Speed Reading - Travel Books

In 2006, when Taran Khan arrived in Kabul to train Afghan journalists, the prevalent mood was “cautious optimism” – until unrest reclaimed the city seven years later. In Shadow City: A Woman Walks Kabul (Vintage, £9.99), Khan observes a male student’s infatuation, describes Afghanis’ passion for Bollywood-style weddings, laments the PTSD and drug abuse afflicting the country today and suggests that “what is seen is often simply one aspect of the truth. What lies behind – the shadow city – is where layers are revealed.” A profound, beautifully written meditation. and worthy winner of the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year Award, in associaton with The Authors' Club. 

Norwegian social anthropologist Erika Fatland’s journey through the countries bordering Russia, The Border (MacLehose Press, £30), is a combination of travelogue, history and sociopolitical analysis. She begins in North Korea and ends in her homeland, travelling by boat, taxi, train and plane. Fatland slips seamlessly between accounts of historical violence, human-rights abuses and personal anecdotes. Particularly memorable are the story of Maia, a former acrobat in a Minsk circus who lost almost her entire family during the Holocaust, and Fatland’s terrifying boat journey to Odessa with drunken Russian lorry drivers banging on her cabin door through the night.

Nanjala Nyabola’s extraordinary Travelling While Black: Essays Inspired by a Life on the Move (Hurst, £14.99) explores migration and identity, the iniquities of her home country, Kenya, and the difficulties of obtaining a visa when you are black. Nyabola’s travel experiences are deeply personal, often shocking and always insightful, insightful, including a horrifying account of her near-death experience while hiking in the Himalayas.

Originally published in The Tablet