10 Travel Books for National Read a Book Day

Courtesy of The Guardian:

To celebrate a day for reading, we pick the recently released travel volumes, from a journey round the Hebrides to a vivid picture of the teeming streets of Kolkata.

In Search of Nice Americans, by Geoff Steward
… Or how to turn a sabbatical into a travel book. British Lawyer Geoff Steward had wanderlust and was fed up with billing time. The result? A 2016 journey taking him from Seattle to Atlanta in a little over 30 days. Along the way there were lengthy queues at passport control, many characters (some nice) and visits to the Great Smoky Mountains, Alaska, Yosemite and Nashville. Sarcastic, self-examining and Donald Trump-baiting, Steward’s prose is punctuated with musical references, and the book is dedicated to Tom Hanks – perhaps the nicest American of them all.

Epic Drives of the World, Lonely Planet
Gorgeous images mixed with first-hand narratives, plus illustrated maps and a handy “more like this” section at the culmination of each trip, this follow-up to Epic Bike Rides of the World is a feast of road trippin’ inspiration. It’s organised by continent and starts with a self-drive safari in Zambia and finishes after a trip from Alice Springs to Darwin. In between there are journeys on US Highway 61 and adventures in Bhutan and Vietnam. Lonely Planet also recently released, How to be a Travel Writer … though the line in the blurb stating “You don’t have to make money to profit from travel writing …” made for glum reading!

The Writer Abroad: Literary Travels from Austria to Uzbekistan
This anthology travels the globe – and through the ages – in the company of novelists, poets and travel writers: Arthur Conan Doyle in Australia, Aldous Huxley in India, Charles Dickens in Italy, Henry James in France and Mary Wollstonecraft in Sweden. The passage of time gives an insight into the nature of how and why we travel, and not always in a good way: “Today fell into a muddly puddle. Beastly. The fault of the man that carried me,” said one Joseph Conrad in Congo Diary (1890).

Love of Country – A Hebridean Journey by Madeleine Bunting
Reviewing the hardback release in the Guardian, Amy Liptrot, award-winning author of The Outrun, wrote: “This moving and wonderful journey through both the geography and history of the Hebrides was six years in the writing. Madeleine Bunting wasn’t expecting the Scottish referendum when she began the book, but the independence debate feeds into her aim of using the islands to come to a better understanding of Britain, and the idea of home.” Recently available in paperback, Bunting’s book hauntingly evokes the landscape of the islands and their unique position in the Atlantic archipelago.

The Last of the Light- About Twilight by Peter Davidson
This latest book from the author of The Idea of North is a meditative and melancholic look at the beatific borderland between light and dark – as seen by western artists, poets and writers. It considers “the ‘invention of evening” in Rome by the ancients; the science of the Victorian evening sky; the urban sunsets of Whistler, Hammershøi and Tiepolo and the twilit modernities of Sebald, Eliot and Baudelaire.” It was released in paperback on 1 September.

The Epic City: The World on the Streets of Calcutta, by Kushanava Choudhury
“Sifting through the chaos for the stories that never make the papers”, Choudhury investigates the city where he was born, which he left as a young boy and returned to as an adult in 2001 – when many of his relatives were asking, “Why?” He came back to a city down on its luck in comparison with Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore but one still home to 15 million people, among them the “shouting hawkers and fish-sellers squatted on bazaar floors” that he recalled from his childhood.

Land of Plenty: A Journey Through the Fields and Foods of Modern Britain, by Charlie Pye-Smith
In an age when increasing numbers of people are gravitating to cities, what is the fate of the countryside, and especially that essential aspect of our national heritage: farming? Pye-Smith’s travels around Britain result in a discourse on how, when interest in the natural world is flourishing, “most people have to go back several generations before they can find an ancestor who worked on the land”. Criss-crossing the country, Pye-Smith visits Somerset, Gloucestershire, the Scottish Borders, North Yorkshire, East Anglia, Hampshire, Norfolk and Essex in search of our daily bread.

Where the Wild Winds Are, by Nick Hunt
Perhaps it is something to finally thank weather forecaster Michael Fish for! As a six-year-old, Nick Hunt was stranded in north Wales by the great UK storm of 1987. The storm didn’t lead him to become a meteorologist: “What I did become, however, was someone with an urge to travel, and especially to travel by walking, which allows you to follow paths not dictated by road or rail …” Hunt’s second book sees him follow four of Europe’s winds – Helm, Bora, Föhn and Mistral – across the continent and into wild landscapes and meetings with storm chasers, mountain men, sailors, shepherds and “eccentric wind enthusiasts”.

Amsterdam Tales
Edited by Helen Constantine, translated by Paul Vincent
From its 17th-century trading heyday to its current status as one of the world’s busiest tourist cities, Amsterdam is a city people have always had something to say about. These 18 translated stories (including fiction, memoir and anecdote) run across the centuries, not shying away from the city’s dark periods or less-dignified moments. Famous names make an appearance, such as in Rembrandt Catches a Pupil Red-Handed by Arnold Houbraken, while Amsterdam’s now-lauded (but at the time horse-tram) public transport network gets an early kicking from W Otto in an 1892 tale, An Opponent Inveighs against the Tram, who lambasts “that laziness-promoting machine”.

Ascent, by Chris Bonington
A legend in the mountaineering world, Chris Bonington will detail his “complete life story” in this much-anticipated autobiography to be published in October. From his earliest climbs as a 16-year-old in 1951 to 19 Himalayan expeditions, including four to Mount Everest (which he climbed in 1985 at the age of 50), the book will detail daring ascents and near-death adventures. It will also reflect on the many luminaries the explorer has encountered along the way, including Dougal Haston, Don Whillans, “the philosopher of the rock Stephen Venables, and the enigmatic Doug Scott”.

Coming soon
This Ancient Road: London to Holyhead: a Journey Through Time by Andrew Hudson (September)
Travels in a Dervish Cloak by Isambard Wilkinson (September)
The New York Times – Explorer: Mountains, Deserts and Plains by Taschen (October)
The Meaning of Rice: and Other Tales from the Belly of Japan by Michael Booth (October)
Islander: a Journey Around our Archipelago by Patrick Barkham (October)
Icebreaker: a Voyage Far North by Horatio Clare (November)”

Stay Curious! Happy Reading!

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