Studies in Travel Writing
Travel Books of the Year 2010
Is it just an an accident that a third of these books are about Russia or China? And that the perennial stand-by of travel writers everywhere, Africa, is represented by what may be V S Naipaul's last work of non-fiction?
But if this is a sign of a major geographical shift of attention, another emerging trend may be the thematically-focused book that draws on travels in widely scattered locales, such as those of Hoffman and Conover.
If I end up posting to this blog more than twice a year, I may even discuss these matters in more detail in 2011.
- Ian Frazier, Travels in Siberia. Neal Ascherson praised the latest book from this 'sophisticated, intense writer' in the New York Review of Books. [More details]
- Andrew Greig, At the Loch of the Green Corrie. This pilgrimage in search of an old haunt of Scottish poet Norman MacCaig, 'over and over, makes place into an event in its own right', said the Guardian. [More details]
- V S Naipaul, The Masque of Africa. Mixed reviews greeted this unsparing assessment of religious belief across the continent, as the author himself anticipated. According to the Observer, Naipaul 'is often blinkered but he still sees things that others miss'. [More details]
- Carl Hoffman, The Lunatic Express. A record of a year's travel by the world's most uncomfortable and unsafe forms of transport which the Wall St Journal found 'wise, clever, funny, warm and filled with astonishing characters.' [More details]
- Owen Hatherley, A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain. Reviewing for openDemocracy, Ken Worpole liked this 'compendious, erudite and witty' gazetteer of post-war British planning disasters. [More details]
- Ted Conover. Routes of Man. The New York Times found this meditation on roads around the world 'fascinating ... thoughtful, temperate and generous all at once'. [More details]
- Rachel Polonsky, Molotov's Magic Lantern. An 'unusual and elegant many-layered portrait of modern Russia', wrote the reviewer in the Independent. [More details]
- Michael Jacobs, Andes. According to the Guardian 'as assured as any of the prime travel classics; it has a range, lightness and yet grandeur about it and will surely endure.' [More details]
- Paul Bowles, Travels. Of these collected writings spanning over forty years, the Independent observered that 'underlying all the superficial colour is a profoundly reflective quality.' [More details]
- Peter Hessler, Country Driving. The Financial Times enjoyed its telling vignettes on 'the warp-speed of China’s industrialisation' [More details]
- Elif Batuman,The Possessed. Journeys in search of Russian literature which the New York Times found 'hilarious, wide-ranging, erudite and memorable'. [More details]
- Damon Galgut, In a Strange Room. A novel, rather than a travel book, but one which moved Jan Morris to write, in the Guardian: 'I doubt any book in 2010 will contain more memorable evocations of place.' [More details]