howling in its mother’s arms in a refugee camp in Tanzania? That’s the question this book, with 200 images from more than 65 countries, asks you to ponder. It’s a follow-up to Portrait of Britain, and a collaboration between 1854 Media — publisher of The British Journal of Photography — and the picture agency Magnum. As Lucy Davies of The Telegraph arts desk puts it in her introduction, it’s “a crowd-sourcing of the climate, a map of global fears and wants, and as much a reflection of the things we have in common as the things that make us different”.

Northwest by Alex Nail (£36 plus p&p, via
The only bearable way to be on top of a peak for a 4.30am sunrise is to sleep on the mountain,” says Alex Nail. That’s how most of the images in his book were made. There’s no trace of the effort that went into them; of his endurance of blizzards in winter and midges in summer. But his love of the mountains and lochans of the Northwest Highlands is evident on every page. His approach might be considered old-fashioned, but that doesn’t bother him. His aim is to recreate, as far as he can, what he saw in front of him, rather than to reinterpret it: “photography can be more than art; reality is powerful. Photography can transport the viewer.” His pictures certainly do.

Through My Eyes: Journey of a Wildlife Veterinarian by Dr Michael D Kock (IWVS Africa, £75 plus p&p via
Michael Kock describes himself as “a large-landscape, no-fences, wilderness-focused wildlife veterinarian”. Through My Eyes is a remarkable photographic record of a working life that has taken him, over 40-plus years, to four continents and 13 African countries, including his native South Africa. There are as many images of people as of wilderness and wildlife, for his work goes far beyond darting an elephant, roping a giraffe or relocating a hippo. And the first step in conserving a wild landscape, he argues, is to give the humans who share it an interest in being good stewards. His book, running to 600 pages and 1,400 photographs, would have benefited from an edit, but it’s still a compelling account of a singular day job.

Burke on books

Until April 2018, I’d never set foot in New Orleans, but I’d travelled there — and to other parts of Louisiana — countless times in the pages of the great James Lee Burke. Burke’s latest Detective Robicheaux story, The New Iberia Blues, is due out on January 10, and the author has been talking to The New York Times about his own reading, how he got hooked on crime fiction and what makes a good mystery.

Bunting and Barkham talk islands at Daunt Books festival

The bill for the spring festival at Daunt Books in London (March 15-16) includes a session on “Island life” featuring two writers who have recently gone offshore to good effect (and who both happen to be published by Granta). Madeleine Bunting, author of Love of Country: A Hebridean Journey, which was short-listed for the 2017 Wainwright Prize for nature/travel writing focused on Britain, will be interviewed by Patrick Barkham, whose Islander: A Journey Around Our Archipelago, was short-listed for Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year.

  Daunt’s, whose Marylebone branch is one of my favourite bookshops in London,  is also a publisher, whose recent titles have included a reissue of John McPhee’s The Crofter and the Laird, which is also about an island: Colonsay. I see, too, that Daunt Books Publishing is to publish in Britain Hernán Diaz’s debut novel In the Distance, which I mentioned on its US publication last year. There’s a link from the company’s site to a short Paris Review interview with Diaz.

Win all seven books short-listed for the Stanford Dolman prize

“Writing that takes you away” is what Deskbound Traveller aims to provide, and there’s a richness of it among the seven books short-listed for the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year. Among them are two titles on the topical subject of borders and one on small islands off Britain, a portrait of Pakistan and one of Calcutta, a book driven by the wind and one brimming with stories of the sea. The judges meet next week to decide on the winner.

  The books are:
Islander: A Journey Around Our Archipelago by Patrick Barkham (Granta, £20)
The Rule of the Land: Walking Ireland’s Border by Garrett Carr (Faber, £13.99)
The Epic City: The World on the Streets of Calcutta by Kushanava Choudhury (Bloomsbury, £16.99)
RisingTideFallingStar by Philip Hoare (Fourth Estate, £16.99)
Where the Wild Winds Are: Walking Europe’s Winds from the Pennines to Provence by Nick Hunt (Nicholas Brealey, £16.99) 
Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe by Kapka Kassabova (Granta, £14.99)
Travels in a Dervish Cloak by Isambard Wilkinson (Eland, £19.95).

  Now, courtesy of the bookseller Stanfords, I am offering you the chance to win all seven.

  The £5,000 Stanford Dolman prize, 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 and is now the centre-piece of a scheme run in association with the club by Stanfords and named after its founder: the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards. That scheme — with sponsorship from the tour operator Hayes & Jarvis — includes an award for an outstanding contribution to travel writing, one for young travel writers and one for bloggers, one for fiction with a sense of place and others for books in various byways of travel (food, adventure, illustrated books and children’s travel books). The winners of all the awards will be announced on February 1 at the Stanford Travel Writers’ Festival, part of the Destinations show in London.

  To be in with a chance of winning the seven books on the Stanford Dolman short list, just retweet my tweet about the prize (“Win all 7 books…”) on Twitter from both @deskboundtravel and @kerraway.

Terms and conditions
Entrants must retweet the mention of the Stanford Dolman prize on Twitter from both @deskboundtravel and @kerraway by midnight on Friday, January 26, 1918. The winner, who must be resident in the United Kingdom, will receive one copy of each of the seven books short-listed for the prize. He or she will be selected at random and notified by Thursday, February 1. Unsuccessful entrants will not be contacted. For more information about the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year, please see the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards site.

Seven books on short list for Stanford Dolman prize

The short list was announced this evening for the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year. The seven titles include two on the topical subject of borders and one on small islands off Britain, a portrait of Pakistan and one of Calcutta, a book driven by the wind and one brimming with stories of the sea. The books are:

Islander: A Journey Around Our Archipelago by Patrick Barkham (Granta, £20)
Inspired by a DH Lawrence short story, Barkham travels through 11 outposts of the British Isles to find out what it means to be an islander.

The Rule of the Land: Walking Ireland’s Border by Garrett Carr (Faber, £13.99)
In the run-up to the UK’s vote on membership of the European Union, Carr walked along a frontier with a troubled past and an uncertain future.

The Epic City: The World on the Streets of Calcutta by Kushanava Choudhury (Bloomsbury, £16.99)
Choudhury, born in the US into an Indian family, celebrates daily life and “the myriad enchantments” of a city that, he says, is too often represented as “a horror show”. 

RisingTideFallingStar by Philip Hoare (Fourth Estate, £16.99)
On coastal journeys, Hoare, who is something of a selkie (part human, part seal), tells stories of other artists, from Melville to Bowie, who have been drawn to the sea. 

Where the Wild Winds Are: Walking Europe’s Winds from the Pennines to Provence by Nick Hunt (Nicholas Brealey, £16.99) 
Having walked in Patrick Leigh Fermor’s footsteps to the Golden Horn, Hunt strides out on his own, to follow four of Europe’s winds across the Continent.

Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe by Kapka Kassabova (Granta, £14.99)
In the borderlands of Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey, Kassabova writes of fences both on the ground and in the head, and of the frontiers between the real and the imagined. 

Travels in a Dervish Cloak by Isambard Wilkinson (Eland, £19.95)
Wilkinson, sent to Pakistan to report on “the war on terror”, is keener to seek out the essence of the country among its mystics, tribal chiefs and feudal lords.

Extracts from the books are online on the Telegraph Travel website and will be in print in the travel section on Saturday. The £5,000 Stanford Dolman prize, 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 and is now the centre-piece of an awards scheme run by the bookseller Stanfords in association with the tour operator Hayes and Jarvis and named after Stanfords’ founder: the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards. The winner will be announced on February 1.

For a chance to win all seven short-listed books, keep a close eye on Deskbound Traveller over the next couple of weeks.

‘Lands of Lost Borders’ on Boardman Tasker short list

I’m delighted to hear that Kate Harris’s Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road, which was one of my favourite books of 2018, was short-listed yesterday for the £3,000 Boardman Tasker Prize, which is presented annually to “the author or co-authors of an original work that has made an outstanding contribution to mountain literature”. For the full short list of six books, see the Boardman Tasker site.  You can read a brief extract from Kate Harris’s book here on Deskbound Traveller.