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The Best British Travel Writing of the 21st Century

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Non Fiction

By Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

The Best British Travel Writing of the 21st Century is published with Summersdale Publishers and is described as ‘a beautiful collection of the finest travel writing published in British media in the 21st century – as judged by some of the most respected travel writers in the world: Levison Wood, Monisha Rajesh, Jessica Vincent and Simon Willmore.’

The restrictions on movement we have all experienced in recent times have encouraged more of us to immerse ourselves in the pages of travel writing. We can imagine ourselves in far-flung places, having exciting adventures beyond the confines of our homes. Forced to remain in the UK for months, travel writer Jessica Vincent initially felt trapped. Always on the move, this forced stop was an unexpected challenge.

“It was out of this strange, but enlightening, time that The Best British Travel Writing of the 21st Century was born. Amid a climate of closed borders and fear for the outside world, I wanted to compile a book that celebrates the stories and the writers that for the past two decades have made us feel something for the unknown and, in the process, brought us closer to it. As I hope this anthology shows, the best travel writing won’t just make you want to go somewhere, it’ll make you want to know it.”
– Jessica Vincent

With this in mind, Jessica Vincent sent out the message that she was curating a book on travel writing, requesting that favourite pieces be submitted once they had featured in a UK publication between 2000 and 2021. Her key requirements were quality, originality, diversity and they had to educate and inspire. Thirty pieces were picked, culminating in this fascinating collection of travel-writing from across the globe.

Like in any collection of short pieces, there will be favourites but the one common denominator in The Best British Travel Writing of the 21st Century was the variety. I have explored the waters of Lake Sevan, known locally to some as the “Armenian Ocean”. I have visited the lower slopes of Ararat, where Noah and his family first arrived on dry land following the biblical floods. I have navigated the very dangerous waters of The Congo and I have dipped my toes into the azure waters surrounding the beautiful Italian/Sicilian island of Pantelleria.

I have been on a global expedition, via the written word, courtesy of these very inspiring writers. Through their eyes I have seen places and stepped onto continents that I have never been to and, realistically, will probably never venture to. African plains and bustling cities, all with their own distinctive sounds and smells, are brought to life in these stories from the curious and inquisitive minds of those who thrive on adventure and excitement.

It is at times like these that we can truly appreciate the magic of travel. Reading about the exploits and exhilarating journeys of others allows us to imagine for ourselves what it must be like to make such daring and intoxicating treks into places unknown, in any great detail, to most of us.

When I initially picked up The Best British Travel Writing of the 21st Century I had planned on reading a chapter or two a day, but I got so caught up in the extraordinary excursions depicted that I just kept on turning the pages with, I will admit, a little envy. Packed with intriguing insights and empathy, The Best British Travel Writing of the 21st Century is a captivating and perceptive introduction to new horizons where great adventures are waiting for us all – whether as participants or observers.

I will leave you with the words of Levison Wood:

“Being an armchair explorer has the power to make you appreciate your own adventures all the more. I hope that when reading this book, you will see it for what it is – a celebration of genre that can transport you to far-off destinations, one that champions storytelling but is also anchored by reality – the recipe for inspiration. I hope you come away wanting to travel. But I also hope you come away wanting to read more about travel.”

(c) Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

Order your copy online here.

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