15 of one of the best books for travel lovers

5. Magdalena: River of Dreams by Wade Davis

Wade Davis has traveled to the end of the world as a writer, photographer and anthropologist. Colombia, which he saw for the first time at the age of 14 on a school trip from Canada, gave him “the wings to fly”. In Magdalena he tells the story of the country through its main artery, which travels from the headwaters to the Caribbean coast. He traces the history of Colombia from the early settlement through the Spanish conquest to the modern conflict that ended in 2016 with a precarious peace agreement. On the way he collects stories on boats and banks: stories about singing and dancing, about quiet life and sudden occurrences of death; from the drug lords who have made millions of dollars; and from the field botanist who has discovered more than a hundred new species without leaving his own lawn. (Bodley Head, £ 25)

6. Notes from an apocalypse by Mark O’Connell

Mark O’Connell, increasingly concerned about the world he brought his children to, embarks on a series of “perverted pilgrimages” to places where the end times seem closest. He goes to underground bolt holes in South Dakota and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. He investigates tech billionaires’ fixation on New Zealand, mingles with the Mars Society in Los Angeles, and attends a conservationist retreat in the Scottish Highlands. The result is a book that is annoying, wise, and funny, and often all three within a paragraph. (Grant, £ 14.99)

7. Isolarion: Another Oxford Journey by James Attlee

This is a reprint of a book published in 2007 that fits our shortened times perfectly. When he wrote it, Attlee was desperate to travel, but could not escape. Then he realized he didn’t need it. A few minutes’ walk from his front door in Oxford was Cowley Road, lined with shops that seemed to represent every nation in the world: from a Jamaican restaurant to a Ghanaian fishmonger to a Russian supermarket. As he puts it in his introduction: “Why go on a trip to the other side of the world when the world has come to you?” (And other stories, £ 9.99)

8. African state of mind

“Tipo Passe (passport photo)” is what Angolan photographer Edson Chagas calls one of his portrait projects. Each motif is presented against a simple background in contemporary clothing, but with a traditional Bantu mask. Chagas doesn’t just play with Western ideas of what the masks are for (exhibited in museums); he hides the individuality and identity of his subject and replaces it with the stereotype of a “typical” African face. Chagas is one of more than 50 contemporary photographers on the continent whose work is summarized in this stimulating survey by writer and broadcaster Ekow Eshun. Her images of place and people, her interpretations of memory and identity, he says, “reveal Africa as a psychological space – a state of mind – as well as a physical territory”. (Thames & Hudson, £ 39.95)

9. Cities of Silence

The theme of this quickly compiled compilation is as much absence as presence: the people who went missing in the inner cities in spring 2020 when the world faded into the background for the first time. The stones of St. Mark’s Square in Venice, the cobblestones of Charles Bridge in Prague and the winding tiles of the Rambla in Barcelona are all free of pedestrian feet. Traffic lights rule non-existent vehicles in Vancouver, Frankfurt’s runways are filled with planes that are going nowhere, a lone soldier looks at the Taj Mahal and a fox explores the curves of a skate park on the coast of Israel. (teNeues, £ 15)

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