We round up 10 of the best travel reads this month

From tales of truth and lies in Tehran to a journey around every county in England, David Mantero of Stanfords reveals his best books for a June getaway.

1) The Saffron Road: A Journey with Buddha’s Daughters by Christine Toomey

The Saffron Road: A Journey with Buddha’s Daughters

I must admit, I had never even heard of Buddhist nuns so this book was something of a revelation. It chronicles the lives of women from all imaginable backgrounds, who leave everything behind in search of enlightenment.

Toomey meets many of these women and tells their fascinating stories. But the book is also the story of her own journey, as the grief caused by the loss of both her parents takes her around the world where she finds inspiration in the courage of other women.

All this is set against the background of the story of Buddhism itself and its own journey from East to West.


2) Meet Me in Atlantis: My Obsessive Quest to Find the Sunken City by Mark Adams

Meet me in Atlantis

Having done a degree in philosophy I have had to read my fair share of Plato. However, until thumbing through this book I had no idea he was singlehandedly responsible for the myth of Atlantis.

In Mark Adams’ book you will find a fascinating cast of characters who dedicate their lives to the search for this mythical (or not) sunken continent. Mark goes to incredible lengths to track down these motley characters, discussing their work with sincerity and an open mind.

The result is a great book bursting with revelatory details, but also a sense of fun, tempered with genuine empathy.


3) Lanterne Rouge: The Last Man in the Tour de France by Max Leonard

Lanterne Rough

We all know the names and the stories of those illustrious few cyclists who win the Tour de France, but hardly ever get to hear about the “lanterne rouge” – the less fortunate competitors who come in stone cold last.

They still have to cycle – and suffer – as much as the winners, but without the praise and the associated fame. If you are a supporter of the underdog or wonder why men endure great hardship for such little return, this is the book for you.

And for a book about that most French of competitions, there’s something remarkably British about a celebration of the plucky losers.

4) Rising Ground: A Search for the Spirit of Place by Philip Marsden

Rising Ground

Having read and loved The Chains of Heaven, Marsden’s previous book about Ethiopia, I was looking forward to reading this tome. After writing about Russia, Armenia and Ethiopia, I wondered what made him turn his gaze towards his own home, Cornwall.

Thankfully, you will find the same Philip Marsden here at his best; combining his acute eye for observing places and people with his deep understanding of the past.

This Wainwright Prize shortlisted book is not only testament to his great writing, but also the result of his love for Cornwall – a place you will immediately want to visit after reading this.


5) The Edible Atlas: Around the World in Thirty-Nine Cuisines by Mina Holland

The Edible Atlas

Confession time: I’m a terrible cook, and a painfully slow one to boot. Nonetheless I have really enjoyed dipping into this book for inspiration.

It is not just a book about recipes but also, and perhaps even more so, a book about the people, countries and stories behind the recipes. Whether you’re trying to decide what to have for dinner or in the early stages of planning your next trip, this book is a fine place to seek inspiration.

Suffice to say we really like it; so much so that Stanfords have chosen The Edible Atlas as our book of the month. Signed copies will be in store soon.


6) The Festival of Insignificance by Milan Kundera

The Festival of Insignificance

Like me, I’m sure there are a lot of people out there eagerly awaiting this new book from the celebrated author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

His first novel for more than a decade, Kundera is back to his brilliant best as he takes a sardonic yet serious look at the insignificance of life through the lives of four chums in present-day Paris.

Heartfelt and hilarious, this translated tome has been topping the charts on the continent and we expect it to do the same when it is published in Britain this month. This might be Kundera’s last work – and possibly even one of his best.


7) Walking Away: Further Tales with a Troubadour on the South West Coast Path by Simon Armitage

Walking Away

If you didn’t read Walking Home – poet Simon Armitage’s tale of walking the Pennine Way in reverse as a “modern day troubadour”, paying his way with poetry readings and occasionally getting lost – then stop what you’re doing now and pick up a copy.

If you’ve already read it, here’s the sequel you’ve been waiting for. The story follows Armitage as he sets out across the coast of the South West; taking a less familiar route, which lends the book an air of wandering and discovery.

A word of warning: after finishing this you'll want to don the hiking books and hit the coast. 


8) Engel’s England: Thirty-nine counties, one capital and one man by Matthew Engel

Engel's England

You might know Matthew Engle from his fantastic book Eleven Minutes Late – a brilliant tome in which he explored the “Britishness” of our railways.

Like that book, Engel’s England is full of knowing humour and wit as he takes us on a journey through each and every single one of the 39 historic counties of England.

It’s a book bursting with facts and knowledge but it remains entirely personal as he shares his experiences – warts and all.

Whether you read it from start to finish or just dip in and out at leisure – it’s a joy however you approach it.


9) City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death and the Search for Truth in Tehran by Ramita Navai

City of Lives

This is not a new book, but I hope its arrival in paperback this month will help it reach a wider audience, who will discover a window into a rarely seen, and often misunderstood country.

Navai chronicles the lives of eight men and women from Tehran, and finds a hidden and all too human city of people trying to deal with sex and love in a repressive regime.

It's a fascinating story, but for me, the book is at its best when it is dealing with subjects that expose the more mundane elements of living in a country alien to the West. Through sheer determination, life goes on under the most unlikely circumstances.


10) Pondlife by Al Alvarez


This book is not new, but I will always recommend it given the chance… and since it has just come out in paperback, I have the perfect excuse.

Essentially the chronicle of the poet Al Alvarez’s battle against the slow physical decay that comes with old age, the book takes the shape of a swimming diary in which he records his almost daily visits to Hampstead pond.

The entries come in chronological order, but I like to pick one at random, read the entry and try to remember what I did that same day. The book is actually quite heartbreaking, but Al’s humour alleviates the pain. A stunning book.


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


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