15 Travel Books to Escape Dreary British Winter

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10 enchanting tomes to whisk you away from home

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Books Editor Richard Hopton reviews three books about journeys – and we give you a further pick of the other travel books and memoirs that will get you itching to pack your bags. From a sun-soaked Italian Riviera to the alpine glamour of St. Moritz, these captivating travel books will transport you to an array of extraordinary places.

Richard Hopton’s Pick Of Travel Books

The Romantic By William Boyd

The Romantic by William Boyd

The hero of William Boyd’s latest novel, Cashel Greville Ross, had a peripatetic life. Born in Scotland in 1799 he lived in, visited or explored in the course of a long life Ireland, England, Belgium, India, Italy, France, Massachusetts, East Africa, Trieste, Germany, Rhodes, and Venice dying in 1882 in Austria, appropriately enough at a railway station. Born in the age of horsepower and sail, he lived to travel by steamship and railway.

The Romantic is a whole-life novel, a form in which Boyd excels. The New ConfessionsAny Human Heart, and Sweet Caress are other examples of his novels in this form that, taken together, constitute his best work. Presented as a biography rendered fictionally, it charts Ross’s life as a soldier, travel-writer, farmer, brewer, explorer, lecturer, diplomat, and detective. A terrific read. (Viking, £20).

The Half-Known Life By Pico Iyer

The Half Known Life

Can paradise exist on earth, especially in our strife-torn, divided world? This is the question Pico Iyer attempts to answer in this thought-provoking book. In search of an answer, Iyer visits Iran, North Korea, Belfast, Kashmir, Broome in the Australian outback, Jerusalem, Ladakh, Sri Lanka, Koyasan in Japan, and Varanasi, by any reckoning a disparate array of places in which to search for an earthly nirvana.

He has an acutely observant eye for the telling detail and a delicious turn of phrase. Describing Sri Lanka, he writes, ‘this might have been India in a rocking chair, on a verandah above the sea.’ The book is suffused with a monkish otherworldliness, an almost mystical, philosophical calm. Iyer wanders and watches but he also wonders and thinks and as he does, so do we. (Bloomsbury, £16.99).

Path Of Peace: Walking The Western Front Way By Anthony Seldon

The Path Of Peace

In the summer of 2021 Anthony Seldon, historian and retired headmaster, walked the 1,000 kilometres of the Western Front from the Swiss border to the North Sea to publicise the idea of a memorial path commemorating the sacrifices of the First World War. Path of Peace tells the story of this epic walk of a million or so paces. As Seldon strides across France, he tells the local stories of the war, of individual battles, and of the permanent changes they wrought to the landscape and way of life. It’s also an account of the delights and tribulations of the walk itself – he is bitten by a dog at one point – a meditation on war and a personal reckoning following the death of his wife and the start of another phase of life. (Atlantic Books, £20).

More For Your TBR: The C&TH Team’s Pick Of Travel Books And Memoirs

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Athens Riviera

Athens Riviera by Stéphanie Artarit

Assouline, €105, assouline.com

A capital which John Milton once branded ‘the eye of Greece, mother of arts and eloquence’, Athens is simultaneously a beautiful ancient city and thriving modern-day metropolis. This book captures both by exploring the intrinsic charm of the Athens Riviera; from its refined hotels and reflective art to its prepossessing coastal neighbourhoods with views overlooking the Aegean Sea.

Into Iraq book

Into Iraq by Michael Palin

Hutchinson Heinemann, £16.99, penguin.co.uk

Actor Michael Palin travelled the length of the River Tigris through Iraq in March 2022, to get a sense of a country that has, across his lifetime, faced so much bloodshed and turmoil. From exploring the old streets of Baghdad, to the Ancient ruins of Babylon, he kept a meticulous diary tracking his journey – which resulted in this book.

Around the World in 80 Trains

Around the World in 80 Trains by Monisha Rajesh

Bloomsbury, £10.99, waterstones.com

From Tibet’s Qinghai railway to the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, if it’s a world-famous railway, you can guarantee Monisha Rajesh has ridden it. The journalist and travel writer took to the rails with her fiancé, Jem to travel the world in 80 trains, across 45,000 miles, forming new friendships, experiencing astounding views, and affirming the magic of exploring the world by tracks.

The Enchanted April

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

Penguin Modern Classics, £8.54, bookshop.org

An ideal read for when you’re basking in the sun (or wishing you were), The Enchanted April transports readers to the 1920s Italian Riviera, in which four dissimilar women, each disheartened about life at home in Britain, spend a month residing together in a Mediterranean medieval castle. Whilst it’s not all smooth sailing, the charming Riviera soon arouses restorative change and new-found friendships between four unlikely women.

The Secret Shore book

The Secret Shore by Liz Fenwick

HQ, £14.99, harpercollins.co.uk

Travel along more local shores. Following one of few female mapmakers during World War Two, Merry works on the underground resistance movement getting secret flotillas to northern France. She’s suddenly called back to family in Cornwall; but not before a life-altering meeting with a handsome American officer.

To Venice With Love

To Venice with Love: A Midlife Adventure by Philip Gwyne Jones

Little, Brown Book Group, £8.99, waterstones.com

Ever wondered what it would be like to up sticks to another country? Well, that’s exactly what Philip Gwynne Jones and his wife Caroline did. This uplifting memoir details the couple’s move from Edinburgh to Venice ‘in search of a better, simpler life’; an ode to the ‘floating city’ and an honest account of emigrating to an extraordinary place.

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan by Yaffa Assouline and Laziz Hamani

Assouline, €105, assouline.com

As travel books go, this visually impressive ode to Uzbekistan does well to inspire a voyage to the exotic Asian nation. Yaffa Assouline’s vivid commentary paired with breath-taking photography from Laziz Hamani transports readers to ‘one of the few destinations on Earth where imagination aligns with reality’.

The Old Ways

The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot by Robert Macfarlane

Penguin, £10.99, waterstones.com

Prize-winning nature writer Robert Macfarlane journeys through Britain in search of a ‘lost world – a landscape of the feet and the mind, of pilgrimage and ritual, of stories and ghosts; above all of the places and journeys which inspire and inhabit our imaginations’. Take a walk on Britain’s wild side and explore man’s historic ties to the nation’s beautiful landscape with this captivating guidebook.

The Alchemist

The Alchemist: A Fable about Following Your Dream by Paulo Coelho

HarperCollins Publishers, £9.99, waterstones.com

With over 65 million copies sold across the globe, it’s fair to say that Paulo Coelho’s 1988 novel is a trailblazer of the travel genre. An inspiring tale about following one’s dreams, The Alchemist details the life-altering journey of an Andalusian shepherd boy as he searches for ‘worldly treasure’ in the Egyptian pyramids.

The Art of Travel

The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton 

Penguin, £10.99, waterstones.com

Whilst most travel books detail the places we should visit and how they should be indulged, Swiss-British philosopher Alain de Botton takes a different approach. The Art of Travel ponders the concept of journeying afar; why do we long to do so? And how can we make the most of our travels? Prepare to think differently about your next adventure.

A Year in Provence

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

Vintage, £9.99, waterstones.com

In this best-selling 1980s memoir – also a BBC TV series – British author Peter Mayle writes of his eventful first year living in Provence after emigrating with his wife to a two-hundred-year-old farmhouse in the French countryside. A comical and uplifting account of a couple’s adjusting to Provençal life, the book went on to win Best Travel Book of the Year at the 1989 British Book Awards.

St.Moritz Chic

St. Moritz Chic by Giorgio Pace, Text by Dora Lardelli

Assouline, €105, assouline.com

Escape to one of the world’s most celebrated ski resorts which has attracted a whole host of illustrious residents, from John Lennon to Audrey Hepburn, Claudia Schiffer and Sofia Loren. St. Moritz Chic explores the ever-lasting allure of the luxury alpine resort, from its A-list haunts and ‘hidden’ parties at Badrutt’s Palace to the awe-inspiring natural beauty of the alps which surround the Engadin valley.

Featured image: Dan Novac via Unsplash

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