Our favourite travel books of 2018

Posted by Gabrielle Jacobs on 7 March 2019

On world book day, we look back over a year of great travel reads. Whether you’re looking for inspiration or to do some armchair travelling, you won’t go wrong with these books.

Walking the Americas

Levison Wood (Hodder & Stoughton)

Wood, whose last great adventures were walking the Nile and the Himalayas, follows through on his good mate Alberto’s wish to hike from his hometown of Mérida, Mexico, down through Central America. Along the way, they pass through former murder capitals in Honduras, discover Mayan ruins in Guatemala’s jungles, encounter ‘narco strangers’ and migrants heading to the USA, and traverse the treacherous Darién Gap dividing Panama and Colombia.

Kings of the Yukon

Adam Weymouth (Penguin Random House)

Paddling in a canoe, Weymouth joins the king salmon on their four-month migration up the Yukon to study their ways and those of the indigenous communities along the river who depend on them. With climate change threatening both man and fish, he tries to illustrate the importance of their bond and how precarious the lifeline.

The Crossway

Guy Stagg (Pan Macmillan)

Stagg’s lesser-travelled pilgrimage, from Canterbury to Rome and then onward to Jerusalem, is prompted by an attempt to distance himself from his struggles with mental illness and alcoholism. Covering nearly 6,000 kilometres of highs and lows and the greater part of a year, the weary young traveller encounters characterful nuns and monks, protesters, zealots and various modern heretics.

Alone Time

Stephanie Rosenbloom (Penguin Random House)

Reminiscent of Susan Cain’s Quiet, intrepid introvert Rosenbloom explores the virtues of solitude (awareness, creativity, curiosity, self-reliance, flexibility, being open to serendipity) when travelling. Over the course of a year, she basks in Parisian sunshine, happily loses herself in Istanbul, dodges tourists in autumnal Florence and even finds some peace at home in bustling New York.

My Twenty-Five Years in Provence

Peter Mayle (Penguin Random House)

This last book from the late Provençal enthusiast is a charming reflection of his quarter century in the south of France – the lessons learned, how things have changed – all the while chronicling the rambunctious quirks and unforgettable countryside scenes that have flavoured the life he made with wife Jennie in enchanting, but not always idyllic, Provence. In the end, it surely was a life well lived.

Border

Kapka Kassabova (Graywolf Press)

This literary journey (both memoir and travelogue) emerges rather timeously in the wake of Europe’s ongoing refugee crisis. Kassabova grapples with the turbulent and intricate histories of the region where Turkey and Greece meet her native country, Bulgaria (once perceived as an escape route from the USSR into the West). She focuses on the human stories affected by the intricate swirl of ethnicity, politics and religion. This is the winner of the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year.

Shark Drunk

Morten Strøksnes (Penguin Random House)

Morten and his pal Hugo travel around Lofoten Archipelago in pursuit of the Greenland shark whose meat, when consumed, induces a toxic drunkenness. His account includes humorous Nordic philosophising and imaginatively crafted insights and descriptions of the mythical landscape as seen from a tiny, improbable boat. This is the winner of the ‘Wanderlust Adventure Travel Book of the Year.’

The Explorer

Katherine Rundell (Bloomsbury)

Rundell’s award-winning storybook centres on Fred, an itchy-footed dreamer who must brave the Amazonian jungle with three other kids, Con, Lila and Max, who’ve crash-landed there. Like all good adventure stories, it includes a mysterious map and plenty of creepy-crawlies. This is a great page-turner for children.

The Rule of the Land

Garrett Carr (Faber & Faber)

Carr, a cartographer, set out to present a deeper sense of Ireland’s troubled history, but the journey took on increased significance due to Brexit – the border between Éire and Northern Ireland will soon be the only land frontier between the UK and EU. Critical, yet passionate, his travelogue evaluates the past and present.

An Elephant in My Kitchen

Françoise Malby Anthony (Pan Macmillan)

The widow of South Africa’s renowned ‘Elephant Whisperer’ recounts how she and the Thula Thula elephant herd forged ahead while still mourning the loss of their beloved Lawrence (he died in 2012). In this memoir, she shares amazing stories, including the realisation of her dream to build a centre for orphaned wildlife, and offers new tales of encouragement.

Where the Wild Winds Are

Nick Hunt (Hodder & Stoughton)

Hunt chases four of Europe’s winds – the Helm, Foehn, Mistral and Bora – through alpine valleys and coastal regions, taking in the lore they inspired and the cultures they’ve shaped. The result is charming portraits of these curious winds and the lands they brush.

Journeys to the other side of the world

Sir David Attenborough (Hodder & Stoughton)

The familiar, beloved voice of wildlife documentaries has spent his entire career telling us about the Earth and its creatures. In the second volume of his autobiography, Attenborough reveals insights from his early adventures in and around Madagascar, the Pacific Islands and Australian coastline with charm, wit and humanity.

The Immeasurable World

William Atkins (Penguin Random House)

Atkins wanders through eight hellishly arid lands, including some man-made desert wastelands born of armed conflict and environmental neglect. He’s curious about the effect they have on culture and the human psyche. Also on a personal journey, he unexpectedly feels inspired by these desertscapes and the resilient life they support.

Explorer’s Atlas For the Incurably Curious

Piotr Wilkowiecki and Michal Grasznyski (Harper Collins)

Two Polish travellers have put together a fun, modern atlas with an infographic look and feel. Packed with all manner of tips, stats and fascinating facts, it’ll prove a great asset for planning your next great adventure. Want
to follow in the footsteps of the great explorers, or indulge your love of sporting events? It’s all in here, imaginatively repackaged.

Note: Some of these books may only be available to buy online, or order them through a good bookshop.

 


Feature image: Unsplash

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