Founder of Vellum Libraries Clemmie Jackson-Stops gives us her recommendations of what to read this year.
As the months creep by since I last buckled the seatbelt of an airplane, I tell myself that the next best thing is to settle into an armchair and travel the world between the covers of a book. As an inveterate traveller, I’m not sure I have convinced myself of this but as a bibliophile, I am certainly willing to keep trying! And 2021 has some travel writing treats in store for those of us in need of a literary escape.
From moving new fiction from Rwanda and Uganda to women explorers of the air and sea to those that choose to travel by foot, I hope you find something here that will relieve those itchy feet and inspire your future travels.
- The First Woman by Jennifer Nansbuga Makumbi
Modern feminism and Ugandan folklore meet in this epic family saga.
- How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue (March)
What happens when capitalism and the ghost of colonialism mark the lives of a family struggling to survive.
- Our Lady of the Nile by Scholastique Mukasonga (March)
As Rwanda hurtles towards the as yet unimagined tragedy of the genocide in 1994, the girls of Our Lady of the Nile school experience the unravelling of their society.
- Land of Big Numbers by Te-Ping Chen (March)
This series of stories from a former Beijing-based journalist on the draws on the realities of contemporary China.
- Wild Women Edited by Mariella Frostrup
A celebration of bypassed female explorers from 1700 to the present day. Amazing adventures by land, sea and air.
- Karachi Vice by Samira Shackle
The author explores the sprawling, turbulent city of her mother’s birth in the company of characterful Karachiites.
- The Life and Travels of Isabella Bird by Jacki Hill-Murphy
The life of the great Victorian adventurer who in her middle years travelled across the globe.
- The Interior Silence: 10 Lessons from Monastic Life by Sarah Sands (March)
Too-busy Sands, the former editor of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, travels to 10 monasteries to discover whether their culture can inform and change her own fast-paced life.
- The Gardens of Mars: Madagascar, an Island Story by John Gimlette
A vicarious journey around this glorious island. Armchair travel at its finest.
- Waypoints: A Journey on Foot by Robert Martineau (April)
Martineau quits his job and hits the road across West Africa. A 1,000 mile odyssey to find freedom and connection.
- Lev’s Violin: An Italian Adventure by Helena Attlee (April)
From the author of The Land Where Lemons Grow, a beguiling musical journey through Italian landscape and culture.
- Borges and Me: An Encounter by Jay Parini (August)
The unlikely meeting of Jay Parini and Borges in the Scottish Highlands fifty years ago. A classic road trip and a magical tale.
- A Hare-Marked Moon: From Bhutan to Yorkshire: The Story of an English Stupa by David Lascelles (May)
The extraordinary tale of the author’s quest to build a Bhutanese stupa in his ancestral home at Harewood House.
- Outlandish: Walking Europe’s Unlikely Landscapes by Nick Hunt (May)
Across the unlikely and unexpected wildernesses still found in Europe and the abundant wildlife they support.
- Sauntering: Writers Walk Europe by Edited by Duncan Minshull (March)
Sixty walker-writers take us into the heart of Europe. From Nellie Bly to Werner Herzog, Joseph Conrad and Hans Christian Andersen.
Clemmie Jackson-Stops is the founder of Vellum Libraries, a book and library consultancy. A true believer in the civilising effect of books in our fast-paced world, Clemmie works with private and commercial clients around the globe to produce bespoke collections of books, both large and small. The restrictions of 2020 also saw a new adventure begin for Vellum with the launch of the Lockdown Libraries. Five books, carefully chosen to suit the recipient’s reading tastes, sent beautifully wrapped with a handwritten note. A thoughtful way to connect with distant friends and family, the Lockdown Libraries have been a runaway success.