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Fourteen Adventure travel books I read in 2022 and which I loved

Just in time for the holidays, here are 14 travel books I read in 2022 and which I loved!

Sixty degrees north - Malachy Tallack

The sixtieth parallel marks a borderland between the northern and southern worlds. Wrapping itself around the lower reaches of Finland, Sweden and Norway, it crosses the tip of Greenland and the southern coast of Alaska, and slices the great expanses of Russia and Canada in half. The parallel also passes through Shetland, where Malachy Tallack has spent most of his life.

In Sixty Degrees North, Tallack travels westward, exploring the landscapes of the parallel and the ways that people have interacted with those landscapes, highlighting themes of wildness and community, isolation and engagement, exile and memory.

Sixty Degrees North is an intimate book, one that begins with the author’s loss of his father and his own troubled relationship with Shetland, and concludes with an acceptance of loss and an embrace – ultimately a love – of the place he calls home.

Adventure Coordinators review: One of the best (travel) books I have read, at once deeply personal and engaging and full of insights, sometimes poignant, sometimes funny and sometimes both. Take this exerpt - as he walks through a forest accompanied by a dog who stops and sniffs his way around, “I realized how illiterate I was in that place. The forest is filled with signs, but I couldn’t read them. There was a language there (...) which I couldn’t hope to understand or translate. I was helpless: as stupid as a bear in a bookshop“. 9.5 out of 10.

Where the wild winds are: Walking Europe's Winds from the Pennines to Provence - Nick Hunt

As a six-year-old child, Nick Hunt was almost carried away in a gust from the Great Storm of 1987. Almost thirty years later he set off in search of the legendary winds of Europe; from the Helm, to the Bora, the Foehn and the Mistral.

Where the Wild Winds Are is Nick Hunt's story of following the wind from the fells of Cumbria to the Alps, the Rhone to the Adriatic coast, to explore how these unseen powers affect the countries and cultures of Europe, and to map a new type of journey across the continent. From the author of the Dolman Prize-shortlisted Walking the Woods and the Water.

Adventure Coordinators review: an original concept, walking with the winds. I enjoyed the book and came across this gem of an observation: "Winds are like walkers. Walkers find themselves dranw through the world - not so much pushed from behind {as one would by a wind] but pulled by the mysterious voids of understanding that lie ahead - often without being aware of the pressures that compel them. They travel from one place to the next until those pressures balance out. Until they arrive on the darkened plain. Until they reach a stillness. 8 out of 10

Gironimo!: Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy - Tim Moore

On the eve of the Giro d'Italia's 100th anniversary, Tim Moore sets out to cycle the route of the first race, all 3,162 km of it. On a 100-year-old bike. That he built himself.

The Giro is arguably the most brutal of the Grand Tours, and it began in style. At midnight on May 24, 1914 eighty-one starters were waved off by 10,000 spectators for this first circuit of Italy. Two weeks later, after enduring cataclysmic storms, roads strewn with nails, even the loss of an eye by one competitor, eight cyclists finished.

Tim hadn't done any significant cycling for twelve years, but taking on the 1914 Giro was a compelling challenge. To make it more authentic, he decided to do it on a 1914 bike, which, unburdened by relevant experience, he needed to assemble from a stack of rusty parts in a Breton farmer's barn.

Fuelled by Chianti, wearing period leather goggles and a woollen cycling shirt, and with the winner of the 1914 Giro's diary as his trusty companion, Tim sets off to tell the story of this historic race, as well as the travails of a middle-aged man cycling up a lot of mountains on a mainly wooden bicycle.

Adventure Coordinators review: vintage Tim Moore - funny (albeit sometimes scatalogical), engaging and sometimes moving, a good read for anyone who loves Italy and cycling. 8 out of 10

Travels with a Tangerine - Tim Mackintosh-Smith

In 1325, the great Arab traveler Ibn Battutah set out from his native Tangier in North Africa on pilgrimage to Mecca. By the time he returned nearly thirty years later, he had seen most of the known world, covering three times the distance allegedly traveled by the great Venetian explorer Marco Polo—some 75,000 miles in all.

Captivated by Ibn Battutah’s account of his journey, the Arabic scholar and award-winning travel writer Tim Mackintosh-Smith set out to follow in the peripatetic Moroccan’s footsteps. Traversing Egyptian deserts and remote islands in the Arabian Sea, visiting castles in Syria and innumerable souks in medieval Islam’s great cities, Mackintosh-Smith sought clues to Ibn Battutah’s life and times, encountering the ghost of “IB” in everything from place names (in Tangier alone, a hotel, street, airport, and ferry bear IB’s name), to dietary staples to an Arabic online dating service— and introducing us to a world of unimaginable wonders.

By necessity, Mackintosh-Smith’s journey may have cut some corners (“I only wish I had the odd thirty years to spare, and Ibn Battutah’s enviable knack of extracting large amounts of cash, robes and slaves from compliant rulers.”) But in this wry, evocative, and uniquely engaging travelogue, he spares no effort in giving readers an unforgettable glimpse into both the present-day and fourteenth-century Islamic worlds.

Adventure Coordinators review: engaging and funny, a real in-depth and unusual travel narrative. You got to keep with it though as the author sometimes moves between places and narratives without notice. 8.5 out of 10

The magnetic north - Sara Wheeler

Wheeler journeys to the Arctic to create a definitive picture of life on the fringes. She travels through the territories belonging to Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Finland, marking the transformations of what once seemed an unchangeable landscape.

Smashing through the Arctic Ocean with the crew of a Russian icebreaker, shadowing the endless Trans-Alaska Pipeline with a tough Idaho-born outdoorswoman, herding reindeer with the Lapps, and visiting the haunting, deceptively peaceful lands of the Gulag, Wheeler brings the Arctic's many contradictions to life.

The Magnetic North is an urgent, beautiful book, rich in dramatic description and vivid reporting. It is a singular, deeply personal portrait of a region growing daily in global importance.

Adventure Coordinators review: a must-read for anyone interested in Arctic travels. 8 out of 10

A short walk in the Hindu Kush - Eric Newby

It was 1956, and Eric Newby was earning an improbable living in the chaotic family business of London haute couture. Pining for adventure, Newby sent his friend Hugh Carless the now-famous cable – CAN YOU TRAVEL NURISTAN JUNE? – setting in motion a legendary journey from Mayfair to Afghanistan, and the mountains of the Hindu Kush, north-east of Kabul.

Inexperienced and ill-prepared, the amateurish rogues embark on a month of adventure and hardship in one of the most beautiful wildernesses on earth – a journey that adventurers with more experience and sense may never have undertaken. With good humour, sharp wit and keen observation, the charming narrative style of A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush would soon crystallise Newby's reputation as one of the greatest travel writers of all time.

Adventure Coordinators review: A laugh-out-loud funny travel epic. You wonder how they survived. 8.5 out of 10.

The hall of a thousand columns - Tim Mackintosh-Smith

Born in 1304, Ibn Battutah left his native Tangier as a young scholar of law; over the 30 years that followed he visited most of the known world between Morocco and China. In this enchanting travelogue, Tim Mackintosh-Smith retraces one leg of the Moroccan’s journey: the dizzy ladders and terrifying snakes of his Indian career as a judge and hermit, courtier and prisoner, ambassador and castaway. From the plains of Hindustan to the plateaus of the Deccan and the lost ports of Malabar, an India far off the beaten path of Taj and Raj—glittering and grotesque but genuine—is revealed here.

Adventure Coordinators review - great fun book to read although a little hard to stay with the storyline at times. 8 out of 10

Black Sea - Caroline Eden

This is the tale of a journey between three great cities -– Odessa, built on a dream by Catherine the Great, through Istanbul, the fulcrum balancing Europe and Asia and on to tough, stoic, lyrical Trabzon.

With a nose for a good recipe and an ear for an extraordinary story, Caroline Eden travels from Odessa to Bessarabia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey's Black Sea region, exploring interconnecting culinary cultures. From the Jewish table of Odessa, to meeting the last fisherwoman of Bulgaria and charting the legacies of the White Russian émigrés in Istanbul, Caroline gives readers a unique insight into a part of the world that is both shaded by darkness and illuminated by light.

Meticulously researched and documenting unprecedented meetings with remarkable individuals, Black Sea is like no other piece of travel writing. Packed with rich photography and sumptuous food, this biography of a region, its people and its recipes truly breaks new ground.

Adventure Coordinators review - always a pleasure to follow Eden's travels and read about the people she meets. I'll be sure to try out some of the recipes! 8 out of 10

Impossible Journey - Two against the Sahara - Michael Asher

Newlywed to Italian photographer and Arabist Mariantonietta Peru, Asher and his wife embark on a 4,500-mile West-to-East trek across the Sahara on foot and camel-back. The idea for the trek was influenced by the work of British author Geoffrey Moorhouse who had unsuccessfully attempted the crossing in 1972. Setting off from Chinguetti in Mauritania, in August 1986, with three camels, Asher and Peru pass through Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, and the Sudan, and finally arrive at the Nile at Abu Simbel in southern Egypt in May 1987, having made a journey of 271 days and 4,500 miles (7,200 km) by camel, the first recorded crossing of the Sahara from west to east by non-mechanical means.

Adventure Coordinators review - a spellbinding read of what indeed at times seems an impossible journey. 8 out of 10.

Not quite paradise: An American Sojourn in Sri Lanka - Adele Barker

Adele Barker and her son, Noah, settled into the central highlands of Sri Lanka for an eighteen-month sojourn, immersing themselves in the customs, cultures, and landscapes of the island—its elephants, birds, and monkeys; its hot curries and sweet mangoes; the cacophony of its markets; the resonant evening chants from its temples. They hear stories of the island’s colorful past and its twenty-five-year civil war between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil Tigers. When, having returned home to Tucson, Barker awakes on December 26, 2004, to see televised images of the island’s southern shore disappearing into the ocean, she decides she must go back. Traveling from the southernmost coasts to the farthest outposts of the Tamil north, she witnesses the ravages of the tsunami that killed forty-eight thousand Sri Lankans in the space of twenty minutes, and reports from the ground on the triumphs and failures of relief efforts. Combining the immediacy of memoir and the vividness of travelogue with the insight of the best reportage, Not Quite Paradise chronicles life in a place few have ever visited.

Adventure Coordinators review - a good in-depth read. Adele Barker really engages in local life and paints a wonderful narrative. Required reading for anyone planning to go to Sri Lanka. 8.5 out of 10

The Karluk's last voyage - Robert A. Bartlett

This is Captain Bob Bartlett’s version of the controversial loss of the Karluk, the flagship of Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s Canadian Arctic expedition of 1913-1916. Bartlett played Chopin’s Funeral March as the ice claimed his ship, then lead his crew to Wrangell Island where they awaited his return. Bartlett left them, walking some 700 miles across the frozen Arctic Ocean and down the coast of Siberia to get help.

Adventure Coordinators review - a no-nonsense, matter-of-fact retelling of the story by the captain who was there. A spellbinding read and required reading for anyone travelling on this journey. 8 out of 10

The Amur River, between Russia and China - Colin Thubron

The Amur River is almost unknown. Yet it is the tenth longest river in the world, rising in the Mongolian mountains and flowing through Siberia to the Pacific. For 1,100 miles it forms the tense border between Russia and China. Simmering with the memory of land-grabs and unequal treaties, this is the most densely fortified frontier on earth.

In his eightieth year, Colin Thubron takes a journey from the Amur’s secret source to its giant mouth, covering almost 3,000 miles. Harassed by injury and by arrest from the local police, he makes his way along both the Russian and Chinese shores, starting out by Mongolian horse, then hitchhiking, sailing on poacher’s sloops or travelling the Trans-Siberian Express.

The Amur River is a shining masterpiece by the acknowledged laureate of travel writing, an urgent lesson in history and the culmination of an astonishing career.

Adventure Coordinators review - I love Colin Thubron's writing and this is no exception. He is prescient as he writes in 2021 when  looking at a war memorial where thousands of Russiandeaths are commemorated, ordered by conflict: WW2, Afghanistan, the Caucasus, Syria. “I wonder bleakly if these scrupulous slabs will one day confess to casualties in Ukraine.” 8.5 out of 10

Wild Abandon: A Journey to the Deserted Places of the Dodecanese

‘There's something about abandoned places which moves me and captures the imagination.' So says seasoned travel writer Jennifer Barclay as she walks with her dog and her backpack through the deserted spaces of the Dodecanese, islands that were once bustling but are now half forgotten and reclaimed by the wild due to a mix of misfortune and the lure of opportunity elsewhere. Join her on a journey through abandoned villages and farms, cave-houses and captains' mansions, the homes of displaced Muslim fishermen and poets, as she discovers beauty in the ruins, emptiness and silence, and inspiration in the stories of people's lives. Wild Abandon is an elegy in praise of abandoned places and a search for lost knowledge through the wildest and most deserted locations.

Adventure Coordinators review - nicely written intimate narrative of so many people's lives. 8 out of 10

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu - Joshua Hammer

To save ancient Arabic texts from Al Qaeda, a band of librarians pulls off a brazen heist worthy of Ocean’s Eleven.

In the 1980s, a young adventurer and collector for a government library, Abdel Kader Haidara, journeyed across the Sahara Desert and along the Niger River, tracking down and salvaging tens of thousands of ancient Islamic and secular manuscripts that were crumbling in the trunks of desert shepherds. His goal: to preserve this crucial part of the world’s patrimony in a gorgeous library.

But then Al Qaeda showed up at the door.

Haidara organized a dangerous operation to sneak all 350,000 volumes out of the city to the safety of southern Mali. This is the story of a man who, through extreme circumstances, discovered his higher calling and was forever changed by it.

Adventure Coordinators review - a thrilling read, upsetting at times when one reads about the destruction and violence visited upon a country by extremists. But the book did make me want to visit Mali. 8 out of 10.


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