The perfect beach read, Shape of a Boy is a laugh-out-loud travel memoir featured in National Geographic Traveller’s best travel books of 2022 Shape of a Boy is a hilarious and eye-opening travel memoir by the mother of three boys as she documents her travels with her family around the world. 'Have kids, will travel' is veteran travel journalist Kate's mantra. Her intrepid spirit is infectious in this warm, engaging account of her family's adventures and misadventures. She shares the life lessons learnt on their travels, from overcoming disappointment in Thailand to saying sorry in Japan, discovering perseverance in Borneo and learning about conservation in Malaysia. From the jungles of southeast Asia to the waterfront in Havana and the blazing heat of Egypt, Shape of a Boy captures the essence of being a parent in the thick of it and learning on the hoof. Inspirational for anyone who has dreaded travelling with a baby, toddler, or teen, it is a life-affirming read for every wannabe-traveller. Kate's vivid evocation of the highs and lows of family time make you belly-laugh and bring a lump to your throat. This is a must-read for every wannabe-traveller grounded by lockdown and for every parent who has dreaded travelling with a baby.
“Twenty-two acres, a mile round, the island could just be a large field, were it not for the steep hill at the west, the darkness of the woodland to the north, the distinct areas of grassland and shingle, gardens and cliffs. Because of that, that isolation, it is automatically romantic, fat with legend and history”. So the landscape is set for Mary Considine’s beautifully-written memoir of returning to rugged St George’s Island, a place she loved from childhood. When Mary and Patrick’s London life all but disintegrates during a year of tragic loss, feeling “caught between the loss of my old family and any new one”, Mary longed for the island, for any contact with it. It called to me”. So, the couple put their house on the market and seize an opportunity to becomes tenants of Island House, on condition that they renovate it. The work is hard, the winters are harsh (the island is inaccessible in winter), and the raw beauty is palpable as Considine relates their experiences, sharing stories of former tenants and local friends, Cornish history and legends, island nature and wildlife. Skipping with poetic style and shot-through with a profound love for this specific island, this personal memoir also speaks of the power of place more generally. It’s a mesmerising read that will enchant all of us who’ve fallen for a place and felt that longing to return, that longing to belong. In Mary’s case, her island “speaks to us with the voice of a gull, a seal, a storm, with the voices of the drowned and the departed”. Beautiful.
Simon Parker’s 3,400 mile bike ride which begins and ends at Muckle Flugga in Shetland would have been remarkable at any time. Instead he ventures out into the murky throes of a pandemic, pursued by his own troubles which are then further exacerbated by news of a close friend’s death. His journey, like all journeys, is a metaphor for life, a journey of self discovery interwoven with observation and the freedom granted by just ‘passing through’. This metaphor is brought into sharp focus when he is unable to attend the funeral of his friend but pays his respects from a pavement. It is a heartbreaking picture that like much of the book exposes the author’s vulnerability but also the truth that every moment is a crossroads - even when it’s an ending. Despite some moments of darkness the book is very humorous and Parker spins many a good yarn as he pedals down and then back up the country. Collectively the land is broken, fractured by a virus, confused by rules and moral dilemmas, tormented by grief and worry. In all this our traveller finds hope through adventure. Somehow by threading his way around our island it is as if the author has stitched it back together again, patching things up and making it strong once more. Riding Out can be read as an inspiring cycling travelogue, but it is also a record of a very strange time for which many of us paid a price, not only for a lockdown bike, but with our mental health.
Read the powerful account of one woman's fight to reshape her identity through connection with nature when all normality has fallen away. When lifelong bird-lover Hannah Bourne-Taylor moved with her husband to Ghana seven years ago she couldn't have anticipated how her life would be forever changed by her unexpected encounters with nature and the subsequent bonds she formed. Plucked from the comfort and predictability of her life before, Hannah struggled to establish herself in her new environment, striving to belong in the rural grasslands far away from home. In this challenging situation, she was forced to turn inwards and interrogate her own sense of identity, however in the animal life around her, and in two wild birds in particular, Hannah found a source of solace and a way to reconnect with the world in which she was living. Fledgling is a portrayal of adaptability, resilience and self-discovery in the face of isolation and change, fuelled by the quiet power of nature and the unexpected bonds with animals she encounters. Hannah encourages us to reconsider the conventional boundaries of the relationships people have with animals through her inspiring and very beautiful glimpse ofwhat is possible when we allow ourselves to connect to the natural world. Full of determination and compassion, Fledgling is a powerful meditation on our instinctive connection to nature. It shows that even the tiniest of birds can teach us what is important in life and how to embrace every day.
This is a brilliant travel adventure that scratches so far beneath the surface it might have struck oil. Rebecca Lowe’s rich knowledge of the Middle East is fascinating enough in itself to keep the pages turning, but add to that a rookie cyclist going for a risk-filled 11,000km ride to Iran and the results are not only culturally enlightening but hilarious. The author has a wickedly witty style that weaves effortlessly between her day to day travails and the people, mosques and historical sites that she seeks out to bring Islamic history to life. A talented journalist, Lowe is equipped to cut through the media image of the region that we have lazily settled for, and her description of why the bicycle is the best way to uncover what somewhere is truly like is the best I have read. Her observations in places once held under Ottoman rule, or in cities such as Venice where Muslim commerce made such an impression, turn the dial from negative towards positive in measuring the impact the Muslim world has had on western heritage and economies. There is an ingenious arc to this book from an early conversation with Muslim ‘outsiders’ in France to her own experience as an outsider in Tehran where western journalists are met with suspicion. Ultimately The Slow Road to Tehran follows a path full of human kindness, bravery and compassion through a world unnecessarily divided.
This is an impressive collection of travel writing taken from British media which finds untold stories in all corners of the world. Night trains, diving, pilgrimages, coastal walks … the Congo, Iraq, Kent, the Ganges… this single volume hits you hard with the overwhelming possibilities of travel with no less than thirty brilliant writers assembled. This century brought fresh challenges for these journalists in a world well-explored and now widely reported by visitors with bucket lists and armed with social media. But good writing is good writing, and here it is in abundance seeking out characters landscapes and histories converging in a fast-changing world and requiring a special talent to nail down. It may seem a little early in the century to be presenting such a compilation but of course the pandemic has provided a natural break for travellers to be still and reflect. For once, editor Jessica Vincent was spending more time reading than writing and this led to a reassessment of her motives for travel - not to tick off sights and cover as much ground as possible in an endless drive to ’see’ or ‘move’ - but the true essence of travel - which she says is to feel. Co-editor Levison Wood had a similar experience exploring from his armchair and finding a new level of appreciation for his own adventures and the stories that inspired him. You will also be inspired by these stories, perhaps to read more and learn more, or even to travel, but most of all to feel.
Sequins for a Ragged Hem narrates Johnson's return tour to Trinidad as a spiritual homecoming made problematic, among other reasons, by the fact that the house where she was born had been demolished. Amryl Johnson came to England from Trinidad when she was eleven. In 1983 she set off for a six month journey in the Caribbean. From the moment she steps off the plane into 'carnival fever', we are caught up in the excitement of her journey: her reunion with her mother, the exhilaration of dancing all night to calypso on the streets of Port-of-Spain . . . But she cannot escape, nor wants to, from the inheritance of colonialism. Her time in the Caribbean is also a journey of the self. The quest for memory is as powerful as the desire to escape. As her trip draws to a close, she describes with courage and eloquence her attempts to reunite the selves that have been separated by different cultures.
Moving from South Africa to the UK in her youth, Drawn in Colour begins when Noni is summoned back to South Africa as a young woman for the funeral of her brother. After the funeral, she spends time travelling around South Africa and Uganda, reflecting on the complex, layered impacts of colonialism on the communities she meets. This is a thoughtful, insightful memoir from a singular voice - as one of the first African women to pursue a literary career in the UK, Noni Jabavu is a pioneer whose talent shines through in this extraordinary narrative.
'We shall therefore confine our walk to Central London where people meet on business during the day, and to West London where they meet for pleasure at night. If you will walk about the first City in the British Empire arm in arm with Merriman-Labor, you are sure to see Britons in merriment and at labour, by night and by day, in West and Central London.' In Britons Through Negro Spectacles Merriman-Labor takes us on a joyous, intoxicating tour of London at the turn of the 20th century. Slyly subverting the colonial gaze usually placed on Africa, he introduces us to the citizens, culture and customs of Britain with a mischievous glint in his eye. This incredible work of social commentary feels a century ahead of its time, and provides unique insights into the intersection between empire, race and community at this important moment in history. Selected by Booker Prize-winning author Bernardine Evaristo, this series rediscovers and celebrates pioneering books depicting black Britain that remap the nation.
Written and illustrated by designer Jani Tully Chaplin, A Greek Island Nature Diary is a joyous journal-format ode to its creator’s love of the islands, as expressed through her detailed watercolours and personal observations of nature and the shifting seasons. Having lived in Corfu, the author’s immersion in - and love for - this alluringly beautiful part of the world is infectious. Through spreads dedicated to different species of plant, flower, tree and animal, she shares her personal encounters with these natural wonders, alongside fascinating information about connected mythology, folklore, medicinal uses, and literature. Take the evocatively-named snake’s head iris, for example. Chaplin blissfully describes encountering these beauties in the undergrowth near her ancient olive trees, before sharing the flower’s connections to Iris, goddess of the rainbow and messenger to the gods. Published in an attractive hardback format, and resplendent with the author’s pencil drawings and watercolours (often vibrant, and always detailed), this will make a splendid gift for friends and family who adore exploring the Greek Islands, and for armchair travellers who’ve yet to discover their delights.
If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it's that people love parks As horizons shrank, we took stock. At first, a sense of panic set in: nowhere to go, nothing to do... Then we all went to the park, and we realized something: we need greenery - we crave it. Whether we're in Colombia or Korea, America or Australia, urban parks are places where we can find calm amid the chaos. They can also (more often than we may realize) conceal intriguing hidden histories, and can tell us something about modern life in our frenzied world, too. With fondness and humour, travel writer Tom Chesshyre recalls 50 of his favourite urban parks from across the world, in a love letter to the green escapes that bring us joy in our cities.
Pip Stewart’s Life Lessons from the Amazon is two books in one. Firstly, it’s a graphic account of an expedition down Guyana’s perilous Essequibo River - a source to sea adventure brimming with danger and beauty in equal measure. Secondly it’s a thoughtful reflection on that journey that provides insights and learnings which might be usefully applied to 'normal life'. As the team makes its way down the river each chapter highlights a different emotion, behaviour or human attribute which is then given the jungle treatment as Pip recounts an occasion from her Amazonian experience where it surfaced. Appreciation, Growth, Conflict, Connection.. and many more such themes enjoy an adventurer's analysis leading to the very last chapter, ambitiously titled Death and Life … in which a flesh-eating parasite nibbles its way into the story. For Pip Stewart, this extraordinary adventure was life-changing and some of the hard-earned wisdom she shares within Life Lessons from the Amazon might just change the lives of others.