Portrait of Orkney
By George Mackay Brown
Portrait of Orkney is a personal account of a people, their history and their way of life, and of a landscape that has shaped them, and been shaped by them.
Travels with a Tangerine
By Tim Mackintosh-Smith, Martin Yeoman
Ibn Battutah set out in 1325 from his native Tangier on the pilgrimage to Mecca. By the time he returned twenty-nine years later, he had visited most of the known world, travelling three times the distance Marco Polo covered. Spiritual backpacker, social climber, temporary hermit and failed ambassador, he braved brigands, blisters and his own prejudices. The outcome was a monumental travel classic.Captivated by this indefatigable man, award-winning travel writer Tim Mackintosh-Smith set out on his own eventful journey, retracing the Moroccan's eccentric trip from Tangier to Constantinople. Tim proves himself a perfect companion to this distant traveller, and the result is an amazing blend of personalities, history and contemporary observation.
The Wildest Dream
By Mark Mackenzie
Everest was, to George Mallory, 'the wildest dream'. This gentleman adventurer was obsessed with taming the unconquered peak. But in 1924 he and climbing partner Sandy Irvine disappeared forever into the clouds encircling the peak. Might they have reached the summit before their tragedy? It is mountaineering's greatest mystery. Seventy-five years later, Conrad Anker made an extraordinary discovery. He spotted 'a patch of white' on Everest's North Face. It was Mallory's frozen body. Artefacts found on Mallory's body implied that he might have made it to the top. But that route had never since been climbed without modern equipment. Was it possible? To find out Anker returned to Everest, with death-defying young 'rock star' of climbing Leo Houlding as his partner. Kitted out in period clothing, they set off to replicate the unaided climb. Mallory's fate was a chilling reminder of the mountain's might. But they knew that to solve Everest's greatest mystery they must push their very limits.
By John Betjeman, Stephen Games, John Betjeman
For more than half a century, Betjeman's writings have awakened readers to the intimacy of English places - from the smell of gaslight in suburban churches, to the hissing of backwash on a shingle beach. Betjeman is England's greatest topologist: whether he's talking about a townhall or a teashop, he gets to the nub of what makes unexpected places unique. This new collection of his writings, arranged geographically, offers an essential gazetteer to the physical landmarks of Betjeman Country.A new addition to the popular series of Betjeman anthologies, following on from Trains and Buttered Toast and Tennis Whites and Teacakes, this is a treasure trove for any Betjeman fan and for anyone with a love for the rare, curious and unique details of English life.
The Man Who Invented History
By Justin Marozzi
Herodotus is known as the Father of History, but he was much more than that. He was also the world's first travel writer, a pioneering geographer, anthropologist, explorer, moralist, tireless investigative reporter and enlightened multiculturalist before the word existed. He was at once learned professor and tabloid journalist, with an unfailing eye for fabulous material to inform and amuse, to titillate, horrify and entertain. In his masterpiece the Histories, tall stories of dog-headed men, gold-digging ants and flying snakes jostle for space within a mesmerising narrative of the Persian Wars, from which Greece emerged triumphant in 5BC to give birth to Western civilisation.Using the effervescent and profoundly modern Herodotus as his guiding light, Justin Marozzi takes the reader back to his world with eclectic travels to Greece, Turkey, Egypt and war-torn Iraq.
In Search of the English Eccentric
By Henry Hemming
The English eccentric is under threat. In our increasingly homogenised society, these celebrated parts of our national identity are anomalies that may soon no longer fit. Or so it seems. On his entertaining and thought-provoking quest to discover the most eccentric English person alive today, Henry Hemming unearths a surprisingly large array of delightfully odd characters. He asks what it is to be an eccentric. Is it simply to thrive on creativity and non-conformity, and where does this incarnation of Englishness stem from? Hemming concludes that this tribe is, in fact, in rude health, as essential as ever to the English national identity, only they are no longer to be found where youd expect them.
Empires of the Indus
By Alice Albinia
10th anniversary edition with new PrefaceOne of the largest rivers in the world, the Indus rises in the Tibetan mountains, flows west across northern India and south through Pakistan. For millennia it has been worshipped as a god; for centuries used as a tool of imperial expansion; today it is the cement of Pakistans fractious union. Five thousand years ago, a string of sophisticated cities grew and traded on its banks. In the ruins of these elaborate metropolises, Sanskrit-speaking nomads explored the river, extolling its virtues in Indias most ancient text, the Rig-Veda. During the past two thousand years a series of invaders - Alexander the Great, Afghan Sultans, the British Raj - made conquering the Indus valley their quixotic mission. For the people of the river, meanwhile, the Indus valley became a nodal point on the Silk Road, a centre of Sufi pilgrimage and the birthplace of Sikhism. Empires of the Indus follows the river upstream and back in time, taking the reader on a voyage through two thousand miles of geography and more than five millennia of history redolent with contemporary importance.
Inside the Red Mansion
By Oliver August
In 1999, shortly after arriving in Beijing as The Times's China correspondent, Oliver August set out on the trail of China's most wanted man, Lai Changxing. An illiterate peasant from the coastal city of Xiamen, Lai created his own shipping empire from nothing before vanishing abruptly when the Communist Party accused him of corruption and fraud. Once the richest man in the country, Lai was now public enemy number one because his immense wealth became a threat to Beijing's power.Oliver August's highly entertaining search for Lai takes him to the brothels, backwaters and boardrooms that define the spirit of an emerging nation. Fascinated by Lai's story, the author visits the town where he was born, travels on the boat used by his smuggling racket and stays in the hotel where government investigators interrogated and tortured his helpers. The book investigates the tycoon's meteoric rise, his catastrophic demise and the mystery that surrounds his disappearance. After two decades of capitalist reforms, the New China seems to have more clichés than people. Both free and oppressive, anarchic and authoritarian, totally chaotic yet highly regulated, China is changing completely whilst seeming to stay itself. Part investigation, part personal memoir, Inside the Red Mansion is a deeply atmospheric journey into the New China. From the austere bureaucrats of Beijing to the gilded pirate coast opposite Taiwan; from the Gobi desert plains where migrant labour is recruited, to the skyscrapers and nightclubs of boomtowns like Xiamen, Oliver August's gripping yet thoughtful account reveals the dark side of China's economic miracle and a nation finally awakening to its desires.
By Tim Mackintosh-Smith, Martin Yeoman
Our ideas of the Arabian Peninusula have been hijacked: by images of the desert, by oil, by the Gulf War. But there is another Arabia.For the classical geographers Yemen was a fabulous land where flying serpents guarded sacred incense groves. Medieval Arab visitors told of disappearing islands and menstruating mountains. Vita Sackville-West found Aden 'precisely the most repulsive corner of the world'. Arguably the most fascinating but least known country in the Arab world, Yemen has a way of attracting comment that ranges from the superficial to the wildly fictitious. In Yemen: Travels in Dictionary Land, Tim Mackintosh-Smith writes with an intimacy and depth of knowledge gained through over twenty years among the Yemenis. He is a travelling companion of the best sort - erudite, witty and eccentric. Crossing mountain, desert, ocean and three millennia of history, he portrays hyrax hunters and dhow skippers, a noseless regicide, and a sword-wielding tyrant with a passion for Heinz Russian salad. Yet even the ordinary Yemenis are extraordinary: their family tree goes back to Noah and is rooted in a land which, in the words of a contemporary poet, has become the dictionary of its people. Every page of this book is dashed - like the land it describes - with the marvellous.
Ghost Train Through the Andes
By Michael Jacobs
It was not until long after his grandmother, Sophie, had died that Michael Jacobs was eventually permitted to read the lengthy and passionate letters that his grandfather Bethel had written her from nine thousand miles away. In these letters, Jacobs discovered a remarkable story of hardship, deprivation and enduring love. His grandfather's work on the railway through the Andes was exhausting and desperately lonely. He had little in common with his fellow workers and became consumed by a mounting despondency, from which only his love for Sophie could save him. But, as the months and years of separation passed, the world in which Sophie was blossoming appeared more and more remote from his own.Michael Jacobs' journey back through time takes him from a rain-swept Hull churchyard to desolate Antofagasta in Chile and to the former silver capital of Potosí. Climbing through ghostly, lunar-like scenery towards the snow-capped summits of the Andes, he follows the route of his grandfather's railway - across giant rocky plateaux, through terrifyingly steep gorges and valleys of tropical lushness, and past grim mining townships buffeted by winds, rain and snow - to reveal an extraordinary love story.
Extremes along the Silk Road
By Nick Middleton
The Silk Road is the fabled route that cuts through one of the most extraordinary tracts of land on this planet. A vast region separating China from the Mediterranean, it rates as one of the least hospitable on Earth – a succession of hostile deserts and towering mountain ranges, a harsh terrain of howling winds, searing heat and blistering cold.No stranger to unforgiving territory, Nick Middleton follows in the footsteps of Alexander the Great and Marco Polo overland from China to Istanbul, surviving as they did the life-sapping Gobi desert, the icy passes of high altitude Tibet, and the great Steppes of Turkmenistan, and encounters those who eke out existences there today.Nick's great gift as an adventure writer is to weave together the personal experience of ridiculous endurance - from sleeping on steaming rocks in the middle of a sub-zero desert to eating the most dubiously-cooked local delicacies - with the bigger picture of our planet and its peoples.
Through Siberia by Accident
By Dervla Murphy
Through Siberia by Accident is a book about a journey that didn't happen - and what happened instead.Dervla Murphy never had any intention of spending three months in the vast territories of Siberia. Instead she had planned to go to Ussuriland, because it appealed to her as a place free from tourism. But by accident, or rather because she had an accident - a painful leg injury -, she found herself stymied in Eastern Siberia, a place she knew very little about. Although hardly able to walk, her subsequent experiences, in an unexpected place, and in an incapacitated state, provided many pleasant surprises. Above all she was struck by the extraordinary hospitality, generosity and helpfulness of the Siberians who made this strange phenomenon - a maimed Irish babushka - so welcome in their towns and homes.This book is an extraordinary story of fortitude and resourcefulness as Dervla Murphy finds friendship and culture in a seemingly monotonous, bleak and inhospitable place far from what we know as 'civilised'. Through Siberia by Accident is a voyage of Siberian self-discovery.
Three Letters from the Andes
By Patrick Leigh Fermor
In 1971 the celebrated traveller Patrick Leigh Fermor accompanied five friends on a remarkable journey into the high Andes of Peru. His adventure took him from Cuzco to Urubamba, on to Puno and Juli on Lake Titicaca, down to Arequipa and finally back to Lima.The expedition was led by a writer and poet and the party included a Swiss international skier and jeweller, a social anthropologist from Provence and a Nottinghamshire farming squire - all seasoned mountaineers. The other two participants - the author himself and a botany-loving duke - were complete novices. As the group travelled from Lima into increasingly remote parts of the country, Leigh Fermor captured their experiences in a series of letters to his wife.Whether recounting the thrill of crossing a glacier, the rigours of campsite life under a blanket of snow, their lively encounters with locals or the strangely moving sight of a lone condor circling in the sky, the author vividly conveys the excitement of discovery and the intense uniqueness of the land.