New books on travel and place

Why did they go, and what did they see? Those two questions are at the heart of Richard J King‘s history of solo sea voyages, Sailing Alone (Particular Books, £25, September 7), taking in everyone from the American Josiah Shackford, who reportedly went from France to Surinam in the 1700s (he didn’t write about his travels himself), to Ellen MacArthur, who set a new record for circumnavigating the globe when she arrived back in Britain in 2005. He weaves in, too, the story of his own “relatively minor voyage” across the Atlantic in a 28-foot boat in 2007.

  Jonathan Raban, who wrote Coasting (1986) after sailing alone around Britain, figures several times in King’s book. Raban died in January this year, as a result of complications following a stroke in 2011, but he had completed a final book: Father & Son: A memoir about family, the past and mortality (Pan Macmillan, £22, September 14). In it he chronicles his recovery from the stroke and also tells the extraordinary story of his parents’ marriage, the early years of which were conducted by letter while his father fought in the Second World War. It is, his publisher says, “a tremendous, continent-sweeping story of love and resilience in the face of immense loss”.

  Jeremy Bassetti, who does so much to promote the work of others through his Travel Writing World site, has a book of his own on the way. The Hill of the Skull — which he is crowd-funding through Kickstarter — is, he says, “part photo-book, part travel book”, combining pictures and a narrative focusing on his visit to a pilgrimage site in a town in the foothills of the Bolivian Andes. He was there last August for the annual Festival of the Virgin of Urkupiña, and, he says, “I got more than I bargained for.” He plans to launch the book in a live event online on October 1.

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