Beyond pretty

17 March 2010
At the Water’s Edge: A Personal Quest for Wildness John Lister-Kaye

Canongate, pp.309, 18.99

For the last 30 years John Lister-Kaye has lived at Aigas, in the valley of the River Beauly, seven or eight miles from the sea and half an hour west… Read more


Indian snakes and ladders

17 March 2010
Where the Serpent Lives Ruth Padel

Little Brown, pp.308, 12.99

The Temple-goers Aatish Taseer

Penguin, pp.296, 12.99

Award-winning poet Ruth Padel established her prose credentials with her autobiographical travel book, Tigers in Red Weather. Journalist Aatish Taseer trawled his own past and background for his memoir, Stranger… Read more


Paris of the gutter

27 January 2010
Alphabet of the Night Jean-Euphèle Milcé, translated by Christopher Moncrieff

Pushkin Press, pp.148, 7.99

Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, lies on a marshy bay encircled by mountains. It was founded in 1749 by the colonial French and named after a vessel, Le Prince, which anchored… Read more

Agony and ecstasy

7 October 2009
Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India William Dalrymple

Bloomsbury, pp.284, 20

Twenty years ago, when William Dalrymple published his first book, In Xanadu, travel writers tended to follow the example of Paul Theroux, whose huge success then dominated the genre, and… Read more

Acute observations

9 September 2009
The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham Selina Hastings

John Murray, pp.614, 25

In the 1950s, when I was 14, I spent a winter fortnight with my parents at the Villa Mauresque, which Somerset Maugham had lent to them to entertain the recently… Read more

You can go home again

20 May 2009
Stranger to History: A Son’s Journey Through Islamic Lands Aatish Taseer

Canongate, pp.323, 14.99

Stranger to History: A Son’s Journey Through Islamic Lands, by Aatish Taseer The publication of Stranger to History is likely to be turned into a fiery political event in Pakistan.… Read more


On the waterfront

1 April 2009
Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi Geoff Dyer

Canongate, pp.291, 12

Geoff Dyer is the least categorisable of writers. Give him a genre and he’ll bend it; pigeonhole him and he’ll break out. Clever, funny, an intellectual with a resolutely bloke-ish… Read more


The romance of the jungle

25 March 2009
The Lost City of Z David Grann

Simon & Schuster, pp.339, 16.99

It is so sad to read about the Mato Grosso now, at least it is for anyone who, like me, was a boy in the 1950s. When the vast rain… Read more

Time out in Tuscany

4 February 2009
The Last Supper: A Summer in Italy Rachel Cusk

Faber, pp.219, 16.99

In the spring of 2006, Rachel Cusk and her husband decided to take their two small daughters out of school and spend three months, a season, exploring Italy. She felt… Read more

Travails with an aunt

4 February 2009
The Flying Troutmans Miriam Toews

Faber, pp.219, 16.99

The Flying Troutmans, by Miriam Toews Suicidal single mothers, delinquent teenagers and unwashed children sound like the ingredients for a standard-issue misery memoir with an embossed, hand-scripted title and a… Read more

Troubled waters

21 January 2009
Empires of the Indus Alice Albinia

John Murray, pp.366, 20

Empires of the Indus, by Alice Albinia When Alice Albinia set off for the source of the Indus she was not embarking on a quest for the unknown: she knew… Read more

A rose-tinted view of the bay

3 December 2008
The Ancient Shore Shirley Hazzard and Francis Steegmuller

University of Chicago Press, pp.9.50, 127

The Ancient Shore, by Shirley Hazzard and Francis Steegmuller Variety of impression, diversity of atmosphere and mood, incongruities of many kinds, these are only to be expected in books on… Read more


At Home in Turkey

3 December 2008
At Home in Turkey Solvi dos Santos and Berrin Torolsan

Thames & Hudson, pp.192, 24.95

If you can’t afford the airfare you might take this delicious guided tour instead. Exploring some of the best contemporary Turkish houses (or caves), the photographer, Solvi dos Santos, divides… Read more