Our resident bookworm reveals the top titles for July

Looking for a riveting read this summer? Then look no further as Dan Lewis of Stanfords reveals the top tomes for a July getaway.

1) Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics, by Tim Marshall

Prisoners of Geography

It’s easy to get complacent about maps. We use them almost daily to get around, but they’re not just guides to navigating the world: to some degree they define it.

This isn’t an airy philosophical point – it’s a harsh and complex political reality. Luckily, Tim Marshall’s latest book explains how politics is nothing without geography, in his crisp and compelling style.

Each of the book’s 10 chapters opens with a map that Marshall uses to explore political, economic and cultural issues from the past and present. What he really excels at is capturing the psychology of nations and giving maps a power that politicians must tame.


2) London Overground, by Iain Sinclair

London Overground

More than a decade after circumnavigating the M25 – a journey chronicled in London Orbital – Iain Sinclair sets off to walk “the Ginger Line” (the affectionate name given to the London Overground) in a day.

Along the way, Sinclair’s wit and insight gives rise to some remarkable passages, which capture a moment in modern London, whilst mixing in history and observational humour.

In years to come this book might be considered as important an historical document as Pepys' diary, but for now it’s quite simply a joyous read – an essential for Londoners, interesting for everyone else.


3) Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, by Haruki Murakami


Indulge in conversation with any fiction fan and the chances are Haruki Murakami’s name (author of Norwegian Wood) will crop up.

But if his writing has hitherto evaded you – if you have yet to experience his marvellous ability to combine realistic and fantastical narratives, or his love of running, cats and the Beatles – this is a great entry point into the work of Japan’s master of pop-philosophical narratives.

A mysterious story about friendship, heartbreak and confronting the past, this book is surreal, existential and, therefore, classic Murakami. It’s also been a runaway success in Japan, where it sold a million copies in a week.


4) The Edge of the World, by Michael Pye

The Edge of the World

Now here’s an intriguing thought: what if the North Sea had more to do with the making of modern Europe than the Roman Empire?

Cue Michael Pye, who introduces readers to the Frisians – a people who lived on the coast of what would now roughly be Germany and the Netherlands. Shunned by the Romans (who considered them not worth conquering), they independently invented a stable economy and remained unaffected by the great empire’s collapse.

As a result this seafaring people then managed to kick Europe out of the dark ages and into modernity, says Pye, whose latest work is both controversial and compelling.


5) Breaking Ground: Classic Travel Writing from Pioneering Women

Breaking ground

Spanning roughly three centuries, this fascinating collection of travel writing captures, in exquisite detail, the pioneering spirit of some truly heroic women throughout the ages.

Packed full of anecdotes and tales of derring-do, this book chronicles the journeys made by a motely crew of female adventurers, as they attempt feats that would be considered admirable even today.

Amongst the many highlights are Ida Pfeiffer’s travel writing from the early 19th century and Nellie Bly’s account of attempting to circumnavigate the world in 80 days, which she actually managed to do in just 72 days – take that fellas.


6) Walking the Nile, by Levison Wood

Walking the Nile

Levison who? Well, a year ago, when we were raving about this upcoming book and TV series, we got quite used to having to explain who this fantastic and bonkers explorer was.

We loaned him one of our maps and waved him off on his journey on foot along the Nile, confident that he was bound for adventure stardom. Now he draws a crowd wherever he goes – and for good reason.

For rip-roaring, toe-curling, heartbreaking, logic-defying travel writing, look no further than this account of one man walking along the banks of the world’s longest river. Who would be so brave, you might ask. Levison Wood.


7) Rick Stein: From Venice to Istanbul, by Rick Stein

Rick Stein

A new collection of recipes from Rick Stein is always a cause for celebration. We love him here at Stanfords because of the way he approaches food and recipe building – namely by travel and immersion in cultures.

Wherever he travels – from Italy to India – Stein gets under the skin of a destination and its cuisine before reinterpreting dishes and flavours in his own deliciously straightforward way.

We’ve seen a few pages of his latest book already and can report that the Eastern Mediterranean offers Stein the perfect inspiration for his culinary expertise. This is what you should be eating this summer. And forever.


8) The CAMRA Guide to London's Best Beer, Pubs & Bars, by Des de Moor


Suffice to say we’re never happy here in London. When it’s cold, we moan. When it’s hot, we moan even more (particularly those who have to take the Central Line to work).

Fortunately, Des de Moor is here to help Londoners survive an obnoxiously warm or typically disappointing summer with CAMRA’s latest guide to the best boozers in the capital.

Discover all of London’s hidden gems, guaranteed to serve up a decent drink whatever the weather. It’s basically a survival guide for the city, which we think should be issued to all those living inside the M25 to improve the general mood.


9) Go Set A Watchman, by Harper Lee

Go Set a Watchman

We couldn’t let July go by without celebrating the publication of this book. The much-anticipated sequel to Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill A Mockingbird is finally released this month (14 July).

Set 20 years after her first, landmark book, it sees Scout returning from New York to visit her father, Atticus (forever Gregory Peck in our heads). And that’s all we know: as you might expect, plot details are hard to come by. Secrecy abounds.

But despite having not read this book yet, it is one of the most anticipated tomes of modern times, a literary event that we recommend you get involved in. 


10) Bound for Glory, by Woody Guthrie

Bound for glory

Okay, so this 1943 book is hardly a new release, but this summer we’ve been hit by a wave of nostalgia for this classic tome.

Woody Guthrie's "autobiography" (one suspects embellishment) is an account of his time as a wandering hobo, quite literally singing for his supper as he travelled the railroads of America during the Great Depression.

Not only is it a rare example of a musical legend successfully working in another artistic mode, but there is sense of synchronicity about this individual passing through these specific places and being witness to a particular time in American history. A very special book indeed. 


To buy any of the above travel titles visit www.stanfords.co.uk.


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