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Six new travel reads for your bookshelf in 2021

We look ahead to some of this year’s most hotly anticipated travel books, including Cal Flyn's Islands of Abandonment and Craig Taylor's New Yorkers. 

By Sarah Barrell
Published 7 Feb 2021, 08:00 GMT
We share our pick of the most-anticipated travel reads for 2021.

We share our pick of the most-anticipated travel reads for 2021.

Photograph by National Geographic Traveller (UK)

1. Islands of Abandonment, by Cal Flyn

This is a heartening look at nature’s power to reclaim the places where humans no longer linger. Flyn examines ‘life in the post-human landscape’, exploring such headline-grabbing locations as the Chernobyl exclusion zone and the abandoned ‘Motor City’ neighbourhoods of Detroit. There’s also a look at quieter backwaters, like a Scottish island now populated with feral cattle, and myriad places polluted by mining. Haunting? Yes, but also hopeful, showing that, against all odds, these eerily abandoned spots may offer our best opportunities for environmental recovery. (HarperCollins, £16.99)

2. The Border, by Erika Fatland

The latest from Norwegian social anthropologist Erika Fatland, who’s shaping up to be one of the Nordics’ most exciting new travel writers, sees her takes a trip through each of the 14 nations bordering the world’s largest country. An examination of Russia from its fringes, this is an interesting way to ‘see’ a country without ever actually going into it. And it offers up some pretty epic peripheral vision, including North Korea, China and all of Russia’s bordering states in the Caucasus, crossing the Caspian and Black Seas along the way. (Quercus Publishing, £30)

3. Food and Aviation in the Twentieth Century, by Bryce Evans

An ambitious, academic yet accessible investigation into what the food service aboard Pan American Airways, the now legendary mid-century airline, can tell us about North American culture. Long before Pan Am pioneered hot food galleys with menus adapted for modern high-altitude flying, the US carrier modelled its in-flight service on the elite dining experience of luxury ocean liners, with formal 13-course dinners served in art deco cabins — the ultimate glitz and glam expression of US-led, 20th-century globalisation. (Bloomsbury Academic, £85)

4. A Walk from the Wild Edge, by Jake Tyler

After a terrifying brush with suicide, Jake Tyler set off from his hometown of Maldon, Essex, equipped with only with a pair of walking boots and a small backpack. His subsequent 3,000-mile walk, following a long loop around the British mainland, took Tyler away from chronic depression and on the road to recovery, largely thanks to his encounters with kind-hearted strangers en route. A testament to the power of human connection, this is a physical and mental journey to inspire hope even in the darkest of times. (Michael Joseph, £16.99)

5. New Yorkers, by Craig Taylor

The author of 2011’s acclaimed Londoners takes another oral history tour, this time applying the formula to the Big Apple, to produce a series of revealing portraits of ‘a city and its people in our time’: New York, during what has been a tricky start to the 21st century. Through terrorist attacks, blackouts, hurricanes, recession, racial iniquity and a pandemic, local voices loom large and resilient, shaping the story of the city that refuses to sleep, via hundreds of interviews that have been some six years in the undertaking. (John Murray Press, £25)

6. To Shake the Sleeping Self, by Jedidiah Jenkins

The UK release of The New York Times’ bestseller follows an epic adventure: a bike trip taking in the deserts of Mexico, small towns in Latin America and the wilds of Patagonia by a young man who had never cycled seriously before. In his quest to better understand his life, Jenkins sets off from his home in Oregon and heads south — way south — in a 10,000-mile journey that reveals the meaning of faith, the constraints of masculinity and the painful-yet-epiphanic realities of long hours spent in the saddle. (Rider, £10.99).

Published in the March 2020 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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