Two writers offering different takes on modern America in the dying days of the Obama administration are competing alongside books that take in the Welsh Hills, the London to Bristol rail line, food around the globe and the very concept of why we travel, on the shortlist for the world’s most prestigious travel writing Award, announced this evening at an event at the National Liberal Club in London. The winner of the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year, in association with the Authors’ Club, will be announced at the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards ceremony on 2nd February, as part of the Stanfords Travel Writing Festival at Destinations: The Holiday and Travel Show at Olympia.
Paul Theroux, the veteran novelist and travel writer whose journeys have previously taken him to China, India, Africa, South America, Russia and elsewhere, is shortlisted for Deep South, his first travel book to focus on his homeland, the United States of America, and specifically the Southern states. In Interstate, Julian Sayarer hitchhikes from New York to San Francisco, encountering drifters, dropouts and roadside communities that reveal a troubled and divided America.
Closer to home, James Attlee (whose sister Helena was shortlisted for the same prize in 2015 for The Land Where Lemons Grow) travels the London to Bristol line uncovering stories and legends as well as talking to those that keep the line running in Station to Station. In The Hills of Wales, mountaineer and writer Jim Perrin looks closely at the Welsh landscape and its hills, examining their character, resonance and histories. In Squirrel Pie, Elisabeth Luard mixes recipes with reminiscences of her travels around the globe across four themed sections: rivers, islands, deserts and forests. Lastly, novelist Geoff Dyer’s collection of essays, White Sands, is an exploration of why we travel, told through a series of interconnected journeys.
Chair of Judges, travel writer Sara Wheeler, said: “Reading is just as much fun as travelling, and my fellow five judges and I have immensely enjoyed perusing more than 80 submissions for this year’s Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year award. Notably, many of the titles recorded travels in the UK this time round; the authors, perhaps, were unwittingly getting us into the Brexit mood. We also noted titles in the voguish foodoir category – a place recalled via the author’s meal experiences. In the end there was little blood on the NLC carpet as we argued about the shortlist, although robust views were expressed. We think it is a strong one.” The full judging panel of the Award includes writers Katie Hickman, Jason Goodwin and Jeremy Seal, Traveller magazine editor Amy Sohanpaul, and Rukhsana Yasmin of Commonwealth Writers, the cultural initiative of the Commonwealth Foundation.
Tony Maher, Managing Director of Edward Stanford Limited, said: “I have to commend the judges on their selection – there is something here for every travel writing fan. It is also pleasing that five of the six titles come from independent publishers, who consistently bring us exciting and innovative writing that helps expand the boundaries of this genre. Every title is quite unique and the judges’ decision in identifying the winner is going to be a very difficult one.”
The full shortlist, alphabetically by author, is:
Station to Station: Searching for Stories on the Great Western Line by James Attlee (Guardian Books)
White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World by Geoff Dyer (Canongate)
Squirrel Pie (and other stories): Adventures in Food Across the Globe by Elisabeth Luard (Bloomsbury)
The Hills of Wales by Jim Perrin (Gomer Press)
Interstate: Hitchhiking Through the State of a Nation by Julian Sayarer (Arcadia Books)
Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads by Paul Theroux (Penguin)
The winner of the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year, in association with the Authors’ Club will receive £5,000 and an antique globe, to be presented at the Awards ceremony.