Travel writing has a special place in literature – part memoir, part history, part anthropological study; it transforms the way we see the world. Here are 7 of the best travel books to accompany you on your wanderings
The Songlines is Bruce Chatwin's magical account of his journey across the length and breadth of Australia, following the invisible and ancient pathways that are said to criss-cross the land. Chatwin recorded his travels in his favourite notebook, which he would usually buy in bulk in a particular stationery shop in Paris. But when the manufacturer went out of business, he was told “Le vrai moleskine n’est plus”. A decade after its publication, on reading this anecdote in The Songlines, a small Milanese publisher was inspired to revive production of the legendary ‘moleskine’ notebook.
This special edition of The Songlines celebrates both the 30th anniversary of the publication of Chatwin's iconic work, and the 20th anniversary of a brand that has now become synonymous with culture, memory and travel.
What does Roman Britain mean to us now? How were its physical remains rediscovered and made sense of? How has it been reimagined, in story and song and verse?
Charlotte Higgins has traced these tales by setting out to discover the remains of Roman Britain for herself, sometimes on foot, sometimes in a splendid, though not particularly reliable, VW camper van. Via accounts of some of Britain's most intriguing, and often unjustly overlooked ancient monuments, Under Another Sky invites us to see the British landscape, and British history, in an entirely fresh way: as indelibly marked by how the Romans first imagined, and wrote, these strange and exotic islands, perched on the edge of the known world, into existence.
What if, walking along a beach, you paid close attention to every step? Strands is the result of a series of meditations prompted by walking on the estuarial beaches of Ainsdale Sands between Blackpool and Liverpool. Strands looks at what washes up and what is washed away, at what changes and shifts between minutes, days, and months. Environmentally-attuned, earnest, and bound to intrigue, Strands will open your eyes to the possibilities of observation.
I always had a sense that not knowing what the rest of the world was like was dangerous … going to places was not only interesting and stimulating, but a necessity.
Andrew Solomon travels all over the world in Far & Away, and whether ‘Naked, Covered in Ram’s Blood, Drinking a Coke and Feeling Pretty Good’ in Senegal or ‘Inventing the Conversation’ in Greenland, Solomon offers his signature insight and determination to immerse himself not as a tourist but as a traveller. Solomon’s curiosity is infectious, his unhesitating enthusiasm inspiring: Far & Away is a joyous collage, tribute to and argument for the vitality of travel.
The Soviet-Afghan War, which ranged from 1979 to 1989, was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians; millions were injured or forced to flee their homes and become refugees. In this book of incisive reportage, Svetlana Alexievich collects the accounts of brothers and sisters, soldiers and civilians caught in the ensuing chaos, and traces the devastating effects on their lives, which, in many cases, reach far beyond the war’s conclusion. Worry, fear, injury and death accumulate in Boys in Zinc, adding up to a searing portrait of what war means for those in its way. First published in 1991, Boys in Zinc is already a classic, intimate and unflinching.
'Flâneuse [flanne-euhze], noun, from the French. Feminine form of flâneur [flanne-euhr], an idler, a dawdling observer, usually found in cities. That is an imaginary definition.' Lauren Elkin defines the flaneuse as ‘a determined resourceful woman keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city, and the liberating possibilities of a good walk’. Part cultural meander, part memoir, Flâneuse traces the relationship between the city and creativity through a journey that begins in New York and moves us to Paris, via Venice, Tokyo and London, exploring along the way the paths taken by the flâneuses who have lived and walked in those cities.
These first hours have a raw exhilaration. The track shimmers ahead with a hard brilliance. The earth is young again.
When the final member of Colin Thubron’s family dies, he finds himself needing to mark their departure. Thubron's recollections on loss, memory, and aging blend with dazzling prose on walking and traveling from Nepal, into Tibet, and to the lakes below the slopes of Mount Kailas. To a Mountain in Tibet is an act of defiance. Of how, in the face of hopelessness, to carry on.