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Travel Books of the Year 2011

In no particular order, a dozen travel books from the last twelve months that seem to be worthy of further investigation. I have only managed to read Edgelands so far, but if I enjoy the rest only half as much, I will be amply rewarded.

It is pleasing to see the genre of the city book (Solnit, Rhodes-Pitts and Sinclair) continuing to evolve, and, in the year Tim Robinson completed his epic cycle on Connemara, 'nature writing' appears to be inspiring some fine work, from both established writers (Attlee, Farley and Symmons-Roberts) and newcomers (Laing).

  • James Attlee, Journey in Search of Moonlight . A favourite of many this year. The New York Times was not completely won over, calling it an 'eccentric, rambling, charming report, by turns erratic and spellbinding.' [More details]
  • Paul Farley and Michael Symmons-Roberts, Edgelands. The Telegraph found this exploration of the neglected areas on the outskirts of English towns 'an original, surprising and rather wonderful addition to our literature of place.' [More details]
  • John Gimlette, Wild Coast. 'More than just a good yarn', thought the Guardian, it exposes 'darker aspects of the Guiana's past.' [More details]
  • Colin Thubron, To a Mountain in Tibet. A Himalayan journey of remembrance which the Observer found a 'daring and brilliant' reflection on love, loss and mortality. [More details]
  • Tim Robinson, A Little Gaelic Kingdom. The New Statesman admired the final volume of the Connemara trilogy by this 'Proust of the western seabord', noting that the 'pleasures of his vagrant, exacting style are many.' [More details]
  • Olivia Laing, To the River. 'There is real delight in this debut,' wrote the Telegraph. 'By turns lyrical, melancholic and exultant,' the author follows the course of the River Ouse from the Sussex Downs to the Channel. [More details]
  • Tim Butcher, Chasing the Devil. The Guardian thought this a 'multi-layered and thought-provoking account' that follows in the footsteps of Graham Greene's expedition to Liberia in the 1930s. [More details]
  • Paul Theroux, The Tao of Travel. It attracted more press than any other travel book this year. The Independent felt that it should have been called 'the Ego of Travel', but admitted to enjoying some of its more mischievous chapters and found it eloquent on the loneliness of travel. [More details]
  • Iain Sinclair, Ghost Milk. The Financial Times found the latest book from the psychogeographer of London's East End, 'dripping with hostility towards the 2012 Olympics' and the author's 'doom and gloom began to grate' [More details]
  • The New Granta Book of Travel. The Independent found this an 'inspiring anthology celebrating the genre's literary aspirations' but also praised 'the diversity of modern travel' found within its pages, including Albino Ochero-Okello's experiences as an asylum-seeker. [More details]
  • Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Harlem is Nowhere. 'Her happily disparate text blends the historical and the personal, the exceptional and the ordinary, adroitly communicating the multiplicity of Harlem itself,' wrote the New York Times. [More details]
  • Rebecca Solnit, Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas. A 'captivating, deeply evocative collection,' thought the Los Angeles Times, which enjoyed its 'elegantly rendered maps and cleverly researched and well-wrought essays conceived by more than a dozen writers, cartographers and artists'. [More details]
Posted by Alasdair Pettinger Sat 31 Dec 2011 14:48 GMT+0000


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