Best travel e-book of the 12 months: Kapka Kassabova’s Border wins Stanford’s award | Travel

A well timed account of a fraught a part of Europe has gained Stanford’s e-book of the 12 months. Here, one of many judges heralds a grasp storyteller and offers an summary of the nominees

Villages within the Rhodope Mountain, Bulgaria, an space author Kapka Kassabova focuses on in her e-book Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe.
Photograph: Alamy

The nominees …

Islander: A Journey Around Our Archipelago by Patrick Barkham (Granta)

Islander: A Journey Around Our Archipelago Hardcover – 5 Oct 2017 by Patrick Barkham

Using a DH Lawrence quick story (The Man Who Loved Islands) for inspiration, the Guardian author explores life on 11 of the British Isles, from the Isle of Man to minuscule Ray Island in Essex (through locations comparable to Orkney, the Isles of Scilly, St Kilda and Bardsey). Barkham’s depictions of the landscapes and wildlife are superbly evocative. His encounters with persons are simply as partaking, as he discovers what it’s prefer to be an islander. Throughout, he weaves the story of Whiskey Galore! creator Compton Mackenzie and his obsession with residing on smaller and smaller islands.
• Read The Guardian assessment

The Rule of the Land: Walking Ireland’s Border by Garrett Carr (Faber)

View from Flagstaff Hill, Newry, Northern Ireland.

View from Flagstaff Hill, Newry, Northern Ireland. Photograph: Alamy

In a well timed account, Northern Irish author and map-maker Garrett Carr walks – and typically canoes – alongside what appears set to be the brand new frontier between the UK and the EU. With perceptive humour and heat, Carr teases out tales from northerners and southerners, and provides a wealthy historic context. What he uncovers isn’t solely the lives of individuals of the north and the south but in addition a separate tribe – the border individuals themselves – whose viewpoints set them aside from their neighbours.
• garrettcarr.internet

The Epic City: The World on the Streets of Calcutta by Kushanava Choudhury (Bloomsbury)

The Epic City: The World on the Streets of Calcutta Hardcover – 10 Aug 2017 by Kushanava Choudhury

After moving forwards and backwards from Kolkata to New Jersey, the place his mother and father had emigrated, Kushanava Choudhury is drawn again to the previous capital of the British Raj to dwell completely. In this, his first e-book, Choudhury doesn’t romanticise this metropolis that enchants as a lot because it infuriates, preferring to disclose its grittiness. What’s particularly poignant is how he portrays the gradual disintegration of his household’s heritage within the metropolis, as fewer members really feel compelled to remain. It’s in parallel with the modifications in Kolkata as high-rise complexes take over historic districts.
• Read The Guardian assessment

Where the Wild Winds Are: Walking Europe’s Winds from the Pennines to Provence by Nick Hunt (Nicholas Brealey)

A cold and windy day in the port of Trieste, Italy, as people stroll along a boardwalk.

Trieste, Italy. Photograph: Alamy

A 2014 Stanford Dolman finalist together with his account of following in Patrick Leigh Fermor’s footsteps, Nick Hunt once more walks via Europe however this time makes use of the continent’s 4 winds as his information. He chases the helm in Cross Fell, the bora (or bura) in Trieste and Croatia, the foehn in Switzerland and Provence’s mistral. In a testomony to his talent as a author, Hunt manages to maintain up a cracking tempo even when the winds resolve to not make an look.
• ‘The wind makes Karst people stay in, and gives them character’: Nick Hunt interview

Risingtidefallingstar by Philip Hoare (Fourth Estate)


Philip Hoare has turned his fixation with the ocean into an elegantly written e-book that mixes travelogue with tales of different writers and poets – Shakespeare, Melville, Thoreau, Woolf, Byron, Shelley, Plath, amongst others – who had proven a fascination with water. (The chapter on Wilfred Owen stands out specifically.) Some of the characters he meets alongside the way in which are simply as fascinating, notably his Cape Cod artist landlady whose grandparents have been on the Titanic and whose social circle included Truman Capote, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.
• Read The Guardian assessment

Travels in a Dervish Cloak by Isambard Wilkinson (Eland)

The shrine to Saint Abdullah Shah Ghazi, Karachi, Pakistan.

The shrine to Saint Abdullah Shah Ghazi, Karachi, Pakistan. Photograph: Bashir Osman’s Photography/Getty Images

As a youngster, Isambard Wilkinson visited Pakistan after being raised on tales of the nation by his Anglo-Indian grandmother. He was in a position to return because the Daily Telegraph’s correspondent in 2006, and his exuberant, amusing and warm-hearted observations of a rustic he clearly adores go effectively past that of a typical international correspondent. His accounts vary from assembly feudal warlords and reporting on Islamist bombings to visiting Sufi shrines and attempting to regulate a chaotic family.
• 10 of the very best travel books … for National Read a Book Day

And the winner …

Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe by Kapka Kassabova (Granta)

Kapka Kassabova.

Kapka Kassabova. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

Bulgarian-born author and poet Kapka Kassabova dexterously unpeels layer after layer of historical past in a extremely fraught a part of Europe that, as with Garrett Carr’s The Rule of the Land, has change into topical as soon as once more. She crisscrosses the triangle of borders between Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey, beginning in Bulgaria the place, throughout her communist childhood, East Germans holidaying in Black Sea resorts unwittingly used intentionally deceptive maps to attempt to flee via the forest and past the iron curtain. Now she sees Syrian refugees heading from south to north: “This was a year when refugees still came across the border in twos, rather than in hundreds and thousands.”

Border by Kapka Kassabova

Driving via mountain villages, Kassabova reveals herself to be a grasp storyteller in her encounters with the dwindling variety of individuals left behind – amongst them border guards whose job it had been to shoot escaping Czechs, Poles and East Germans. In this area of complicated ethnicities, Kassabova is adept at unravelling the convoluted histories of the various inhabitants exchanges that have taken place because the collapse of the Ottoman empire and in the course of the Balkan wars of 1912-13. Kassabova combines a dry, darkish humour with compassion as she tracks down individuals who ended up on the incorrect facet of the barbed-wire fence. As a Bulgarian who ended up in Scotland through New Zealand, Kassabova is one to know in regards to the risks of nationalism alongside what she calls the “last border in Europe”.
• Read The Guardian assessment

The judging panel for the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year: Sara Wheeler (chair), Helena Drysdale, Jason Goodwin, Michael Kerr, Victoria Mather, Samantha Weinberg and Mary Novakovich

• To purchase the titles featured on this article go to the guardian bookshop or name on 0330 333 6846

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