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Our top 10 travel books for summer 2019

From the country's cathedrals to literary landscapes, we share our top travel books to see you through the summer season.

Published 3 Aug 2019, 06:00 BST, Updated 23 Jul 2021, 10:57 BST
Dive into our recommended reading list for summer 2019.
Dive into our recommended reading list for summer 2019.

1. Autumn Light: Japan’s Season of Fire and Farewells by Pico Ayer
The travel writer’s latest homage to Japan — his adopted country — is a poetic work of pathetic fallacy where the fiery season’s fading landscapes echo the life stories of the people he meets. The travelogue picks up with the passing of his Japanese father-in-law, and follows those he’s left behind, many in the autumn of their years. Iyer explores their daily routines, which while pedestrian, are imbued with ancient tradition, superstition and informed by distinct Japanese seasons. It’s a tender meditation on both Japanese culture and the impermanence of life. RRP: £20 (Bloomsbury)

2. Slow Trains to Venice: A Love Letter to Europe by Tom Chesshyre
Equally slow moving, if bristling with vitality, TChesshyre’s new tome is a joyfully rudderless romp through Europe’s railway system. It’s the sort of journey we all pledge to do — no set plans or end point — but don’t have the nerve or annual leave to master. Chesshyre shows us how, following a path though France (despite inevitable rail strikes), Belgium and onwards east as far as Odessa on the Black Sea, then back again via Central Europe. It’s a work of brilliant geekery, but for the most part it’s a love letter to the continent, a Eurocentric work for our Brexit-beleaguered times. RRP: £16.99 (Summersdale)

3. Tales of Two Londons: Stories from a Fractured City edited by Claire Armitstead
If you prefer your reads to be edifying but epigrammatic, try this anthology of short stories, reportage and poetry, brought together by the Guardian's Claire Armitstead. Tales from 40 contributors as diverse a Jon Snow, Michèle Roberts and Arifa Akbar, along with previously unpublished writers, immigrants and refugees, paint a picture of the capital that illustrates its driving diversity. RRP: £9.99 (Arcadia)

4. The Private Life of Britain’s Cathedrals by Christopher Somerville
From Lincoln to Litchfield and Exeter to Ely, Britain has more than 100 glorious cathedrals. In this book, Christopher Somerville travels their realms, unearthing their histories and marvelling at their astonishing architectural beauty, as well as sharing stories of heathens, rogue saints, passionate believers, architects and archaeologists along the way. RRP: £20 (Doubleday)

5. Utterly Unmissable Britain curated by Richard Madden
Adventure author Richard Madden curates a selection of 'bucket list' British experiences, taking in remote nature reserves and Spitfire flights, Anglo-Saxon burial sites and royal palaces, foraging spots, clifftop theatres, and much more to offer the ultimate checklist to our storied isles. RRP: £12.99 (National Trust)

6. Adventures Around the Edge of Britain’s Hidden Islands by Lisa Drewe
There's no shortage of spots in Britain to immerse yourself in the outdoors — sometimes quite literally. Lisa Drewe checks out 50 of our little-known islets for a spot of coasteering, camping, wild swimming, whale spotting, kayaking, with glossy photography, maps and suggested routes. RRP: £16.99 (Wild Things Publishing)

7. Forgotten Histories of the Thames Estuary by Caroline Crampton
Trace the course of England’s longest river to reveal how the waterway helped shape our nation, finding epic feats of Victorian engineering, artist retreats, shipwrecks, old trade routes and wild riverbanks along the way. RRP: £16.99 (Granta)

8. Mud and Stars by Sarah Wheeler
In what might be one of the world's foremost literary nations, Wheeler delves into the vast Russian landscape, both literal and emotional, with the likes of Pushkin, Tolstoy, Chekhov as her guides. RRP: £20 (Jonathan Cape)

9. Literary Landscapes by Sarah Baxter 
Dreamily illustrated by Amy Grimes, this literary tour calls at storied spots including Arundhati Roy’s Kerala and Victor Hugo’s Paris. It's a pretty addition to any bookshelfR, too. RRP: £14.99 (White Lion)

10. The Lark Ascending by Richard King
From Vaughan Williams to Kate Bush and beyond, bestselling author Richard King explores how the living, breathing, working and changing British countryside has shaped the nation’s musical personality. RRP: £8.99 (Faber)

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Published in the September 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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