From loafing around Paris to gold prospecting in California – via London during the Blitz – this month’s book selection takes us on a tour through time and place. Hop aboard.
1) Ticket to Ride, by Tom Chesshyre
Any traveller worth their passport knows that it’s not about the destination, but the journey. But while it’s easier than ever to get anywhere on the planet within 24 hours, does that mean we should? And if we do, what are we missing along the way?
Rail anorak and slow travel advocate, Tom Chesshyre (who we last saw shedding light on the real Maldives in his book Gatecrashing Paradise), attempts to answer that question in Ticket to Ride.
The result is a wonderfully evocative and thoroughly entertaining celebration of life on the train tracks – from Inverness to the Australian outback, and everywhere in between.
2) The Treeclimber’s Guide, by Jack Cooke
How can you read that title and NOT want to pick up this book, which is guaranteed to appeal to the young child in all of us?
Granted, I suppose if you’ve never climbed a tree, perhaps this doesn’t appeal, but in all honesty if you’ve never climbed a tree you’ve never lived.
Jack Cooke’s book taps into something primal and beautiful in us and celebrates the gorgeous wonder of not only the experience of clambering up a tree but then looking out and down on a world otherwise hidden.
Pack it and put it to use on your next adventure.
3) The Flâneur, by Edmund White
Okay, so this isn’t a new book, but this reissue does offer the chance to discover – or rediscover – this wonderful celebration of Paris from the venerable American novelist, Edmund White.
A flâneur is a loafer who seems to walk aimlessly, but is really seeking amusement.
And that’s exactly what White does in this book, drift through lesser-known Paris on a journey to discover the city’s soul.
It’s part of a beautiful new series from Bloomsbury featuring major writers on major cities – which also include John Banville on Prague and Peter Carey on Sydney amongst others.
4) Everyone Brave is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave
You’ll no doubt know Chris Cleave from his enormously popular novelsThe Other Hand and Gold, but this time around he’s delivered something rather different.
Everyone Brave is Forgiven is an historical novel set during WWII, which draws heavily on the author’s grandparents’ real life experiences serving in Malta and London.
The level of first-hand detail Cleave has collected means there’s a real sense of immersion in the devastated world his characters inhabit.
Expect to be shocked, saddened and uplifted by this tender tale from a master storyteller.
5) And The Weak Suffer What They Must, by Yanis Varoufakis
Whatever you think of the man’s politics, Yanis Varoufakis is undeniably and irreproachably cool – and how many economists can you say that about?
Here the former Greek finance minister sets out what’s gone wrong in Europe since WWII and considers how continued preference for austerity over reform is not only damaging to the region, but to the world as a whole.
Now, whilst that may not sound like a beach read, let me say once again that Varoufakis is cool, and this book is not only important and enormously informed but actually a very compelling read.
6) Walking Through Spring, by Graham Hoyland
Quite obviously, now is the perfect time to get stuck into Walking Through Spring.
Graham Hoyland’s latest offering, this timely tome is a meditation on the season and the unique experience it offers to see England at its finest.
Hoyland travels from the sunny South Coast right up to the Scottish Borders; avoiding roads along the way, he encounters an array of countryside characters and wildlife as he passes through the unfolding landscape.
A book that’s as much of a treat as the smell of morning dew on sun-drenched meadowland.
7) Lunatics, Lovers and Poets: Twelve Stories After Cervantes and Shakespeare
Did you know that Cervantes and Shakespeare died within a day of each other?
2016 marks the 400th anniversary of the passing of these two giants of literature, and has prompted the publication of this imaginative collection where six English-speaking authors share original stories inspired by Cervantes, and six Spanish-speaking authors take inspiration from Shakespeare.
A terrific anthology, featuring Ben Okri, Deborah Levy, Kamila Shamsie, Yuri Herrera and Marcos Giralt Torrente amongst others, which really brings home the lasting impact of both writers’ work on modern fiction.
8) Gold Fever, by Steve Boggan
Rather than choosing to go to one of the same boring old places that people insist on visiting for their holidays, why not try and earn back the cost of your flight by spending some time prospecting in California?
When Steve Boggan heard that there was a second gold rush going on in the West Coast hills, he set out to see what all the fuss was about.
Little did he realise then that he would be struck down with a severe bout of gold fever. A really fascinating, and funny, cautionary tale of the unexpected allure of lives spent in search of “the colour”.
9) Few and Far Between, by Charlie Elder
You don’t have to travel far to see weird and wonderful wildlife – but you may have to be patient.
Cue journalist and nature writer, Charlie Elder, who leads us on a tour of the UK in search of creatures great and small (not to mention plain odd) that are in danger of becoming extinct.
Elder’s impassioned prose even manages to generate some good PR for the pesky black rat, which is on the brink of extinction in the UK.
A beautiful book that should be essential reading for anyone even remotely interested in the natural world, and the threats facing its survival.
10) Hitman Anders and the Meaning of it All, by Jonas Jonasson
Johanna Kjellander is a priest and she has just come into the possession of an envelope containing 5,000 kronor.
Anders is a hitman and he has just lost an envelope containing… yes, you guessed it, 5,000 kronor. And he wants it back.
It’s a premise for a story that only Jonas Jonasson could have come up with and it makes for a madcap adventure that’ll have you laughing out loud.
Fans of his similarly (and delightfully) weird novels The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window andThe Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden will have an idea of what to expect – namely, terrific fun.