From a grumpy hiker’s outing in the mountains to the isolated shores of North Sentinel Island, we list the best travel books 2022
Travel memoirs are tricky beasts. In theory, 400 pages about someone else’s trip isn’t exactly appealing – like a protracted version of Jenny from Accounting’s week-long trip to Tuscany.
In reality, travel memoirs can be entertaining, illuminating, funny and heartbreaking. Our best travel books 2022 include one man’s look at slavery and racism in the oldest city on the Mississippi River; a mother’s attempt to escape poverty by tracing whales to Alaska; and a historian’s portrait of the most isolated tribe in the world.
These books not only reveal new and strange places, they expose curiosities closer to home. Most importantly, they encourage us all to explore.
Best travel books 2022
Our best travel books 2022 are listed in order of publication along with links to Amazon and Goodreads where available.
The Deepest South of All: True Stories from Natchez, Mississippi
Natchez, the oldest city on the Mississippi River, once had more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in America, and its wealth was built on slavery and cotton. Today it has the greatest concentration of antebellum mansions in the South, and a culture full of unexpected contradictions. Prominent white families dress up in hoopskirts and Confederate uniforms for ritual celebrations of the Old South, yet Natchez is also progressive enough to elect a gay black man for mayor with 91% of the vote.
In The Deepest South of All, travel writer Richard Grant charts the complex topography of this historic city. He profiles an eccentric cast of characters, among them Nellie Jackson, a Cadillac-driving brothel madam who became an FBI informant about the KKK before being killed by one of her customers.
Grant delves into dark themes but with humour and insight, placing The Deepest South of All among the best travel books 2022.
Soundings: Journeys in the Company of Whales
Researcher Doreen Cunningham first visited Utqiagvik – the northernmost town in Alaska – as a young journalist reporting on climate change among indigenous whaling communities. There, she was drawn into an Iñupiaq family and their way of life. She joined the spring whale hunt under the midnight sun and watched for bowhead whales and polar bears amid the disappearing ice.
Years later, plunged into sudden poverty, Doreen is living in a Women’s Refuge with her baby son. Determined to change her life, she embarks on an extraordinary journey, taking Max to follow the grey whale migration all the way north to the Iñupiaq family that took her in, where grey and bowhead whales meet at the melting apex of our planet.
Soundings is the story of a woman reclaiming her life, mile by mile; a child growing to love an ocean that is profoundly endangered; and a mother learning from another species how to parent in a time of unprecedented change.
Outlandish: Walking Europe’s Unlikely Landscapes
In Outlandish, travel writer Nick Hunt takes us across landscapes that seem incongruous in Europe: a patch of Arctic tundra in Scotland, a remnant of primeval forest in Poland, Europe’s only true desert in Spain and the grassland steppes of Hungary.
These anomalies speak of faraway regions of the world and make our own continent seem larger, stranger – filled with secrets.
Blending travel writing, nature writing and history – by way of reindeer nomads, desert wanderers, shamans, Slavic forest gods, Wild West fantasists, eco-activists, horseback archers and more – these desolate and rich environments show us that the strange has always been near.
The Hiking Book From Hell: My Reluctant Attempt to Learn to Love Nature
At some point around his forties, Are Kalvø starts losing his friends… to the mountains. Mates who used to meet him at the pub are now hiking every weekend – and when they do show up, all they talk about is feeling at one with nature (without a hint of irony).
When Are realizes he’s the only person who hasn’t posted a selfie on a mountain, he starts to wonder: does he have it all wrong?
To find out, he buys some ridiculously expensive gear and heads into the woods. The result is a smart and funny take-down of outdoors culture but also a reluctant surrender to nature’s forceful pull.
In her most audacious project yet, endurance athlete Jenny Tough sets herself a gruelling target: to run – solo and unsupported – across mountain ranges on six continents.
She starts with one of the most remote locations on Earth: the Tien Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan. There, she has a near-fatal experience after making a navigational error that leads her into the wrong valley and sets off a number of landslides. She decides that as soon as she escapes the valley, she will call it quits and go home. Instead, she has a little cry, fixes her ponytail and carries on.
Solo is the story of her journey across the Tien Shan (Asia), the High Atlas (Africa), the Cordillera Oriental (South America), the Southern Alps (Oceania), the Canadian Rockies (North America) and the Transylvanian Alps (Europe).
Swamp Songs: Journeys Through Marsh, Meadow and Other Wetlands
Dank, sinister and oozing with unpleasant things, marshes, bogs and swamps are seen as dangerous places.
For centuries, wetlands and their inhabitants have been the object of our distrust. We have encroached upon them, ripping away not only their fragile beauty, botany and birdlife, but also the carefully calibrated lives of those that have come to thrive in them.
In Swamp Songs, Tom Blass takes us on a journey through these strange lands. Travelling from Kent’s Romney Marsh to Virginia, from Lapland to the Danube Delta, he meets the inhabitants of some of the world’s least understood and precarious places, some of which are on the brink of obliteration.
Outriders Africa: Essays on Exploration and Return
By Layla Mohamed (Editor), Bibi Bakare-Yusuf (Editor) & contributors
26th Jul, Hardback
In Spring 2020, 10 writers of African heritage, travelling in pairs, set out on journeys across Africa. It was a strange time to be travelling and the changing state of the world is reflected in temperature checks at borders, hand sanitiser outside churches, disrupted plans and aborted journeys.
Against this backdrop, their travels take them from the tourist beaches of Madagascar and Comoros to the Rastafarian town of Shashamane in Ethiopia. With essays, travel diaries, letters and poetry, Outriders Africa is an evocative exploration of forgotten family histories, reckoning with grief both personal and historical, and what it truly means to return.
The Catch Me If You Can: One Woman’s Journey to Every Country in the World
Traveller and photographer Jessica Nabongo is the first Black woman on record to visit all 195 countries in the world. In this travelogue and memoir, she recounts the highs and lows of her epic journey.
Along the way, she learns to lasso with Black cowboys in Oklahoma, makes takoyaki (octopus balls) with locals in Japan and has a harrowing scooter accident in Nauru, the world’s least visited country.
With a list of the top 100 destinations from her adventure, Nabongo shares the diversity, beauty and culture of seldom visited destinations such as Tuvalu, North Korea, South Sudan and Central African Republic. Above all, she inspires would-be travellers to start their own adventure.
Running The World: My World-Record Breaking Adventure to Run a Marathon in Every Country on Earth
In January 2018, athlete Nick Butter ventured onto an icy pavement in Toronto where he took his first steps towards an extraordinary world record: running a marathon in every one of the world’s 195 countries. Butter spent the next two years literally running around the world, through capital cities and deserts, around islands and through spectacular landscapes.
He dodges bullets in Guinea-Bissau, crosses battlefields in Syria, survives a wild dog attack in Tunisia and runs around an erupting volcano in Guatemala. Along the way, he is joined by local supporters and fellow runners, curious children and bemused passers-by. Telling their stories alongside his own, Butter captures the unique spirit of each place he visits and forges a new relationship with the world around him.
The Last Island
The Last Island almost didn’t make our list of the best travel books 2022, for author Adam Goodheart is one of the very few people who has visited the waters of North Sentinel Island – a place which we firmly believe should be left alone.
The Sentinelese are believed to be the most isolated community on the Earth and, we believe, should be left that way. After all, they are known to shoot arrows at anyone who tries to come ashore – not exactly a subtle no.
With that said, it can’t be denied that North Sentinel Island continues to fascinate. The Last Island is an attempt to explain why. A work of history as well as travel, it tells the stories of those drawn to North Sentinel’s mystery, from imperial adventurers to an eccentric Victorian photographer to modern-day anthropologists. It narrates the tragic stories of other Andaman tribes’ encounters with the outside world and shows how the web of modernity is drawing ever closer to the island’s shores.
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