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Travel Books of the Year 2012

British authors dominate the new travel books that I added to my to-read list this year. I have managed three of them so far, and I gave a fourth as a birthday present which I hope to borrow before long.

Sightlines stood out for me, as it did for many others. I doubt whether anything else from 2012 will quite match it. Paul Zeleza's book does not offer the same readerly pleasures but it covers ground too little covered in mainstream travel writing and I recommend pestering your local library for a copy. With Counter-Tourism (and its wee sister) Crab Man (Phil Smith) has given us a provocative new concept as well as a national park of suggestions that make you laugh out loud.

  • Simon Armitage, Walking Home. The Guardian enjoyed this poet's account of his walk of the Pennine Way, which 'riffs on the ancient correlation between itinerancy and story-telling [More details]
  • Crab Man, The Counter-Tourism Handbook. The Creeping Toad applauded this attempt to encourage visitors to heritage sites to look upon them with fresh, subversive eyes, its 'sneaky alternatives to the often controlled and sanitised experiences we are offered, inviting us to find our own ways of getting to know a place.' [More details]
  • Tom Feiling, Short Walks from Bogotá. The Spectator found this well-researched assessment of the 'new Colombia' a 'brilliant, penetrating and highly readable account which carries complete conviction.' [More details]
  • Tom Fort, The A303: Highway to the Sun. Driving from Basingstoke in Hampshire to Honiton in Devon, Fort 'has an eye for the quirky, the absurd, the pompous,' said the Telegraph 'and a style that, like the road, is always on the move.' [More details]
  • Pico Iyer, The Man Within My Head. The New York Times was captivated by this series of 'contemplative, idiosyncratic' observations on Graham Greene, the author's father and others who have influenced him over the years. [More details]
  • Michael Jacobs, The Robber of Memories. Returning to the Andes and the Rio Magdalena, Jacobs produced what the Sunday Times (£) called 'a beautiful and moving account of a challenging journey to follow the river to its mountain source and of a very difficult period in the author’s life.' [More details]
  • Kathleen Jamie, Sightlines. A collection of finely-crafted essays, well-loved by many, that will surely pick up prizes next year. Wrote the Telegraph: 'Sightlines is a work of intense purity and quiet genius, and we’re lucky to have it.' [More details]
  • Robert Macfarlane, The Old Ways. The Guardian thought this 'a spacious and inclusive book, which allows for many shifts in emphasis, and which, like the best paths, is always different when you go back to look at it again.' [More details]
  • Cees Nooteboom, Roads to Berlin. Drawing on visits to the city over many years, 'Nooteboom wears his erudition lightly, and weaves personal anecdote into memorable reportage,' wrote Ian Thomson in the Telegraph . [More details]
  • Nick Papadimitrou, Scarp. Decades of walks on the Northern fringes of London fuel this 'deep topography' of weirdness. The Observer thought ' the loopy incredibility of all this is redeemed by his indomitable playfulness.' [More details]
  • Jean Sprackland, Strands. In this poetic record of a year on the South Lancashire coast, the author 'writes a supple, attractive, gently ironic prose that brings alive this distinctive shoreline,' according to the Independent. [More details]
  • Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, In Search of African Diasporas. If I can quote my own review in Studies in Travel Writing (£) this ambitious survey, drawing on interviews and encounters in 12 countries, is a 'bold, challenging work' that 'honours the irreducible multiplicity of his subject.' [More details]

Posted by Alasdair Pettinger Thu 27 Dec 2012 22:46 GMT+0000